St Ives seal safety after stunning Easter weekend

St Ives Town joint-manager Mike Ford would have been delighted with his side's performances over the Easter weekend.

St Ives Town joint-manager Mike Ford would have been delighted with his side's performances over the Easter weekend. - Credit: CLIVE GEE/PA

Easter proved a time of plenty for St Ives Town as a double success confirmed their place as a step three club for another year.

Their position in the Southern League Premier Division Central was already looking likely prior to the bank-holiday weekend but a thumping 3-0 of Stratford Town in Easter Monday confirmed their safety.

And with the shackles and pressure off, they stuck what could have been a big stick in the play-off hopes of AFC Rushden & Diamonds by claiming a 1-0 success at Westwood Road on Easter Monday.

It did begin badly for the home side as Oran Jackson’s return after injury and illness ended in a little more than two minutes, going down with a knee injury after clearing Diamonds' first attack of the game.

He was replaced by Callum Milne.

Play settled down for a spell after that until Jesse Akubuine thought he had put Rushden ahead, only for the offside flag to bring him back down to earth.

Ives did have a couple of chances of their own but a glancing header from Jordan Graham flashed wide of the post and then visiting keeper Dean Snedker pulled off a brave block to deny James Toseland.

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Luke Fairlamb was having joy down the left but one cross just eluded Ethan Johnston while a second was put into the side netting by Dylan Williams.

Johnston was replaced by Nehemiah Richard-Noel on the hour, the former St Neots man making his home debut, and he would prove the match winner with just 12 minutes remaining.

Fairlamb took an in-swinging corner from the right that landed on the head of the unmarked substitute six yards out and his downward header gave Snedker no chance.

From there Ives closed out the game to record only their second pair of back-to-back wins of the season and their first successive clean sheets.

The game on Saturday had seen Ives in arguably their best form of the season, as they swatted Stratford away with little problems.

The opening act proved the most crucial as Ives raced into a 2-0 lead inside the first 15 minutes.

The first arrived from the penalty sport on five minutes after Stratford's Dan Lafferty was penalised for handball. Williams took the responsibility and made no mistake.

Nine minutes later the rampant visitors doubled their lead.

A poor clearance from home keeper Liam O’Brien arrowed straight to the midriff of Ed Hottor inside the centre circle.

The midfielder had time to bring the ball down and deliver the perfect ball into the well-timed run of Liam Cross galloping down the right and the youngster made no mistake by slipping the ball through the legs of O'Brien and in.

And Ives never really gave Stratford a way back into the game, with more and more chances coming their way.

Nabil Shariff was stopped by O'Brien and then fired a shot from the edge of the area inches over the top.

Stratford did have one good chance just after the break but James Brearey made an excellent reaction save low to his right and St Ives used that let-off to put the game to bed.

Fairlamb set off down the left again and his low cross to the edge of the six-yard box was turned in by Shariff to complete a superb day.

Ives are now 12th and finish their season off on Saturday at 10th-placed Tamworth.