New era starts with celebrations as St Ives open season on new pitch with victory

Nabil Shariff got the only goal in a 1-0 win over Alvechurch for St Ives Town in the the Southern League

Nabil Shariff got St Ives Town off to a winning start in the the Southern League with the only goal in a 1-0 win over Alvechurch. - Credit: CLAIRE HOWES

A new era at Westwood Road began fittingly with victory - as St Ives Town beat Alvechurch on the opening day of the Southern League Premier Division Central season.

Played on their new artificial surface, a true poacher's goal from Nabil Shariff four minutes before the break proved the difference  and got Ricky Marheineke's men off to the perfect start.

Luke Fairlamb had delivered the telling cross for the goal, duly spilled by goalkeeper Dan Jezeph into the path of Shariff, and the new signing proved an instant hit for the home support with a man of the match display.

His direct running style and willingness to both take on and beat defenders meant it was an uncomfortable afternoon for the Church back line.

One of those probing runs provided the first opening, Shariff hitting the effort hard but straight at the keeper.

Alvechurch didn't really threaten Paul White in the home goal too much and it was Ives who still looked more likely to get their noses in front with Fairlamb and Liam Cross, on-loan from Northampton Town, were denied by frantic goalkeeping and defending.

The goal was thoroughly deserved and forced the visitors to change tactics after half-time, bringing on two substitutes and making a number of positional changes.

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Ives still had the first chances of the second period, Ed Hottor's shot pushed away at full stretch, but White did have to make a save, blocking a close-range effort from one of the replacements, Tristan Dunkley. 

He made a better save midway through the half with a flying block to an Ash Carter free-kick but although the away side did have more of the ball, they got no change out of the resolute Ives defence.

And it was the hosts who finished the stronger, Cross twice being denied by Jezeph and then Michael Harding having one cleared off the line.

The only downside to the day was injuries to Luke Howell and Ben Toseland in the first half, adding to the already crowded treatment room.

But other than that, Ives couldn't have wished for a better start and the promise of more to come.