St Ives Town lose and hand title to Holbeach United, but promotion race is still on

FRUSTRATION: The disapponited players of St Ives Town after they lost 3-1 at home to Newport Pagnell

FRUSTRATION: The disapponited players of St Ives Town after they lost 3-1 at home to Newport Pagnell Town. Picture: Richard Hughes. - Credit: Archant

ST Ives Town may have handed Holbeach United the UCL title today when they lost 3-1 at home to Newport Pagnell Town, but they remain in the promotion driving seat because their rivals for second-place Spalding United went to Corby and lost 2-0 to Stewarts & Lloyds.

So it’s as you were, with the Saints four points clear of Spalding who have a game in hand.

“I think we got what we deserved,” said the joint manager Jez Hall. “We were sloppy and we lost in just about every area on the pitch. We never got going.

“You would have thought they were the ones challenging for the title with the way that they competed and we didn’t. They are a big physical side and we bowed down to them.”

To be honest, you wouldn’t have put money on either St Ives or Spalding losing. St Ives, especially, but they really didn’t get going in the first half and were 1-0 down at half time.

It was at the start of the second half that the damage was really done. There was a hint of handball about Newport’s 47th minute goal, but it was poor defending that gifted them their third just a minute later.

A Dom Lawless goal against his former club in the 53rd minute turned out to be mere consolation. It might have been different had right back Jordan Lambert not skied his chance at the back post from four yards out early in the first half. But St Ives never really looked a threat until Karl Gibbs was thrown on in the second.

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Hall and co-manager Warren Everdell were without three key players at the start of the game. Full back Jamie Alsop is running the London Marathon tomorrow, midfielder Jimmy Dean is injured, and Gibbs was on the bench nursing his thigh problem. But, Once Newport’s third goal had gone in, changes were made and Gibbs was risked. He even went close with a header. On another day, he would have scored that one.

“We had to risk him for the last half an hour but he’s not fit – and Danny Bannister did well at left back but Jamie is one of the best left backs in the league so we missed him. And we missed Jimmy in the middle,” said Hall.

“I think we were second best and we gifted them all three goals. You’re not going to win games against a decent side if you play like that.”

“We have got away with it today because Spalding lost but we could have been seven points clear tonight, and we have got Holbeach here on Tuesday. That’s not going to be easy.” Indeed.

But Spalding have a busy week with three of their five remaining games in the next eight days. On Tuesday they are at home to Cogenhoe United, on Thursday they are away at Wellingborough Town, and on Saturday they go to AFC Kempston Rovers. At least St Ives have a bit of a break between the visit of Holbeach and Saturday’s tricky home leg of the Hunts derby against Huntingdon Town.

“They have some tricky ones against teams fighting at the bottom of the league,” said Hall. “It’s just a mini league now between us and Spalding. We have to slip up less than them. Both of us slipped up today.”