Shropshire Star

Analysis: Telford pass character test as they get the job done

AFC Telford United’s first away league victory of the season came at the cost of a few shredded nerves and chewed fingernails, and manager Kevin Wilkin was under no illusion that his team has plenty of areas they must improve.


Nonetheless, cogitation on such matters is much more palatable when you have three points, and Wilkin’s side secured them by coming through a test of character on a stiflingly hot afternoon in Cambridgeshire.

Wilkin’s side were by no means fantastic on the plastic in St Ives but overturned a 2-1 deficit to win this game in injury time, thanks to striker Montel Gibson’s sixth goal of the campaign.

Their performance put Wilkin through the wringer at times, but the Bucks dug into reserves of spirit to conjure up a win. It was not always pretty, it was not especially cohesive, but they found a way.

They may have found it a little easier had they been able to play Nathan Fox and Fraser Kerr, but the experienced duo remained unavailable through injury. With Ty Webster suspended due to his sending-off in last weekend’s FA Cup defeat, Remi Walker took the No.10 shirt, while there was a first start for forward Tré Mitford, replacing Twariq Yusuf.

Wilkin felt that the spaces between Gibson and those around him in the Cup defeat to Coalville were too large, and deployed Mitford to partner Gibson. It was a well-conceived idea, but one where the execution did not always match.

St. Ives is one of the Southern Premier Central’s smaller teams, but they achieved a top-half finish last season and have been bolstered by a partnership arrangement with Cambridge United.

Despite the heat, both sides made a fast but uncontrolled start to matters. Greg Kaziboni had the game’s first goal attempt, seeing his effort blocked when a quickly taken free-kick allowed him to go past left-back Steffan Jones. It was an avenue they soon tried to exploit again, but this time Kaziboni’s cross was too close to keeper Brandon Hall.

Ives continued their bright beginning when Tiago Nassunculo had a shot blocked as he latched onto a low ball delivered from the left.

The Bucks began to respond, and after a corner won by Gibson had been cleared, defender Orrin Pendley headed a return ball over Eddie Brearey’s crossbar.

Tré Mitford was booked for dissent, a transgression that would have annoyed Wilkin, but On the 15-minute mark, the Bucks went close to scoring, as midfielder Remi Walker’s shot across goal beat Brearey but also the far post.

Eddie Hottor fired wildly off-target for the hosts before Gibson managed to get around Brearey, inside the penalty area but in a wide position, and he lacked the composure to finish, again putting the ball wide of the far post.

Referee Nathan Oakes allowed a hydration break midway through the half, and upon the restart, Jared Hodgkiss had to put the ball behind for a corner as St. Ives again used width to trouble the away side.

Byron Moore was the second Buck into the book, kicking the ball away in frustration at Mitford’s poor pass rather than a desire to waste time. Wilkin’s body language signalled his displeasure, but his mood was soon lifted.

In the 32nd minute, the Bucks took the lead through midfielder Jordan Piggott. Piggott’s first 50 or so appearances for the club had been made in defence, but Wilkin has deployed him in midfield this season and one of his energetic bursts took him into space behind left-back Johnny Herd, where he was found by Walker’s pass. Piggott struck the ball on the run and his effort was low and true, flashing across Brearey to find the far corner.

St Ives looked to reply, and Hall had to narrow his angles to deny Herd, who wasn’t confident enough to hit the ball with his left foot, and the half-second it took him to move the ball onto his right foot allowed Hall to make the block to concede a corner.

Hall’s clean sheet lasted only a little longer. Another Ives corner was cleared, but only to the feet of Kaziboni. He took aim and defender Jordan Williams screened Hall, getting a slight touch as the ball reached him to divert it past Hall, levelling the scores.

Buoyed by the goal, Ives ended the half in a bullish mood, although Hottor might have been fortunate to escape a booking for three fouls in the space of two minutes as the half ended.

Half Time: St. Ives Town 1-1 AFC Telford United

With the game nicely poised, Ives captain Michael Richens became the lead in the early stages of the second act.

Barely a minute into the second period, he ambitiously tried to score from forty-five yards; the ball dipped well over the bar but served a warning to Hall not to stray too far from his line.

Dan Barton, a loanee from Cambridge United, had looked to be one of Ives’ most creative outlets, and a good run with the ball at his feet ended with Richens again firing the ball too high to trouble Hall.

Herd had an opportunity to try and beat Hall from the same range, Ives having been awarded a free-kick, but he too could not get the ball up over the wall and down to test Hall, but the metaphorical heat was rising.

Richens was in the right place soon after, getting between two defenders and being found by a cross from the left, but his header from 10 yards was straight at Hall. The Ives captain was then booked, for a cynical bringing down of Byron Moore, the Bucks man turning through 360 degrees and then easing away from Richens, only to be sent crashing.

Richens was to emerge from this spell as a hero and not a villain, as his tenacity earned his side their second goal. His presence hurried the Bucks defensively, and he then charged down a clearance and kept going to collect the ball, draw Hall from his line and put a composed finish past the keeper’s left hand and into the net.

At this point, Wilkin must have been looking around to see which players on his side were up for the fight. He also made two changes, replacing Walker with James McQuilkin, and Jones with the more attack-minded defending of Brad Bood.

Another drinks break followed soon after, and within three minutes of the restart, the Bucks were refreshed by an equaliser. McQuilkin had played a role in winning the corner from which it came, having a shot blocked from a rebound after Ellis Myles’ initial effort, which in turn had been created by Gibson’s header at the far post down to his teammates.

A corner was aimed at the head of defender Pendley; he did not get a clean contact but as the ball dropped to his feet, Pendley swung at the loose ball and the ball shot through a crowd of defenders and past Brearey to restore parity.

Would either side gamble for the win, or would they settle for a point?

Ives’ manager Ricky Marheineke showed his hand by bringing on Tyrone Baker and Enoch Andoh for his tiring attackers Barton and Nassunculo. Wilkin did likewise, with Mitford off and replaced by Yusuf.

Ricardo Dinanga, who at times looks more than defences at Step 3 can handle, had been both frustrated and frustrating, but after a more forceful run into the box, he could not hit the target, firing a rising shot across goal and narrowly too high.

Brearey advanced from his line to put Gibson off, the striker unable to lift the ball over him, and Pendley was then booked for a foul to prevent Hottor getting into the 18-yard box. It was an inviting position, on the left edge of the box, and Richens aimed for the far top corner, only to be denied by Hall’s athleticism and a big left glove.

Despite the sapping heat, both teams were still trying to find a winner, although the Bucks were starting to appear the more likely, moving the ball better.

Gibson had a chance in the 89th minute, his shot across Brearey deflected wide for a corner, although the keeper denied he had got anything onto the effort.

Seven minutes were added by the officials and in the third of what turned out to be 11 minutes of added time, the Bucks completed the turnaround. Another corner was again aimed for Pendley. This time he did head the ball, back towards what had been Brearey’s near post, and Gibson popped up to nod it past Brearey and Herd on the line to snatch maximum reward.

A further 7-8 minutes of play were negotiated safely, if a little nervously, and the Bucks had what might be more accurately described as a scrappy win than an ugly one. Pleasingly, they had shown they had the heart for the scrap; the disappointment is that they had put themselves in a position of needing to show it.