by Peter Scherer
Mickleover opened their Southern Premier League Central campaign in the best possible way, keeping a clean sheet and taking a 2-0 win thanks to a Marcus Barnes double.
Starting line-up: 1-Oliver Bosworth 2-Ben Sault 3-Jake Bennett 4-Will Atkinson 5-Fin Delap 6-Ethan Mann 7-Andy Dales 8-Dan Bradley 9-Andre Wright 10-Oli Greaves 11-Marcus Barnes. Subs: Stuart Beavon, James Pollard, George Nunn, George Atwal, Brandon Ferron.
Sports earned their first free kick in the opening minute, after Sault was brought down in his own half. But overall it was a fairly even started to the afternoon.
Sault was the first to have an attempt on goal seven minutes in, when his long-range effort tested the home defence, earning a corner after keeper Brearey saved.
As the ball came into the box Dales followed up, earning another corner as Mickleover’s pressure began to rattle the St.Ives back line.
Both Sault and Bennett were pushing forward and it was Bennett that floated a telling ball into box after 10 minutes, Wright collected but the keeper saved and only a minute later Barnes had him at full stretch too to keep the ball out.
St.Ives had their first real attempt on goal after 16 minutes, falling nicely just outside the box, with the following shot well over the bar.
Andoh then had the ball for the hosts, cutting inside to make his cross, to find no one to receive. But with the pressure off, Ives started to push forward again, and skipper Richens tested Bosworth with a shot from just outside the box after 22 minutes.
Greaves and Dales were finding their familiar runs cut off early, but 26 minutes in, Wright almost managed to set up Greaves. It was virtually a one on one, but on this occasion Brearey won.
With Ryan Wilson missing due to suspension, Mann was captain and proved his worth, as he held off a St.Ives strike until Bosworth arrived to collect.
Mickleover were still looking the more composed on the ball, but on the half hour St.Ives managed to put in a series of crosses, the first leaving their strike force somewhat surprised and the danger disappeared.
But after 38 minutes the deadlock was broken when Dales broke free down the left. As he starting to cut inside Brearey left his line, prompting a pass from Dales to find Barnes waiting to receive and it was 1-0.
Three minutes later Brearey had to pull off a save from a deflected Dales shot, before St.Ives got a break and fired a shot very high over the fence.
Sports came close to a second in time added on, when Greaves brough the ball forward, leaving Wright to cut inside until his shot was blocked, then it was Wright’s turn to send Dales on a run, but the keeper read it well, sprinting out to save the day as the half time whistle blew.
The home side started the second half with a flourish, when Hottor jinked through the defence only to shoot wide. But as Ives pushed forward, Dales and Greaves began to find more freedom and 48 minutes in it was a Dales piling in a great cross from the right, missing both Barnes and Wright by inches.
But Ives were still looking for the equaliser and Baker tried his luck after creating his own space, but Bosworth had it covered with a diving save again.
It was Greaves turn to lead the next Mickleover push, his cross had the defence beaten and Barnes calmly tapped it home for his and Mickleover’s second after 56 minutes, 2-0.
Three minutes later it was almost a replay, when Greaves attacked down the right, crossed, but Barnes shot was kept out this time by a diving save from Brearey.
The hosts began to make changes and continued to push forward, but with Mann and Delap totally in control in the middle of defence, both Atkinson and Bradley showed their experience as holding midfielders.
Baker received a yellow card for diving in the Mickleover box, before Delap started a move to send Dales clear. He took the end shot himself on this occasion, but it well over the bar.
Beavon came on for Wright for the last 15 minutes, as Sports sought a third goal, while Dales and Greaves combined to feed Barnes, he earned a corner as it bounced off a defender, but the assistant saw it otherwise.
Nine minutes left and Beavon led a charge, which set up Barnes. It was a good shot but Brearey comfortably saved, much to our strikers clear disappointment.
Ives centre back Williams put in a weak header, taken easily by Bosworth and Beavon had a late effort saved from a Dales pass.
Nunn then came on for Barnes for the final three minutes, but as the whistle went Mickleover were able to celebrate their winning start to the season.