The Owls were in Lincolnshire Senior Trophy action when they welcomed Grimsby Borough for a clash dubbed as “El Haddocko”. This was the semi-final stage and the winners would progress to face Holbeach United in the showpiece later in the season.
Both teams were flying high and sat third in their respective divisions. Contrasting fortunes last time out though – Clee hitting five whilst Borough slumped to a heavy 5-0 reverse at Knaresborough Town. Tonight was the first competitive match between the clubs since November 2013, when a league encounter ended 1-1.
Despite the damp conditions, there was a bumper turn-out at Bradley and particularly pleasing to see many juniors in attendance. The holders made just the one change from the thumping of Newcastle Town, with Jack Richardson coming into midfield at the expense of Liam Davis.
It was a lively start to the derby as Danny Trott had a headed effort for Borough and Alex Flett curled wide for the Owls. The captain was again involved in the 10th minute when, after a good run from Andy Taylor, his shot was blocked.
However, it was a different outcome in the 19th minute when a superb goal from Flett gave Clee the lead. His free-kick on the right was cleared back to him, after which he expertly cut inside a defender to create space to run into the box. The midfielder’s rising unstoppable bullet crashed into the net after grazing the underside of the bar.
The Owls were looking to get a quick second to emphasise the two-level gap between the teams but the visitors responded well to falling behind. Firstly, a ball in from Adam Drury was dealt with by the home defence and then Luke Aldrich was on hand to clear a corner. Finally, a whipped cross from Trott flashed across goal but no-one was on hand to provide the finishing touch.
Clee responded with pressure of their own as the half ebbed and flowed. The lively Taylor could not get on the end of a lay-off from Saturday’s hero Danny North and a fine run from Tim Lowe ended with another Flett shot, which on this occasion was comfortably saved.
As the period drew to a close, Aldrich was fouled on the right edge of the area. The play eventually found Liam Dickens but he blasted high over as the Owls led by the solitary goal at the interval.
HT Cleethorpes Town 1 (Flett 19) Grimsby Borough 0
There was an early substitution as Brody Robertson came on to replace Aldrich. A couple of moments afterwards, Trott missed a great chance for the leveller. The striker had space 18 yards out but dragged the ball wide of Richard Walton’s goal.
The Owls reacted with a lovely move, which resulted in an off-target effort from Dickens and the speedy Robertson caused alarm in the Borough defence with a mazy run. Also in this spell, North had a decent attempt palmed over for a corner.
As the tie passed the hour mark, the visitors were playing some good football and representing the Northern Counties East League with distinction. However, a lot of their play was in front of the home defence, which was again being superbly marshalled by the impressive Mark Gray.
North thought he was in on goal but the assistant flagged and then Flett got back well to make a vital tackle to break-up a Borough offensive. Gray was required to rise highest to clear a free-kick and a Drury run was well cleared for a corner.
After 70 minutes, there was a double substitution for the Owls. Davis and Marc Cooper came on as goalscorer Flett and Dickens respectively were withdrawn.
Gray had a good chance to settle matters in the 74th minute but headed wide from a Jon Oglesby corner. Then there was an appeal from Borough for a penalty as Drury fell to the turf. The referee, who had been sensible throughout, correctly waved it away as contact appeared to have been minimal.
Borough’s efforts became more frantic as they strove to keep their hopes of an upset alive but the extra little bit of quality from Clee held them at bay. Trott sliced a shot well wide and, in truth, Walton had been rarely called into significant action.
Into the final ten minutes, Cooper almost got on the end of a through ball from Lowe and then the big striker headed inches wide from a corner. North was again nearly in and a dangerous Taylor cross was hacked out. As the clock wound down, Borough had one final chance. They flung everyone forward after winning a free-kick in the centre circle. Not for the first time however, the towering figure of Gray was there to muscle the ball out.
After three added minutes, the referee’s whistle signalled the end to a competitive affair. Alex Flett’s super strike proved to be decisive and was certainly worthy of settling any semi-final.
FT Cleethorpes Town 1 (Flett 19) Grimsby Borough 0 Attendance: 532
Not the greatest match the big crowd will have ever seen but, as is often the case, local derbies can be tight. Just nice to get through to another final, extend the winning run to five and we can get back to league action with building momentum.
A chance to successfully defend the Trophy now beckons. The Lincolnshire FA will provide notification of the date and venue for the Final in due course. However, judging by previous years, it will be held towards the end of April and very likely be played at Lincoln City FC.
This Saturday (13th – 3pm), there is a trip to South Yorkshire to face Stocksbridge Park Steels in the Evostik South. The reverse fixture in October ended in a 1-1 draw with Luke Mascall scoring the Clee goal.
The Owls could climb into the automatic promotion places with a win and all support will be much appreciated for what is a likely to be a tough test. The postcode of the Look Local Stadium is S36 2AN. Travel on the team/supporters’ coach is still available and bookable in the usual way – either contact the Linden Club or via Twitter/Facebook.
The next home match for the first team is on Wednesday (17th – 745pm) when Tadcaster Albion visit Bradley in the Integro (League) Cup. If Clee are victorious in this tie, we are at home to South Shields on January 31st in the last 16 of the competition.
UP THE OWLS!
Updated 07:55 - 12 Jan 2018 by David Simpson