Billingham Town 1-2 Cleethorpes Town
For the second season running Cleethorpes Town have made it through to the last 16 of the Buildbase FA Vase
after an excellent 2-1 win at Ebac Northern League side Billingham Town.
Manager Marcus Newell made five changes to the side that won 3-0 at Barton Town Old Boys on Monday with Alex Flett, Peter Winn, Luke Mascall, Brody Robertson and Matty Coleman replacing the injured Liam Dickens, the cup tied Laurence McKay and Marc Cooper, Jon Oglesby and Josh Sunter who took their places on the substitutes bench.
Utilising the pace of Robertson and Andy Taylor up front from the start proved to be a master stroke by Newell as Billingham struggled to contain the lively strikers who both found the net inside the opening 19 minutes.
Taylor was first to get his name on the scoresheet after just 9 minutes, latching onto a long through ball by skipper Flett before hitting a low shot into the right hand corner of the net.
Liam Davis blocked Billingham leading scorer Craig Hutchinson's effort on the goal line two minutes later before the Owls were indebted to goalkeeper Liam Higton who produced a stunning save to tip over Hutchinson's close range shot, just seconds before a quick break saw Robertson double Cleethorpes lead, beating the offside trap before firing past the despairing dive of Thomas Dawson from a similar position to Taylor's opener.
Jack Richardson pinched the ball and set up Robertson who was this time denied by Dawson. The keeper was soon in action again, rushing out of his penalty area to head clear with the ball falling invitingly for Mascall whose attempted lob was off target.
Dawson produced a great save after 25 minutes to keep his side in the tie, diving full length to his right to push away Robertson's half volley. Flett then saw his curling effort moments before half time well head by the Billingham stopper.
If the first half had been a relatively comfortable one for the Owls, the second was anything but as Billingham found another gear and put Clee under increasing pressure as they searched for a way back into the tie.
Hutchinson headed straight at Higton before the same player was denied again less than 3 minutes later with Higton diving low to hold his shot.
Davis was unfortunate 10 minutes into the second half as a neat Cleethorpes build up culminated with the winger's shot hitting the underside of the cross bar before being cleared away. Robertson was then denied again by Dawson, the keeper producing another full length dive to palm the strikers shot to safety. Cooper was introduced to the action with an hour played, almost making an immediate impact with a header that landed inches wide.
Billingham, who themselves have been in great form, pressed again and reduced the arrears midway through the second half as Chris Dickinson's shot took a wicked deflection and squirmed under Higton.
The hosts now had their tails up but the Clee back four of Winn, Coleman, Tim Lowe and Matty Bloomer defended superbly, restricting the hosts to a couple of half chances despite Billingham enjoying the lions share of possession. All of this resolute defending was almost undone in injury time however as substitute Gary Redman found himself unmarked inside the six yard box but somehow put his header wide.
At the opposite end there was still time for Cooper to find himself through on goal, only to be denied by an excellent tackle from behind by Jack Connor who recovered well. This missed opportunity proved to be irrelevant however as the full time whistle sounded just seconds later, meaning Clee had booked their place in round 5.
All eyes will be on the draw for the last 16 which will take place on Monday lunchtime before the top of the table Owls return to Toolstation Northern Counties East League Premier Division action on Saturday with a difficult looking trip to third placed Thackley. Kick off will be at 3pm