Chasetown 1 Cleethorpes Town 1
LATE LATE SHOW EARNS POINT!
The Owls returned to Evostik action after a lengthy absence with a trip to face Chasetown. It was the start of a run of 15 league matches in 39 days as Clee look to force their way back into the play-off picture.
The first meeting between the clubs and, with many games in hand on the sides above, the visitors were desperate to close the gap on the Scholars. Clee were aiming to protect an unbeaten run in the division stretching back to pre-Christmas, whilst Chasetown had slipped to seventh after defeat on Saturday at Bedworth United.
It was a cold evening in Staffordshire, with Marcus Newell making 4 changes from Thursday’s Cup-tie with South Shields. Dropping out on this occasion were Sam Vince, Tim Lowe, Matt Bloomer and Peter Winn respectively. Into the side came young keeper David Birch. The reliable Oli Donald adopted his usual position in central defence, with debutant Curtis Bateson and Josh Lacey also in the XI.
A lively start on an unsurprisingly heavy pitch saw Bateson shoot at home keeper Curtis Pond and then away stopper Birch calmed any nerves with a neat save as Chasetown probed for an early breakthrough.
Strike pairing Brody Robertson and Danny North combined on the quarter-hour mark to create a moment of danger but, despite some enterprising football on show, it was strictly half-chances through the initial exchanges.
The vocal home crowd were providing a fairly raucous atmosphere and the young referee was appearing to struggle to control matters. Tempers boiled over in the 24th minute with Danny North and Danny Cocks seeing yellow, when the latter lashed out at the striker before the Clee man retaliated.
Mark Gray was required on 30 minutes to turn away a teasing cross as the Scholars increased the tempo. As the break approached, the best chance of the half fell to the Owls. A sweeping move through midfield allowed Jack Richardson to find space 15 yards out but his effort was smothered by Pond.
This was unfortunately the midfielder’s last contribution as a hip injury led to him being replaced by Liam Dickens shortly before half-time.
HT Chasetown 0 Cleethorpes Town 0
Clee started well after the interval with a spell of ball retention without being able to fashion a clear opportunity and then the dangerous Cocks cut inside for the Scholars past two defenders before slicing wide. A trademark wing run and cross from Jon Oglesby very nearly allowed North to open the scoring. However, he was tantalisingly inches away from making a proper connection.
The hosts were also beginning to look more threatening and they scored the vital first goal in the 58th minute. A long punt over the visiting defence caused confusion and allowed Muziwandile Nduna to gleefully plant the ball home. Birch injured his leg in the process but was able to resume after lengthy treatment.
An uphill task now for the visitors as Chasetown’s lively front line had to be well-marshalled by the excellent Gray and Donald. As the game entered the final twenty, Clee continued to probe for a desperately needed equaliser. North, who had been his usual bustling self, went close as he burst through on the inside-right and the whole team were giving it their all.
The management team played its final cards with 10 minutes left with a double substitution. Strikers Marc Cooper and Andy Taylor entered the fray for Loz McKay and Brody Robertson respectively, as the Owls went for broke.
Time was slipping away with Chasetown running down the clock with a couple of corners and substitute Dickens entering the referee’s notepad.
In the final action of normal time, Gray was off-target in a packed area after a right-wing cross and the goal, which Clee’s overall play had deserved, looked destined not to arrive as five added minutes were signalled.
A couple of delays meant the match ticked into the 97th minute. Captain Alex Flett won a set-piece 35 yards from goal. The last play of the night saw a melee of 19 players in the box and the perfectly floated ball was eased into the net by Gray via a deflection. Delight all round for everyone connected with the Owls – the long midweek journey resulting in a very valuable share of the spoils.
FT Chasetown 1 (Nduna 58) Cleethorpes Town 1 (Gray 90+7) Attendance: 126
Superb patience enabled us to gather a vital point and extend the unbeaten league run to nearly three months! Chasetown were certainly one of the better outfits we have faced this campaign but, in the end, we should be well pleased to grab the equaliser.
Our goal appeared to be one for the League’s dubious goal panel(!!) but very happy to credit it to Mark Gray, who was superb and earnt praise from the manager after the match. I thought Danny North and Brody Robertson played well without much luck, with Curtis Bateson and Jon Oglesby providing some good moments from the flanks.
A word too for David Birch, who battled on gamely through the pain barrier in the final 30 minutes.
Of course, we are still to host Chasetown, so this could yet turn out to be a pivotal moment in the play-off chase!
Next up is a visit from Loughborough Dynamo (Saturday 24th – 3pm), who make the trip from the East Midlands. The away match saw Clee play some great stuff in a 2-0 win, with Jon Oglesby and Peter Winn inflicting the damage.
Be part of the play-off push and come down to Bradley to watch some entertaining football.
UP THE OWLS!