Cleethorpes Town 2 Spalding United 1
SUPER OWLS CUT DOWN TULIPS
The Owls started their 20th anniversary year by welcoming Lincolnshire rivals Spalding United to Bradley for this New Year Day’s clash.
Both teams were looking to continue their good post-Christmas form, which had seen two wins each for the respective clubs. Clee were hoping to complete the double over the Tulips, having won the reverse fixture 3-0 in August.
It was a chilly afternoon to greet the decent holiday crowd and the pitch looked to be heavy. Manager Marcus Newell shuffled his pack and made four changes from the starting eleven from Kidsgrove. In came Jacob Norburn, Matt Bloomer, Andy Taylor and Luke Aldrich for Jon Oglesby, Mark Gray, Alex Flett and Danny North respectively.
There was good early play from strike partners Aldrich and Brody Robertson, which led to a cross from the right by Tim Lowe. A defender cleared the danger as Clee enjoyed plenty of possession in the opening minutes.
Liam Davis was looking lively on the wing and Aldrich flicked a chance just wide after clever play from Jack Richardson. The young striker was involved again when he could not quite finish off a flowing move involving Norburn.
Therefore, it came as a shock when the visitors took the lead in the 18th minute with their first serious attack. The ball reached Conor Marshall on the right-hand side of goal and about 15 yards out. His hard shot flew into the bottom corner of Richard Walton’s net, giving the home keeper no chance.
The Tulips grew in confidence after the goal and they had a spell where they kept the ball better, as the Owls struggled to regain their earlier fluency. However, Spalding never really threatened to get a second at this stage and, as the half wore on, Clee began to be in the ascendant once again.
On the half-hour, another run down the wing and cross from Davis was met by Aldrich, who could not find the finish that his endeavour deserved. This was followed by Robertson almost getting through the inside right channel.
Adam Jackson had a long shot for the visitors, which Walton watched closely on the slippery surface and then the keeper was in action again. A spot of pinball in the home box ended with a close-range effort. The stopper spread himself well to smother the danger.
A frustrating half for the Owls ended when a Davis free-kick hit the defensive wall. Clee knew there was work to do after the break to avoid a third home defeat in succession.
HT Cleethorpes Town 0 Spalding United 1 (Marshall 18)
Aldrich could not connect cleanly with the first play and the opening of the half was generally scrappy, as Spalding were happy to protect their lead and frustrate the home team.
A good in-swinging corner by Davis was well defended, as Oli Donald nearly got on the end of it and, as time ticked on, the fans were getting anxious that this might not be Clee’s day.
Manager Newell made three quick substitutions in a bid to spark a revival. Firstly, Oglesby came on to replace Norburn and then striker North entered the action with the injured Robertson withdrawn. Finally, club captain Flett was introduced with Davis leaving the field.
During this flurry of activity, Richardson had a strong effort deflected for a corner and just after the final replacement had been made, the equaliser arrived. Young Aldrich gained possession of the ball 20 yards from goal. He jinked to his right to find a modicum of space and then let fly with a swerving shot into the top corner. A superb goal from a very promising talent.
It was now one-way traffic as Clee pressed for the decisive goal and Walton was more or less a spectator in the home goal.
North was twice involved. Firstly, he shot wide from long range and then the striker had a scuffed shot blocked by the massed ranks of the Tulips’ defence. However, Spalding remained under the cosh and the Owls were not to be denied for much longer.
In the 77th minute, a good cross in from the right was met by North, who had shown his experience to find space between defenders, and he easily headed home from close range. Delight from players, management and fans alike as the turnaround was completed.
Clee continued to press for the cushion of a third goal as man-of-the-match Taylor crossed for Richardson, but the shot was charged down and an effort from Flett was saved.
As the match ticked into four minutes of added time, Spalding had a potential lifeline when they gained a free-kick in a dangerous position. However, the ball sailed high over the bar and a deserved win was safe for the Owls.
FT Cleethorpes Town 2 (Aldrich 61, North 77) Spalding United 1 (Marshall 18) Attendance: 258
Three more important points for Clee and, particularly on the balance of play in the second half, well merited.
Manager Marcus Newell spoke afterwards that Andy Taylor and Luke Aldrich offered good attacking options. It was indeed a fine goal from Aldrich – great to see young players with such promise coming from the junior ranks. I thought that Liam Davis did well (not only in this game but also on Saturday) and is now getting back to somewhere near his best.
One final reflection on the busy festive period. I think the management team deserve much credit for the way they kept the team fresh. Not easy, when there is such talent in the squad, but well handled and nine points in the week after Christmas vindicates their decisions.
At our halfway stage of the league campaign, we are sitting pretty in third place in the Evostik South with 41 points. A similar return in the second portion of the season would certainly secure a play-off berth and, possibly, automatic promotion. Hard work ahead but also a good deal of optimism.
Next up are Potteries based Newcastle Town, who visit Bradley on Saturday (6th – 3pm). The away match in October saw the Owls twenty match unbeaten league run ended in a controversial 1-0 loss.
With some pivotal matches looming on the horizon towards the end of the month, another win would be most welcome!
UP THE OWLS!