Cleethorpes Town 5 Newcastle Town 1
FOUR GOAL NORTH FIRES OWLS
The Owls aimed to extend their winning run to four when Newcastle Town visited Bradley. The reverse fixture in the Potteries in mid-October saw Clee’s twenty match unbeaten league run come to an end in a controversial 1-0 defeat. The goal coming from a hotly disputed late penalty from James Lee.
Clee were third in the table at start of play, whilst the visitors were fifteenth. In contrast to the Owls, Newcastle had been in poor recent form and they lost all their festive fixtures.
After surviving a morning inspection, the pitch was unsurprisingly heavy but definitely playable. Four changes for Clee from Monday with Jon Oglesby, Mark Gray, Alex Flett and Danny North coming in to the starting eleven. Jacob Norburn, Oli Donald, Jack Richardson and Brody Robertson respectively dropped out on this occasion.
The home team started the game well and dominated the opening exchanges against a youthful looking visiting side. In the 4th minute, Luke Aldrich shot wide from 20 yards and then the youngster, who had done so well against Spalding, could not dig the ball out from under his feet when he had an opportunity in the area.
Danny North entered the action on 10 minutes when his good play won a corner. More fine passing from the Owls eventually led to Liam Dickens firing over the bar. Clee were using the ball very well in the conditions and making Newcastle cover a lot of ground.
It was no surprise when the opening goal arrived after 17 minutes. North received the ball on the edge of the box and the ever-reliable striker powered it into the net beyond Adam Alcock’s despairing dive.
Clee continued to be superior in all areas of the field and the performance was reminiscent of some of the quality play from early in the season. Matt Bloomer had an appeal for a penalty waved away after 24 minutes when there was a suspicion of the ball hitting a defender’s hand and there was another desperate clearance after a lovely run and cross by Tim Lowe.
The Owls were threatening a second goal and a swerving effort from Lowe was only just kept out by Alcock and a backward header by Aldrich was again saved by the overworked away stopper.
The game should already have been well out of Newcastle’s reach but, to their credit, the visitors refused to buckle and belatedly began to get a foothold in the game as the half entered its final stages. A nice move saw a long-range volley flash wide of Richard Walton’s goal and then the keeper needed to tip over an in-swinging corner.
HT Cleethorpes Town 1 (North 17) Newcastle Town 0
The first play of the second period saw Will Bailey fire narrowly wide to give the Owls a reminder that there was still plenty of work needed to secure the three points. In fact, the opening minutes were much more even than earlier in the game as Newcastle enjoyed their best spell.
After 53 minutes, a superb tackle and turn in midfield by Liam Davis allowed him to almost find a perfect ball through to Andy Taylor. A defender did very well to read the situation and snuff out the danger. Shortly afterwards, Newcastle responded with a diving header from Aaron Bott as they strived for an unlikely leveller.
As the hour mark was reached, Lee shot straight at Walton and Clee made their first substitution. Jack Richardson was introduced in place of Aldrich, the young forward having again shown promise for the first team.
The Owls doubled their lead on 65 minutes via a Danny North penalty after Richardson was tripped. The striker calmly sent Alcock the wrong way as Clee appeared to have now made the match safe.
However, the home faithful were in for a shock as Newcastle halved their deficit a little over 90 seconds later. A cross from the right by James Askey caught Walton slightly off his line and flew over the keeper into the goal.
It proved to be a short-lived reprieve for the visitors as Clee restored their two-goal cushion after 70 minutes. In an action replay, Richardson surged into the box before being upended. It was an easy decision for the referee and North completed his hat-trick from the spot in an identical manner to earlier.
Newcastle’s game resistance had finally been broken and it was now just a question of how many the Owls would register, as they once again dominated the closing stages.
There was a welcome return to action on 82 minutes for Marc Cooper, who replaced captain Flett. It was the striker’s first outing since suffering a nasty injury at Bedworth in early November.
As the clock ticked towards added time, Walton was required to make two good saves as the visitors looked for a consolation. It looked like there would be no more goals for the crowd to enjoy but, amazingly, Clee scored twice in overtime!
Firstly, Taylor fired in a powerful finish from the inside right channel and, in the next attack, yet another spot kick was awarded. There was no complaint about the decision from Newcastle. It was hard not to feel some sympathy for the hapless Alcock as man-of-the-match North stepped up. Once again, the keeper guessed wrong as the rampant striker rolled in his fourth, which now included a highly unusual penalty hat-trick.
To the relief of the outplayed visitors, the final whistle sounded on a highly satisfactory afternoon for the Owls.
FT Cleethorpes Town 5 (North 17, 65 pen, 70 pen, 90+1 pen, Taylor 90) Newcastle Town 1 (Askey 67) Attendance: 166
A fourth win on the spin for Cleethorpes and thoroughly deserved too!
I thought the score was about a fair reflection on the afternoon’s entertainment. Of course, Danny North will rightly grab the headlines but there were other good performances. Mark Gray was dominant in defence and the whole midfield was solid.
There will undoubtedly be much harder tests in the weeks to come but the Owls enter this pivotal period of the season with real momentum.
Manager Marcus Newell reflected afterwards that “we are now playing better and getting to where we need to be as a group”. An honest assessment from the boss and I think that, after the sticky pre-Christmas spell, most fans would agree that Clee are starting to re-discover their early season form.
The next Evostik South fixture is on Saturday (13th – 3pm) and a trip to Yorkshire to face Stocksbridge Park Steels. The reverse fixture in October ended in a 1-1 draw with Luke Mascall grabbing the Clee goal.
It is sure to be a competitive match against one of Jamie Vardy’s former sides and the postcode of the Look Local Stadium is S36 2AN. Travel is bookable in the usual way – either contact the Linden Club or via Twitter/Facebook.
Before then, there is the small matter of the Lincolnshire Senior Trophy semi-final on Wednesday (10th – 745pm) against Grimsby Borough. This could well turn out to be a feisty affair and all Owls are asked to show their support! The winners of the tie will progress to a final against Holbeach United in April or early May.
One final note on upcoming fixtures – put a circle around Wednesday 31st January in your diaries. If Clee defeat Tadcaster Albion in the next round of the Integro (League) Cup, then this is the date for the re-match at home to South Shields!
UP THE OWLS!