Romulus 2 Cleethorpes Town 3
ROMANS CONQUERED BY DRAMATIC COMEBACK
Clee returned from an enforced 28-day absence due to four postponements and travelled to Sutton Coldfield Town FC for a vital game against Romulus. Following the blow of a 12-point deduction, the club were now playing catch-up in their pursuit of a play-off berth.
The reverse fixture in September resulted in a thumping 6-0 victory for the Owls, which is the best of the Evostik debut, and they were looking to extend their unbeaten run to nine games in all competitions. In contrast, it has been a difficult campaign for the Roms, who are in deep relegation trouble and sat only two points off the bottom of the table at the start of play.
Following the “winter break”, the team showed three changes from the last outing against Bedworth United. There was a debut for on-loan Hull City goalkeeper Johnny Saltmer, who replaced Richard Walton. Marcus Newell also drafted in Peter Winn and Matt Bloomer for Josh Lacey and Jack Richardson respectively.
The match got underway in pleasant sunshine in the West Midlands and Clee began in a 5-3-2 formation. It was an even opening with Saltmer getting down low to make an early save and Brody Robertson falling awkwardly on the artificial surface. Romulus first threatened in the 10th minute when Malachi Farquarson headed a yard over.
As the half progressed, the Owls were looking rusty and struggling with the high bounce as a series of passes uncharacteristically went astray. On the other hand, the hosts were belying their lowly league placing with some confident football.
The returning Winn won an important header under pressure and then Mark Gray was clumsily challenged when he found himself well forward on the right flank. From the resultant free-kick, the big defender climbed highest but was just off-target. This proved to be the best effort of a disjointed beginning from the visitors.
Disaster struck for Clee either side of the half-hour mark as the Roms raced into a shock two-goal lead. Firstly, on 28 minutes, there was a mix-up in defence and the ball came loose to David Howarth, who stroked home into the empty net. Then, in the next attack, Callum Coyle confidently beat Saltmer when he was allowed space on the edge of the area.
This salvo stunned the travelling fans, who once again had turned out in numbers and made up about a quarter of the crowd. However, they continued to provide vocal support to the team, who were desperate to find a foothold.
Just when it seemed that Clee were going to be left with an uphill task in the second period, Robertson provided a lifeline as he halved the deficit in the 41st minute. The ball was well worked through midfield and found the nippy striker about 15 yards from goal. He strongly held off the challenge of a defender before powerfully beating home keeper Billy Spink.
HT Romulus 2 (Howarth 28, Coyle 31) Cleethorpes Town 1 (Robertson 41)
The second half opened in explosive fashion with the Owls equalising within 90 seconds. This was not before a scare at the other end when Romulus struck the woodwork. Immediately, Clee surged upfield and the ever-reliable Danny North produced an exquisite curling finish to draw the visitors level.
Just the boost needed and Clee now looked a completely transformed outfit. Liam Davis almost burst through and captain Alex Flett was becoming more influential as the Owls began to have the lion’s share of possession. This was not to say that Romulus carried no threat and Bloomer was on-hand with a timely interception.
On 65 minutes, the Clee management team made a double substitution and decided to go to a 4-4-2 set-up. Gray and Davis were withdrawn with Richardson and Andy Taylor entering the fray.
The Owls knew that all three points were needed and continued to up the tempo as they searched for the decisive goal. There was great inter-play between Robertson and Jon Oglesby, before the latter sliced his effort wide. Then, Tim Lowe got well forward but his speculative 30-yarder was comfortably held.
Into the final phase and Clee introduced Marc Cooper in place of goalscorer Robertson. This final substitution was followed by a flowing move down the left, but Spink did well to smother the ball as Oglesby loomed large.
Away stopper Saltmer had not been required much since half-time but was on his toes in the 85th minute following a brief spell of pressure from Romulus. He was smartly off his line to gather the ball just before Howarth could strike.
A minute later, substitute Richardson missed a golden chance. The ball reached the unmarked midfielder no more than six yards out and it appeared as though he just needed to roll the ball home. However, his feet looked as though they got slightly tangled and the opportunity disappeared.
It now seemed probable that the Owls were going to have to be satisfied with an away point but, as we entered added time, Flett got in on the act with the winning goal that Clee’s second-half display had merited. The captain struck a low shot from the inside-right channel across Spink and it nestled in the corner, sparking scenes of delight both on the pitch and in the visitors’ enclosure.
The turnaround was complete and Clee saw out the remaining time without alarm to claim a very valuable victory.
FT Romulus 2 (Howarth 28, Coyle 31) Cleethorpes Town 3 (Robertson 41, North 47, Flett 90) Attendance: 88
Romulus will count themselves unfortunate to come away empty-handed and it shows how fine margins can be in sport. If they had gone 3-1 ahead early in the second-half, it could well have been a different story. However, once the Owls had equalised, I thought the winner would eventually come! Great patience in the end from Clee and it cannot be a coincidence that we score so many late goals…
I do not know what Marcus Newell and Dave Smith said in the dressing room at the break but it certainly worked! The assistant manager offered the following thoughts after the final whistle. Thanks for your time and assistance.
“We needed the three points!
First half we just weren’t at the races. Maybe it was the lack of recent games or possibly a hangover from the points deduction but, either way, we deservedly fell 2-0 behind. However, the boys recognised the fact and we showed a glimpse of our quality with an excellent finish under pressure from Brody.
Second half we came out a different side and equalised quickly with a superb finish from Northy. From then on, we dominated and played like the team we know we are. We deservedly won the game at the death through our skipper Fletty.
We needed the outing for more reasons than one and we now have two home games to look forward to, where we will be looking for more wins. Finally, I would like to thank the fans for their incredible away support!”
Three home games in quick succession are next on the agenda for the Owls.
Firstly, on Wednesday (21st – 7.45pm), Carlton Town are the visitors. We have faced the Millers once before in a memorable 3-2 FA Cup victory in September 2014, with Brody Robertson providing the last-minute winner.
Next Saturday (24th – 3pm), we welcome Leek Town to Bradley. The Staffordshire outfit are on the fringes of the play-off zone and, therefore, another win would be most welcome. It finished goalless at Harrison Park back in the Autumn.
After this, it is a re-match against FA Vase winners South Shields in the Integro League Cup (Wednesday 28th February – 7.45pm). Clee will be hopeful of a better outcome than at Wembley and, if successful, we will progress into the last 8.
With all the recent cancellations, we certainly face a hectic few weeks before the season draws to a close. The support this year has been superb and everyone can help the Owls both regain their play-off position and bring home some silverware in at least one of the knock-out competitions.
UP THE OWLS!