Cleethorpes Town 1 Leek Town 1
HONOURS EVEN AS UNBEATEN RUN CONTINUES
Clee continued their quest for a play-off place by welcoming Leek Town to Bradley. The match at Harrison Park in September ended goalless on a rainy afternoon in Staffordshire and the Owls knew they were in for a tough test against one of the teams that they must now overtake.
Despite dropping two points on Wednesday, the home side were protecting an unbeaten run of ten. The Blues, on the other hand, had been in mixed form since Christmas and they needed a spell of good results to extend their campaign beyond the regular season.
There were four changes for the Owls from the 2-2 draw against Carlton Town, with Matt Bloomer, Danny North and Jon Oglesby coming in for Oli Donald, Andy Taylor and Loz McKay respectively. Making his debut in goal was recent signing Sam Vince, who replaced Johnny Saltmer.
A strong wind was with the Owls in the opening period and North tried his luck early on with a long-range effort, which went over. Home keeper Vince started confidently by easily holding a shot from the visitors. The stopper needed to be alert in the 11th minute when he saved well after Rob Stevenson got in behind the defence.
It had been tricky for both teams to play with any fluency in the initial stages but Clee got the boost of a goal in the 19th minute. Oglesby delivered a cross from the left and Brody Robertson was on hand to beat away keeper Danny Roberts to the ball and bundle home.
Unfortunately for the home faithful, the lead did not last long and Leek were level on 26 minutes. The defence failed to prevent a right-wing cross and Stevenson rose highest to head into the corner of the net from 8 yards.
A shock for Clee but they responded positively and very nearly regained the advantage on the half-hour. The ball was twice cleared off the line in the same play following a corner. Firstly, a Marc Cooper header was hacked away and then a follow-up effort from North was blocked by a visiting defender.
Shortly afterwards, a fierce low shot from Jack Richardson flew a yard the wrong side of the post, after good work from sponsors’ (Affordable Cars Grimsby) man-of-the match Alex Flett. However, it was Leek who had a great chance to score in first-half injury time. Tim Grice had space 12 yards out but pulled his shot wide of Vince’s goal as the teams went in level.
HT Cleethorpes Town 1 (Robertson 19) Leek Town 1 (Stevenson 26)
A tactical change at half-time by manager Marcus Newell, with Robertson and Oglesby switching wings. This almost paid immediate dividends when the latter fired narrowly over. North then hit the side-netting after nice approach work by Peter Winn. After this, a free-kick in from captain Flett was spilled by Roberts but a defender rescued the situation by hooking the ball to safety.
The Owls were by no means having things all their own way and, in the 64th minute, Grice rounded Vince but the reliable Tim Lowe appeared to clear for a corner before the Blues’ striker could tap the ball home. The central defensive pairing of Mark Gray and the evergreen Bloomer were required to mop-up a few high balls as both sides battled for the decisive breakthrough.
With 15 minutes left Clee made a double change, with Liam Dickens and Luke Aldrich entering the field to replace Richardson and Cooper. In the next phase, great play from North pinpointed the lively Robertson but the striker could not find the target from a promising position.
The final substitution for the Owls saw McKay coming on for Winn, as both sides knew that a victory was needed to boost their play-off hopes. Dan Trickett-Smith forced debutant Vince into two saves as the clock ticked down and Robertson, who had been a threat all afternoon, saw yellow as the home team’s frustrations increased.
Three added minutes were indicated and neither side could force the winner, as ground was lost on sixth-placed Chasetown.
FT Cleethorpes Town 1 (Robertson 19) Leek Town 1 (Stevenson 26) Attendance: 176
A real arm wrestle of a match, where I thought Clee slightly shaded it but a draw was probably fair. Not the wanted outcome as the gap to the play-off zone increased. Nevertheless, the unbeaten run grows to eleven and still plenty of points to play for, including two vital games against Chasetown. Lots of spirit shown from the side and Sam Vince did well on his debut.
Assistant manager Dave Smith offered his reflections after the final whistle – thanks for keeping the fans “in the loop”:
“We are happy to extend our unbeaten run to 11 games.
It was a competitive match, which I felt we edged but, in tricky conditions, a draw was the outcome. We did the ugly things well today and kept the game in Leek’s half. However, we just lacked the finishing touch when our quality created chances.
It was an avoidable goal to concede and also at a bad time, when we were looking to kick-on after taking the lead. We had talked pre-game about cutting out balls into the box, which we had identified as one of Leek’s strengths. Unfortunately, we failed to do so on that occasion.
New keeper Sam Vince was assured and fitted in very well. We look forward to seeing him progress with the Owls.
Onto the next game now!”
This coming Wednesday (7.45pm), it is the much-anticipated re-match against South Shields in the Integro League Cup. The FA Vase winners need no introduction to the Clee faithful and are, once again, enjoying a successful season. However, the Owls will be hopeful of a better outcome than at Wembley and the winners will progress into the last 8, where a long trip awaits to either Lancaster City or Workington.
With the arrival of March, we enter a very busy time with no less than nine league games scheduled. I have listed below all the action, so that you can plan your football month! Bear in mind, though, that with very cold weather forecast and possible progression in the League Cup, all fixtures are subject to change. Keep your eyes on the club’s informative Twitter feed for all the latest information.
Saturday 3rd (3pm) Belper Town (away)
Tuesday 6th (7.45pm) Gresley (away)
Saturday 10th (3pm) Alvechurch (home)
Wednesday 14th (7.45pm) Corby Town (home)
Saturday 17th (3pm) Carlton Town (away)
Tuesday 20th (7.45pm) Chasetown (away)
Saturday 24th (3pm) Loughborough Dynamo (home)
Tuesday 27th (7.45pm) Alvechurch (away)
Saturday 31st (3pm) Sheffield (away)
A bumper 27 points on offer and you know everyone will be striving to achieve as many as possible – all support is very welcome during this pivotal period.
UP THE OWLS!