Cleethorpes Town 1 Alvechurch 0
PATIENT OWLS GAIN REWARD
A welcome return to Bradley after three matches on the road in the space of a mere four days! A loss, a draw and a win only tells half the story. Anyone who witnessed the scintillating 7-0 destruction of Belper Town were treated to an exciting glimpse into the possibilities for next season.
Back to the here & now though and automatic promotion contenders Alvechurch were the visitors. The Worcestershire-based outfit won the reverse fixture 1-0 and are in pole position to clinch second place, whilst Clee still had six fixtures left and would be endeavouring to finish the campaign strongly.
The Owls’ starting XI consisted of David Birch in goal with a defence Josh Lacey, Loz McKay, Kieran Wressell and Matt Bloomer. The midfield four was Liam Dickens, Jack Richardson, Alex Flett (captain) and Curtis Bateson. The in-form pair of Danny North and Brody Robertson completed the line-up.
It was a gorgeous evening and Clee started with attacking intent. Away stopper Paul Evans was required as early as the 3rd minute when he tipped over a shot from Robertson. The same player was involved in an injury scare shortly afterwards but, thankfully, was able to continue after treatment.
The all-action opening from the Owls did not produce the opening goal and Alvechurch soon gave a reminder of why they are second. The tall Yusifu Ceesay found himself with time on the left edge of the penalty area but he sliced a couple of yards wide.
As the half wore on, it became clear that it would be low-scoring with both defences generally on top. Indeed, the pairing of Bloomer and Wressell was in dominating form, with the visitors being limited to sporadic forays forward. It appeared that they would be more than happy to snaffle a point from what looked their hardest remaining outing.
A lengthy clearance from Birch in the 31st minute very nearly set-up North and then skipper Flett hit a dipping effort after a powerful run through midfield but it flew too high.
With half-time approaching, Alvechurch forced successive corners but they were easily picked off by the Owls’ impressive back-line. Clee had been generally on top during the opening 45 but would not be rewarded, as the sides headed to the dressing rooms with all to play for.
HT Cleethorpes Town 0 Alvechurch 0
More of the same to open the second period, as 100% commitment was shown by everyone and the impressive Bateson went close after fine close control.
On the hour, North was on the end of a sweeping move but agonisingly shot just over. It looked increasingly like it was going to finish goalless, despite the Owls’ ascendancy.
Aldrich came on to replace North with just over 15 to go and the young forward was immediately involved. He did well to win an aerial challenge but, yet again, there was cover amongst the visitors’ packed defence. Against the run of play, Alvechurch produced their best moment with 10 minutes left on the watch. A fast break upfield was very threatening but Lacey surged across to provide a timely intervention.
Just when the home faithful, who had provided fantastic vocal backing, had resigned themselves to a draw, the decisive moment finally arrived in the 86th minute and there was a hint of controversy.
Another attack from Clee eventually fell to sponsors’ (Forrester Boyd Accountants) man-of-the-match Bateson. The midfielder, who has been in exceptional form since his loan move from Gainsborough Trinity, smashed an effort towards goal. It ricocheted off a prone defender, who had been injured earlier in the move, and flew past Evans.
The referee correctly saw nothing untoward and, despite away protests, the Owls had the lead that their overall play merited.
Alvechurch had to belatedly change their defensive mindset but, despite having to endure almost 8 added minutes, Clee comfortably saw off the visitors’ frantic attempts and registered a valuable three points.
FT Cleethorpes Town 1 (Bateson 86) Alvechurch 0 Attendance: 203
I thought that was a very good display against one of the league’s top sides!
It is hard to single out individuals as it was another real team effort but Curtis Bateson was again top drawer. Also, a word of praise for young keeper David Birch, who has kept successive clean sheets, and Kieran Wressall – he looks top quality to me!
Personally, I saw absolutely nothing wrong with the goal. Their player was injured in the same phase of play and the officials were right to allow the play to continue to its conclusion. We have certainly been due a spot of good fortune…
The next match is at home to Chasetown on Saturday (3pm). The Owls drew 1-1 in Staffordshire last month, courtesy of a late equaliser from Mark Gray. The Scholars are well in the play-off mix, so it should be another exciting occasion.
Let’s get a big crowd down on Saturday for our last weekend fixture at Bradley!
UP THE OWLS!