Sheffield FC 1 Cleethorpes Town 1
ROBERTSON STRIKE EARNS ROAD POINT
A visit to Sheffield FC was on the agenda for the Owls to start the final ten league matches, with everyone desperate to bounce back from Saturday’s disappointment. With other results over the weekend, a play-off position was still possible and a positive outcome was needed to gather some momentum for the run-in.
The home side now appeared secure from the spectre of relegation and were hoping to complete a double over Clee, having secured a shock 4-0 win at Bradley just before Christmas.
Marcus Newell decided to make four changes from the weekend. Loz McKay, Peter Winn, Liam Davis and Luke Aldrich came in for Josh Lacey, Liam Dickens, Mark Gray and Marc Cooper respectively. Persistent rain greeted the players and this lasted throughout the 90 minutes, which provided a very zippy surface to play some fast-paced football.
The Owls, who looked rather resplendent in their unfamiliar change colours of yellow and red, started in a predominantly 4-1-3-2 formation. Peter Winn adopted the role between defence and midfield.
Clee started well without being able to create a clear chance. Curtis Bateson showed good close control in the 6th minute before being crowded out and then the same player cut inside from the left and curled a right-footer a couple of yards too high. On the quarter-hour, Winn got forward well and his shot was only a fraction wide.
Sheffield were struggling to get a foothold as the Owls formation was proving to be a success. However, the breakthrough would not come as Brody Robertson was flagged narrowly offside as he burst clear.
The visitors were still looking the more controlled team but, as we moved closer to the interval, the game became more even. A rasping shot from Robertson flew over before a Sheffield attack was snuffed out by captain Matt Bloomer.
The last action of the half saw Tim Lowe on hand with a magnificent clearing header from a free-kick and, despite some entertaining approach play, neither side had seriously worked the opposing keeper as we went in goalless.
HT Sheffield FC 0 Cleethorpes Town 0
A scrappy opening to the second period suddenly burst into life in the 53th minute as the Owls got the all-important first goal. It was absolutely no surprise that it came in the shape of the ever-reliable Robertson. The lively striker picked up the ball on the left edge of the box and, strongly holding off a defender, his low drive beat Hugo Warhurst.
The breakthrough was immediately followed by Jon Oglesby replacing Aldrich and it was the substitute who was involved in the Owls’ best spell of the night.
During the next 10 minutes, Clee went close on three occasions to putting the game out of Sheffield’s reach. Oglesby embarked on a mazy run but curled wide as the assistant flagged and, shortly afterwards, the winger again nearly doubled the visitors’ advantage. Then, a clever run from Robertson allowed him to find space but Warhurst got down well to beat the effort away.
The large contingent of travelling fans, who had provided superb support to their team throughout, were rocked in the 66th minute when Sheffield equalised, somewhat out-of-the-blue.
A ball down the right reached substitute Matt Roney. He unleashed a skimming shot from the corner of the box and the ball flew past Higton to nestle in the far-corner. Unfortunately for the Owls, this was the 13th league game in succession where their defence had been breached. This also changed the flow completely and it was the home side’s turn to be in the ascendant.
The confident Roney was now shooting from all angles and Higton was grateful to see a near repeat of the goal go narrowly wide. Clee were still a threat though and Winn, who had played very well, hit a pile-driver that the keeper turned behind.
Final changes of the night for the visitors saw Jack Richardson and Liam Davis withdrawn. On came Dickens and Lacey to try to inspire a much-needed winner.
It was still 100mph stuff in the heavy rain and, as the game became briefly turned feisty, Lowe saw yellow. Within 60 seconds, home captain Adam Chapman also incurred the referee’s wrath and entered the book.
As the game reached its conclusion, Clee once again looked the most likely but could not find the decisive moment that their overall play would have merited.
FT Sheffield FC 1 (Roney 66) Cleethorpes Town 1 (Robertson 53) Attendance: 161
All in all, a slightly frustrating outcome! We were left to rue not being able to turn our very dominant spell into more than one goal. However, an away point is never to be sniffed at in this competitive division and we just need to keep battling away during the fatiguing run-in.
I must admit that I was surprised when I checked the stats to discover that we are yet to keep a clean sheet in the Evostik during 2018. I cannot see an obvious reason for this either – generally think the defence has done well this campaign. Work to do now to reach the play-offs but, until it is mathematically impossible, I’m sure everyone will continue to pull together.
On the same note, I thought the supporters were magnificent last night! To get around 35 there on a foul evening, without any official transport, was superb. A big thanks to everyone who took their cars across to Dronfield and offered lifts to their fellow Owls. We could all see how much the team appreciated our efforts at the final whistle!
We are next in action tomorrow (Wednesday 11th – 7.45pm) when Lincoln United are the visitors. The Whites have been in terrific form recently and will pose a tricky challenge. Let’s hope the crowd are as well entertained as the reverse fixture on Boxing Day, where a 9-goal feast ended with the Owls triumphant by a score of 5-4.
Please come down to Bradley to give your support in this important Lincolnshire derby.
UP THE OWLS!