Belper Town 1 Cleethorpes Town 5
FIVE STAR CLEE NAIL BELPER
The Owls travelled to the Silver X Stadium desperate to kick-start the Evostik East campaign with a victory. Two points from the opening five fixtures has certainly come as an unwelcome surprise but the atmosphere in the camp was still good, ahead of another tough away test.
With Oli Donald and Jon Oglesby unavailable due to suspension, Marcus Newell and Dave Smith reverted to a 4-4-2 system, which was as follows:
Goal: Dylan Parkin
Defence: Sam Topliss, Tim Lowe, Matt Bloomer, Paul Walker
Midfield: Jack Richardson, Craig Disley, Alex Flett (captain), Josh Batty
Attack: Scott Vernon, Brody Robertson
Subs: Mark Gray, Lewis Collins, Laurence McKay, Lawrence Burchell
A pleasant afternoon in this picturesque Derbyshire town and, although the grass looked a tad long, both sides had positive moments in the early exchanges.
Vernon was winning plenty of flicks in the air and it was noticeable that his strike partner Robertson was staying close to him. Indeed, the pairing were really harrying the home defence. However, it was Belper who had the first clear chance.
With the visitors temporarily down to 10 after Disley received a knock, stopper Parkin dived low to his left to turn away a headed effort from a corner. Clee did not heed the warning though and the Nailers grabbed the opening goal after 19 minutes. Another cross from the left was not dealt with adequately and Danny Gordon nodded in from 4 yards.
Within 2 minutes, Belper missed a glorious chance for a second, Alex Peterson blazed over the bar when well set. This opportunity proved to be the turning point for the whole afternoon, as the Owls suddenly burst into life to put the early season woes behind them.
Firstly, a Bloomer header needed close attention from keeper Max Beardmore and then a teasing right-wing cross from Robertson was stabbed just the wrong side of the upright by midfielder Richardson.
Momentum was building and the equaliser arrived after 32 minutes, following a superb move. Intricate play on the left between Walker and Disley allowed Batty to swing the ball in. The late run of Scott Vernon outwitted his marker and the big striker gleefully powered his header past Beardmore, with the defence appealing vainly for an offside flag.
Better was to come for the Owls shortly before the interval. There had been tireless running from the visiting attack throughout the half and it was Brody Robertson who got the reward for putting in some hard yards.
A routine clearance for Beardmore turned into anything but, as he completely missed his kick. This allowed the alert Robertson to walk the ball into the unguarded net to ensure the Owls returned to the dressing-room with their noses in front.
HT Belper Town 1 (Gordon 19) Cleethorpes Town 2 (Vernon 32, Robertson 40)
Clee moved into overdrive straight from the kick-off, with captain Flett forcing a tip-over from the home keeper. More good play followed, this time Vernon fired into the side-netting after a mazy run by full-back Topliss.
The travelling faithful did not have to wait much longer for the cushion of a third goal. On 54 minutes, Paul Walker leapt highest on the edge of the 6-yard box to connect with an in-swinging corner from Flett. The defender’s header was unstoppable and it flew into the top corner to give Walker his first competitive goal for Clee.
Batty missed a decent chance to put the game to bed on the hour. His effort was slightly scuffed and did not fully test the keeper. However, it was only a temporary reprieve for the Nailers, who were being overrun by the fluidity of the Owls’ play.
McKay came on to replace Batty after 70 minutes and his introduction immediately led to another goal for the vibrant visitors. The substitute was involved in winning a challenge before Robertson entered the box. After looking up, he found Scott Vernon lurking around 14 yards from goal in an acre of space. The striker showed all his experience to calmly use the available time to first set himself and then lift the ball into the corner of Beardmore’s net.
Another substitution with 13 to go and Collins’ first touch, after Richardson was withdrawn, skimmed the crossbar. Youngster Burchell came on for some experience in the closing stages, with the excellent Robertson taking a well-earned rest.
It was now just a question of how many the Owls would register and the final score of the afternoon came just as we moved into added time. The Belper defence was again ripped to shreds by fast attacking football and Lewis Collins was on hand to sweep home the fifth.
The final whistle came as a relief for the well-beaten Nailers and it was the Owls who deservedly received a lengthy standing ovation from the Clee supporters.
FT Belper Town 1 (Gordon 19) Cleethorpes Town 5 (Vernon 32, 72, Robertson 40, Walker 54, Collins 90) Attendance: 207
Phew – we have lift-off!!
What a great team performance that was, a real treat to watch. Was the selection of a 4-4-2 formation the catalyst? Difficult to say but Scott Vernon and Brody Robertson appeared to work well together. After this scintillating show, it would be a surprise to me if the management reverted to a 4-5-1 system anytime soon.
Plenty of candidates for man-of-the-match, with everyone putting in a good shift, but my slight preference would be for Scott Vernon. He gets lots of rough treatment and close marking in the Evostik East but I am beginning to really warm to his style of play.
Looking at the table, it is all rather congested with only 7 points dividing all 20 teams. This strongly suggests that it is going to very competitive all season, and a couple more wins should see us in the top half.
Anyway, a break from the league now, with 2 knock-out games. First of all, we go to Frickley on Tuesday for the 1st Round of the Integro (League) Cup. Probably a good chance to put a few youngsters in before a big game at New Linden next Saturday. Bamber Bridge come calling in the FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round.
All support will be needed to help topple our higher-ranked visitors. A win here would put us just two games away from the 1st Round draw and a potential dream fixture against the likes of Sunderland, Portsmouth and, of course, our neighbours Grimsby Town!
Integro (League) Cup – 1st Round
Frickley Athletic (away)
Westfield Lane, South Elmsall, Pontefract, WF9 2EQ
Tuesday 18th September – 7.45pm (if level after 90 minutes, penalties)
To be confirmed
FA Cup – 2nd Qualifying Round
Bamber Bridge (home)
Saturday 22nd September – 3pm (if level after 90 minutes, replay on Tuesday 25th September – 7.45pm)
Adults £8, Concessions (over 65s and 16-18) £4, Under 16s £2
UP THE OWLS!