Cleethorpes Town 0 South Shields 2
SLICK SHIELDS SINK OWLS
Clee returned from a frustrating spell of postponements due to the very wet weather with a visit from our Wembley opponents South Shields. No fan of the Owls will need reminding that the Mariners recorded a comfortable 4-0 win in the showpiece but, for everyone associated with both clubs, it was an unforgettable day that most non-league teams can only dream about!
The County Durham visitors were enjoying another successful season with promotion looking likely. However, Clee were unbeaten in 11-games and still chasing honours on two fronts. The winners of tonight’s tie would travel to face former football league side Workington in the Integro Cup quarter-finals.
The Owls made just the one change from the 1-1 draw against Leek Town with Loz McKay replacing Marc Cooper.
An entertaining opening to proceedings as both teams were quickly into their stride and playing some trademark passing football. The pitch was heavy but perfectly playable and a commendable effort by the staff at Bradley to get the game on.
Shields took the lead on 13 minutes in slightly unusual circumstances. A ball back to Sam Vince by central defender Mark Gray was picked up by the keeper. The referee deemed this a deliberate back-pass and awarded an indirect free-kick around 10 yards from goal. It was nudged to Carl Finnigan who lashed the ball through a ruck of bodies to find the net.
Clee responded well with the lively Jon Oglesby looking dangerous. It was the winger who surged down the flank before being upended by Matty Pattison, who earned a booking in the process. This was followed a couple of moments later with Oglesby very nearly pinpointing Danny North, who was working intelligently to find some space.
The Mariners were next to threaten on the half-hour with a flowing move and a cross from the left. This found dangerman Finnigan but the goalscorer sliced wide. It was end-to-end stuff with influential captain Alex Flett making a strong run through midfield before being crowded out.
North was almost rewarded for his efforts when he got in behind the defence in the 38th minute. The striker’s shot was on-target but well saved by away stopper Paul Woolston. An absorbing half ended with Dan Lowther curling a free-kick over for the visitors.
HT Cleethorpes Town 0 South Shields 1 (Finnigan 13)
The Owls started really well after the break and very nearly found the equaliser. It was only the fingertips of Woolston that prevented a fierce effort from Flett finding the top corner. A couple of home corners also caused alarm in the defence as Clee upped the tempo.
Three quick substitutions by Marcus Newell, who was no doubt mindful of the busy period ahead and also the need to give members of his squad some much needed game time. Oli Donald, Cooper and Luke Aldrich came on for Gray, North and Oglesby respectively.
It was just after this flurry of activity that Clee suffered the body-blow of a second goal in the 64th minute. The ball was worked down the left and an accurate ball found the late run from midfield of Lowther, who finished confidently past Vince to double Shields’ advantage.
Far from deflating the Owls, and possibly with happy memories of overturning a similar deficit against Tadcaster in the previous round, they continued to play nice football and it was only a series of spectacular saves from Woolston that denied the home side.
First, substitute Cooper went close and then the unlucky Flett forced the keeper to tip the ball away to safety. The pick of Woolston’s acrobatics came in the 76th minute when Aldrich and Jack Richardson forced a memorable double-save. Despite the home faithful’s urgings, it was proving to be one of those nights for the Owls, who just could not find a lifeline.
The game continued to ebb and flow in the dying stages but there were to be no more goals as Clee’s interest in the League Cup ended for the season. At the final whistle, both sets of fans rightly delivered an ovation to the teams, who had provided an enjoyable spectacle despite the cloying conditions.
FT Cleethorpes Town 0 South Shields 2 (Finnigan 13, Lowther 64) Attendance: 152
It could well have been a different story if the Shields’ keeper had not been in such inspired form. However, I thought we played pretty well after being without a game for a while and there were plenty of positives. In fairness, probably not the worst game to lose! With a lot of matches to fit in, a long midweek journey to Workington is one we can do without.
The fixtures will now come thick and fast with the next one in less than 48 hours! In total, we have 15 league games before the season ends in in just 43 days.
The outskirts of Nottingham is the destination tomorrow (Saturday 17th – 3pm) when we pay a visit to Carlton Town. A quick reverse game against the Millers, who earned a 2-2 draw at Bradley last month. Brody Robertson and Tim Lowe were on the mark for the Owls.
Further travel on Tuesday (20th – 7.45pm), when we go to the West Midlands to face a pivotal encounter against play-off rivals Chasetown. A first-ever meeting between the teams and Clee really need the three points to gain some ground on the teams above them.
After this it is back-to-back home games versus Alvechurch (Thursday 22nd – 7.45pm) and Loughborough Dynamo (Saturday 24th – 3pm). Please note that there will be an Easter Egg collection in aid of the children of St Andrew’s Hospice at both matches. There will be a table set aside in the clubhouse for this most worthy of causes – all donations gratefully received.
A hectic end to the campaign in prospect but no reason why Clee’s objective of a play-off berth cannot be achieved. An expensive and time-consuming period for the fans but you can be sure that all support (home and away) is much appreciated by the management and players.
Whatever the outcome on the field, the Club moves ever closer to a dream return home to Linden. What did not seem possible only a couple of years ago is now within grasp! The finishing touches are being applied and we hope to have the green light for the 2018/19 season.
Of course, this has only been achieved by the dedication of numerous “back-stage” volunteers. The next phase of the Club’s history promises to be very exciting and will firmly cement the Owls’ position as the area’s premier non-league team.
UP THE OWLS!