It was a Lincs Senior Cup tie against neighbours Grimsby Town that was the latest action on the agenda for the Owls at New Linden. The winners would face Lincoln United at home in the semi-final and stand just one win away from a Cup final.
A decent crowd greeted the players, with the Mariners opting to field a young XI. On the other hand, Clee had an experienced sixteen, which consisted of the following – David Birch, Tim Lowe, Loz McKay, Lewis Collins, Matt Bloomer, Kieran Wressell, Jack Richardson, Alex Flett (captain), Brody Robertson, Liam Davis, Tom Davie, Oli Donald, Mark Gray, Jon Oglesby, Andy Taylor and Paul Walker respectively.
The opening stages were cagey as both teams tried to settle into a rhythm. Bloomer went closest for the Owls when his header from a corner was deflected wide. Also, following good play from Robertson, Collins shot a yard wide. The visitors’ best moment came when a hard cross from Tom Jamieson flashed across the face of Birch’s goal.
As the half wore on, the young Mariners were showing a good deal of pace up front, with both Max Wright and Akheem Rose catching the eye. However, the defence coped well, with Wressell in particular looking in dominant form.
The match exploded into life in the ten minutes before the break, with three goals coming. Firstly, after Grimsby had wasted two chances to gain the initiative, a quick break by the Owls found Robertson, who calmly dispatched his second competitive strike of the campaign past away stopper Ollie Battersby.
The lead lasted less than five minutes though, with the lively Wright curling in a delightful 25-yarder just beyond Birch’s grasp. Not to be outdone, Clee responded right on the stroke of half-time, when Davie bundled home his first goal for the Owls from close range.
HT Cleethorpes Town 2 (Robertson 37, Davie 45) Grimsby Town 1 (Wright 42)
Marcus Newell and Dave Smith utilised all five substitutes during the second 45, as everyone looked to build up their fitness and sharpness ahead of the league opener against Spalding United, which was exactly a month away.
One of these changes bore immediate fruit, when Taylor stroked home with his first touch of the ball. Rather than deflate the youngsters, the Mariners now enjoyed their best spell of the game as they searched for a lifeline.
On the hour mark, Rumarn Burrell was unlucky to see his low shot bounce to safety after cannoning the post. However, Grimsby were not to be denied and did hit back on 68 minutes. Brandon Buckley burst clear from midfield and confidently drove the ball into the net.
The home side almost regained their two-goal cushion when a stinging effort from Collins fizzed just the wrong side of the upright.
Birch needed to be alert twice in the closing stages, as the visitors battled to take the game to penalties. First, Kyle Richardson and then Burrell tested the young keeper, who showed his mettle with some confident handling.
Taylor very nearly settled matters in stoppage time but the ball was scrambled to safety. This proved to be the last significant action, as the Owls made it four from four in pre-season.
HT Cleethorpes Town 3 (Robertson 37, Davie 45, Taylor 46) Grimsby Town 2 (Wright 42, Buckley 68) Attendance: 328
A good win against a young team that played with plenty of promise. Nice to keep the winning run going and the squad is coming together all the time. I thought Kieran Wressell was outstanding at the back – his return to full fitness is like having a brand new signing!
Lincoln United at home awaits us in the semi-final. We do not have an exact date yet (keep an eye on social media!) but, due to Lincs FA regulations, it is very likely to be one evening next week.
On Saturday (21st – 3pm), we travel away for the first time this pre-season when we visit Winterton Rangers (postcode: DN15 9QF). If you have not been before, West Street is a delightful place to watch a game of football, so let’s get a good few there to cheer the lads on!
UP THE OWLS!