This season’s FA Cup adventure started in the Preliminary Round for Clee with a trip to the impressive facilities at Loughborough University for a game against the Midland League Premier Division side.
After the thrashing at Ossett United, there had been speculation that the management team would make wholesale changes but, in the event, there was only one, with Tom Davie coming in for Tim Lowe. The 16 involved was as follows:
Goal: Dylan Parkin
Defence: Sam Topliss, Paul Walker, Mark Gray, Tom Davie
Midfield: Josh Batty, Craig Disley, Alex Flett (captain), Jonathan Oglesby
Attack: Scott Vernon, Brody Robertson
Subs: Laurence McKay, Matt Bloomer, Oli Donald, Lewis Collins, Jack Richardson
The tie started in a very heavy rain shower which made the excellent pitch even slicker and ideal for attacking football. In all fairness, both sides were predominantly trying to keep the ball on the deck but no clear chances came in the opening 15 minutes.
Clee gradually began to gain the upper hand and Vernon was flagged offside when clear on goal. However, the Owls did not have to wait much longer to grab the initiative. Persistent play on the right edge of the box by Robertson allowed him to slide an inch perfect pass to Alex Flett, who had found plenty of space 20 yards out. The captain took time to set himself and side-footed his shot into the net.
Just the boost required and, whilst the Scholars were playing some neat football, at this stage you felt it was only a matter of time before the second arrived. Following a corner, a melee in the goalmouth ensued, with Vernon almost prodding home. A shot wide by Daniel Hanson was the closest the home side came to troubling Parkin in the first 30 minutes.
Flett and Robertson were really catching the eye for the Owls, whilst most of the University’s attacking threat was coming through the nimble Joe Boachie.
No more action as an entertaining tie reached the break, with the scoreline accurately reflecting the play on the pitch.
HT Loughborough University 0 Cleethorpes Town 1 (Flett 21)
The first attacking threat of the second 45 came from the Owls in the 51st minute when Batty tested keeper Conor O’Keefe from a well-worked free-kick. Loughborough responded well and Gray made an important interception to deny Boachie.
In the 59th minute, central defender Walker suffered a foot injury and was replaced by the evergreen Bloomer, who was making his first appearance of the season. Five minutes later, Marcus Newell made a double substitution with Collins and Richardson replacing Disley and Batty respectively.
Moments afterwards, the tie suddenly exploded into life with a flurry of goals. Firstly, Christian Eneremadu was on hand to cap a fine team move to draw the students level. However, within two minutes, Jonathan Oglesby rocketed a header into the roof of net, after a perfect cross from the right. Not to be outdone, and a mere 90 seconds later, a low shot by Hanson made it 2-2.
The crowd only had a short period to gather their thoughts before Alex Flett edged the Owls back in front in the 74th minute. More dogged play from Robertson caused confusion in the home defence and, after stopper O’Keefe rushed from his line, the forward showed great composure. Rather than take on a shot himself through a pack of defenders, he moved the ball square to his captain, who easily rolled the ball into the unguarded net.
It had become a classic Cup encounter but Flett’s second looked to have finally broken the brave resistance of the University. Gray and Vernon both came close to settling matters, with headers from corners that went a yard over.
As the clock moved into 4 minutes of added time, the Owls appeared to be comfortably seeing the game out but, in classic FA Cup tradition, there was to be a dramatic twist.
A last desperate attack from the University appeared to have petered out when Boachie, who was running back and to the naked eye appeared to be a good 5 yards offside, received the ball. All the players stopped, including the forward himself, as we awaited a routine flag. For reasons only known to himself, the assistant allowed the game to continue. The lively striker could not believe his luck and rounded off an excellent individual performance by firing home beyond a despairing Parkin.
Wild celebrations from the home contingent but a sense of disbelief amongst the stunned visitors. In the ensuing protests from the Owls, Robertson was dismissed by the referee for foul and abusive language, with man of the match Flett also seeing yellow.
The final whistle sounded and it is back to New Linden for the replay on Tuesday 4th September. Both teams left the field to a deserved ovation from the richly entertained spectators.
HT Loughborough University 3 (Eneremadu 66, Hanson 70, Boachie 90+1) Cleethorpes Town 3 (Flett 21, 74, Oglesby 68) Attendance: 156
A pulsating second half! No question that we should have won the game and the bizarre conclusion certainly leaves a sour taste. Even after reflection, I cannot possible fathom how the third equaliser was allowed to stand. However, as with all Cup matches, the most important aspect is that we are in the hat for the next round! The draw is around 1pm on Tuesday.
Alex Flett and Brody Roberton were outstanding for us but the striker will take time to ponder on his sending off.
Hard to crab the University though, who played their part in a cracker and were fine hosts on the day. They were obviously delighted to gain a replay and that is a compliment in itself. It shows how far we have come, to now be considered a major scalp by step 5 sides. As for the re-match, we will start as firm favourites but just need to make sure we shackle Joe Boachie.
Next up tomorrow (3pm) is a difficult looking Evostik East fixture against promotion favourites Frickley Athletic.
Everyone will be keen to put on a show and all support is welcome. No reason why we cannot top the 425 present against Spalding, as the excellent facilities at New Linden are receiving some really positive feedback from visitors.
UP THE OWLS!