The first FA Cup tie at New Linden saw Midland League Premier side Loughborough University visit. The original game in Leicestershire ended in a thrilling 3-3 draw, with Alex Flett grabbing a brace and Jonathan Oglesby also on the mark.
With Mark Gray and Brody Robertson sitting it out due to suspension, the management team of Marcus Newell and Dave Smith selected as follows:
Goal: Dylan Parkin
Defence: Sam Topliss, Tim Lowe, Oli Donald, Laurence McKay
Midfield: Josh Batty, Craig Disley, Alex Flett (captain), Lewis Collins, Jonathan Oglesby
Attack: Scott Vernon
Subs: Tom Davie, Luke Aldrich, Paul Walker, Matt Bloomer, David Birch
Clee dominated the early skirmishes, as they looked to demonstrate their higher league status. Collins tested Conor O’Keefe in the visiting goal on 11 minutes and then Batty went close shortly afterwards from a free-kick, firing a yard the wrong side of the upright.
Dangerman Joe Boachie served notice that he was very much the one to watch for the Scholars, with a neat piece of skill on 20 minutes but his shot did not trouble Parkin.
Collins and Chris Eneremadu traded half-chances for their respective sides, before the lively Vernon was denied on the half-hour mark by a last-ditch tackle. Pressure was building on the hard-pressed students’ defence but they continued to gamely resist the Owls’ slick football.
Just when the University sensed they could reach the sanctuary of their dressing room goalless, Clee finally made the deserved breakthrough. Collins burst clear in centre field and fed Josh Batty on the right flank. The winger, who has already become a fans’ favourite with his all-action style, beat a defender and curled a delightful left-footer over O’Keefe.
HT Cleethorpes Town 1 (Batty 41) Loughborough University 0
Vernon and Disley, who were both enjoying their best competitive game for the Owls, threatened to double the lead in the opening phase of the second 45. The former was denied by some brave goalkeeping and then the on-loan midfielder’s dipping shot was safely gathered by the away stopper.
Following this action, Loughborough had their best spell as the contest became more even. However, Lowe and Donald were dealing with any threat with relative ease at the heart of the Owls’ defence. Indeed, Lowe found time to get forward in the 65th minute to once again test O’Keefe.
Clee slipped back into gear and captain Flett showed superb close control with 20 to go. Yet again O’Keefe was down low to keep the University in the tie. He was beaten four minutes later, when a flying Oglesby header hit the inside of the post before being hacked to safety.
McKay and man-of-the match Josh Batty (as selected by our generous sponsors East Trans) picked up yellow cards. Then, with 81 minutes played, Clee had a real scare.
A free-kick was awarded around 25 yards out. Boachie’s effort beat the wall but Parkin reacted well to dive away to his right and, possibly with some assistance from the woodwork, get the ball away from the danger zone.
As the clock ticked down, Loughborough’s bar was rattled by the excellent Collins and the hard-working Vernon again went close.
A couple of substitutions followed with the returning Walker and Aldrich coming on to replace Collins and goalscorer Batty respectively. Three added minutes were signalled and the Owls comfortably saw out this time without alarm to move into the 1st Qualifying Round.
HT Cleethorpes Town 1 (Batty 41) Loughborough University 0 Attendance: 231
An enjoyable contest and our best display of the season. Obviously it was quite different from the normal physical Evostik encounter but Loughborough had enough players of quality to make it a real test. Should really have won by 2 or 3 but, as with all knock-out matches, it is the result that matters!
No surprise to see Josh Batty capture the m-o-t-m vote – thoroughly deserved! Easy to see why he is so popular amongst the faithful. Scott Vernon and Craig Disley played well, as did Oli Donald and Tim Lowe, who formed a promising partnership in central defence. Plenty for the management team to consider as we move forward.
Good to see a smattering of Owls’ supporters stay behind to applaud off the University, who had conducted themselves with great credit over the two games.
Next up is the FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round this Saturday (8th – 3pm) against Walsall Wood. They also ply their trade in the Midland League Premier Division and sit mid-table. Therefore, a good chance on paper to snaffle £6k and advance into potentially a big tie at the next stage, against the likes of York City and Stockport County.
However, we all know that the FA Cup is notoriously unpredictable, so certainly no room for any complacency and all support will be valued.
All pay in the Cup and admission is:
Concessions (over 65s and 16-18) £4
Under 16s £2
UP THE OWLS!