A fine display of fast-paced attacking football saw Stocksbridge swept aside at a chilly New Linden on Saturday afternoon. The 6-2 victory lifted the Owls clear of the relegation zone and secured back-to-back Evostik wins for the first time since April.
Dave Smith made two changes from last time out but unsurprisingly went with the same shape that worked so well at Gresley. The returning from loan Mark Gray came in for the suspended Oli Donald and Brody Robertson was preferred to Josh Batty, with the following starting XI:
Goal: Dylan Parkin
Defence: Tim Lowe, Mark Gray, Paul Walker, Sam Topliss
Midfield defence: Liam Dickens, Alex Flett (captain)
Midfield attack: Lewis Collins, Danny North, Brody Robertson
Attack: Scott Vernon
Subs: Jack Richardson, Luke Mascall, Josh Batty, Craig Disley, Jon Oglesby
It was apparent from the opening exchanges that both teams were keen to keep the ball on the slick surface, which made for an entertaining start.
Only 7 minutes had elapsed before the Owls found the net. A corner from the right was cleared to Collins and the midfielder’s shot was guided home by Danny North, who is rapidly returning to his form from last season. A real boost for Clee but almost immediately Lowe had to be very alert to head clear, as the Steels threatened an instant reply.
Lowe soon found himself at the other end of the pitch and, after a neat passing interchange with Collins, North had his goalbound volley blocked by a defender. The fluidity and movement of the Owls’ system was causing major problems for the visitors, who were struggling to find much of an outlet.
The home faithful was enjoying the spectacle and a second goal arrived after 20 minutes. Once again, Lewis Collins tried his luck from the edge of the area. This time though the strike did not require any assistance, as it flew into the bottom corner.
Just when it looked like being an easy ride for the Owls, the Steels struck back out-ot-the-blue. There was a suspicion of handball in the build-up as the ball ricocheted around in midfield. Brodie Litchfield did not hang around though waiting for a whistle. He burst clear to lift the ball over Parkin.
The delight for the visitors was very short-lived however because, within 45 seconds of conceding, Clee re-established their 2-goal cushion. It was a real cracker as well, with Scott Vernon volleying in from around 21 yards. The striker’s shot whizzed past Amissah before the stopper had even moved.
With the contest entering the dying embers of the first half, the ball was played to Alex Flett, who was popping up all over the midfield. The captain added further gloss to an excellent first 45 for the Owls by finding the target with a fierce drive.
HT Cleethorpes Town 4 (North 7, Collins 20, Vernon 29, Flett 45+1) Stocksbridge Park Steels 1 (Litchfield 28)
A slightly scrappier opening to the second period probably suited the beleaguered Steels but It did not take Clee too long to once again impose their dominance. Alex Flett found space in the visitors’ rearguard and he delightfully curled beyond Amissah’s reach to claim his brace after 54 minutes.
Vernon twice went close to adding his second of the afternoon, as Stocksbridge were facing the prospect of a real pasting. Firstly, the big striker cleverly turned his marker but shot a yard wide and then the keeper did well to turn away a swerving effort.
To the visitors’ credit, they were continuing to attempt to pass their way out of trouble and were rewarded for their efforts just after the hour. After being awarded a disputed corner, Brodie Litchfield added to his own tally for the day, with a neat curling finish.
In the next period of play, and with an important three points safely pouched, the Clee management introduced all of their allotted substitutes. Oglesby, Batty and Richardson came on for goalscorers North, Vernon and Flett respectively. Batty very nearly had an immediate impact, striking the upright with his first touch.
As proceedings entered the closing stages, there were half chances at either end. Batty in particular, who must have been disappointed to miss out on a place in the line-up, was channelling his energy in the right direction. His cameo got the goal that it merited after 87 minutes.
A floated corner in from the right was not effectively dealt with by the defence and Josh Batty latched on to the loose ball to turn it in from close range.
The remaining time was played out with no more action and, as the final whistle sounded, the Owls received a good ovation, with the fans reflecting on probably the best performance of the League campaign.
HT Cleethorpes Town 6 (North 7, Collins 20, Vernon 29, Flett 45+1, 54, Batty 87) Stocksbridge Park Steels 2 (Litchfield 28, 61) Attendance: 265
After weeks of frustration, finally a home display to delight everyone! To my eyes, the score was by no means flattering and, on another day, we could have gone close to reaching double figures.
Having witnessed the first half performance at Gresley last weekend, I was optimistic that Dave Smith and his management team had found some of the answers to building a winning system. So it turned out, with the fluidity proving unstoppable for a Steels outfit that look to be deep in trouble. It is fair to say that the pace and movement of the Clee front six was superb.
It is amazing what a couple of wins can do – up to 16th now and a chance to further gain momentum at Loughborough Dynamo next Saturday. I know the manager is working hard to chase an elusive clean sheet and, if we can begin to concede less goals, maybe some of our pre-season targets can still be attained… who knows?!
Hope to see a few of you down in Leicestershire to cheer the lads on.
Saturday 1st December – 3pm
ADT Stadium, Watermead Lane, Loughborough, LE11 3TN
To be confirmed
UP THE OWLS!