Loughborough Dynamo 1 Cleethorpes Town 0
By David Simpson
OWLS SLIP TO NARROW LOSS
A sensational 35-yard lob from Ryan Robbins was enough to condemn the Owls to a defeat on the road in Leicestershire. It was a largely forgettable match, with goalmouth action at a premium and, to compound Clee’s misery, Mark Gray also received a red card.
Two straight Evostik victories allowed manager Dave Smith the luxury of making just one change. Lewis Collins was laid low with a bout of tonsillitis and Josh Batty earned a recall in 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: Josh Batty, Danny North, Brody Robertson
Attack: Scott Vernon
Subs: Jack Richardson, Luke Mascall, Matt Bloomer, Craig Disley, Oli Donald
Morning rain had given way to dry conditions by kick-off and the pitch, which had undergone a precautionary early inspection, looked to be in good condition. The Owls’ fans, who made up around a quarter of the sparse crowd, were in good spirits as the fixture got underway.
It was a low-key opening with the first meaningful action not arriving until the 11th minute. North stung Taylor’s hands with a snapshot from the edge of the area. After this, the visitors started to pass the ball around better than Dynamo but half-chances were the order of the day, with Robertson coming closest to breaking the deadlock.
Vernon, who was leading the line with his usual vigour, had a shot blocked for a corner and Parkin, who did not have a save to make in the first half-hour, needed to be smartly off his line to deal with a long through ball.
As the first 45 drew to a close, Clee had a decent chance to seize the initiative, which would have been just about merited on the overall balance of play. A free-kick was awarded 20 yards out in a pretty central position. Batty sized up the opportunity and, although his effort evaded the wall, keeper Taylor was able to beat the ball away to safety.
HT Loughborough Dynamo 0 Cleethorpes Town 0
The main talking point during the interval was whether Clee could secure their first clean sheet in the League of the campaign. Unfortunately, the answer was no, with the decisive moment of the encounter coming in the 50th minute.
Dickens, who had been in great form since his return from Lincoln United and was named November player-of-the-month, made a rare error to lose possession in midfield. There did not appear to be any imminent danger though as the ball fell to Ryan Robbins. However, the big striker had other ideas and let fly with a long-range lob, which flew over Parkin to nestle in the net.
Whether there was an element of luck involved, only the goalscorer could say but it was certainly an unusual way to fall behind.
Batty and Dickens both entered the notebook in close succession, with Clee becoming increasingly frustrated at some of the refereeing decisions. Shortly after his card, Batty was withdrawn in favour of Mascall.
The Owls came close to grabbing the equaliser in the 61st minute, when a corner from the left was headed a couple of feet the wrong side of the upright by central defender Gray, who had lost his marker.
As time wore on, proceedings became increasingly scrappy and niggly, with the referee baffling the Clee faithful with his seemingly constant whistling.
Matters came to a head in the 77th minute when Mark Gray received his marching orders. The defender clattered into a Dynamo player in centre field. Most of the crowd thought a yellow card was in the offing but, after a lengthy delay in which Mr Jackson was surrounded by several home players, he reached for the red. The official later clarified that the sending-off was for “excessive force”.
With Clee facing an uphill task to gain any reward, the management opted for just three at the back and also introduced Disley for Dickens. To their credit, the 10-man Owls continued to try to press forward but it was a day when the creative spark, that had been so evident against Gresley and Stocksbridge, was missing.
As five added minutes was indicated, Loughborough nearly added a second but Parkin got down superbly to make the save. Then, with the final kick, a volley whistled wide of Taylor’s goal.
FT Loughborough Dynamo 1 (Robbins 50) Cleethorpes Town 0 Attendance: 87
The ups and downs of football! After the fine display last Saturday, it was back down to earth with a bump. We just never really got into our stride.
At half-time, I thought it could well be a rare 0-0 but then of course the “wonder” goal. Suspect that there was an element of good fortune with the strike but, in all fairness, Robbins is a real handful and was easily Dynamo’s biggest threat.
I felt a good deal of sympathy for Mark Gray. He has clearly worked hard to force his way back into contention and was good in the air again yesterday. Too far away to have a clear view of the red but speaking to the referee in the bar afterwards, he was adamant that it was a sending-off. Let’s just say that most people thought differently…
Anyway, with it being Mark’s second sending-off of the season, he will be facing a ban of anywhere between 2 and 4 matches, starting with Morpeth next week.
Talking of which, a nice easy game at the runaway leaders to get back on track!! Nothing to fear though and being “underdogs” might well suit us – hopefully we can conjure up a Bamber Bridge performance.
Finally, a big thanks to all the hardy travellers yesterday. A long journey and a 1-0 defeat is probably not the greatest way to spend a Saturday on the run-up to Christmas! However, and I seem to thinking this after every away match, you are a credit to the Club.
Saturday 8th December – 3pm
Craik Park, Morpeth, NE61 2YK
Adults £6, Concessions £4, Under 16s free
UP THE OWLS!