Clee recorded a famous road victory on Saturday afternoon against the previously unbeaten at home leaders Morpeth Town. Two goals from Jon Oglesby plus strikes by Paul Walker and Scott Vernon ensured a superb second-half display got the maximum reward.
Oli Donald returned at the heart of the defence for the suspended Mark Gray. Dave Smith recalled Jack Richardson to “anchor” the midfield, with Danny North dropping to the bench. The manager was rightly cautious pre-match about the threat posed by the Highwaymen and was hoping for a solid start. Once again, the Owls had quite a fluid formation, and it could be viewed as 4-1-4-1 or 4-5-1, depending on the phase of play:
Goal: Dylan Parkin
Defence: Tim Lowe, Oli Donald, Paul Walker, Sam Topliss
Midfield: Brody Robertson, Liam Dickens, Alex Flett (captain), Jack Richardson, Jon Oglesby
Attack: Scott Vernon
Subs: Craig Disley, Josh Batty, Lewis Collins, Matt Bloomer, Danny North
It was a cold afternoon in Northumberland as proceedings started and the pitch, although perfectly playable, was very wet.
The hosts started the game best and immediately pressed the Owls back. Morpeth forced four corners in the opening 8 minutes and it was from the last of these that they took the lead. Central defender Iulian Petrache was afforded too much space on the edge of the 6-yard box and made no mistake.
Not the beginning that Clee were looking for and, at this stage, the Highwaymen’s fast attacking play was picking holes in the visitors’ rearguard, as they threatened a second. Jon Oglesby and Liam Dickens were also booked in the opening 20 minutes.
After weathering the opening storm with some brave defending, and importantly not falling further adrift, the Owls stunned the leaders with an equaliser in the 23rd minute.
Robertson had gone within inches of the leveller moments earlier, before another raking ball from captain Flett picked out Jon Oglesby on the left apex of the box. The winger cut cleverly inside a defender and curled a lovely trademark right-footer over keeper Lowson.
A real tonic for the travelling hordes, who were in great voice throughout, and the team responded by beginning to move the ball around with confidence. However, with the interval looming, it was the hosts who gradually began to regain the upper-hand.
Both Donald and Walker put their bodies on the line to block goalbound efforts, before stopper Parkin got in on the act with a world-class save. A cross from the left fell to Carson around 15 yards out and his fierce drive looked certain to make the net bulge. The Boston United loanee had other ideas though, as he showed lightening reflexes to stretch to his right and get the ball away from the danger zone.
HT Morpeth Town 1 (Petrache 8) Cleethorpes Town 1 (Oglesby 23)
The Owls emerged from the dressing room to produce arguably, given the quality of the opposition, their best 45 minutes of Evostik football of the season.
On 50 minutes, Clee moved ahead with Jon Oglesby claiming his second of the day. Lowe sent a long free-kick towards the edge of the penalty box, where Vernon did well to rise with a defender. Whether or not there was the merest of flick-ons, Oglesby had quickly read the possibilities and nipped in to shoot low under the keeper.
Unfortunately, from an Owls’ viewpoint, the advantage disappeared within 120 seconds. From the re-start, the Highwayman maintained a period of possession, which finally culminated in a chance for Ben Sayer. The substitute blasted low into the corner to give Parkin no chance.
The match now was a real battle, with Clee more than matching the runaway divisional leaders, and two more goals in close succession swayed the contest well and truly towards the visitors.
Firstly, on 55 minutes, Paul Walker rose highest in a pack of players to divert a Flett left-flank corner into the net. Then, as the clock ticked past the hour mark, Scott Vernon delivered the coup de grace. The big number 9, who had led the line in his usual selfless manner, latched onto an under-hit back-pass. The experienced striker still had plenty to do but calmly sidestepped keeper Lowson, before stroking the ball home from a narrow angle.
Lewis Collins was introduced for Jon Oglesby with 20 to go, with the Owls looking to claim a notable scalp.
In fairness, it was still Clee carrying the bigger threat and Flett nearly rubbed more salt into Morpeth’s wounds, rattling the upright after 77 minutes, with a daisy-cutter of a free-kick from 20 yards.
Throughout the closing stages, the Highwaymen desperately tried to engineer a route back into the game but all their efforts were repelled by a very disciplined away performance. In truth, at the final whistle, the home side were well beaten and could have no complaints.
FT Morpeth Town 2 (Petrache 8, Sayer 52) Cleethorpes Town 4 (Oglesby 23, 50, Walker 55, Vernon 61) Attendance: 510
A real boost - I said in my last report that being “underdogs” may suit us!
I thought we played very well after a shaky start, especially in the second-half. It certainly shows what we are capable of. No question that Morpeth are a good team and to outplay them is a fantastic achievement.
Numerous contenders for man-of-the-match. The hosts gave it to Jon Oglesby, which is fair enough but my own personal preference would be for Paul Walker. An outstanding defensive display, topped off by a rare goal! Also, a reflex save from Dylan Parkin at a crucial time was, with hindsight, a big turning point.
Slowly but surely we are beginning to move up the table and, with the important festive period upcoming, we should be able to approach 2019 with confidence.
After 2 long trips away, it is back to base next weekend. So, put your Christmas shopping on hold and come down to hopefully witness another victory.
Saturday 15th December – 3pm
Ossett United (home) – Evostik East
Adults £8, Concessions (over 65s and 16-18) £4, Under 16s £2
UP THE OWLS!