Two injury time strikes gave Clee a share of the spoils on a cold and showery afternoon at New Linden. Danny North, Scott Vernon and Oli Donald were the scorers for the Owls, as the wait for a first home league win of the season goes on.
After Tuesday’s good performance against Stamford, it was perhaps unsurprising that manager Dave Smith named the same starting XI, as follows:
Goal: David Birch
Defence: Tim Lowe, Oli Donald, Matt Bloomer, Paul Walker
Midfield: Lewis Collins, Liam Dickens, Alex Flett (captain), Josh Batty
Attack: Scott Vernon, Danny North
Subs: Jack Richardson, Sam Topliss, Brody Robertson, Craig Disley, Jon Oglesby
Before the Evostik East fixture got underway, a silence was observed to honour those that had fallen serving their country. It was particularly poignant, being 100 years since the guns fell silent at the end of the “War to end all wars”.
The Owls should have been ahead as early as the 3rd minute. Collins weaved his way through the inside right channel and squared for Vernon, who was lurking near the penalty spot. However, the number 9 dragged his side-foot shot just the wrong side of the upright.
Captain Flett was linking well with his midfield colleague Dickens and he went close to opening the scoring with 10 played. However, despite Clee dominating the possession so far, it was Dynamo who seized the advantage shortly afterwards.
A sweeping attack from centre field delivered the ball to Luke Thorogood. Despite there being a hint of offside, the assistant’s flag remained down and the visiting midfielder buried his shot high into Birch’s net.
Falling behind did not change the general impetus of the encounter, with the home side in the ascendancy and Taylor’s goal was leading a charmed life. After 20 minutes, Batty ran to the by-line and his pull back located North. Incredibly, last season’s 25-goal man had not one but two shots blocked on the line.
The home faithful did not have to wait much longer to celebrate a more than deserved equaliser. A cross from the right by Flett caused mayhem in the defence. Keeper Taylor made two outstanding saves to keep out Batty and Danny North but the latter was on hand to prod the rebound home from six yards.
Buoyed by restoring parity, and with the rain now beating down, the Owls went on the hunt for the second goal that would have been a fair reflection on the balance of play. Not to be though, with a mixture of resolute defending, solid goalkeeping, wasteful finishing and plain luck ensuring Dynamo headed in level.
HT Cleethorpes Town 1 (North 25) Loughborough Dynamo 1 (Thorogood 11)
If the first 45 had been largely dominated by the Owls, the second period had a completely different feel with Loughborough, assisted by a strong wind at their backs, playing some nice football and scored twice to apparently snaffle all three points.
On 48 minutes, a flick-on 30 yards from goal was latched onto by Josh Riley. He strode into the area and confidently beat Birch to regain the advantage for his side.
As the hour mark came and went, Clee’s play, which had been easy on the eye earlier, was becoming more disjointed, with Dynamo frustrating the hosts with some time-wasting tactics. However, Batty did force Taylor to tip over with a dipping shot. Midfielder Liam Dickens was involved in a lot of the action and doing his level best to inspire the Owls. He was later selected as man-of-the-match by our generous sponsors, Ciaran and Hedges Chilled Distribution.
With 20 left, there was a massive let off for the home side. A quick counter-attack split the defence and Robbins did the hard work by rounding the onrushing Birch. However, with the goal at his mercy, he slashed wildly at the chance and it disappeared into the darkening sky.
Despite missing this golden opportunity, the visitors did extend their lead in the 78th minute via a solo effort by Reuben Asamoah. Picking up the ball on the halfway line, the substitute was allowed to run fully 40 yards before unleashing a low drive into the far corner from 16 yards.
All three subs were introduced, as the Owls continued to battle to earn some reward. Robertson, Oglesby and Topliss came on for North, Collins and Walker respectively. With the game drifting into 4 minutes of additional time, it looked like a lost cause but Clee’s never-say-die attitude contributed to a dramatic late twist.
Scott Vernon, who had put in a tireless shift all afternoon, gave hope in the first added minute. The striker played a neat pass to Robertson, who shot from an acute angle. Taylor saved but failed to hold on and Vernon, who had cleverly continued his run, picked up the pieces from close range.
With the Owls pouring forward and Dynamo rattled by Clee’s persistence, a point was snatched in the final play. It came courtesy of the unlikely figure of Oli Donald, who had by this stage been press-ganged to act as an additional striker, and it was a cracker! A loose ball dropped to the defender centrally but a full 20 yards out. He calmly found an exquisite curling finish into the top corner, before being mobbed by his joyous teammates.
FT Cleethorpes Town 3 (North 25, Vernon 90+1, Donald 90+4) Loughborough Dynamo 3 (Thorogood 11, Riley 48, Asamoah 78) Attendance: 286
The proverbial game of two halves! We should probably have been a couple clear at the interval and played some enjoyable stuff. However, our Achilles’ heel of conceding when least expected came to haunt us yet again. Good battling spirit ensured a point and delighted for Oli Donald to score such a memorable goal.
Positives to take from the afternoon included a fine individual performance from Liam Dickens, who has been a revelation since returning from Lincoln United. His partnership with Alex Flett looks highly promising.
Although pleased with a draw at the end given the circumstances, 4 points out of a possible 21 at home is a pretty paltry return. Having watched Dynamo’s goals on video, there is plenty to work on. I am sure Dave Smith and his coaching staff will be casting an eagle eye over it in the coming week.
Nothing for it but continuing to try to improve the situation, starting with a trip to Gresley next weekend.
Saturday 17th November – 3pm
Gresley FC – Evostik East
Moat Street, Church Gresley, DE11 9RE
Admission: Adults £8 Over 60s £5 Under 16s £5 Under 13s £1
UP THE OWLS!