The long midweek trip to Cambridgeshire ended honours even with a 1-1 scoreline, as both sides battled hard but were unable to fully adapt to the windy conditions.
Dave Smith took charge of team affairs for the evening and made four changes from Saturday, with Walker, Disley, Lowe and Batty all coming in at the expense of McKay, Richardson, Donald and Collins respectively. The Owls lined-up as follows in a 4-4-2 formation:
Goal: Dylan Parkin
Defence: Sam Topliss, Tim Lowe, Matt Bloomer, Paul Walker
Midfield: Josh Batty, Craig Disley, Alex Flett (captain), Jon Oglesby
Attack: Scott Vernon, Brody Robertson
Subs: Luke Mascall, Danny North, Laurence McKay, Jack Richardson
It was a pretty cheerless evening at the Fenland Stadium. A biting Autumnal wind blew down the ground and it had dried out the pitch, making it unusually hard and bouncy for late October. This contributed to a disjointed start, with the teams taking time to settle.
Clee looked the more composed in the opening period with Batty almost nipping in and Lowe heading a Flett free-kick a yard too high. However, it was the home side who broke the deadlock with 20 minutes on the watch.
The Fenmen won a corner on the left and, as the ball drifted towards the far post, Jon Fairweather rose high to direct the ball into the net via the post. Probably not the best goal to concede form a technical point of view but any worries that the Owls’ travelling faithful had were quickly dismissed, after a spell of pressure from the visitors led to the equaliser.
Batty, Oglesby and Robertson were all involved in increasing the strain on the home defence and it was breached on 27 minutes, as Scott Vernon eased the ball home from close range.
With the interval approaching, the encounter became increasingly scrappy with a strictly limited amount of goalmouth incident. As the players sought out the sanctuary of the dressing rooms, the score was a fair reflection on the balance of play.
HT Wisbech Town 1 (Fairweather 20) Cleethorpes Town 1 (Vernon 27)
The second 45 nearly started with a bang. Vernon had a great chance to put the Owls ahead, after Batty beat a defender to reach the by-line and slid the ball invitingly across the six-yard box. Only the big striker will know whether there was a bobble or it was a misjudgement but the earlier goalscorer failed to make a clean connection.
Craig Disley was booked in the 55th minute for a foul in centre field and, with Wisbech seemingly content to protect their point, Clee continued to look the more likely without engineering any clear chances.
Play become even more fragmented with the main worry for the Owls’ defence, excellently marshalled by Lowe and Bloomer, being the high bounce. Not that the visitors’ attack was getting an easy ride, with the Fenmen rearguard equally robust.
All the subs were used by the management in close order after 70 minutes. There was a welcome return for Luke Mascall, who replaced Jon Oglesby. Danny North and Jack Richardson also came on for Scott Vernon and Josh Batty respectively.
After substitute Richardson was cautioned, Robertson had a glimmer of a chance but a defender recovered to snuff out the threat.
The team continued to strive hard to avoid its fifth league draw of the campaign but, in the end, after a 4-hour plus round-trip on a midweek evening, a point was by no means the worst outcome. At the final whistle, the supporters could at least reflect on extending the unbeaten away sequence in the Evostik East to three games.
FT Wisbech Town 1 (Fairweather 20) Cleethorpes Town 1 (Vernon 27) Attendance: 168
“Can you do it on a cold windy Tuesday night in Wisbech?!” – partly is the answer. Certainly no Lionel Messi on show (to whom that original paraphrased question was about) but an honest shift from the lads.
It is easy to sometimes expect too much from semi-professional players. Let’s be frank, after a day at work, this was an uninviting fixture. Long journey, difficult conditions and committed opposition all adds up to suggest that a draw is a reasonable return for your toil.
We now move on to yet another break from the Evostik for a knock-out fixture. Divisional rivals Marske United visit on Saturday (27th – 3pm) in the 1st Qualifying Round of the FA Trophy. Two excellent victories in this competition so far and it would be nice to extend the run.
Just a reminder that season tickets will not be valid and, under FA rules, it is “all pay”.
Adults £8, Concessions (over 65s and 16-18) £4, Under 16s £2
UP THE OWLS!