Clee concluded a difficult week on the road by slipping to a 2-1 reverse at Spalding United. The Tulips led early and added a second around the hour, despite being down to 10-men by this stage. Scott Vernon gave the visitors hope but the Owls could not force an equaliser.
Plenty of injury and suspension headaches in the first month of the campaign for manager Dave Smith to contend with. From Saturday’s starting XI, there were recalls for Conor Marshall, Jack Richardson and Andy Taylor with Ben Davies, Brandon Buckley and Brody Robertson giving way. The side lined-up as follows:
Goal: Theo Richardson
Defence: Tim Lowe, Jack Fixter, Oli Donald, Conor Marshall
Midfield: Jack Richardson, Alex Flett (c), Lewis Collins
Attack: Andy Taylor, Scott Vernon, Jon Oglesby
Subs: Brody Robertson, Adam Millson, Brandon Buckley
The last thing that the visitors needed after successive defeats was to concede in the opening stages. However, less than 2 minutes had elapsed before the Tulips seized the initiative. A long throw bounced across the box and found George Zuerner, who turned quickly and his low shot beat keeper Richardson at the left-hand post.
Spalding were playing with a deal of confidence and hit the bar in the 17th minute. The referee though had spotted an earlier infringement on Fixter. It had been fairly scrappy thus far, especially from an out-of-sorts Clee. Nevertheless, the equaliser nearly arrived, thanks to a superb move.
The ball was threaded through on the floor to Taylor. The striker had a good option to press the trigger but spotted his attacking partner in an open position. Vernon was lurking around the penalty spot and the number 9’s shot beat stopper Duggan. To the frustration of the travelling fans, a defender appeared from nowhere to hack away.
That was as close as either outfit came to adding to the tally and the Owls headed to their dressing room with plenty to contemplate.
HT Spalding United 1 (Zuerner 2) Cleethorpes Town 0
Clee emerged more energised and should have scored after 50 minutes. A free-kick eventually fell to Taylor no more than 5-yards out. The returning forward seemed to have the goal gaping but Duggan got down well to turn behind.
Within a couple of minutes, a lifeline came with Spalding being reduced to 10. Flett was caught by a high boot from Ben Greenwood, who had already been booked in the first period. Although there did not appear to be any malice, the referee correctly showed a second yellow for dangerous play. The Owls’ captain re-emerged onto the field sporting a large bandage around his head.
The management could sense that a turnaround might be on the cards and Brody Robertson was introduced for Lewis Collins.
This did not come to fruition though, with Spalding doubling their advantage soon afterwards. It was far too easy from a Clee perspective as well. A 30-yard forward pass completely split the rearguard and Lewis Brownhill raced clear unopposed to slot home.
With a player advantage and following a spell of pressure, the Owls did finally register after 71 minutes. A ball from the right came to Oglesby near the left by-line. The winger showed fine vision to pinpoint Scott Vernon and the reliable top-scorer glanced into the net to provide hope.
It was likely to be a case of attack v defence for the rest of the encounter and Dave Smith brought on Brandon Buckley, with Conor Marshall departing the field.
Clee were desperately trying to force the issue but were met with a resolute defensive unit. Half-chances came and went, before the official called time. Spalding were left to celebrate their first-ever win over the Owls at the 6th attempt.
FT Spalding United 2 (Zuerner 2, Brownhill 61) Cleethorpes Town 1 (Vernon 71) Attendance: 152
Not the most enjoyable of evenings! Granted, we have numerous players out at the moment. Nonetheless, the Owls are surely better than this showing.
No need for panic by any means, with 10 points already on the board. However, Leek are already motoring into the distance and, with only one automatic promotion spot available, we are desperate to continue our good home form on Saturday.
My man-of-the-match for the 2nd game running goes to Scott Vernon. The striker’s scoring record is excellent and another one to add to the tally. The goal was a bright spot in south Lincolnshire – well done Scott!
Saturday 14th September – 3pm
Leek Town – BetVictor Northern Premier League
New Linden, Clee Road, Grimsby, DN32 8QL
Adults £8, Over 65s and 16-17 years £5, Under 16s £2
UP THE OWLS!