Clee stormed back against Melton Town to record a 3-1 FA Cup victory. After trailing at the interval, goals from Brandon Buckley, Ben Clappison and Lewis Collins ensured that there was no upset in the East Midlands. However, the Owls were also indebted to a wonderful penalty save from Theo Richardson, with the score level at 1-1.
Dave Smith had several injuries to contend with in the build-up to the clash and, with both usual full-backs out of contention, the manager shuffled his pack. The starting XI was as follows:
Goal: Theo Richardson
Defence: Jack Fixter, Ben Clappison, Oli Donald, Ben Davies
Midfield: Jack Richardson, Alex Flett (c), Lewis Collins
Attack: Brody Robertson, Scott Vernon, Brandon Buckley
Subs: Josh Batty, Adam Millson, Jaime Ture, Matt Bloomer
With the temperature approaching 30 degrees in rural Leicestershire, the Owls suffered an injury blow in the 3rd minute. Jack Fixter was the victim of a nasty challenge near the touchline and was replaced by Adam Millson. The tackle was not punished by the referee, to the dismay of the travelling support.
Not the start wanted by the visitors and Melton had the best chance in the opening stages. However, the home striker could only scuff his shot at Richardson, after being afforded too much space in the box.
It would be fair to say that the underdogs were intent on making life as difficult as possible for their higher-ranked opponents. Clee could not get any rhythm and, beside a decent move to almost set-up Robertson, Melton were enjoying their day in the sun, with the match being filmed by BT Sport.
Roared on by a partisan support, Melton grabbed the opening goal that their endeavour had earned shortly before the half-hour. A corner was swung in and, following a spot of pinball in the danger zone, Leon Fray pounced to send the ball into the net.
Wild scenes amongst the United Counties League’s side followers and, buoyed by taking the lead, the step 6 outfit continued to harry the Owls. Nevertheless, Clee thought that they had drawn level in the 39th minute.
A floated cross from the left appeared, to the naked eye, to get a touch from Vernon to deflect beyond the home stopper. Some doubt as to whether the big striker made contact, but it was academic anyway – the offside flag was raised to cut short the celebrations.
HT Melton Town 1 (Fray 28) Cleethorpes Town 0
The Clee players emerged for the restart a couple of minutes early, doubtless having undergone an interval blast from the management group.
Whatever was said in the privacy of the dressing room certainly paid dividends. Straight from the off, Clee went on the offensive to win a corner. The delivery was knocked down by Donald to Brandon Buckley. Having lost his marker, the youngster did not hesitate to rifle in the second goal of his loan spell.
Having restored parity, it seemed only a matter of time before the Owls’ extra quality would turn the encounter around. However, Melton were in no mood to lie down and rattled top of the Clee crossbar in the 58th minute via a lobbed effort from 25-yards.
Then, shortly afterwards, the pivotal moment of the afternoon was upon us. A home player went down over an outstretched leg and, with the locals behind the goal baying for a penalty, the referee pointed to the spot.
Price stepped up to take responsibility and targeted a firm strike high to Theo Richardson's right. Our stopper was up to the task though, flying spectacularly through the air to pull off a marvellous save.
On surviving this moment of drama, Clee nosed ahead with 65 minutes on the watch. There was a lot of similarity to the equaliser as well. A corner again located the towering figure of Donald and his header across goal was nodded in by his central defensive colleague Ben Clappison.
The sun continued to beat down and, after Josh Batty had replaced Jack Richardson, Melton were beginning to run out of steam, as the Owls took charge. Vernon had a shot well saved, before the full-bloodied Preliminary Round action was settled in the 85th minute.
As space opened up in the tiring rearguard, Buckley threaded a ball through to Lewis Collins. The midfielder coolly rounded the keeper and slotted home, to the delight of everyone down from the coast.
Just enough time for Jaime Ture to come on in place of Brody Robertson. No more alarms, as the Owls saw out injury time to ensure that their name is in the hat for the First Qualifying Round.
FT Melton Town 1 (Fray 28) Cleethorpes Town 3 (Buckley 47, Clappison 65, Collins 85) Attendance: 450
A pretty bruising encounter to be fair! I admit that I was worried at half-time, although I did sense the home side might tire in the heat.
Getting the equaliser so quickly was the key – Brandon Buckley did well again. However, Theo Richardson’s penalty stop was instrumental in the win. Who knows what would have happened if Melton had retaken the lead? Theo is my man-of-the-match.
Some choice language in the stand and certainly one or two questionable decisions from the officials. My take on it is that it was a big day for Melton and perhaps understandably tempers became frayed on & off the pitch. However, the only really important stat is that we won!! Thanks to our fans that travelled and also the ones that applauded the Melton team off at the end.
Back to the League tomorrow and the delights of the plastic pitch at Sutton Coldfield Town – hope to see you there!
Monday 26th August – 3pm
Sutton Coldfield Town – BetVictor Northern Premier League
Coles Lane, Sutton Coldfield, B72 1NL
Adults £10, Over 65s £7, Under 18s £1
UP THE OWLS!