PIKES HOOKED BY PATIENT CLEE
Two goals in the final 20 minutes saw the Owls complete the double over Pickering Town. A penalty from Scott Vernon and a close-range effort from Mark Gray were on target in a hard-fought win, which lifts Clee to 7th in the Evostik East.
For the second Saturday in succession, manager Dave Smith made one change to his starting XI. Danny North was recalled to play “in the hole” behind Scott Vernon, with Lewis Collins dropping to the bench. The side lined up as follows:
Goal: Theo Richardson
Defence: Tim Lowe, Paul Walker, Mark Gray, Sam Topliss
Midfield defence: Craig Disley, Alex Flett (captain)
Midfield attack: Brody Robertson, Danny North, Jon Oglesby
Attack: Scott Vernon
Subs: Lewis Collins, Josh Batty, Jack Richardson, Oli Donald, Matt Bloomer
It was a chilly overcast afternoon in North Yorkshire, as the encounter got underway on a noticeably sloping pitch. This fact, allied to a fairly high bounce, led to a scrappy start, with no clear opportunities for either outfit.
Vernon had a couple of half-chances to open the scoring around the 15th minute. Firstly, the number 9 headed wide following good wing work by Oglesby and then the big striker went closer, hitting the side-netting after turning well in the box.
Relegation threatened Pickering were trying to force the pace to ease their predicament. However, the Owls’ defence was in command and, when a moment of danger did come after 27 minutes, Walker was on-hand to make an important interception.
The visitors enjoyed their best spell thus far, as we moved closer to the break. A lovely flick-on from North located Oglesby. The winger cut inside his marker, but there was not enough curl on his right-footer, which did not trouble home stopper Foulkes. Shortly afterwards, fine vision from the industrious Flett again found Oglesby, who was crudely chopped down by a defender. The captain’s low free-kick flew just a couple of feet wide of the post.
That proved to be the last action of an interesting, rather than exciting, half. In truth, neither keeper had been seriously tested, in a mainly attritional battle.
HT Pickering Town 0 Cleethorpes Town 0
Pickering had a chance to snatch the initiative within 90 seconds of the restart. Greening burst clear and moved one-on-one with keeper Richardson. Rather than pull the trigger, the winger tried to round the stopper, but was forced wide and eventually crowded out.
Even though play still lacked much fluency, chances were starting to come with more regularity. From a corner, Robertson flicked a header towards the top corner and was unlucky to see it deflected over. Then it was the Pikes’ turn to curse their luck, when Oglesby leapt high on his own line to clear Bissett’s effort.
It was clear that the opening goal was going to be key and the breakthrough finally came for the Owls in the 71st minute from the penalty spot.
In many ways, it was similar to Pickering’s award the previous week. A cross looked as though it was going to be too high for the on-rushing Scott Vernon. However, a defender appeared to clip the striker’s heel and the referee adjudged a foul. Clee’s leading scorer dusted himself down, before despatching his 19th goal of the campaign in all competitions into the corner.
Alex Flett received a yellow card for an altercation near the centre circle and Dave Smith decided it was now time for a substitution. Jack Richardson came on for Craig Disley, who had continued his good recent form with a controlled display.
With time beginning to run down and the clock showing 78 minutes played, Pickering missed a golden chance to restore parity. Only the striker will know how he failed to convert from 4 yards, but Clee survived. Then, as the Pikes piled forward, a melee in the area developed and Topliss did superbly well to clear, whilst under intense pressure. Greening also had a shot smartly saved in the home side’s best spell.
Entering the final 10, Clee made two changes. Scott Vernon and Danny North were withdrawn in favour of Josh Batty and Lewis Collins.
Having gamely withstood Pickering’s best endeavours, it was to be the Owls who grabbed the decisive second in the 84th minute. A dipping corner was palmed away by Foulkes, but only as far as the waiting Mark Gray. The central defender improvised a chested finish into the goal to the delight of the travelling fans gathered in the North Stand.
This effectively made the points safe and Clee finished strongly. A couple of openings went near to yielding a third, but the hard work had already been done. At the final whistle, it was time to reflect on a patient approach getting the Owls over the line, with a precious win and an away clean sheet to celebrate.
FT Pickering Town 0 Cleethorpes Town 2 (Vernon 71 pen, Gray 84) Attendance: 159
Not the greatest spectacle by any stretch of the imagination! However, as I said in summary last week, we are at the stage of the season when the result becomes all important. It is entirely possible that Pickering are a fairly awkward side to play against and to complete a back-to-back double is to be applauded.
A mixed bag of results for the play-off contenders yesterday. We are now up to 7th though, but still the 5 points behind. Nevertheless, to even to be in contention is a fine performance. I wonder how many of us that saw Morpeth take the lead back in early December would have predicted 30 points coming from 13 outings? Not me – for sure!!
Not easy to decide on a man-of-the-match, it was a solid team display. However, with the stat that we have only conceded 10 goals in the last dozen games, I am going to award it to one of our back 5 – step forward Mark Gray. In many ways, it has not been the easiest of campaigns for Mark. Regardless, he has kept battling away and it was great to see him give a confident display, topped off by a goal – well played!
Marske away next to start the final 10 fixtures and it is certain to be tough. Get there if you can, it could be a good one…
Saturday 9th March – 3pm
Marske United – Evostik East
Mount Pleasant Avenue, Marske-by-the-Sea, Cleveland, TS11 7BW
Adults £8, Concessions (over 65s and 16-18) £4, Under 16s £2
UP THE OWLS!