Owls slide to damaging defeat
A disappointing afternoon at New Linden saw Belper Town take the points home to Derbyshire, courtesy of a 16th minute goal from Alex Peterson. The result leaves the Owls’ play-off hopes hanging by a thread.
With Tim Lowe injured, Dave Smith drafted in his assistant manager Matt Bloomer at centre-half. One further change to the starting XI that drew 2-2 at Brighouse Town meant Jack Richardson replacing Craig Disley.
With one eye already looking ahead to next season, youngsters Jack Boswell and Jack Steel were given a taste of the first team experience on the bench. The side lined up as follows:
Goal: Theo Richardson
Defence: Sam Topliss, Matt Bloomer, Oli Donald, Loz McKay
Midfield defence: Jack Richardson, Alex Flett (captain)
Midfield attack: Brody Robertson, Danny North, Jon Oglesby
Attack: Scott Vernon
Subs: Craig Disley, Josh Batty, Jack Boswell, Jack Steel, Paul Walker
It had become surprisingly cold by kick-off time of a must win fixture for the Owls. However, this did not deter another sizeable crowd coming through the turnstiles, boosted by many juniors on Club Day. There was also the bonus for the faithful of the Lincolnshire Senior Cup, so memorably won against Stamford in November, being paraded.
Clee got off to a slow start and it was the Nailers who made most of the early running. Keeper Richardson was required to race from his line and improvised well to head clear. Then, in the 12th minute, Donald made ground quickly to time a superb tackle that snuffed out a dangerous attack.
Not long afterwards, the visitors got the reward for their endeavours. Crouz received possession in the inside-right channel. The tricky winger cleverly got to the by-line and his low cross was converted from close range by Alex Peterson.
This jolt shook the Owls and slowly, as the half progressed, they came into the contest. In the 25th minute, a nicely flighted corner from captain Flett caused confusion, but there was no home player to supply the finishing touch. After this, Robertson had a glimpse of the target. However, the 17-goal man scuffed his effort wide.
With the interval approaching, Clee were having the lion’s share of possession, without creating much in the way of a clear chance.
HT Cleethorpes Town 0 Belper Town 1 (Peterson 16)
There was a bit more urgency to the Owls’ play after the break, with Richardson and Robertson both denied in the opening minutes. However, Belper were still showing they were capable on the break and, with 53 minutes on the watch, veteran Bloomer bravely blocked from Crouz.
Not long afterwards, the Nailers had a golden chance to extend their advantage. Milner suddenly burst clear but, as he advanced on stopper Richardson, he fluffed his lines by pulling the opportunity well off-target.
If the Clee fans thought that this may be a turning point, it did not come to pass in the next phase of the Evostik East encounter. Indeed, a charged down volley from midfielder Richardson in the 66th minute was the only hint of danger, with Malkowski in the away net yet to have a serious save to make.
Just after the midway point, Dave Smith decided it was time to freshen up his charges. Josh Batty and Craig Disley entered the fray, with Brody Robertson and Jack Richardson withdrawn.
The massive defensive pairing for Belper of South and Assenso was providing a formidable barrier to penetrate. The Owls just could not find their usual rhythm and, with time ticking on, it was left to one of Clee’s own defenders to provide a rare bright moment.
Donald, who had caught the eye with some athletic play, popped up with a fierce 30-yard drive, which was deflected away for a corner off a defender. This resultant kick was claimed by a dominant Malkowski.
In truth, half-chances had been the order of the day and, as the final whistle sounded, a jubilant Belper side could celebrate with their away following.
HT Cleethorpes Town 0 Belper Town 1 (Peterson 16) Attendance: 382
Not the greatest display from the Owls! They seemed to be a bit slow in adapting their play, particularly as it was clear from an early stage that Belper’s big defenders were not going to be beaten in the air.
Having said that, there was not much between the sides. On another day, with a bit more good fortune, they could well have got at least a draw. Notwithstanding this, Belper had the two best chances of a frustrating afternoon.
Disappointing but that’s football! Best to view the season as a whole and 7th place in a tough, tough division is not to be sniffed at. Looking at the table, the top five appear to be away and gone in the play-off race. However, I spy the merest glimpse of hope!! Sheffield, who of course we visit next week, have a very tough finish, with them still having to go to Pontefract and Brighouse.
So, simply win their final five and hope for the best! Seriously though, we should all just enjoy the final weeks and can reflect on a season of consolidation back at our true “home”.
My man-of-the-match was Oli Donald. The young man played with his usual heart and, allied with some great defensive heading, it was quite an easy choice for me to make.
Finally, we hope to see a few of you in South Yorkshire on Tuesday, when we travel to Stocksbridge.
Tuesday 9th April 7.45pm
Stocksbridge Park Steels – Evostik East
Look Local Stadium, Bracken Moor Lane, Stocksbridge, S36 2AN
Adults £7, Concessions £5, 10-16 £2, Under 10s free
UP THE OWLS!