Despite a double strike from Sean Doyle, there was more late goal heartbreak for the Ravens as another away day ends with no points.
After a difficult game only two days previously ended with FC Isle of Man suffering a 3-0 defeat to West Didsbury & Chorlton, the Ravens were keen come back stronger and pick up some points against an in-form Abbey Hey.
The Ravens were boosted by welcoming back Doyle to the striking role and centre back Alex Maitland, who both missed Saturday’s encounter with West Didsbury.
Manager Chris Bass sr also included striker, Nathan Cardy and left-back Chris Cannell for their club debuts. Bass was pleased to have the opportunity to be able to field a strong XI despite the short turnaround saying, “we’ve freshened up the team and you’ll hopefully see a new shape too.”
The new shape consisted of a back three of Maitland, Burns and Cannell, however, things did not initially go to plan. Abbey Hey were ahead after just nine minutes. Ben Halfacre seemed to have all the time in the world to take a touch on the edge of our box, turn and fire past Ravens’ keeper Kearns into the bottom right to make it 1-0.
Within one minute, Abbey Hey doubled their lead to 2-0. This time Abbey switched the ball beautifully from left to right, drove into the area, the cut-back left Kearns stranded and Dunford was there to smash in off the underside of the bar.
It would have been easy now for Ravens’ heads to drop, but instead the opposite occurred, and as the team got used to the new shape they grew in confidence and began to string some dangerous passes together. From this point on the Ravens dominated the match, winning a series of corners and creating a number of opportunities. It only seemed a matter of time before the Manx side would score.
However, the Ravens did ride their luck on one occasion as Abbey Hey won a free kick on the edge of the box. While the initial shot was blocked, the rebound was smashed back towards a seemingly gaping net, however Ryan Burns was having none of it, heroically blocking on the line first with his hip then the follow up with an outstretched heel. Incredible defending, which kept FC Isle of Man in the game.
At the other end however, the pressure mounted on the Abbey Hey, pressure which was finally rewarded right on the stroke of half-time.
A throw-in on the right, deep into Abbey territory, was aimed into the box and Sean Doyle rose highest to nod up and over the helpless Abbey goalkeeper. The Ravens were deservedly back in the game at 2-1.
The second half started in much the same way as the first ended, with FC Isle of Man controlling the flow of the game, but this time with even more determination as temperatures on both sides began to rise.
Following a corner on 50 minutes, the ball broke to Jack Camarda on the edge of the box. The midfielder took a touch and prepared to let fly one of his trademark thunderbolts, but was clattered dangerously by an outrushing Abbey defender. Unfortunately, Jack’s injury was a bad one and he had to be replaced by Sid Batty in the centre of the park.
The incident seemed to further galvanize the Ravens who continued to pile the pressure on the Abbey Hey goal with probing runs down both flanks led primarily by substitutes Luke Murray (on for Nathan Cardy on 56 minutes) and Charlie Higgins (on for an injured Sid Batty on 71 minutes). Their fresh legs providing strong running that resulted in a number of free-kicks, all of which however lacked that final end-product needed to secure the much-needed equaliser.
As the game wore on Murray picked up a yellow for a late challenge and the Ravens started to throw the proverbial kitchen sink at the opposition goal.
And with just eight minutes remaining it seemed that salvation had arrived. Luke Murray made yet another surging run into the Abbey penalty area and pulled back a pinpoint cross for Doyle to finish sharply to make the game level at 2-2.
However, as we are learning we cannot shut off or lose concentration at any time in this league, and as the game entered injury time the Ravens suffered heartbreak again.
Abbey took a throw deep into our half, the ball was lobbed in more hopefully than by design and somehow was deflected off an Abbey player and past Kearns into the net. Cue pandemonium from Abbey and anguish, again, from the Ravens.
The game had barely restarted before Abbey’s Dunford was dismissed for a second bookable offence and the referee blew for the final whistle to confirm our second defeat on the bounce.
This one, however, seemed to hurt more given the dominance we had demonstrated for the last hour of the game.
After the match, double goal scorer Sean Doyle was pragmatic and keen to focus on the positives saying “We’re downbeat, but you have to take the positives, the second half was phenomenal. From thirty minutes we were the better, stronger team with the better chances.”
On to the next one and we’re away again this coming Saturday to Cammell Laird.