The Ravens were back on the ‘road’ again, this time in the Macron Cup to face a strong side in AFC Liverpool.
Manager Chris Bass knew this was bound to be a tough test as we come up against a Team from the division above us and named a mixed squad of youth and experience, which handed squad debuts to Karl Clark, Max Shirley, Luca Moretta and Shaun Kelly.
Rainy conditions on the day meant The Ravens would have a difficult task on playing on a surface that was the polar opposite to what they are used to in font of their home fans at The Bowl. That being said, the challenge was one that the squad were relishing as the opposition on the day AFC Liverpool share their ground with Marine AFC where Tottenham Hotspur came to visit only the season before in the FA Cup.
The Match started off quite cagey as both teams sussed each other out and The Ravens became used to the playing surface, trying to find areas of the pitch to exploit the opposition but found it tough against their resilient defence. FCIOM did however find some joy down our right hand side with Adam Mealin being put through on many occasions via Shaun Kelly’s flick on’s with the pair gaining a fast understanding.
A debut was handed to 17 year old Max Shirley who had the confidence to take on their full back and became quickly accustomed to this level of football. Cam Avery was leading throughout wearing the Captain’s armband for the second time this season and Adam Cooil was standing out by bringing the ball out from the back into midfield.
A first start was handed to centre half partnership Jamie Corlett and Karl Clark who dealt with everything thrown at them, with Jamie Corlett showcasing some impressive composure on the ball. AFC Liverpool ended the first half the more frustrated of the two teams, as they struggled to break FCIOM down, with neither team creating any clear cut chances.
During half time, Manager Chris Bass made two substitutions with Keeper Dean Kearns and Winger Max Shirley exiting the game and welcoming Keeper James Rice and Winger Scott Horne into action.
AFC Liverpool started to find their rhythm in the second period and had a succession of corners, which were well dealt with by The Ravens defence and Keeper Rice. Coming up to the hour mark, we had a great chance with Taylor Andrews attempting an overhead kick which fell narrowly wide of the post. Taylor Andrews then left the pitch with cramp and was substituted for Luca Moretta, who became our youngest player to make an appearance for the club aged just 16.
The conditions of the pitch then took its toll on The Ravens, as they began to struggle to get out under pressure from AFC Liverpool. On the 66th minute, the opposition took the lead with a low driving ball into the box and Kyle Sambor took his chance to find the back of the net and make it 1-0.
We continued to try and play in triangles to work our way through AFC Liverpool, however they defended resolutely showing their experience at this level. Within the final five minutes, the referee began to suffer suspected cramp and was substituted for the linesman, which was greeted with a sarcastic cheer from the crowd in attendance on the night. This delay seemed to take the sting out the game and with additional time added on, AFC Liverpool found the back of the net again to make it 2-0 on with a cross being greeted at the back post by Callum Schorah.
This game was always going to be a tough one as envisaged but The Ravens put in a valiant performance and impressed the home crowd with their display. A fantastic experience for some of the younger players entering the matchday squad and this bodes well for the future of the club.
A notable mention to the FCIOM fans, some of which made long journeys to show their loyal support, this is as always greatly appreciated.