The Ravens opened their 2022 against a 2nd placed New Mills at an expectant Bowl stadium. The new year saw FC IOM given a new start to regain their early season form after a little blip in the latter part of 2021. A rare afternoon kick-off brought the sun with it and the fans were hopeful of a bright start.
Chris Bass Snr decided to mix things up with his first line up of the new year. He reverted away from the back three that we’d seen in recent weeks and instead went with a 4-4-1-1 formation.
Matt Quirk started in goal in front of a back four which consisted of Sam Caine at right back, a centre back pairing of Alex Maitland and Jack McVey, and the back line was completed by the returning Chris Cannell at left back. In the centre of midfield, we saw Jack Camarda, and the man of the match from our last fixture, Michael Williams. The wings would be occupied by Lee Gale and youngster Charlie Higgins, which would leave Sean Doyle to lead the line with Ste Whitley to cover the number ten position.
In the early proceedings of the game FCIOM looked much more comfortable in their back four formation, with New Mills having to resort to long balls which the Ravens defenders dealt well with. It didn’t take long for FCIOM to fashion a chance as Maitland lofted a ball up to Doyle who was able to hold off his man and play in Gale who dragged his right footed effort just wide.
Both teams started reasonably well with the game looking an even contest. FCIOM were holding their shape and whilst New Mills saw plenty of the ball, they couldn’t find a way through a well organised Ravens side. FCIOM then started to feel their way into the game a little more with a few dangerous set pieces, which resulted in Whitley firing a free kick just wide of the New Mills post with the keeper left a mere spectator.
New Mills then had a good spell of their own with their first effort of the match sailing harmlessly over Quirk’s bar but moments later the shot-stopper had to be on hand to save another effort after a New Mills attacker had wriggled his way through the defence and squeezed a shot off.
The optimism for the away side would soon diminish though as FCIOM took the lead through a Whitely wonder goal. A ball up field was again met by Doyle who flicked the ball onto Whitley’s path. He showed great strength to hold his marker off and then cut inside onto that dangerous left foot of his and fired a beauty into the top left corner from the right edge of the penalty box.
This gave the Ravens a boost and it showed as many of the side were having good games, particularly Caine and Doyle. Before half time the Ravens would have one more chance to grab a goal. After a neat cushioned header by Higgins, Whitley found himself in on goal again but this time his left footed shot would hit the side netting.
After half time New Mills had a bright period and one of their set piece routines nearly came off but the attacker scuffed his shot. They wouldn’t have to wait long for a goal though. After FCIOM had given the ball away, New Mills played through their centre forward who tucked his left footed shot neatly into the corner beyond the reach of Quirk.
With the game now level FCIOM needed to inject some authority back into the game and only a matter of minutes later that’s exactly what they did. Williams broke up play with an almighty tackle which fell to Doyle. He showed yet more tremendous hold up play before playing in his winger Gale who fired across the keeper. The ball crashed into the far post and cannoned back into the goal to give the Ravens a 2-1 lead and huge roar from the home crowd.
From this point on the Ravens showed good game management and discipline. Doyle continued to hold the ball up well and was always looking for runners beyond him to play the ball through to. Higgins was always willing to do this and his pace and directness drew a yellow card for a New Mills defender. Higgins would then be replaced by Dan Simpson after a bright game from the young winger. With ten minutes to go Bass would make his second change of the game as Furo Davies would come on for the man of the match Lee Gale.
Quirk would still be required before the game was over as New Mills fired in a dangerous looking free kick which he had to tip over. The goalkeeper and defence all had good games and looked more at home in the traditional back four formation. The Ravens would have a few chances of their own before full time too. Doyle had a couple of headers go close and Davies fired over from just outside the area.
Their two earlier goals would be enough to seal a huge three points though as the referee blew his whistle and brought an ending to a highly competitive fixture. The 1,744 Ravens fans could leave the stadium happy knowing that their team had beaten one of the best sides in the league and taken another step towards the goal of securing a play-off spot.
After the game manager Bass was delighted with the win, saying “It’s a great start to the year… we scored two great goals… and everybody’s bouncing and completely elated about beating New Mills.”