After last week’s successful performance and three points, Bass Snr went with the same system against Wythenshawe Amateurs and ten of the same players from the huge victory on Monday afternoon.
This was another massive game for the Ravens with the chance to leapfrog their opponents in the league table and put a statement down to the rest of the division.
Matt Quirk kept his place between the sticks, and in front of him saw centre back partnership Alex Maitland and Jack McVey stay the same. Left back was again Chris Cannell and the only change in the side came at right back where Ryan Burns came back into the side after one of the standout performers from last week (Sam Caine) missed out through injury. That left the same midfield of Lee Gale on the right, Michael Williams and Jack Camarda occupying the engine room, Charlie Higgins on the left and then Ste Whitley playing just off striker Sean Doyle.
FCIOM started the game well and had a few sights of goal early on. Doyle, Higgins and Gale all had efforts which set the tone for the evening. As has been the case in recent fixtures, the Ravens were content to allow their opponents to have possession, as they seemed confident that they wouldn’t be able to break down their two banks of four, which would prove to be the case. Cannell and Maitland stood out, dealing with anything Wythenshawe could throw at them.
This would be the pattern for the first twenty minutes of the match. Without having the majority of possession FCIOM still looked dangerous whenever they went forward. Doyle was again showing impressive hold up play and Higgins was giving the Ammies right back a tough time down the left flank, which would result in the opposition full back picking up a yellow card for a lunge on the tricky winger.
As has been the case all season, the Ravens looked threatening from set pieces. McVey’s delivery was so often perfect and one of his deep free kicks was eventually cleared out to Camarda who’s scuffed shot forced the Ammies goalkeeper to tip the ball round the post for a corner. The resulting set piece was swung in all the way to McVey at the back post who steered the ball into Cannell’s path who took a sublime touch and then finished expertly into the far corner to give the Ravens a deserved lead.
FCIOM were playing well with several players standing out. Whitley would prove to be a constant threat, Williams was putting on another powerful display in the middle and young winger Higgins was a constant thorn in the side of the opposition. It would be the left wing that would be involved in another major incident in the game. With the Ammies right back already on a yellow card, he again mistimed a tackle which would see him receive a second yellow card and with that the opposition were down to ten men.
Despite being down to ten Wythenshawe still gave FCIOM something to think about. They continued to keep the ball well at the back and one of their moves eventually resulted in Quirk being called upon to save a low effort.
The Ravens would then have a huge chance of their own. Whitley, another excellent set piece taker, delivered a deep free kick which sailed over everyone straight to the back post to find an unmarked Gale. His header landed just wide from only 5 yards out and the keeper stranded. Moments later Whitley would be involved again, as he won the ball back inside the Ammies half, he played in Doyle who turned down the opportunity to shoot and instead squared the ball to Gale who saw his shot saved. The ball then fell back out to Whitley who spectacular effort was tipped wide by the Wythenshawe goalkeeper who put in a fantastic display on the night.
With ten minutes to go before half time it would be all FCIOM before the referee’s whistle. Whitley had a few opportunities to double the lead but couldn’t quite manage to do so as his left-footed efforts would fizz just over the bar. Higgins also went on another run which resulted in a foul fractions outside the penalty area with many inside the Bowl thinking it would be a spot kick. At half time the Ravens were certainly in the driving seat and only needed some composure in the final third to put the result beyond doubt against the ten men.
After half time the same pattern would continue. Higgins again looked menacing on the wing and forced a couple of corners. From one of these Cannell had a sight of goal and appeared to be fouled but the referee waved away strong Ravens protests.
Wythenshawe struggled to create any big chances of note until the 54th minute. After a ball was floated into the back post an unmarked Ammie found himself with a glorious chance of goal but couldn’t direct his effort on target and struck the ball across the face of goal. Not to be outdone, the Ravens hit back with a chance of their own. Doyle, who has been unlucky in recent weeks not to find the back of the net, opened his body up as he shaped to bend one in the far corner. He struck in beautifully and it looked destined to be a goal only for the Ammies keeper to pull off a miraculous fingertip save to keep the score 1-0.
Charlie Higgins has caught the eye in the last two fixtures, and he would have one final moment before he would be replaced by Dan Simpson. The Ravens defended a set piece well and the ball fell out to Higgins who skipped past a few men but just as things began to open up, he took a heavy touch and a defender scrambled the ball away for a corner.
It wouldn’t be long before the Ammies goalkeeper would be called into action again as Whitley would again put him to the test but again would see his effort tipped over. That would be Whitley’s last action as he was replaced by the returning Luke Murray. Wythenshawe must have breathed a sigh of relief as Whitley had put in an impressive display and had their goalkeeper to thank for him not being on the scoresheet.
Simpson always looks lively when he comes on from the bench and his inch perfect cross was met by Doyle who mistimed his header and didn’t connect cleanly.
As time ticked on the Bowl was starting to grow anxious as they knew that with Wythenshawe still in the game, the Ravens would need a second to put the result beyond doubt. Simpson’s long throws have proved a major threat all season and another of his deliveries would see the resulting header loop onto the top of the crossbar. It was beginning to feel like there could be a sucker punch coming, especially after Quirk had to be on hand to sweep up a dangerous ball over the Ravens defence.
Luke Murray has been a big miss for the Ravens in recent weeks and his return was another big boost for the team. He has a habit of popping up with big goals so far this season and that would prove to be the case again.
After good work from Williams on the edge of the box, the ball fell to Murray and his low drive took a slight deflection off a defender and found its way into the bottom corner of the goal. 2-0 to the Ravens and job done.
The Ravens would see the game out well for the remaining five minutes and Bass Snr would use his final change to bring Chris Bass Jnr on for Doyle.
The referee blew his whistle and sent all 1509 Ravens fans home happy as they had secured another terrific victory over a promotion rival. Bass Snr punched the air at full time and so he should. His smart switch to a back four in recent weeks had so far worked wonders and his players are delivering for him.