The Ravens went into this fixture with a fantastic home record at the bowl against a solid side in Ellesmere Rangers who sat in 8th place. Manager Chris Bass with just the 1 change to the starting 11 from the previous game, with defender Alex Holden coming in at full back for the unavailable Jack McVey.
With FC Isle of Man sat in 4th position in the table, this was once again another pivotal game for The Ravens to ensure they kept the pressure on the teams above, whilst keeping a close eye on Wythenshaw Amateurs who are hot on The Ravens heels in the play-off positions.
A recent change in formation over the weeks has given a stability to the team and this was once again evident as the shape of the team was extremely compact whilst maintaining an attacking threat throughout.
A captaincy debut was handed to goal-machine and fan favourite Sean Doyle, and he repaid this faith shown by Manager Chris Bass by being the focal point of the Team. He led from the front holding the ball up well early on and drawing fouls from the opposition as they struggled to come to terms with his physicality.
The Rangers set the precedent early with wanting to the zip the ball around and play out from the back at every opportunity they could and this early on, seemed a tactic they tried to employ. However, they came unstuck on many occasions against a formidable central midfield in Michael Williams who really is the engine room of this FC Isle of Man team and Jack Camarda who’s distribution of the ball throughout the 90 minutes was exquisite.
Early on, Stephen Whitley was finding a lot of space in the hole within that no.10 position and linking up with Captain Sean Doyle whilst also bringing into play wingers Lee Gale and Charlie Higgins. The latter of which, had a superb strike well blocked by the Rangers defence which gave The Ravens an opportunity from a corner. The corner taken by Lee Gale, was aimed for the front post and was met by Captain Sean Doyle with a delightful flick to make it 1-0 to The Ravens on the 18th minute. This was greatly received by the home support and echoes of “Raven’s, Ravens!” soon followed around The Bowl.
Charlie Higgins was clearly enjoying himself on that left hand side, driving at the Rangers fullback turning him inside out and displaying his character on the pitch with plenty of trickery. Ellesmere Rangers did have a say in the first half however, when they reached the final third to put The Ravens under pressure there seemed to be a lack of movement and they struggled to unlock FC Isle of Man’s defence.
The Ravens went in 1-0 up at half time and started the second half much how they ended the first, on the front foot. A fantastic free kick from fullback Ryan Burns on the half way line gave Captain Sean Doyle the opportunity to make it 2-0 who’s subsequent header hit the top of the crossbar. The Ravens then took full control of the game when in the 54th minute, a straight red card was given to The Rangers midfielder for a stomp on Jack Camarda off the ball. This was then followed by an additional red card to one of The Rangers subs on the bench.
As the tension was building within The Bowl Stadium, Manager Chris Bass introduced striker Luke Murray on the 57th minute for Stephen Whitley. This seemed to be a clever ploy from the manager to use additional height in the opposition box to trouble their keeper.
The Rangers did not lose hope, in the 66th minute a long ball over the top caused confusion between The Ravens defence and goalkeeper Matt Quirk who made the decision to come out of his box to win the ball unfortunately, he was met with The Rangers striker and collided with him outside the box. Matt Quirk received a straight red card for his foul and fortunately The Rangers player was uninjured. With no sub keeper on the bench, Manager Chris Bass made the decision for midfielder Michael Williams to take the gloves as both teams were left with 10 men.
In the 68th minute Daniel Simpson was brought on to use his pace and experience on the left hand side as he entered the pitch for young winger Charlie Higgins. The final 20 minutes became very cagey as The Rangers began to pile the pressure on but came up against a resolute defensive partnership in Alex Maitland and Chris Cannel who were both solid throughout.
Into the final 10 minutes, midfielder Jack Camarda wins the ball in a 50/50 on the half way line and distributes wide to Lee Gale who whips a low driving cross across the box to Captain Sean Doyle who flicks it into The Rangers net to make it 2-0. There was a sense of relief and joy from The Ravens fans inside The Bowl who felt this would be the goal to seal the 3 points.
Credit to Ellesmere Rangers who tried to play some nice stuff throughout however didn’t pose a test for the stand in keeper Michael Williams. The ever-working Lee Gale was a constant thorn in the side of The Rangers defence with constant pressing and harrying putting The Rangers defence on their toes not allowing them out. Lee Gales work then pays off, as he weaves his way inside and threads a ball through which is beautifully dummied by Captain Sean Doyle for winger Daniel Simpson to take it past their centre half and slot into the back of the net to make it 3-0.
Chris Bass Jr was introduced for the final moment of the match for goalscoring ace Sean Doyle, to provide some experience and see the game out before one final effort was on show for the 1,483 in attendance at The Bowl as Jack Camarda’s wonderfully weighted ball over the top set Lee Gale away only for his shot to be parried away by The Rangers keeper.
The full-time whistle was blown with the match finishing 3-0 to FC Isle of Man. The Man of the Match was awarded to both outfield and in net, Michael Williams. A fantastic team display from The Ravens who carry on their impressive home form and adds pressure on the teams above them. With another immense turnout from our loyal supporters, The Bowl really is becoming a fortress for this FC Isle of Man team.