With Abbey Hey winning and New Mills drawing against fellow play-off competitors Wythenshawe Amateurs earlier in the day, the pressure was very much on for the Ravens against Stockport Town at the Bowl in the penultimate league game of the season.
Chris Bass Snr was almost able to field the same starting line-up for the third game in succession, however a late withdrawal from Sam Caine meant Adam Cooil went into right-back.
Matt Quirk started in goal with a back four of Cooil, Alex Maitland, Sean Quaye and Ryan Burns ahead him. Centre midfield was anchored by Jack McVey and Chris Bass Jnr with Adam Mealin and Dan Simpson occupying the wings. Luke Murray was in the number 10 role, with captain Sean Doyle up front.
In sunny Spring evening conditions at The Bowl, the Ravens started the game quicker of the two teams creating early half-chances for the forward line as Murray, McVey and Bass linked up well together.
And it was after only 12 minutes that the first goal of the game came in favour of FCIOM. A ball played down the left seemed too long and was met by a Stockport Town defender, but Bass jnr closed him down aggressively to win the ball back and easily find Doyle in the box to tap home under the goalkeeper.
What should have been the foundation on which the Ravens built sadly didn’t manifest, as the hosts struggled to impose themselves, which allowed Stockport Town to ease back into the game. Despite the FCIOM midfield seeing plenty of the ball it was only in fleeting moments as the early tempo and possession couldn’t be regained.
Then on 32 minutes as Stockport Town played a semi-hopeful ball into the box, the visitors were awarded a surprise penalty for what would turn out to be a handball by Ryan Burns spotted by the linesman. Up stepped Paul Turnbull to fire the ball fiercely past Matt Quirk’s right hand to bring the scores level.
Five minutes later the Ravens were however back in front. A deep free-kick on the left side played in by Simpson was met by an unchallenged Sean Quaye to head home from six yards to make it 2-1.
There was just time for Matt Quirk to pull off a couple of fine saves to keep the Lions at bay before the referee blew the whistle for half time.
While FCIOM would have wanted to push on from their 2-1 lead at the beginning of the second half, their plans were almost immediately dashed as Stockport Town scored within two minutes to make it 2-2. The visitors won a free-kick on the right which was whipped in towards goal by Tobias Green and proved too hot for Quirk to handle as it made its way all the way into the net.
This goal seemed to add fuel to the Stockport Town fire, as they launched a period of intense pressure on the Ravens goal, with free-kicks and counter attacks raining down on the FCIOM box.
While initially struggling to get a foothold in the game following that early second half sucker punch, the Ravens gradually started to play good football, building play well particularly through Dan Simpson down the left.
It was from one of his dangerous crosses that Doyle then almost got his head to but couldn’t quite stretch enough, taking a knock from the goalkeeper for his troubles. This would bring an end to the captain’s evening as he was replaced by Furo Davies on 71 minutes.
The game then entered a period where both sides began to cancel each other out. Stockport Town’s relentless energy was being absorbed well by our backline and our pacey wing play was providing us with dangerous outlets.
In search of a winner, Bass snr and Lee Dixon doubled down on this wing play strategy by replacing the speed and trickery of Adam Mealin for more speed and trickery in Ste Whitley on 81 minutes.
As we entered the final minute of normal time, a very strong challenge on Bass jnr on the edge of the area was not well received by the Ravens number eight. Angry exchanges and handbags from both sides led the referee to issue a yellow to the Stockport Town tackler and unfortunately a second yellow to Bass Jnr to send him off.
The feeling around the ground was almost certainly that it was game over now for FCIOM’s ten men, with many expecting the hosts to sit in defend the draw. But, as we have seen at The Bowl on many occasions recently, this group players does not settle for anything.
Waves of attacks from the Ravens bombarded the Stockport Town box, and when Simpson played a ball in towards Murray he was hauled to the ground. The raucous shouts for “penalty!” from the Ravens fans immediately changed to cheers when the referee pointed to the spot.
As both regular penalty takers McVey and Doyle substituted, the responsibility fell to Furo Davies who confidently claimed the ball and placed it down. With so much at stake, the tension was palpable around The Bowl, but when it comes to needing late goals Davies had a history of delivering.
And when the referee finally gave him the signal on 95 minutes, the big man calmly stepped up to fire the ball low and hard into the bottom right of the goal, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way and the crowd into raptures.
Despite the inevitable Stockport Town response that followed, FCIOM held firm for the final minutes of injury time to see out a hugely important 3-2 win and secure another vital three points in the race to secure second place in the league.