Apart from Dean Kearns replacing the suspended Matt Quirk, Chriss Bass Snr was able to name an unchanged team from last week’s victory. This is the first time Bass Snr has been able to keep the same outfield players in the line-up for back to back games.
That meant a back four of Ryan Burns at right back, Alex Maitland and Chris Cannell as the centre back partnership and Alex Holden as left back. Midfield duo Jack Camarda and Michael Williams have looked good in recent games so it’s no surprise that they kept their places in the engine room. The wings would again be occupied by Charlie Higgins (left) and Lee Gale (right). That would leave Ste Whitley to play off front man and captain Sean Doyle.
With results in the league going in favour of The Ravens this was a big opportunity to put another marker down and jump up to third in the table.
Cheadle made a bright start to proceedings and had two big chances early in the first five minutes. Kearns had to be on hand to save the first effort and then Cheadle’s big striker dragged their second opportunity wide. This provided a wake up for the Ravens who then fashioned an opportunity of their own which would bring the first goal of the game.
After Doyle and Williams both rose highly to win flick-ons from high balls sent forward, Whitley found himself racing through down the right flank. He smartly cut back onto his left foot with an exquisite turn and then produced a pinpoint cross onto the head of youngster Higgins, who directed his effort into the corner beyond the reach of the keeper.
It wouldn’t be long until FCIOM had the ball in the net again but unfortunately this time the linesman raised his flag to rule out Doyle’s low drive.
Cheadle looked a threat from set pieces and if it wasn’t for a goal line clearance from Cannell, FCIOM might have lost their lead. Cannell had started well and had already made a couple of important blocks and clearances.
There would then be a break in play after skipper Doyle was down with a head injury but thankfully, he was able to carry on after the lengthy delay. Doyle didn’t take long to get back into the thick of things, as he sent a header over from another delicious delivery from Whitley’s free kick.
In recent weeks, the Ravens have had to make do without having as much of the ball as their opponents but that wasn’t to be the case in this encounter. Cheadle’s set pieces and direct balls over the top of the FCIOM backline looked like their only way to get at Kearns’ goal.
After another ball flew over the Ravens defence, Cheadle’s number nine couldn’t connect with it, but he was proving a thorn in the side of FCIOM. Moments later, Cheadle’s right winger showed a great burst of pace to beat Holden, and just as his cut back looked to be converted, Camarda produced an outstanding block to keep the score at 1-0.
Whitley was again having a really good game and his one-two with Gale saw the winger’s first effort blocked, which eventually fell out to Higgins, who couldn’t quite get enough bend on his strike to double his tally for the evening.
As the game edged towards half time Cheadle continued to give Bass’ side plenty to think about. Burns received a yellow card for a foul in the corner after more good wing play from Cheadle, and minutes later they’d get their reward for that first half persistence.
After a ball slipped through the Ravens defence, the onrushing striker was forced wide and with an angle too tight to shoot from, he cut the ball back to his teammate who finished high into the roof of the net. There was mass confusion though as the linesman originally had his flag up indicating that the original run was offside, but after a lengthy debate, the goal was given, and the sides went into the break level at 1-1.
So far at the Bowl this season, when the home side has been on the end of a contentious decision, it has often fired up both the team and the crowd, and that seemed to be the case early in the second half.
Gale was beginning to get his eye in with his crossing and his delivery was met by the head of Williams who produced a good save from Cheadle’s shot stopper. It wouldn’t take long for the same duo to produce the goods.
After Gale’s original corner was scrambled clear, the ball fell back out the winger who whipped it back into the box and there was Williams again, who rose highest and produced a bullet header which flew into the back of the net to restore the Ravens lead.
After this goal the Ravens took control of the game again, but Cheadle wouldn’t go away and nearly equalised in dramatic fashion. As a ball was floated into the back post, Kearns hesitated and allowed a Cheadle forward to get the ball back in the danger area, and when a shot eventually came in, Kearns failed to gather the ball cleanly and was the most relieved man in the stadium when he saw it bounce off the top of his crossbar and out for a corner.
With it looking like the Ravens might need another goal to kill this contest off, Bass Snr decided to take Whitley off and bring on Luke Murray, highlighting the strength he has within his squad. Whitley had been impressive and was at the heart of a lot of good forward play on the night.
Minutes later the FCIOM gaffer would make a second change, this time bringing off goal scorer and eventual man of the match Higgins, for Dan Simpson, again showing the quality FCIOM boast on their bench.
It didn’t take long for these changes to pay off. After a free kick was sent in from the right, Doyle was able to bring the ball down and as it fell to Murray, the substitute made no mistake with his finish, as he emphatically smashed the ball into the net and made the score 3-1.
Camarda then found himself harshly put in the referee’s book with twenty mins to go but this didn’t stop the Ravens momentum. Burns produced a great cross from the right which first saw Doyle go close, then Gale had his effort blocked on the line and Murray’s resulting overhead kick was tipped over for a corner. Minutes later Doyle blasted over from a tight angle and then Cannell’s diving header from a corner looked destined for the net but trickled just wide of the post.
The Bowl tends to play host to crazy endings to games and it was to be no different in this fixture.
Cheadle found a way back into the game in bizarre fashion. They fired in a wide free kick, Kearns came out to claim it but unfortunately dropped his catch and the ball fell to a Cheadle player who punished the Ravens keeper and fired into his net.
Thankfully, FCIOM quashed the nerves quickly, with captain Doyle capitalising on a mix up between a Cheadle defender and goalkeeper. The keeper couldn’t quite reach the defenders back pass and when the ball fell into the path of Doyle, he was rewarded for his anticipation and persistence, as he drilled the ball home to put the Ravens back in command and on the way to another three points. That was Doyle’s 30th goal of the season, capping another dominating performance from the striker, who sported a bandage on his head during the second half after taking a whack on the head early in the first half.
The drama wasn’t over yet though. Doyle came off to a huge round of applause and was replaced by Chris Bass Jnr. Bass Jnr was nearly on the scoresheet instantly, as with his first touch he hit the post after great work from Simpson who beat his man down the wing and then cut the ball back to his teammate.
Simpson has been really impressive coming off the bench in recent weeks and he would send the 1,659 Ravens faithful home happy with one final moment of brilliance.
After a free kick was played short, Simpson lined up from way outside the box and his left footed strike flew into the bottom corner and capped off a wonderful night for FCIOM. Expect to see this goal for a while, a contender for goal of the season.