We could definitely get used to this! A second victory in a row on home soil for the Ravens and a powerful performance to go with it during a pulsating evening at the ‘Bernabowl’.
Despite a strong team performance against Brocton last week, Manager Chris Bass, did make some changes based on performances from the mid-week clash at St Martins. With Matty Quirk unavailable, Dean Kearns was handed the ‘keeper gloves, although Bass did revert to last weekend’s solid backline of Ryan Burns, Jack McVey and Chris Cannell. Both Lee Gale and Luke Murray maintained their midfield positions, aided by Chris Bass jr. Ste Whitley kept his usual position at wide right, but Adam Mealin’s impressive performance at St Martins earned him a home debut at left wing back. Sean Doyle and Furo Davies continued to lead the line for the Ravens.
After conceding in the opening minutes in last week’s home league debut, the Ravens seemed keen to get off to a good start, showing a good intensity in their pressing and passing in the opening moments of the game. The early enthusiasm paid off. Following good pressing from Whitley, who nearly pinched the ball from the Stafford goalkeeper, Lee Gale was on hand to fire in the opener after great work down the left-hand side from the tricky Adam Mealin. The latter would prove to be a thorn in the side of the opposition all night, causing havoc for his opposing full back time after time.
After ten minutes we already looked in control of proceedings. The confidence was flowing and the fans didn’t have to wait long for another goal. Sean Doyle has found a knack of being in the right place at the right time in recent games and this proved to be the case again. Mealin started off a great team goal by switching the ball all the way out to Whitley on the opposite wing, who proceeded to fired a pin point cross to the back post, which was expertly knocked down by Bass Jnr to leave Doyle with a tap in.
After this frenetic opening ten minutes, the game then began to settle down with Ravens wingers Whitley and Mealin continuing to catch the eye. Stafford Town weren’t out of things though and they had a couple of chances of their own. Kearns nearly had a moment to forget as he got caught out trying to watch a ball out and not long after that the opposition had another chance, but the striker’s shot was dragged wide. Following those few scares the Ravens nearly added a third as Mealin found himself one vs one with the goalkeeper but saw his effort well saved.
As the game approached half time it seemed to be going through somewhat of a lull, but then up popped Ste Whitley with what can only be described as a wonder goal. Mealin beat his man yet again down the left-hand side of the box and whipped in an inch perfect cross to the back post. Time seemed to stand still before Whitley flung himself into the air and pulled off a spectacular left foot scissor kick and hammered the ball into the corner of net. This was a Goal of the Season contender for sure and very nicely took the Ravens to a 3-0 lead at the break.
It was Whitley again, who neared doubled his tally not long after the restart as he found the ball drop to him at the back post following a Ravens corner, but this time his effort was smartly saved. Things had started to become a little scrappy and Stafford Town began to pick up a few bookings for late challenges. However, as the half wore on the Ravens began to get hold of the ball again and their control of possession nearly paid off as Gale saw an effort cleared off the line. Just after the hour mark Bass made his first change of the evenings as he sent on Michael Williams to replace the hard working Davies.
Meanwhile, Mealin was continuing to impress as he jinked his way past his full back again only to be chopped down which resulted in another Stafford Town yellow card. From the resulting free kick Mealin nearly fired in a wonder goal of his own, but this time the opposition goalkeeper was on hand to tip his thunder blaster over the bar.
Down at the other end Kearns had to be on hand to keep out a rare Stafford attempt on goal as Town began to push forward in hope of salvaging something from the match. This suited the Ravens who were able to use their pacey players in the spaces the opposition were now leaving to hit Stafford on the break. Mealin found himself fouled again, and after a bit of a scramble from the resulting free kick, the ball was eventually recycled back into the box where Bass Jnr was there to bundle in a fourth and put the result beyond doubt.
Bass used this opportunity to use his final two substitutes. Mealin came off to a deserved warm round of applause after his excellent display, for which he was awarded the Man of the Match award. He was replaced by Dan Simpson, while Bass Jnr was replaced by youngster Sam Baines. At this point the crowd were enjoying what they were seeing on the pitch, and all 1,811 of them were yet to see an end to the goalscoring. Just after Kearns had kept out another Stafford Town effort, Williams then charged through the centre of the pitch and played a great ball through to Doyle who saw his shot tipped onto the post. But the ball wouldn’t stay out of the net for long, and from the resulting corner, Doyle powered in a header to make it five.
Things then got a little crazy as we came to the 90th minute. Stafford Town’s persistence paid off and they grabbed themselves a goal after another good save from Kearns wasn’t enough to stop the rebound creeping its way in. Doyle then found himself in the right place yet again to complete his hat trick after a superb run from Simpson saw his shot saved, but the rebound fell straight into the path of the prolific striker.
In what felt like a basketball-like end to the game, Stafford town scored another goal themselves after a good team move was capped off with a fine finish following a cutback. The Ravens defence were annoyed to concede two goals, as they had performed well during the entire game, with Burns in particular putting in an impressive display.
There was to be one final moment of madness. After a marauding Cannell, also excellent on the night, saw his cross come back of the crossbar. That would be the final action as the referee brought things to a close, the Ravens coming out 6-2 winners.
Kearns – Burns, McVey, Cannell – Whitley, Gale, Murray, Mealin (Simpson) – Bass jr (Baines) – Davies (Williams), Doyle.
Unused Subs: Cooil, Higginbotham