A pulsating game at Church Lane ended honours even as the Ravens deservedly kept their recent unbeaten run going with a hard fought two-all draw against high flying New Mills.
Manager Chris Bass was only able to travel with 14 players due to injury and some players being unavailable for this, the Ravens’ first, mid-week fixture. Teenager Charlie Higgins came into side to take Dan Simpson’s place at left wing back, while Jack McVey dropped into the middle of the back three from his normal midfield slot. Up front Bass was very bold in adopting to play a front three of Luke Murray, Sean Doyle and Furo Davies.
Right from the off this looked like it was going to be an exceptional game. From Charlie Higgins first minute rasper which flashed past the post to the plethora of free kicks that the hosts were awarded around the Ravens’ penalty area in the opening ten minutes. Thankfully none of the set pieces bothered Dean Kearns in the Ravens goal, but unfortunately Jack McVey and Sam Baines picked up early yellow cards for their troubles.
New Mills were very quick on the counterattack during the opening exchanges, but it was Sean Doyle who had the first real chance of the game, going through one v one with the Millers ‘Keeper only to see his subsequent effort saved and for Furo Davies to blast the rebound over the bar.
Ten minutes later though it was the Doyle and Furo combination that did break the deadlock. Kearns’ long clearance was flicked on by Davies and Doyle, anticipating the knock-on, raced through to lob the ball over the advancing ‘keeper.
However, in a repeat of the FA Vase game on Saturday, we allowed the opposition to equalise almost immediately. Indecision in the Ravens defensive set up allowed New Mills to pounce on a loose ball in the box and score.
At this stage it was a very equal match and both sides had opportunities to score in the last 15 minutes of the half. Ste Whitley went close for the Ravens forcing a fine save from the Millers stopper, while Ash Higginbotham cleared off the line before the magnificent Alex Maitland made a fantastic last-ditch tackle to stop the Millers left winger going through on goal. An even opening half was just about right.
New Mills started the second half on the front foot. Another of their quick breaks saw a thunderous shot hit the stantion, and minutes later Kearns was forced into a good save down to his right.
Following a Davies foul and yellow card, the flow of the game was broken just before the hour after what appeared to be some crowd disturbances, which led to several fans being asked to leave the stadium. When play resumed it was the Ravens who stormed back into the lead following a wonderful cross from Higgins, from which Whitley scored with a rare headed goal.
Unfortunately, as that football cliché says you’re “never more vulnerable than when you’ve just scored” rose to the fore again, as within minutes a speculative New Mills long shot hit Kearns but the ball wasn’t collected, and the rebound was slotted into the Ravens’ net.
There now followed a stalemate of ten minutes or so until Ash Higginbotham pulled down the New Mills striker in the 70th minute to earn a yellow card. Now the chances started coming at both ends.
Firstly, McVey blasted over following a Whitley corner, while at the other end the New Mills striker raced through on goal and forced Kearns into a great save, turning the striker’s shot around the post.
With five minutes to go the Ravens looked to have won it as a Sam Baines cross was nodded in by Furo, but unfortunately the referee’s assistant raised his flag for offside.
In the final minutes it was the hosts who seemed to be in the ascendency. Firstly, Kearns made a brilliant save down to his right. The ensuing corner was then swung in dangerously, right under the bar as Ravens’ defenders scrambled the ball off the line.
As the game went in a prolonged injury time, Kearns came to the rescue again, making a great one on one save. And after what appeared to be an eternity the referee finally blew the whistle following nine minutes of overtime.
This was a very good result for the Ravens considering the logistical efforts required to travel mid-week and considering we were up against one of the best teams in the league.
New Mills FC (2)
- Richard Tindall 26, 61
FC Isle of Man (2)
- Sean Doyle 24
- Ste Whitley 59