With The Ravens’ status in the NWCFL Premier Division confirmed for next season after back-to-back wins in their doubleheader weekend, the shackles of pressure were somewhat loosened as they welcomed Avro FC to The Bowl for the first of their final three home matches of the season.
Both sides went into this fixture as recent in-form teams in the league with Avro chasing down league leaders Vauxhall Motors, this was always going to be a tough test for Paul Jones’s side.
FC Isle of Man made 10 changes to their side that previously saw them defeat Lower Breck and Longridge Town last weekend respectively, as they looked to continue their impressive recent form.
The opening 10 minutes saw both teams work each other out tactically, Michael Williams was making runs from midfield beyond striker Sean Doyle to find gaps in the Avro defence. It was evident early on Avro had done their homework on Sean Doyle as they tried to forcefully mark him out of the game. With 20 minutes gone on the clock, Avro created little to nothing and with a lot at stake for the away team the pressure of the match saw them play relatively conservatively.
The youthful midfield pairing of Kyle Watson and Sam Baines were extremely disciplined in their roles and showed great maturity against an experienced side. On the half-hour mark, Charlie Higgins slid a through ball into defender Chris Cannell whose effort rattled the Avro crossbar. Higgins was getting plenty of joy on the wing forcing Avro to bring him down in crucial areas of the pitch.
Avro’s best chance of the half came in the 40th minute as full-back Matthew Crothers noticed Matt Quirk off his line and took a shot from the halfway line, the effort rattled the top of The Raven’s crossbar.
The second half began with plenty of conviction going forward from the home side, Sam Baines sprayed the ball wide to Ste Whitley who returned the ball back to Baines with an attacking run, his resulting header narrowly wide of the opposition’s goal. Manager Paul Jones freshened things up and introduced Club Captain Frank Jones and Defender Ryan Burns into the match with the ever-reliable Alex Maitland and engine of the Midfield Michael Williams exiting the pitch.
The hour mark saw Avro have a great chance, striker Liam Ellis found himself 1 on 1 with keeper Matt Quirk but some fantastic pressure from Ryan Burns held the striker off as he ballooned his effort over the bar. With Quirk suffering what seemed to be a dead leg from the challenge he was substituted for Ben Wilkinson. Manager Paul Jones made a further change with Kyle Watson making way for Ronan McDonnell.
Avro began to pile the pressure on with set pieces inside the final quarter of the match, as they tested The Raven’s resolve however, the home side had every answer to keep Avro at bay. Whitley continued to be a threat on the wing and linked up well with Sean Doyle whose header narrowly kissed the edge of the Avro post.
A final change saw fan favourite Furo Davies enter the pitch for Sean Doyle who put an incredible shift in upfront.
Avro began to throw bodies forward in the final five minutes as they sought a winner although the home side took advantage. Chris Cannell cut out a ball and retained possession for The Ravens, he switched it wide to Whitley whose effort hit the Avro crossbar and fortunately dropped back into the penalty area, winger Charlie Higgins followed it up and managed to squeeze the ball over the line to win the match for FC Isle of Man in the final seconds of the game, a thoroughly deserved winner!
The Man of the Match was awarded to Jack McVey by matchday sponsors Okell’s Brewery.
Another fantastic attendance at The Bowl witnessing a last-minute winner with a late resurrection this Easter weekend for The Ravens sending our supporters home happy!