On a very wet and windy afternoon at the Bowl, FC Isle of Man got back to winning ways in the league with a tireless performance to beat Charnock Richard 2-1.
Once more manager Paul Jones selected James Rice in goal with Jacob Crook on the left of defence, while Morgan Naylor made his first start for the Ravens at right-back. The versatile Phil Kelly moved into central defence alongside Alex Maitland.
In the engine room of midfield were the young pairing of Tiernan Garvey and Kyle Watson, with Charlie Higgins and Ste Whitley providing the width and trickery. Up top, Tom Creer lead the line with Luke Murray tucking in hole behind him.
After a minute’s silence to remember NWCFL President Bob Eccles who had recently passed away, the game began at a ferocious pace as Charnock looked to take the game to the Ravens. The approach nearly paid early dividends, as Murray was forced into a ill-judged back pass header, which their striker latched on to striking the bar with his effort.
That early possession for the visitors soon subsided, as the Ravens’ disciplined shape began see them take control of the play. Not before long, and aided somewhat by the blustery conditions, Charnock were soon pinned back into their half as FCIOM defended from the front.
However, moments after the Ravens got in behind via Charlie Higgins’ neat spin and cross, Charnock had the ball in the back of the net, which was fortunately ruled out for offside.
With FCIOM playing a very high line, Kelly and Maitland always had to be prepared for the Charnock counter, as the visitors were being limited to only direct balls through the middle and over the top.
After quarter of an hour, the first goal of the game came through Tom Creer. A wind-assisted goal kick from Rice was flicked on by Whitley and, while the Charnock defender was able to control, his back pass was weak allowing Creer to chase, lob the goalkeeper and pass into the empty net. Just reward for a dominant period of play.
From kick off Charnock immediately threatened to bounce back, but the Ravens’ shape dampened this pressure, with the midfield duo of Garvey and Watson marshalling particularly well.
Soon, the home side were back on the front foot. After Higgins loses possession from a corner, he chases down to win the ball back, driving into box and unleashing at goal only to see his effort go inches wide.
Against the run of play though, Charnock were then level. A sloppy concession of a corner, and failure to clear, led to Charnock’s Carl Grimshaw ghosting in to nod the ball past Rice.
Within minutes of the restart, the early pattern of the game resumed, with FC IOM dominating the ball. There followed a wicked shot from Creer on the turn and stinging free-kick from Whitley, after being pulled back following some great interplay in midfield.
Minutes before the break, Charnock’s Nathan Nickeas pulled up off the ball and had to be replaced, and with that the referee blew his whistle for half time.
The visitors got the game underway in the second period, this time with the wind advantage. But it was the Ravens who had the first chance, as Murray’s headed effort is caught by the keeper following a clever short corner routine between Whitely and Naylor.
FC IOM began to struggle with the conditions, getting pinned back as clearances were being held up by the strong winds. However, the constant harrying and running threat from the Raven’s front line would relieve the pressure time and again. And it was one of that frontline, Tom Creer, who nearly put the Ravens back ahead, seizing on a loose pass across the box, but his attempted poke past the goalkeeper rolled just wide.
Charnock’s Grimshaw was a constant threat himself, his strength and directness keeping our defence on their toes. His powerful shot just before the hour mark had to be well saved by Rice down to his right to keep the scores level.
Then came FC Isle of Man’s second goal. The soon to be named Man of the Match Charlie Higgins was replaced by Dan Simpson, whose first touch was to smash the ball into the bottom corner of the Charnock net after a clever quick free kick from Whitley.
At the restart, the visitors were nearly ahead though, only for a fantastic double save from Rice – first with his legs then palming another away for a corner.
On 77 minutes, Tom Creer who had seemingly covered every blade of astroturf, was replaced by Furo Davies, as Jones looked to sure up our approach to counter Charnock’s push for an equaliser late on.
That pressure from the visitors nearly saw them score through Grimshaw after a rare mistake from Naylor presented the striker with a tap in from a few yards out. Fortunately for the Ravens, James Rice did not want to be beaten again and hurled himself down low to get a strong hand behind the ball.
As the conditions began to worsen, Charnock continued to chase for equaliser. FC Isle of Man defended intelligently as a team however and managed the threat well. Indeed, the Ravens almost added a third when first Murray heads over then Whitely jinks into the box only to see his low shot turned around the post by the goalkeeper.
As the nerves began to jangle, in the stands at least, Charnock earn a free kick in a dangerous central position. The resulting, dipping effort was heading goal-wards but was well saved again by Rice and cleared to safety.
Into added time, Charnock continue to push and had the ball in the net, but were thankfully flagged for offside in the build up. A late challenge on Simpson as the Ravens looked to counter resulted in Simon Grand being sinbinned, meaning the visitors would play the final minutes with ten men.
Then, after what felt like an eternity, the referee blew his whistle to bring the game to a close and with it confirm the much needed, and well deserved, three points for the Ravens.