After last week’s frustrating league result, the Ravens came back to The Bowl again in search of an improved performance and a place in the next round of the Isuzu FA Vase. This match gave Chris Bass the opportunity to make a couple of changes to his team from the last few games.
Matthew Quirk came back into the side and started in goal for the Ravens for his first start this season. The back four consisted of a blend of youth and experience. Youngster Jacob Crook started on the left of the back four and in the other full back role would be the ever-reliable Sam Caine. The centre half partnership of Jack McVey and Karl Clark would see another experienced pairing at the back for the Ravens. Lee Gale would fill the right wing with Adam Mealin slotting in on the left. In the middle would see the ever green Chris Bass Jnr and alongside him in the engine room would be 17 year old Tiernan Garvey. Up front would be Ciaran McNulty with captain for the night Ste Whitley playing just off the frontman.
Lower Breck started very brightly and created their first chance after only 15 seconds. The Ravens gave the ball away in their own half and the opposition striker flashed his shot just wide and let the home side of the hook. The Ravens responded well though and didn’t take long to create an opening themselves. Whitley showed good tenacity to chase a ball down and he was able to lay to ball off to his teammate Gale who flashed a ball in which Whitley nearly got on the end of himself but wasn’t quite able to bundle the ball goalwards.
FC IOM didn’t have to wait too long for another opening though and this time they would take it. Gale played a nice ball down the line to McNulty who was able to hold up the ball until support arrived. Whitley demanded the ball and once he had the defender lined up, he chopped onto his right foot and dinked a lovely ball over to the back post where Bass was lurking for a tap in to put the home side 1-0 up.
Garvey had made a tidy start for the Ravens and was keeping the ball ticking over nicely in the middle of the park. But although the home side were in the lead with a number of players making good impressions, it was the away side who would have the next telling moment. Lower Breck’s striker skipped past the Ravens defence and was adjudged to have been brought down by Clark and the referee pointed straight to the spot and awarded a penalty. Up stepped the Lower Breck forward who smashed the ball off the underside off the bar and in to level the scores.
The Ravens were quickly presented with a decent chance to level the scores after the Lower Breck goalkeeper cleared the ball into the back of his own player which saw the ball fall to Gale who couldn’t quite steer the ball into the empty net. In what felt like a basketball game, Lower Breck quickly created a chance of their own again which resulted in the Lower Breck winger looping a cross onto the top of Quirk’s goal.
FC IOM soon found themselves back in the lead though. Gale took a throw in to Whitley who laid the ball into the path of Caine who send in a wicked delivery and there was that man Bass steaming in-between the two defenders and powering an old school diving header home to restore the Ravens lead.
The Ravens then lost Gale to injury so Luke Murray was introduced to the action. Lower Breck then had a good spell of their own and forced a few corners but the home side stood firm and were able to keep the visitors out. Before half time Quirk would be called into action to deny Lower Breck levelling the score. As the attacker captitalised on a mix up at the back Quirk was able to meet the onrushing attacker and use his feet to tackle to forward and divert the ball away from goal. The Ravens would go in 2-1 up at the break and were good value for their lead.
Not long into the second half the Ravens had a good chance to take a two-goal advantage. Mealin raced away down the left and cut the ball back to McNulty who fired an effort into the side netting. The home side looked comfortable and thought they’d scored another, but Murrays cool finish was ruled out for offside.
As the game entered the final twenty minutes Chriss Bass was forced into two further changes with Mealin and Bass coming off with knocks, so Phil Kelly and Luca Moretta took their places. It didn’t take Moretta long to make an impact as he picked up the ball on the left and drove at his man before picking out an unmarked Caine in the box who finished like a striker as he nestled the ball into the bottom corner to put the Ravens 3-1 up.
From this point onwards the Ravens used great game management to see the tie out. Late chances for McNulty and man of the match Garvey would have been the icing on the cake but a win and a good performance was more than enough for Chris Bass as he saw his side progress into the next round of the cup.