And so, a somewhat chaotic season came to an end with an emphatic victory against promotion-chasing Wythenshawe Town. It was another impressive display from the Ravens as they overcame another top-four side, proving that the future looks bright for this young side.
Both teams came into the game inside the top six of the NWCFL Premier Division form table. The visitors needed to win to keep their playoff chances alive while the hosts were keen to keep their recent good record going, which included back-to-back wins against other playoff hopefuls Avro and Bury AFC.
Manager, Paul Jones opted for a much-changed team, albeit some of the replacements were enforced as Sean Doyle, Alex Maitland Michael Williams and Jack McVey were all unavailable. Only Jacob Crook and the ever-present Ste Whitley remained from the starting XI that beat Bury AFC the previous week.
Dean Kearns returned between the posts for this last game of the season, giving Ben Wilkinson a much-deserved break after his heroics the previous week. Tom Shimmin came in for a deserved start at right back, with Ryan Burns and Jamie Corlett alongside him in the centre-back roles. Ronan McDonnell, Kyle Watson, and skipper Frank Jones returned to the midfield, while Furo Davies and Tom Creer formed the attacking spearhead.
There was a great pace and intensity to the game from the start and it was the visitors who nearly struck first inside three minutes following a speculative ball into the right channel allowed a Wythenshawe forward to lob the advancing Kearns. Fortunately, the ball hit the inside of the post and Burns was on hand to clear the danger.
The early pace of the game did not relent, and the Ravens started to spread their wings when skipper Jones flashed a volley wide of Wythenshawe’s right-hand post from the edge of the box. Minutes later they were ahead with a sublime goal from the same Jones.
Wythenshawe struggled to clear a Whitely out-swinging corner and Kyle Watson, calm as you like, turned two players inside out before passing to his left and the skipper guided his right foot shot into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
Wythenshawe almost hit back immediately following another break down the Ravens left flank. A pacey cross was met on the half volley by Vernon Parny, but the ball smashed against the bar and rebounded to safety.
Halfway through the first period, the Ravens extended their lead. A quick release from Kearns down the right flank found the Magician Whitley who subsequently took off at pace, tore passed the opposing full-back and drove into the penalty area before sliding the ball passed Wynne into the Wythenshawe goal.
The Ravens were seemingly flying, but not for long as the visitors did respond in kind with a quality goal of their own. Wythenshawe had been a threat down the Ravens’ right channel from the start and another quality run and cross found Jerome Wright, venturing forward from left back, at the far side of the penalty area, who proceeded to smash the ball passed the despairing Kearns.
The final 15 minutes of the half continued with the same intensity and Jones could have put the Ravens further ahead after being played through via a lovely flick header from Whitely. Frank was one-on-one with Wynne and hit the ball firmly on the volley only to see his effort flash marginally wide of the left-hand post. It remained 2-1 to the hosts at the half.
Wythenshawe knew they had to win this game to have any chance of reaching the playoff berth and they started the second half in this vein, pushing the Ravens’ defence back towards their own goal and creating a number of half chances.
First, the hitherto quiet Benito Lowe whipped in a fierce right-foot shot from the left-hand side of the penalty area which flashed across Kearns, and thankfully passed the far post. Then, after Crooks got caught under the ball, another right-wing cross was just too high for an incoming Wythenshawe striker. Within a minute another right-wing cross, pulled back towards the penalty spot found an unmarked Aaron Dwyer who seemed certain to score only to completely miss the ball with his attempted shot.
Just before the hour however the visitor’s bubble was burst. Tom Shimmin took off on an extraordinary run from inside his own half, which ended with the youngster deftly putting Furo Davies in on goal. The striker didn’t waste the opportunity as he hammered the ball high into Wynne’s net — the fourth quality goal of the game.
Thereafter the game was up for Wythenshawe (especially as the Ravens’ fan with the megaphone announced that Avro were three goals to the good) and although they kept pressing, apart from one very decent save from Kearns, they didn’t trouble the Ravens goal.
All in all, it was a very good, and deserved win for the hosts. It was an impressive eighth win from the last 12 games and their fifth on the bounce sending the club into a well-earned summer break in good spirits.
The manager was certainly happy in his post-match comments with the way the season ended.
“The wins are the icing on the cake, but the performances over the last few weeks have been very impressive. And I think we’re showing that we’ve got quite a good group of players on the Island at present.
“I think the group have leant a lot this season and hopefully they can take those lessons into next season. They have to keep pushing on now because there’s so much more to come from them.”
Kearns – Shimmin (Clark), Burns (Sherrard), Corlett, Crook – Whitley, Watson, Jones, McDonnell (Garvey), Creer (Higgins)– Davies (Baines)