FC Isle of Man crest
Furo Davies scores the winner against Congleton Town

REPORT: FC Isle of Man 3 vs 2 Congleton Town

After securing a brilliant point away from home earlier in the week, FCIOM were back on home turf and were bracing themselves for the test of Congleton Town.

The Ravens lost the reverse fixture 5-1 so knew this would be a tricky game. Chriss Bass Snr described Tuesday’s performance as a turning point and therefore it was no surprise that many of the lads from the midweek squad kept their places.

The very impressive James Rice kept his place in-between the sticks and would look to build on his commanding performances that he had been putting in recently. Sam Caine came back into the side at right back, and on the opposite side of the back four would be Jacob Crook. The centre half partnership would see a very experienced pairing of Sean Quaye and Jack McVey. 

In midfield, Bass went with youngsters Kyle Watson and Tiernan Garvey in the engine room. These two youthful prospects had made bright starts to their Ravens careers so tonight would see them given the chance to impress on home soil. On the wings would be the tricky duo of Charlie Higgins and captain Ste Whitley. 

That would leave Luke Murray and Ciaran McNulty to provide the threat up front. On the bench would be Michael Williams, Furo Davies, Adam Mealin, Dean Leece, and Jack Higgins.

From minute one it became very apparent that the wind was going to play a big factor in this game, as both goalkeepers soon found their kicks would either hold up in the wind or get carried right through to near the opposition’s box.

Both sides had early chances to put the ball in the net. Congleton had a header glanced just wide from a terrific ball in and then Whitley smartly teed up Higgins who saw his effort well blocked and deflected out for a corner.

The last time these two sides met it was very apparent that Congleton were a very clinical side and that proved to be the case again after just eleven minutes. After the Ravens conceded a free kick just outside the area, up stepped Daniel Needham to expertly send the ball into the top corner and give the visitors a 0-1 lead.

FC IOM probably felt unlucky to be 0-1 down as they had played some decent football. The back four in particular had shown great confidence in knocking the ball round the back and had created some good opening from it.

But, moments after going one down, the Ravens were caught out trying to play their way out from the back and gave the ball away cheaply which allowed a Congleton player to play Thomas Hampton through on goal and he made no mistake putting the visitors 0-2 up, although he did take a whack for his troubles and needed to be substituted immediately after scoring.

This goal seemed to knock the confidence out of the Ravens momentarily but after riding a short wave of pressure, they soon showed they had reason to be hopeful of mounting a comeback. Luke Murray chased down some sloppy passing at the back and forced his way through on goal and finished expertly, only for the linesman to judge that the ball had been deflected up onto his hand before he tucked the ball away. This felt a harsh call as there was little Murray could do to avoid this.

The Ravens then started to find their groove and had some sustained periods of pressure in the Congleton final third. Garvey bent a curling effort just wide and moments later Whitley danced his way past two men and then flashed a cross shot in which just evaded the onrushing Higgins. Whitley was starting to cause real problems on the right-hand side and saw a fierce effort well saved by the opposing goalkeeper as the game approached half time. 

0-2 would have been a harsh score line at the break so it felt thoroughly deserved when Murray pulled one back just before the interval. Whitley stood over a wide free kick and sent in a wicked delivery to the back stick. Murray smartly found his way between two Congleton defenders and nodded home to well and truly put the Ravens back in the tie.  

Bass threw Williams on to replace Watson at half time to give the Ravens that extra physical presence in midfield and this proved to be a well thought out decision.

The second half had plenty of early chances. Rice made a good early save, and the Ravens forced a few corners themselves to apply some pressure. Williams and Whitley then combined to see the latter’s effort fired agonisingly close to an equaliser.

The home side were really pilling the pressure on at this point, and after Murray raced through it took a good save and a lucky deflection to see the ball head out for a corner and keep the scores level. From the resulting corner, the ball fell back out to Crook who smartly played it to Whitley. The captain turned on the style and jinked past three men and then cut the ball back to Higgins who was in the right place at the right time to fire home and put the Ravens back on level terms. 

The game then lulled for a while as both sides knew that losing the game from the positions that had got themselves in would be a killer blow. Bass made two further changes to try and influence the game. Midweek hero Davies came on to replace the tireless McNulty, and then moments later Leece replaced goal scorer Higgins. 

With just over ten minutes to go the Ravens seemed to step it up a gear and really started to throw bodies forward in search for a winner. More good work down the left saw Crook send in a delightful cross that was destined to be headed home by Murray if it wasn’t for a last ditch defensive header. The home side forced a few corners and saw a few efforts go close, including one that saw Williams hit the bar!

It took another fantastic last-ditch tackle to deny Whitley a strike on goal. Shortly after this, Williams forced his way into the box and squared the ball to Davies who couldn’t keep his effort down under pressure and fired just over. 

Congleton weren’t out of it yet either though as one of their substitutes possessed a long throw which caused a few problems for the Ravens and had to watch an opposing player fire an effort just wide after a knockdown fell to the edge of the box. 

With the game coming to an end, the Ravens would force one more big chance and luckily for them, it would fall to the man who just loves a late goal.

With the ball seemingly heading out of play for a goal kick, Murray sprinted to apply some pressure on the defender and managed to win a corner for his side. Whitley sent in a corner that found its way through to the back post where Williams had smartly dropped off in anticipation that the ball may end up there. He delivered a lovely ball in with his weaker left foot and there was fan favourite Davies to head home and send the fans behind the goal wild.

Rice would be called into action one final time as he denied Congleton from close range after another long throw caused problems. But from this point on the Ravens managed the game well and secured a vital three points.