Late Heartbreak Ends Play-Off Hopes
A 93rd minute winner from Marc Newsham gave Sheffield a narrow 2-1 verdict, after a Brody Robertson leveller had cancelled out a penalty by Andy Gascoigne. The defeat mathematically ended the Owls’ play-off challenge.
Dave Smith made two changes from the team that won comfortably at Stocksbridge in midweek. Jon Oglesby and Scott Vernon were recalled in place of Lewis Collins and Brody Robertson, who both started on the bench.
The side lined up as follows:
Goal: Theo Richardson
Defence: Tim Lowe, Paul Walker, Oli Donald, Sam Topliss
Midfield: Craig Disley, Jack Richardson, Alex Flett (captain), Jon Oglesby
Attack: Scott Vernon, Josh Batty
Subs: Jack Boswell, Danny North, Lewis Collins, Loz McKay, Brody Robertson
Spirits were high amongst the many travelling fans who had taken advantage of the Club offering free travel to the fixture. With a drum beating robustly by kick-off time, you could have been forgiven for thinking that you were in a more exotic football location than a chilly North East Derbyshire!
Sheffield, who began the day in the all-important fifth place, started more fluently and they had a goal correctly chalked off for handball in the 11th minute. Cribley was causing the Owls’ defence a few problems with some trickery on the right but, in truth, neither goalkeeper was overly stretched in the opening phase.
This all changed after 25 minutes, when the game exploded into life with the award of a penalty.
Dunne threaded a pinpoint pass through to Gregory. Stopper Richardson came flying from his line to narrow the angle and the Sheffield man went down over his out-stretched arm. From the side-lines, it appeared that the keeper got a touch on the ball before making contact with the striker. Nevertheless, the referee pointed to the spot and Andy Gascoigne rolled home.
Clee responded with their best spell thus far, with a blocked volley from midfielder Richardson the closest to troubling Hedge in the home net. Then, in the 36th minute, Batty crashed to the turf in the area and all eyes turned to the official. This time though the appeal was waved away, to the dismay of the boisterous Owl army.
In the dying embers of the half, Donald made an important intervention to a dangerous Sheffield cross and, at the other end, Lowe had a shot charged down.
HT Sheffield FC 1 (Gascoigne 25 pen) Cleethorpes Town 0
Clee made a change at the break. Jack Richardson, who had received a yellow in the first-half, was replaced by Lewis Collins.
It was a somewhat stop-start beginning, with a lengthy delay so that a Sheffield player could receive treatment. Indeed, tempers were beginning to fray and the referee was doing nothing to help the rhythm by whistling with great regularity. However, Clee were gradually working their way into some more dangerous positions.
Collins was looking particularly lively since his introduction and, in the 58th minute, the substitute burst through the inside-left channel before setting up shooting chance for Batty. The striker’s shot drifted the wrong-side of the upright though.
The clock was ticking on relentlessly and, after Paul Walker had received the second caution of the day for the Owls, Brody Robertson came on for Scott Vernon.
With 72 minutes showing on the watch, Sheffield wasted a glorious chance to double their advantage. Rawson suddenly found himself clear and moving one-on-one with keeper Richardson. Despite having ample time to set himself, the substitute ballooned his shot into the seats behind the goal.
The Owls’ efforts to secure the two goals needed to keep their season alive became more urgent and, in the 77th minute, a well-worked equaliser arrived. Oglesby, who had become more influential in the second 45, got towards the by-line on the right and the winger’s low cross was fired into the net from close range by Brody Robertson.
Galvanised by the boost of drawing level, Clee could sense a turnaround and only a world-class save by Hedge denied the Owls. Having been awarded a free-kick 25-yards out, Batty superbly curled round the wall. The ball looked destined for the top corner but, with the forward beginning to wheel away to start the celebrations, the keeper flew acrobatically to his left to claw the ball away with his fingertips.
It was win-or-bust for the Owls and the blue & black poured men forward in an attempt to force the issue. In his efforts to retrieve the ball, Tim Lowe was cautioned and, in the final minute of normal time, Robertson again tested Hedge.
Despite their best efforts, a second would not come for Clee and deep in stoppage time, Sheffield delivered the killer blow. Unsurprisingly, given the overall situation, the Owls had now become threadbare at the back. The hosts made use of this by creating a two on one and, with an appeal for an offside rejected, Marc Newsham had ample time to slot a cruel winner.
FT Sheffield FC 2 (Gascoigne 25 pen, Newsham 90+3) Cleethorpes Town 1 (Robertson 77) Attendance: 391
A defeat caused by the fact that we desperately needed the win! Earlier in the season, I am sure we would have been happy to play out a 1-1 draw, but we did not have that luxury yesterday.
We were not at our best by any means – however, good battling spirit was shown and we could not really have done much more. Our play-off hopes may have ended at Sheffield, but the damage was done much earlier in the campaign.
Nine points from the first eleven fixtures tells the story and everyone should appreciate the excellent turnaround to sit in 7th place. So, we move on to our final three, starting with a visit from Champions Morpeth Town. It would, of course, be nice to finish strongly and put down a marker for next year. However, all of our excellent fans (superb backing again on Saturday!) can reflect on a season of much progress for the Club – on and off the pitch!
Difficult choice for man-of-the-match, as I did not think anyone really stood out. Lewis Collins did well after his introduction, but only played 45 minutes. Therefore, on the balance that it needs to go to someone who was in the initial XI, I will give it to Jon Oglesby.
Saturday 20th April 3pm
Morpeth Town – Evostik East
New Linden, Clee Road, Grimsby, DN32 8QL
Adults £8, Concessions (over 65s and 16-18) £4, Under 16s £2
UP THE OWLS!
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