Cliffe FC’s second string put the pre-season from hell behind them with three well earned points against last season’s mid-table finishers at Oxen Lane in their opening Reserve ‘C’ fixture.
Steve Wilcockson writes…
With Fenton debuting in goal in the absence of Harris, and no less than Beech, Hebson, Lambert, Hutton, Evans and Pool all absent, no-one could be incorrect in describing the starting 11 as makeshift at best. Thankfully, it appeared that the same curse had hit the opposition, with a bare 11 appearing to face the blue and whites.
Cliffe started the stronger, quickly pinning the Crayke side in their own half and the combination of Horner and Bennett running the centre of the park with very little to trouble them. Any opportunities the away side did create were easily snuffed out by either Leach or Birch in the centre of defence.
The game really became a case of when Cliffe were going to score as opposed to if, with Horner, Bennett and Lees all going close in a first half that the away side had few answers to. The only thing likely to defeat the home side was themselves, with several running battles between players over increasingly insignificant incidents.
Nerves were calmed when a flowing move, beginning with Leach winning a long ball from the keeper, before passing the ball across the defence and along the touchline to Lees, who cleverly beat his man and squared to Ellwood. The striker then beat two opposing players before smashing a left footed shot into the top corner just on the stroke on half time.
The second half began as the first had ended, Cliffe well on top against a steadily tiring team. Frequently, players found themselves in space in the final third, but all that was missing was the shot against a creditably resilient Crayke defence.
Midway through the half Ellwood made it two. More hard work from Lees forced the ‘keeper into making a brilliant reflex save, only for the ball to fall inside the six yard box to the waiting Ellwood who despatched with aplomb to kill the tie.
This would not be to say Crayke simply rolled over, they did manage four notable attempts at goal. The first, a laid off free kick from distance, palmed over the bar by Fenton acrobatically in fashion reminiscent of his hero David de Gea.
Cliffe’s own Barthez then pulled off a better save from the resulting corner, palming away a header that was sailing in to the top corner, much to the relief of his defenders.
Two goal line clearances then completed Crayke’s total attacking forays, the first by Richardson after Fenton had been lobbed, and secondly by Wilcockson, after Fenton had decided to try recreate Jason Statham’s “The monk” character in Mean Machine, taking on one attacker before losing it to the second inside his 18 yard box.
All in all it was a well earned victory against a side that should give Cliffe a decent idea as to the standard of this new league. A poor pre-season has been put behind them in the best possible way…with 3 points gained.
Cliffe would also like to thank Mike Fisher for refereeing the game, after the league kindly took both the appointed official and his replacement and moved them to other fixtures.
Cliffe FC: Fenton, Wilcockson, Leach (Richardson), Birch, Summers, Gallagher (Taylor), Horner, Bennett, Durcan (Lonsdale), Ellwood, Lees (Capt)
Goalscorer: Ellwood (2)