Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Striker’s late call-up proves the difference against Longwell.
ON Friday evening Ilfracombe Town manager Ross Middleton wasn’t even sure whether Shaun Lewis would make the squad for the game with Longwell Green, let alone the score sheet.
But with work commitments successfully negotiated, Lewis was wheeling away in delight after scoring his long-awaited first goal of the season and the decisive goal in a 1-0 victory for Combe in the Toolstation Western League Premier Division.
Longwell Green came with a simple game plan to try and overpower the hosts with a physical and direct approach, intentions made clear after five minutes when Lee Francis was hacked down after racing clear of the midfield.
Longwell’s cause wasn’t helped as they suffered two knee injuries in the first 10 minutes, both off-the-ball twists that only enforced their efforts to slow the game at every opportunity.
The Bluebirds did their best not to let it effect them; the pitch was heavy and at times football wasn’t at its flowing best but with Francis, Billy Tucker and Ryan Turner all looking to play off Edd Yeo they continued to play with pace and movement.
The best opening fell to Turner who cut inside after being set free by Francis only to see his shot saved by the keeper.
Combe upped the tempo in the second half and went on the attack from the off. Again Turner was the danger man, this time with a right foot shot low into the bottom corner that forced an outstanding reaction from the visiting keeper.
Yeo blazed over the bar after a good first touch bought him space inside the box.
Other chances from Middleton and Tucker didn’t find the net and as Longwell failed to threaten Steve Oliver’s goal the Combe faithful could be forgiven for thinking it might be ‘one of those days’.
But with 25 minutes left on the clock Lewis and Steve Holland came off the bench. The fresh legs were needed and Lewis’s pace made an instant impact as he sped through the defence before being ushered wide by both keeper and a covering defender.
But it didn’t take long for him to pop up in the right place at the right time. Tucker made another twisting run down the right hand side and whipped in a cross with power to offer Lewis the simplest of tap-ins.
The victory came at an unfortunate cost for Combe as with only five minutes left James Mayne broke a cheek bone when bravely putting his head on a cross knowing a clash of heads was to follow. The central defender could now face up to six weeks on the sidelines.
Manager Middleton said: “It was a gutsy win. We lacked a bit of desire last week but it was back in abundance today.
“Longwell are a big, physical team and probably the most direct in our league but we stood up to everything they threw at us. They were wasting time in the first half and some of their tackles wouldn’t have looked out of place at Twickenham, but we didn’t let it affect us and kept playing our football which is testament to the lads.
“I’m lucky I have a very good squad to pick from; we made a number of changes today and they worked.
“Craig Allan got his first minutes for two months but I was particularly happy for Shauny Lew; he’s played brilliantly when available this season but he’s had no luck in front of goal.
“I’ve never seen a player have so many shots cleared off the line so the whole squad was chuffed when he finally got one in.
“Mayner’s injury was a nasty one; it was such a brave defensive header but he didn’t know where he was after the game so Kenny, the chairman, took him straight to A&E and it’s a broken cheek bone.
“He’ll be a big miss because he’s been playing extremely well but I have no doubt the other lads will step in and perform.”
Ilfracombe travel to Wells City on Saturday and are at home to Bridport on Tuesday night.