Whitley wondergoal for Ravens not enough to take vital points
FC Isle of Man were condemned to their fourth straight loss this evening (28 January) as they were beaten 4-1 by a ruthless Squires Gate in a vital game in the NWCFL Premier Division at The Bowl.
Visiting Squires Gate took the lead inside two minutes through Nathan Cliffe’s half-volley before the Ravens sensationally equalised 13 minutes later with Ste Whitley netting a strike from inside his own half.
A close-range header from Callum Sandle then put the visitors back in front in the 20th minute before Cliffe struck again with a brilliant solo finish seven minutes after for 3-1.
Despite an improved second-half display, FC Isle of Man couldn’t prevent their opponents from grabbing a fourth deep in stoppage time as midfielder Ryan Moore capitalised and scored from close range following some slack defending from the hosts.
FC Isle of Man and Squires Gate went into this evening’s fixture 17th and 18th in the league respectively, and both searching for crucial points to move away from the relegation zone.
It took just two minutes for Squires Gate to break the deadlock in an absorbing first-half when their top scorer Nathan Cliffe picked up a loose ball on the edge of the Ravens’ penalty area, and fizzed a low right-footed half-volley past a rooted Ben Wilkinson in the FC IOM goal which cannoned in off the right post.
But the hosts got back on level terms 13 minutes later in stunning style when Ste Whitley - seeing Squires Gate goalkeeper Nathan Pennington off his line - struck a shot from over 50 yards which soared over Pennington and into the open net.
But the home side’s joy was short-lived as Squires Gate took the lead again on 20 minutes when a cross from full-back Daniel Gray on the right was met six yards out by striker, Callum Sandle, who stretched to loop a header over Wilkinson into the bottom left corner.
It then got worse for the Manx side seven minutes after that as Squires Gate broke away from an FC Isle of Man corner, culminating in a low pass from Theodore Ball on the left finding Cliffe on the edge of the box who expertly turned his marker and curled a low effort into Wilkinson’s bottom left corner for 3-1.
To make things more difficult for the home outfit, striker Sean Doyle - back in the squad for the first time in six months - was forced off in the 33rd minute with a hamstring problem before experienced defender, Ryan Burns, was also forced off the pitch with an injury of his own five minutes before half-time.
Trailing at the break, FC Isle of Man started the second half the stronger of the two sides but despite their possession struggled to break down a compact Squires Gate defence.
As time ebbed away without an FC Isle of Man response, tensions rose between the sides and in the 81st minute, FC IOM substitute Phil Kelly was potentially lucky not to see red for a robust challenge on Squires Gate’s Nathan Bartram-Conway.
It sparked a fracas between the two sides with referee Ethan Murray dishing out a series of yellow cards for both sides in the aftermath.
A few minutes later, Bartram-Conway, who’d been cautioned in the previous incident, then received a second yellow and resulting red card after another coming together, this time with Whitley on the edge of the Squires Gate box.
FC Isle of Man also found themselves down to ten men in the final stages as sub Jack McVey was sin-binned by Murray for dissent.
As the game slipped away from FC Isle of Man, the final sting in the tail came in the 95th minute as Ravens defender, Alex Maitland, was robbed of the ball on the edge of his penalty area by Squires Gate’s Ryan Moore.
Moore then strode through on goal and around Wilkinson to poke home into an empty net to put the result for the away side beyond doubt.
The result means FC Isle of Man drop to 19th in the NWCFL Premier Division on 26 points.
Their next game will be away against Kendal Town on Saturday, 4 February, kicking-off at 1pm.
Man of the Match: Nathan Cliffe (Squires Gate)