Clipstone’s young guns demonstrated that they can ‘win ugly’ when needed as they ground out a 2-1 victory over Retford as to make it three games unbeaten and seven points out of the last nine.
A goal in the first minute from in-form Gareth Curtis and a great strike from Tim Gregory gave the Cobras a half time lead although a freak own goal in the second half let the visitors back into the game and Clipstone needed all their resilience to hold onto all three points.
The home side were missing regular captain Ben Rogers who began a three match suspension after his sending off in the previous home game against Bottesford.
Gareth Curtis’ goal after just 24 seconds, his sixth goal in six games, gave the Cobras the ideal start in front of a good crowd of 107. The winger picked up a long clearance from Gary Doncaster and had sufficient time and space to move to the edge of the box and his shot beat Retford ‘keeper Josh Perryman’s despairing dive and went in off the inside of the post. 1-0
The visitors responded and only a good challenge from Ryan Hawley, playing in midfield in place of Ben Rogers, ensured that Retford forward Jack Carter could not get a shot in when well-placed.
There was another chance for Clipstone soon after when full back Ben Burbanks made a great run down the wing and his accurate cross found Tim Gregory but the latter was unable to get his header on target.
A corner for the home side in the 16th minute found defender Charlie Taylor but he didn’
t make clean contact and his shot was wide of the post.
The visitors then dominated possession for the next 15 minutes and won a number of free kicks as Clipstone struggled to get the ball back although Gary Doncaster’s goal was never seriously threatened.
The home side then produced the most incisive move of the game and took a two goal lead after 33 minutes. It came when a long throw by Burbanks into the Retford area was headed on by Luke Walker and Tim Gregory was first to react and showed great technique to wrap his foot round the ball and fire it past Perryman and into the top corner. 2-0
Gareth Curtis should have extended the lead further just before half time when he was played in by Gregory but his shot was within Perryman’s reach and the ‘keeper produced a fine one-handed diving stop.
Half Time 2-0
The home side were forced into a change at half time as Charlie Taylor had picked up a slight knock and was withdrawn as a precaution and replaced by the experienced Lee Bowler, a recent signing from FC Bilsthorpe.
The Cobras struggled to get going in the second period although Ryan Hawley nearly created a chance after a strong 20-yard run but his final pass was over hit.
The home side spent much of the half working hard to close down space and prevent Retford creating openings. Their full back Ishmael Danson had a chance on 54 minutes after good build up play but his shot was wide of the target.
However the visitors were gifted a goal a minute later when a mix up between Luke Thomas and Doncaster saw the former’s back header catch Clipstone’s keeper out and the ball rolled into the unguarded net. 2-1
The visitors seized the opportunity to test out the Cobras’ rear guard and Jack Carter, Cameron Dear and Kyle Wesley all came close to grabbing an equaliser.
With just over twenty minutes remaining Cobras’ boss Ian Cotton send on Harry Bircumshaw and Keaton Ward to try and regain control of midfield and both players were key to helping the home side see the game out.
The one real chance that Clipstone created in the second half came in the 76th minute when a great through ball from Ward enabled Curtis to get in behind his marker. His initial shot was straight at Perryman’s legs but he got a second chance and this time his shot was cleared off the line and Luke Walker then blasted the rebound over the bar.
There was a fairly lengthy stoppage late in the came to enable Ben Burbanks to receive treatment for an injury and with all three substitutes used, it was a welcome sight when he was able to continue.
The home side’s efforts were rewarded when the referee brought the game to an end after four minutes of added time.
Full Time 2-1
After the match Ian Cotton said he thought Retford were the better side and it was his team’s worst performance since he took over in January. He also picked out the contributions from youngsters Harry Bircumshaw and Keaton Ward in helping see out the game. Looking forward Cotton is still looking for further improvement from his players in the remaining seven games of the season.