Cleal’s Cleeve put on defensive clinic in derby win

Bishops Cleeve moved onto 11 points for the season after a strong defensive display was the catalyst to their 2-1 win away at fellow strugglers Slimbridge.

In the preview of the game on our podcast with Stephen Cleal (listen here) we knew that Bishops Cleeve expected to do some defending but they were impressive with how they set up.

From the opening minute Bishops Cleeve set up stall and began to soak up early Slimbridge pressure, with Adam Mace stinging the gloves of Elliott Sedona inside the first 60 seconds.

The Swans were swinging crosses in for fun in the early exchanges but the Mitres backline stood firm. Their first warning signs came in the 9th minute when Mace played a near 60 yard diagonal pass to Joe Stokes who could only poke wide after the initial challenge by Jordan Staten delayed the shot.

After Jack Twyman headed wide and Stokes saw his free kick spilled by Sedona, Cleeve would have their first effort of the game just before the quarter mark when Harrison Iddles blasted wide from 25 yards.

Minutes later the visitors would take the lead when Michael Ford’s long range effort dipped before the diving Ollie Hall in goal for Slimbridge and ball would squirm through the stopper into the corner of the net. Disaster for Hall, delirium for Ford.

Cleeve continued to frustrate their hosts and what they did well was closing down the man on the ball. For example, everytime Jack Twyman got the ball he was squeezed out of time and space and the ball had to go backwards or sideways. Also, when the ball did find its why into Cleeve’s defensive third it was met by perfect no nonsense defending.

As the first half drew on Ieuan Crowe dropped to the left hand side and Cleeve crowded the midfield making it very difficult for Slimbridge to create an opening. It also allowed Crowe the freedom to charge forward on the counter to support Bates and Watts on the opposite side.

The first half saw a few flash points to remind everyone that this was still a derby game. Marley Thomas moved to the right hand side and it was his cross that was blocked by an apparent arm. The cries for penalties fell on deaf ears however. Slimbridge were incensed as Mike Bryant had been penalised for a similar handball incident minutes before. Thomas would go into the book for his protests.

He was joined in the referee’s book by Olly Butler just before half time for a late challenge on Max Harper-Emerson.

Into the second half and Bishops Cleeve would do more defending inside the first 15 minutes. Slimbridge had efforts off target by Stokes and Mace before Watts fired wide for Cleeve.

The game opened up after the hour mark and became a real end to end affair. Cleeve right back Olly Butler showed incredible presence of mind to head off the line not once but twice within a minute of each other as Slimbridge began to turn the screw.

From the second clearance Cleeve broke with Jack Watts and after he rounded Ollie Hall he laid it on a plate for Joe Bates who would have been great value to double the lead, all for a despairing slide challenge by Korey Pring, who showed incredible pace to get back in time. Brilliant defending at both ends.

In a bid to push for an equaliser Slimbridge went gung ho and brought on defender Kieran Squires to go up top. To his credit he challenged Staten and Ben Tunnicliff for everything.

With five minutes of normal time left Cleeve broke again and the ball went out of play for a throw in. Jack Watts would pick the ball up and throw it quickly down the line to set Joe Bates clear on goal. Bates slotted it under Ollie Hall and the Bishops Cleeve bench went wild.

Slimbridge kept going and forced a corner within two minutes. The corner was headed into the bottom corner by defender Korey Pring and it was game on.

In the end Jack Watts and Joe Bates did a terrific job of keeping the ball in the Slimbridge half and the game petered out for a very valuable win for the visitors.

Slimbridge: Hall, Turl, Mace, Pring, Hoskins, Turner (Mahon 75′), Twyman, Stokes (Squires 81′), Bryant, Harper-Emerson (Lawson 64′), Thomas

Subs not used: Ward

Bishops Cleeve: Sedona, Butler, Lock, McCarthy, Staten, Tunnicliff, Iddles, Ford, Crowe (Burton 75′), Bates, Watts

Subs not used: Noakes, Thomas, Gilder

Severn Sport Man Of The Match: Jack Watts (Bishops Cleeve)

Slimbridge stay 19th due to Shortwood United’s fixture being postponed and Mangotsfield being beaten at Cirencester. The Swans are back in action when they travel to Bristol Manor Farm next Saturday (3rd February).

Bishops Cleeve stay bottom, still 6 points off Barnstaple Town who won away at Salisbury. The Mitres are in action against Cirencester Town on Tuesday (weather permitting) before a trip to table topping Taunton Town next Saturday.