Shirebrook Town’s recent revival continued as they made it three straight wins with a hard-earned 3-2 away victory at in-form NCEL Division One new boys Cleethorpes Town on Saturday.
It was Shirebrook manager Mark Shaw’s first league match in charge and five new signings made their debuts - defender Rob Ludlam, midfielders Jack Barnett and James Thompson, and striker Jason Bradley were all in the starting eleven, whilst attacker Tom Mullen got his chance from the bench later in the game.
And earlier in the week Shaw had said he would expect his team to go out and try to win the game at the Bradley Community Stadium, but he also cautioned his side that Cleethorpes would want to make sure they gave a better showing than in midweek, when they were beaten pretty convincingly by Albion Sports.
And so it proved to be, with the home side quick to put the visitors on the back foot right from the start.
All the early pressure came from Cleethorpes, but they couldn’t turn it into goals and they were left to regret that as Shirebrook grew into the game and took the lead on 22 minutes with a fine header from Jake Vernon, into the top right-hand corner, out of keeper Scott Drury’s reach.
Danny O’Donnell had set the goal up for Vernon and a minute later his name was almost on the scoresheet as well, but he couldn’t keep his 18-yard shot down off Bradley’s ball from the right.
Nevertheless, Shirebrook continued to enjoy a good spell on top and they doubled their advantage just six minutes after that, Ludlam heading in at the far post off Bradley’s flick-on from a throw on the right to give the visitors a 2-0 lead almost on the half-hour.
However, Cleethorpes were quickly back in it when the ball was worked across from a swift move down the left and Marc Cooper hammered it into the net from 25 yards out at the far post, halving the home side’s deficit on 35 minutes.
But Cleethorpes’ joy was very short-lived as Shirebrook continued to press at the other end, restoring their two-goal advantage two minutes later with another headed goal, this one from Bradley at the far post off Vernon’s cross from the right, after he was put clear on the flank by Ludlam’s neat pass.
And that goal gave Shirebrook a 3-1 lead going into the interval, but the visitors found themselves pegged back right from the restart as the home side looked to get back into the game, and they did so just after the hour when Carter struck for a second time to halve the deficit again.
Substitute Ricky Belding had come on for Cleethorpes just three minutes before and it was he who was on hand to feed the loose ball to Cooper, after Alex Flett’s corner from the left was only half-cleared - and Cooper couldn’t miss from 8 yards out.
Two minutes later at the other end, Shirebrook very nearly found the net again when Bradley headed Jack Barnett’s free-kick from 30 yards on the right back across goal, but Vernon had to stretch at the far post and his misdirected shot was frantically cleared.
After that it was mostly all Cleethorpes’ possession, but central defender Chris Timons marshalled the visitors’ back line well, and Shirebrook keeper Gareth Briggs was only seriously troubled once during that time, diving left to save Belding’s low 22-yard shot with just over ten minutes to go.
Shaw said after the game that he was happy to have taken the three points.
He added: “There were several players making their debuts, but our first half performance was good and chances were created for Jake Vernon and Jason Bradley.”
Shaw went on: “We lost our way a bit in the second half and they brought the game to us. They had plenty of chances to win it, but we’re learning and I’m pleased with our players. The result is more important at this stage.”
Next up Shirebrook Town face a tough midweek trip to West Yorkshire side AFC Emley on Tuesday night for a 7.45pm kick-off, before returning to Langwith Road next Saturday for Shaw’s first game in front of the home fans when the visitors will be Leeds’ side Yorkshire Amateur for a 3 o’clock kick-off.
Cleethorpes Town: Drury, Lowe, Barrett, Coleman, Peck, S Cooper (Steer 79), Flint (Stephenson 79), Flett, M Cooper, McFarland (Belding 59), Neville. Subs not used: Crawley, Walsh.
Shirebrook Town: Briggs, Ludlam, L Jackson, Walker, Timons, Rushton (Bray 74), Barnett, Thompson (Gee 59), Vernon, Bradley, O’Donnell (Mulley 68). Subs not used: Rowley, G Jackson.
Referee: Danny Guest (South Yorkshire)