2023/24 Season | Summary

Pitching In Northern League Divison 1 North West

PWDLFAPTS
1.Workington362646894682
2.Radcliffe Borough362646733082
3.FC ISLE OF MAN3625561044480

As was to be expected, newly promoted FC Isle of Man began the 2023/24 season as one of the favourites for relegation.

Manager Chris Bass started the season with a settled squad. Only central midfielder Bobby Johnson and young centre back Phillip Duffy were brought in with the gaffer deciding to stick with local homegrown Isle of Man youth to fill out his squad.

With 4 wins out of the first 4 games, The Ravens showed everybody they were up for this new level of football. September and October were particularly golden for FC Isle of Man, registering big wins over Kendal Town (6-0), Clitheroe (8-0) and Ramsbottom United (5-0).

This season’s big rivals were Workington, relegated from the Northern Premier the season before. The race for promotion was a 2 horse race between these 2 sides, with top spot changing no less than 12 times between them from August to February.

Workington were of course a former Football League club from a time long ago when events were recorded in black and white. Managed by 39 year old Irishman Barry Cogan playing a standard 4-4-2, Workington were a solid outfit. When The Ravens met Workington at Borough Park in the beginning of December 2023, a feast of football was served up with Workington taking the spoils after a dramatic 4-3 win.

As the season end closed in, Radcliffe Borough had joined the race for the 1 available promotion spot after an incredible run of form. Having suffered defeat to FC Isle of Man on 23rd December 2023 (2-0, Ravens goals from Wesley Magee and James Sunderland), Boro remained undefeated until the end of the season.

In what was becoming tradition for FC Isle of Man, the season went all the way to the last game for the 4th season in a row. On the final day of the season, Workington, Radcliffe and FC Isle of Man all had the possibility of winning the league albeit The Ravens had to pray for the unlikely scenario of both Workington and Radcliffe losing. As it turned out, all 3 clubs won and Workington claimed the title by virtue of goals scored, it could not have been any closer.

FC Isle of Man then faced the lottery of the Regional First Division Playoffs and were drawn against Walton Casuals. The tie was played at Walsall FC’s Banks’s Stadium in what was billed as FC Isle of Man’s biggest ever fixture. Douglas International Airport and the ferry ports were extremely busy as a mini mass exodus took place from the island and almost 1,800 supporters made the journey to the mainland.

Ultimately, FC Isle of Man came up short, going down 3-1 in a game they were always second best in and another season in the Northern Premier League Division One North West beckons.

WALTON CASUALS’ 3RD GOAL WHICH BOUNCED IN OFF GK DAVIDSON

Emirates FA Cup

16.09.2023Preliminary RoundWarrington Rylands (H)2-1
23.09.20231st Qualifying RoundRoyston Town (A)0-0p

For the second season running, the FA Cup journey ended for FC Isle of Man in the 1st Qualifying Round.

The Preliminary Round offered familiar opponents in Warrington Rylands from our seasons in the North West Counties. Given the Ravens record against Rylands, most were confident of progression when the 2 sides lined-up at The Bowl in front of a whopping crowd of 1,716. It was a tricky fixture with a late goal required from James Sunderland to send FC Isle of Man through.

The game at Royston was always going to be a competitive game as Royston played at a higher level in the Southern League Premier. Despite dominating the chances and possession it was The Ravens that had the ball in the net twice (one each for Brian Esperance and James Sunderland) only for the linesman to flag both goals for offside.

ESPERANCE WAS AT LEAST 1 METRE OFFSIDE

The game was a 0-0 stalemate, both sides putting a sizeable effort in but a penalty shootout was required to separate the teams. Royston won out 6-5 in the end, defender Shaun Adams had the misfortune of being the FC Isle of Man player to miss his penalty in sudden death.

Buildbase FA Trophy

30.09.20231st Qualifying RoundHullbridge (A)3-0
21.10.20232nd Qualifying RoundEast Grinstead Town (A)3-1
09.11.20231st RoundHorsham (H)1-1p

The FA Trophy Preliminary Round tie against Hullbridge was FC Isle of Man’s first ever game in the competition and it couldn’t have been any more straight forward.

East Grinstead Town of the Isthmian League Division One South East were also disposed of without too much problem but the 1st round draw couldn’t have been any tougher for The Ravens.

Horsham arrived at The Bowl, Douglas in confident mood and rightly so, they sat in 1st place of the Isthmian Premier League, a league containing former Conference sides in Braintree Town, Whitehawk and Grays Athletic. They had every right to be respected.

After the game, Ravens boss Chris Bass was proud of his side for their performance against a club looking likely to be playing in the Vanarama South next year. In the 120 minutes leading up to the penalty shootout they had battered Horsham, registering 17 shots on goal. Brian Esperance, who else, had given Isle of Man a deserved lead in the 68th minute but it’s hard to keep a genuinely good side down, Horsham equalised in the 85th minute with a top quality finish.

CLASS GOAL FROM HORSHAM’S WATSON, INTO THE TOP CORNER

Extra-time went by before a ridiculous marathon of a penalty shoot-out. The sides could not be seperated, all 22 outfield players having a spot-kick before a second rotation was needed. For the second time this season, Isle of Man lost their nerve first. Of all the players, the normally ice-veined Brian Esperance missed his decisive kick in sudden death.

Integro League Challenge Cup

19.09.20231st RoundColeshill Town (A)3-0
24.10.20232nd RoundDunston (H)4-0
27.11.20233rd RoundBradford Park Avenue (A)0-3

Promotion to the Northern League meant entry into the Integro League Challenge Cup. Featuring sides from all 3 Northern League divisions this looked a tough competition.

Brian Esperance and James Sunderland both added to their growing goal tallies in the straight forward early round victories over Coleshill Town and Dunston.

Once again FC Isle of Man were handed a tough cup draw against high flying opposition from the level above. This time, it was a tough trip to Bradford Park Avenue’s Horsfall Stadium, they were 3rd in the Northern Premier at the time but would eventually go on to win the league title.

The Ravens were never really in the game and were rightfully ejected from the competition following a 3-0 defeat.

MCLEAN FOR BRADFORD PARK AVENUE. WHERE’S THE FC ISLE OF MAN MARKING?
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