2025/26 Season | Yate Town (N) | Regional Division One Playoff Final

As a large swathe of FC Isle of Man fans make the 20 minute walk from the Charles Darwin pub to Shrewsbury Town’s Montgomery Waters Stadium, many ponder on how they deserve be here.

It’s been a strange season for the Ravens, their best ever FA Cup run but indifferent league form in the Northern Premier League Division 1 North West has meant for the first time ever their fate was decided way before the last day of the season. Poor results, the inability to find the back of the net and a shaky defence has seen the Ravens go on the longest winless run in their history. Without a win since the end of February 2026 (8 games) prior to the 2-1 win over Leatherhead in the playoff semi-final 5 days ago (a goal from Jedd Townsend and a fortuitous own goal to get the win), miraculously they have ended up here, the playoff final against Yate Town, just 1 game away from promotion to the Northern Premier League.

Dawn Dixon is one such Ravens fan making the walk towards the Montgomery Waters Stadium decked out in the red/white/black Joma FC Isle of Man home shirt. “We were lucky to even make the playoffs,” Dawn proclaims, “We were lucky against Leatherhead, today is a different proposition altogether.”

Draped in an Isle of Man national flag, supporter Theo Bishop is also fairly downcast considering the possible outcome of today’s occasion. “We struggle with these playoffs, dont’ we. I’m not sure what it is. The last 2 seasons we’ve been playing well going into them and still managed to lose. I don’t fancy our chances much if I’m realistic.”

30 minutes later, the DM Recruitment North Stand, behind the goals, is awash in a sea of red and black. 2,000 Ravens fans are making noise getting behind their team even if most of them think it will be in vain. Once again, a crazy amount of travelling support for a team of this level.

It’s a big day for 17 year old midfielder James Jordan, the youngest of 3 teenagers in the FC Isle of Man starting XI (18 year old centre-back Harry Wilson and 19 year old right midfielder James Forbes the others). Making only his 4th start of the season thanks to suspension to Bobby Johnson. His parents are in the stands hoping James, a 6th former at Douglas High School, can do himself justice on such a big stage. Other than Jordan, manager Chris Bass has selected a familiar looking starting XI with his usual suspects of favoured personell, the majority of which have served him well over the past couple of seasons. Lewis Whitham, the new striker brought in at the start of the season, has made the position his own with his good goal return and assist rate meaning the dependable James Sunderland has been relegated to the bench for most of the campaign.

Yate Town, like FC Isle of Man, finished 3rd in their respective league, the Southern Premier Division 1 South and overwhelmed Bamber Bridge 3-1 in their playoff semi-final. Interim manager, Joe Lea, at 28 is one of the youngest managers around. Having only been in charge at Lodge Road for 37 days following previous manager James Hogg upping sticks and joining Hampton & Richmond, Lea has a record of 2 wins out of 5 games. Top scorer George Newell should be the man to watch for Yate, however Lea has dropped him to the bench causing surprise to the Yate Town fans. Despite not possessing any pace, he is a fox-in-the-box type with good movement off the ball, Newell has hit the net 11 times this season.

The sun is shining in rural Shropshire as the teams made their entry from the tunnel to the field accompanied by the slightly dated soundtrack of Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’. No matter what, that tune does set the scene for today.

It’s reds vs. whites, it’s all to play for, winner goes up…


TEAMS:

FC Isle of Man: Davidson, Currie, Morris, Walker, Ajibode, Forbes, McConville, Jordan, Townsend, Whitham, Esperance. Subs: Nielsen, Florence, Clarkson, Grant, Samms, Rosimus, Sunderland.

Yate Town: Hannah, Lovegrove, Burgess, Whitmore, Neville, Swann, Carroll, Artwell, Neal, Gallagher, Taylor. Subs: Crosby, Evans, King, Newell, Brauksiepe, Stone, Connor.

Attendance: 2,892


19 minutes: FC Isle of Man have possession down the left hand side. Midfielder Jedd Townsend plays the ball back to Leke Ajibode. Ajibode hits a hopeful ball over the top towards Brian Esperance which manages to reach him. Esperance gets his toe to it just before the outrishing Yate keeper Hannah gets there and the Ravens have the lead.

26 minutes: Yate Town have a throw-in down the right flank atacking FC Isle of Man’s penalty box. Jedd Townsend extends his neck and heads the ball away from safety. Leke Ajibode has gambled and races to reach the ball. The counter is on as Ajibode runs with the ball down the left side, he has acres of space ahead as Yate have committed men forward. AJibode continues unchallenged over the halfway line, its 4 v 2 in FC Isle of Man’s favour with the Yate down defenders backing off. Ajibode slides a pass ahead of Brian Esperance and he outpaces the centre-back to received the ball perfectly in step in the Yate penalty box. It’s Esperance v Hannah, Esperance gives him the eyes and places his shot towards the near post. 2-0 to FC Isle of Man! What a brilliant 6 minutes this has been.

28 minutes: Yate are now seriously chasing this game and once again send everyone up for a free-kick that Artwell launches into the crowded Isle of Man penalty box. Young Ravens centre-back Harry Walker commandingly wins the header which finds Lewis Whitham midway in the FC Isle of Man half. Whitham turns and sees it is once again 2 v 2 and passes to the furthest Raven forward Brian Esperance before continuing his run forward. Esperance carries the ball into the Yate half, Whitham is now bursting forward. A delightful diagonal ball rips through the heart of the 2 Yate defenders and locates Whitham in the penatly box. A perfect low shot is hit hard into the far bottom corner, Hannah is beaten. 3-0 to FC Isle of Man, one of the most devastating counter attacks witnessed all season and surely this game is won already!

35 minutes; Yate Town have it all to do and throw caution to the wind with another free-kick, sending all the big lads up once again. This time, the delivery from Swann is good, deep into the FC Isle of Man penalty box, met by the head of Gallagher who directs it just inside the far post. Simply done. It’s been a breathless 15 minutes here. 3-1

45 minutes: Lewis Whitham on the attack for FC Isle of Man with his defender back pedalling. A tantalising low cross is delivered all the way across the Yate box but too far ahead of his strike partner Brian Esperance. The ball makes it to Jedd Townsend attacking on the left. The angle looks impossible but Townsend somehow manages to get the ball past Hannah at his near post, incredible! 4-1.

Half-time: FC Isle of Man 4-1 Yate Town. Not many saw this coming. The Ravens fans try and compose themselves in the concourse at the Montgomery Waters Stadium after witnessing an unbelievable 1st half. Surely they can’t throw this away, but then again, recent league form has been woeful.

50 minutes: A Stewart McConville free-kick is cleared and Isaac Currie receives the ball with plenty of time just by the halfway line. With Yate Town defenders still camped in their own box, Currie finds centre-back Harry Walker in the unfamiliar position down on the right flank. Jay Forbes is screaming for the ball ahead of Walker on the edge of the box and receives it with just Hannah to beat. Composure is the key as Forbes dinks it past the Yate Town keeper to make it 5! The Ravens are going up! The fans are partying like they already know. The Northern Premier League next season surely awaits.

81 minutes: A rare attacking opportunity for Yate, obviously demoralized by todays events. Left midfielder Kyle King has the ball just outside the Ravens penalty box and curls a delightful shot around the defenders and past Jordan Davidson. A great goal, celebrated without fuss, it counts for nothing, but well done Kyle King. 5-2.

Full-time: FC Isle of Man 5-2 Yate Town. Where did that performance come from?!? Poor Yate Town felt the full force of a rampant FC Isle of Man today in Shrewsbury.

Today’s man of the match, Brian Esperance, applauds the fans in the DM Recruitment North Stand who are singing his name. Chris Bass hugs each of his players on the pitch one by one, they certainly performed for him today.

The Ravens are going up, many can’t believe it, but they are one step closer to the their target of reaching the Football League by 2032, just 6 years and 3 promotions away now. With nearly 2,000 fans packing the stand behind the goal, FC Isle of Man are showing the non-league world they can be a force. Sure, the team needs investment next season but this is a club looking like it can continue to climb up the pyramid.

Unleash The Ravens

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