The Sharks came out of this game happy with the performance against a good football team but perhaps a little frustrated they couldn’t see out the win.
Steering the side in the absence of manager James Baker (currently travelling in South America), assistant Matty Lewis kept faith with the 3-5-1-1 formation used against FC Miners.
It was actually the visiting side who took the early initiative, stealing possession from Lodway’s kick off and pressing high for the first 10 minutes.
Sharks goalkeeper Drew Clark was called into action several times, first with a double save and then clawing away a free kick which was creeping inside the far post.
Lodway responded with some attacks of their own – Ryan Meacham with a long range effort and several dangerous crosses from wing backs Connor King and Luke Aldom that weren’t capitalised on.
Midway through the half the Sharks took the lead. A series of shots in the box rebounded out to Hari Mangat who kneed the ball up for himself to volley into the top left corner.
Clapton then piled on the pressure in a bid to restore parity but the blues’ back 3 stayed firm and with Matty Lewis shielding in front they reduced the visitors to shots from outside the box.
Lodway’s all-time top scorer Rob Saunders nearly doubled the hosts’ lead with a clever effort – backing in to his marker to create space before curling a snapshot just wide.
The real message from Baker this season has been to play the ball out from the back and Dan Abbott has been a shining example of this so far – against Clapton he was faultless as he began attacks with passes into midfield.
So at half time the Sharks were leading 1-0 and both teams used the second half to experiment with their lineups.
Corey Ryan replaced Aldom at right wing back and continued his excellent work up and down the flanks.
Clapton once again started the half better and with the Sharks dropping off the visitors were unfortunate to see a 30-yard effort crash into the woodwork.
Hari Mangat then spotted Saunders in space at the far post and sent a floated pass over to the striker whose shot was saved by the CIG goalie.
Owen Clark and Sam Hunt came on up front for the home side and pressed the Clapton defence. By this point though the blues were tiring and stretching, with the front men increasingly isolated. Thomas Buck replaced Connor King on the left hand side.
Lodway’s difficulty in keeping the ball let Clapton build up some pressure and the team in green had a number of good dribbles and crosses – including one that fizzed the whole way across the box and out for a throw in. Sharks captain Mute – dominant for the 90 minutes – was also forced into a clearance over his own bar.
With around half an hour to go, Lodway conceded possession in their own half. The Clapton midfield found itself with space to play a through ball and blues defender Sam Mangat was unable to cut it out. Clapton’s Ollie Oram latched onto the pass and calmly rounded Clark before tapping in the equaliser.
The final stages of the game were scrappy with both teams struggling to assert themselves. Meacham and Connor Collins provided energy in the midfield even after a long, tiring match.
Lodway have two friendly matches left before the season proper kicks off. But with 35 days until the club’s first ever league match, the Sharks just keep on swimming.
D Clark; Abbott, Mute, S Mangat; C King (Buck 70′), Meacham, Lewis (O Clark 45′), Collins, Aldom (Ryan 45′); H Mangat; Saunders (Hunt 65′)