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Saturday 20th November 2004

Gloucester City

city kit

at Meadow Park

Southern League Premier Division
(match 18)


Southern League logo



Chesham United

Gloucester City


Scorers: Mustoe (38), Addis (43), Noakes (89)

Chesham United


Scorers: Sinclair (66), Clifford (74)
City Side: Bath, L.Smith, Knight (Noakes 71), Griffiths, C.Thompson, Burns, Mustoe, Webb, Eaton (Cox 78) , Addis, Wilkinson.
Subs not used: Davis, M.Thompson, Harris.
City Bookings: none
T-Ender Man of the Match: Keith Knight; put in a sterling display with few stray passes and some assured touches and runs.


Who says you don't get any romance in football any more? This game was played against a backdrop of sniping and criticisms following the devisive return of Jason Eaton and some slightly hysterical reaction to the poor display midweek at Tiverton. By the end of the match none of the side's problems had been solved, but spirits were lifted after the team showed great resilience to supply a fairytale finish to a game that looked as if it was drifting out of reach as City again conspired to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. However, the hero of the hour was 16 year-old debutant Michael Noakes who slotted home a late winner to send the T-End faithful home happy.

There were several surprises in the team selection. City's centre-back Lyndon Tomkins was missing after apparently failing a late fitness test on a groin strain so Burns was restored to the centre of the defence while Keith Knight was a surprising choice for the left wing-back slot. The biggest shock was the selection of Eaton to partner Addis up front from the start, leaving both Cox and Lee Davis kicking their heels on the subs bench. One wonders if it may have been to avoid isolating Eaton to abuse by having him come on later as a sub, but Burns needn't have worried - judging by the disappointing crowd many City fans had simply voted on his return with their feet. Chesham fans had their own disappointments as they weren't happy with their starting forward pairing either, and it was a shame that former City favourite Andy Adebowale didn't play as he'd have been given a warm reception. Not all former City players are badly thought of...

Chesham on the attack
Chesham look to attack Matt Bath's mud

The match took a while to get going, perhaps partly due to the subdued atmosphere, perhaps partly due to the miserable wet and cold weather which seemed to shroud Meadow Park in a winter mist. Both sides seemed to be very aware they were vulnerable at the back and to not venture forward too much for fear of opening themselves up. City were moving the ball around well but there was little in the way of movement up front and too often moves broke down without any goal threat materialising.

Chesham also had their spells in possession but were equally struggling to create much in front of goal. Several attacks looked promising but were broken up, one by a storming tackle from Griff and the second by a clever covering header from Burns. However it was the Generals who came closest to scoring first as Webb slipped and they broke through the middle, the ball going to the right for a good cross that was met at the near post with a near header. Some how Matt Bath got down to his left and pushed the ball wide in an incredible demonstration of his sharp reflexes. Soon after that the Chesham attacking threat was significantly diminished as the impressive Andre Scarlet limped off after seeming to strain something as he chased onto a long pass.

City began to get the better of the midfield with Mustoe pushing them all over the pitch. Knight rolled back the years at one stage as he made a twinkling run, cutting in from the left and past two defenders before firing a dangerous shot just wide. Wilko has found the net regularly this season and could be forgiven for a wayward shot from distance. He's earnt the right to have a pop this season. There was some good passing and some other near misses, a great Lee Smith cross was almost met by Addis and also just eluded Knight at the far post. The pressure was starting to tell and Chesham were finding it increasingly difficult to get out of their half.

The break through finally came as the first half was beginning to draw to a close and fans thoughts were turning towards finding a coffee to warm your hands in, or on. Lee Smith took a knock as he brought the ball out of defence and keeper Matt Bath was trying to attract his team mate's attention to put the ball out so that he could get some treatment. Fortunately Webb and Mustoe were concentrating on getting forward and didn't realise what was going on behind them. The ball was worked wide to Knight on the left and he cut inside one defender before arching over a deep cross the was knocked back out by the Chesham defence. City again picked up possession and Addis found space to turn in another great cross from the left. The Chesham defence had obviously heard about Wilkinson's late runs and their eyes were on him as he headed towards the far post but they entirely missed Mustoe as he steamed into the box and clipped in a great header that left the keeper stranded. The City skipper has received a lot of unjust criticism from fans who seem to expect the world of him so it was good for him to get onto the score sheet and hopefully the goal will encourage him to get forward a little more often.

Having got one City suddenly got the bit between their teeth in the way we can when things seem to just drop into place. Some clever interplay between the ever available Webb and Wilkinson worked an opening for Addis who slipped a fantastic pass through to his strike partner Eaton. It looked as if the penalty area was opening up for him but his legs deserted him and he seemed to lack the confidence to shoot from distance. Just when it looked as if the chance had gone Keith Knight suddenly popped up in the box and when the ball was squared to him he cracked a smart first time shot onto the bar and was unfortunate not to add to the lead.

However with the half drawing to a close City still had time to extend their lead. City were now passing the ball with real confidence around the midfield but seemed to lack the killer ball. Suddenly in the middle of all of this Lee Smith laid in a defence splitting pass that seemed to catch Chesham cold, perhaps entranced by the passing and believing City were playing out the half to the imminent break. Addis ran on to the pass and despite his recent misfortune in front of goal he still showed the confidence to draw out the keeper and slip the ball beneath him. It was his first goal in our colours since joining from Cinderford and despite some good displays we all know strikers thrive on the confidence that goals bring and hopefully that strike will be the first of many.

Burns chases after Chesham
The menacing Andre Scarlet goes on another run only to later limp out of the action with a muscle strain.

Whether we made a tactical decision to try and protect our lead or if Chesham simply improved in attack it was impossible to tell, but most of the second half was an unhappy experience for the City faithful. We sat very deep and invited the Chesham forwards onto us and their socring record shows that if they may have defensive problems they have little difficulty in scoring goals. Having lost a two goal lead and ended up losing 3-2 in the away fixture it all looked very ominous when we found ourselves pegged back with the scores level. It seemed the result could only go one way.

You could sense the impetus drain away from the City players at the second half opened with a couple of blistering runs down either flank. One was well halted by the dependable Keith Knight and the second halted at the second attempt by Chris Thompson, but neither gave a great cause for confidence. a few minutes later a smart Matt Bath save was needed to keep Chesham out and the frequency of their attacks was growing. The problem was symbolised when Mustoe brought the ball out of defence and found no width on either flank and neither forward able to create any space for him. When the ball did reach our strikers they were either unable to hold it up or found support too far behind them to be of any use.

When the goal came it seemed to be some slack defending to blame as Steve Sinclair slipped in between Burns and Griff to hammer the ball past a stranded Matt Bath. City were still leading but struggling to find any real rhythm and respond. Sensing their team were in deep trouble the T-End finally found its voice and began making a noise in an effort to lift the team. The side did respond but for all their effort they were looking for ideas and it was no surprise as the equaliser went in, this time from the other Chesham full back skipper Peter Clifford. Again no-one had picked up his run and this time Matt Bath was also culpable as a weak shot was able to find it way over the line. The disappointment of the goal did not silence the T-End but it didn't help stop the wobbles on the pitch either. The keeper redeemed himself almost immediately when only another fine save prevented City going behind.

With the game slipping away youth team player Michael Noakes replaced the exhausted Knight on the left and a short while later Jimmy Cox replaced Eaton up front. What of the player whose presence has stirred strong feelings and debate amongst City fans? Trying to be onjective, you couldn't say he hadn't worked hard. He tried to make himself available and on several occasions chased back to help out in midfield and even defence. As a goal threat though he was entirely anonymous, lacking the pace to get into good positions. He is also now 35 and by the second half his touch was poor and he should have come off beofre he did. It would need a lot more from him to even begin to justifty the pain and anger his return has caused.

The extra pace up front did seem to lift the home side and we created a couple of openings. Lee Smith went close with a raking shot across goal and then a good bit of play between Mustoe and Webb enabled a low ball through the defence for Cox to race on to. However, the forward is still lacking in the fitness that comes from committed training and he struggled to push his way past the last defender when last year he'd have been clean through on goal. With the last man stubbornly still on his shoulder Cox was forced to check back and square the ball for Smith who again saw a shot charged down and the chance gone.


However what makes football addictive is its constant ability to surprise and create wonderful stories and this was as good as any on the back pages of the Sunday national papers. It looked as if the opportunity to snatch the points back had already escaped us but we had one final trick to reveal. Mustoe wriggled his way clear of a defender and slipped a ball inside the centre back and the full back. It evaded Cox and it looked as if the chance had gone, but youngster Michael Noakes had kept on running from the left and suddenly found himself with the ball and unmarked with the penalty area open and inviting in front of him.

He moved inside the penalty area and hearts stopped. It was not the easiest chance as he was still well over to the side of the penalty box and was faced by the keeper rushing out to narrow the angle. He had plenty of chance to think about what to do and plenty of chance to panic, but he kept his head. He drove the ball across the keeper and inside the post to leave the ball swirling in the net and the T-End erupting in delight. The youngster turned and was engulfed by his team mates, including Keith Knight who seemed to have forgotten his place in the dug-out as he sprinted to join in the congratulations. Not a bad debut really! At 16 Noakes became the youngest player to score for the side since our move to Meadow Park, and in doing so clinched a vital three points. The player was only signed on Thursday and would not have even been considered had it not been for injuries to other youth team players already registered. He may just have caused Chris Burns a very pleasing selection problem.

The three points couldn't have come at a better time for Burns after a difficult week where the future of his management has been publicly questioned. The celebrations at the final whistle should dismiss any suggestion that the manager may not care about the club, never an allegation which stuck. The warmth of the applause from the fans should reassure the manager and players they retain the support of the vast majority. However, the result rather masks two continuing problems. One is the devisive impact of the return of Eaton upon the club and its fans, the second that this match saw the defence again look vulnerable and unable to reassert our authority once the match turned against us. These worries shouldn't dampen the enthusiasm of the debut of Michael Noakes though, and perhaps the most welcome news from the game is the boost of a goal for the hard working Daryl Addis.

* The vital win lifted City up the table to 13th spot, but the table remains very tight. City are still just three points off the relegation places but also just six points off the top five and the promotion play-off. There is still plenty to play for and few sides have looked anything better than us at our best. Elsewhere in the division Halesowen made ground at the top of the table with another win in a hard fought game at Hemel Hempstead. That helped them take advantage of Merthyr's 2-1 defeat at Bedford and another stumble by Chippenham who were held 1-1 by Grantham after the struggling Gingerbreads grabbed a last minute equaliser. At the other end of the table Rugby United ended a poor run with a 1-0 win over Solihull Borough after a late Justin Marsden strike and despite playing much of the match with defender Andy Commander forced to play in goal after an injury to their keeper.

PS - Apologies for the lack of match pictures, the winter gloom and the rain proved too much for the camera to cope with.

Referee: O Langford (Wednesbury) League Position: 13th (+3) Attendance: 289
Conditions: misty drizzle and cold City Form: WDLDLW
Match Report:
by t-towel

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