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20th November 2004
League Premier Division
(38), Addis (43), Noakes (89)
(66), Clifford (74)
L.Smith, Knight (Noakes 71), Griffiths, C.Thompson, Burns,
Mustoe, Webb, Eaton (Cox 78) , Addis, Wilkinson.
Subs not used: Davis,
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 look to attack Matt
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
|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
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.
|| 13th (+3)
||misty drizzle and
| by t-towel
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