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8th January 2005
League Premier Division
(3), Payne (15 o.g.), Addis (54, 61), Knight
(70), Rimmer (89)
L.Smith (Reid 85), M.Thompson (Knight 59), Griffiths,
Burns, C.Thompson, Mustoe, Cox (Rimmer 85), Addis, Webb,
Subs not used: Bennett.
T-Ender Man of the Match: Dave
Wilkinson; many people improved their performance but Wilko's extra
cover in midfield was crucial.
After weeks when it looked
like grinding out a win was next to impossible some how City found
the ‘on’ switch yesterday and smacked poor unsuspecting
Rugby United for six. The result was as welcome as it was unexpected,
but while the relief was palpable all around Meadow Park this was
as close as you could get to a nervy 6-1 win.
City started out of the blocks at a magnificent charge, you can
only imagine what had been said in the dressing room about our twice
surrendered home leads against Halesowen and Merthyr. Burns is not
one for criticising his players in public but even he had described
our defending as ‘schoolboy’. This must have upset the
schoolboys who had watched it and seemed to have a fair grasp of
where our heroes had been going wrong. Whatever had happened behind
closed doors Burns kept faith with the same players, only returning
to his favoured 5-3-2 formation while keeping himself in midfield
after his impactive performance against Merthyr earlier in the week.
The visitors must have wondered what hit them as in the first few
minutes City attacked at great speed through first Cox and then
Smith. Neither attack did more than unsettle the Rugby defence,
but even so they had their warning and they did not look like a
side that had not let in a goal for three games when we took an
early lead. Mustoe broke up an embryonic Rugby attack and his ball
sent Tom Webb scuttling down the left wing. In previous games Webb
has never looked comfortable on this flank but he looked pretty
much at home when he skipped towards the by-line and sent over a
sweeping cross towards the penalty spot. It was inch perfect for
Wilko who stretched out a leg past the defender to steer the ball
past a stranded keeper and into the net. A neat finish that took
our unlikely leading goalscorer into double figures for the season.
|Hey keeper, Why so nervous
The only fear
was that we may have scored too early and given our previous vulnerability
when ahead the prospect of holding on to a one goal lead for 87
minutes did not appeal to what is left of my fingernails. We need
not have fretted though as the Rugby keeper Mike Payne had in store
one of the greatest comedy moments to be witnessed by the T-End
for many years. Mustoe has been criticised this season for not delivering
from corners and when Cox ran in and was tackled to concede the
dead ball it did not really stir too much hope. Even when Mustoe’s
well flighted ball came over it looked to have cleared the near
post but fallen short of Burns and Griff running in from the far
post. It looked easy for the keeper. However, he had other ideas
and for no apparent reason decided to try to punch the ball rather
than claim an easy catch. The ball duly spannered off his fist and
screwed gently backwards into the open net. The T-End promptly went
into convulsions while Mustoe attempted to lay dubious claim to
The rest of the half saw the fans waste few opportunities to remind
the keeper of his gaff. It seemed the previous custodian had walked
out of the club after falling out with the fans. The inrepid bunch
of Rugby supporters must have been wishing they'd kept their gobs
shut having seen the replacement. Rugby were losing their tempers
a little and you knew they were in trouble when Wilko twinkled his
way past Adam Hart who promptly booted him up in the air. While
Wilko went looking for the rest of his shin in the Meadow Park grass
the ref put Hart in the book, leaving him even less able to deal
with the pace of Smith and Webb.
Smith then went close with a drive at the far post, but this time
Payne remembered what he was there to do and made a good stop. Cox
was also cutting lose at long last and he enjoyed a strong run that
carried him past the defence and his goalbound drive needed another
good save from Payne. You can only imagine his fear as he realised
he'd conceded another corner. This one was defended a little better,
in as much as the entire Rugby defence threw themselves at the ball
to avoid their keeper getting to it. Unfortunately for them Wilko
won a near post header and in the resulting scramble Griff almost
scored with a cheeky back heel in the six yard box. And him a centre-back!
Rugby tried to close the door a bit and City were content to sit
back and reflect on the glory of a first half two goal lead. Things
got a little dull as Rugby managed only a couple of wide efforts
from distance that threatened the car park far more than Matt Bath's
goal. The only distraction was Griff's running battle with Rugby
striker Robbie Beard which saw both of them trading sly digs, all
missed by the ref. We did manage one last chance before the half-time
break, a spectacular flying attempt by Mustoe that was inches away
from being a great diving header. Unfortunately as it was he was
left looking a little silly, but Smith was on hand further across
the goal mouth to tap the ball into the side netting.
If it all seemed to be too good to true at half-time
the City nerves were really in evidence early in the second half
when a Burns slip led to Rugby being given a penalty which was promptly
slotted past Matt Bath by Robbie Beard. With just one goal in it
the players could have perhaps been forgiven for hitting the panic
button. Certainly many City fans had decided this had a horribly
familiar look about it and were simply waiting for us to cave in.
This side may sometimes look like they lack much in the way of tactical
acumen but you can’t doubt their spirit and we managed to
ride out a rough ten minutes through little more than determination.
Certainly Wilko seemed to have found a bit more energy and his presence
alongside Mustoe in working the area in front of our defence added
a layer of protection sorely missing in some recent games. Wilko
made a vital contribution when he collected a fierce drive on his
head, but it was a necessary intervention as he was stood on the
goal line at the time. Griff too looked more on his mettle as he
put in another crunching tackle on the edge of the area to break
up one particularly menancing looking Rugby attack.
assesses his options.
Right: Griff goes close with a cheeky back heel.
The game eventually turned on us grabbing
a break away goal at a crucial time, something we had not managed
in the other recent home matches. We attacked swiftly right from
Matt Bath’s throw to Webb and Burns sending Cox on a run down
the left channel. Too often this season Coxy has seemed disinterested
but he is improving visibly with every game at present. This time
he got his head up and flicked a clever pass inside his marker to
Addis. It looked like the young Forester had pushed the ball too
far ahead of him as he brought it down, but despite the attention
of a defender and the onrushing keeper he kept his head. He steered
a low angled shot below the keeper and into the net and if anyone
deserved to get on the score sheet for their recent efforts it was
him. With a finish of such startling accuracy under that kind of
pressure you can only wonder how there have not been plenty more.
Rugby had believed for a short while but this was not a side with
the same self confidence that had helped Merthyr and Rugby fight
back against us in recent games. They were drained and could offer
little resistance as City attacked with vigour on every available
front. You could see the defenders quake as Mustoe sent Lee Smith
away to torment them at pace and he was unlucky to see his eventual
drive hit the side netting. Mustoe himself was having fun, exchanging
passes with Addis before nutmegging a defender who was left a defeated
heap on the floor. The cross saw Cox go close with another effort.
City did not have to wait long for a fourth which came as a corner
wasn’t cleared properly. Knight dinked the ball back into
the box and Wilkinson headed goalward only for his effort to be
parried by the keeper. Wilko then had another go, again blocked
by the keeper, but Rugby could not scramble the ball away and eventually
it fell to Addis who crashed the ball into the back of the net for
his second of the game. It was the ugly sister of his previous strike
but all the more welcome for looking like the goal poacher’s
finish that we’ve missed all season. With goals come confidence
and hopefully Addis can start to add the finish to his all round
game which has promised so much.
|Top: Ref spot one. You can't
do that to Wilko.
Bottom: Ref spot two. I'm still wearing that shirt (and yes
that's the 18 yard line).
City were now flying and Rugby were
just looking for the quickest way to get out. Had this been boxing
some kind soul would have ended their misery, but football can be
a crueller sport and City could torment the opposition for a while
yet. The normally impressive Andy Commander was the next United
player into the ref's note book as he resorted to wrestling Jimmy
Cox to the ground as the striker zipped past him. When he did the
same thing a few minutes later the Rugby player should really have
been dismissed, but like the ref, it was hard not to feel some sympathy
With City now having the rare luxury of a cushion
we began throwing on substitutes, but for once this did nothing
to destroy our attacking impetus and we looked quite irresistable
while Rugby were now in full blown retreat. It looked as if the
danger had passed when another Smith run came to a grinding halt
against the defence, but Knight was fresh to the fight and he picked
up the ball and shifted it easily on to his favoured right foot.
He may no longer still have the pace but Knighter still has a great
touch, and he whipped in a fast curling ball into the top corner.
It was a goal fit to win any game, but as it was we were just happy
to edge even further ahead.
City's defence was now organising their Saturday nights
out before being rudely interupted by a brief attack from the Rugby
forwards. Fortunately Matt Bath had only been choosing from a takeway
menu and was able to break-off just long enough to swoop on a dangerous
loose ball. That did wake us up a little and Rugby did hit the bar
from a corner a few minutes later. It looked like the rebound would
also fall to a blue shirt, but the follow up was headed high into
the T-End. Time to go home for you....
City skipper Neil Mustoe knows he should be getting more goals and
saw a great chance to improve his stats when Addis tricked his way
past a few players before sliding the ball back across the face
of the remaining defence. Mustoe's drive from the edge of the box
was well hit but took a vital deflection to carry it over the bar.
By now the ref's sympathy extended to the award of a goal kick.
He probably couldn't face the thought of poor Mike Payne having
to handle another corner either.
The goals weren't over as we threw on
a couple of youth team players, at last feeling safe to blood a
few of our youngsters in a match where everything wasn't still up
for grabs. Reid again impressed with a few crisp tackles, but this
time it was left to 16 year-old starlet Eddie Rimmer to catch the
eye. He picked up a clever pass by Mustoe but went on to surge past
two defenders to carry him into the six yard box. It looked like
the youngster had been pushed too wide but he kept his balance and
poise to slide a low shot underneath Payne to seal our buggest home
win for several seasons. That is a lot more like it!
There was no great secret to our suddent win, we've
looked like smashing someone for a few weeks and it was a shame
it happened to poor Rugby. We got the goals against stronger sides
like Merthyr and Halesowen as well, but this time we managed to
defend a bit better and show some strength when it mattered most.
We just need to bottle whatever that extra ingeredient was and try
and find it with more consistency, starting with a much needed second
away win at Hemel Hempstead next Saturday.
* Our very welcome win has only lifted us one spot
in the league table to 16th, but it has closed the gap between us
and some of the clubs immediately ahead of us. We managed the biggest
score of the day in the Southern League Premier, but the shock result
has to be at Dunstable. The struggling Bedfordshire outfit managed
a 3-1 win over high-flying local rivals Bedford Town, despite going
behind. Chippenham closed the gap at the top as they emphatically
beat fellow promotion chasers Chesham with a 5-2 win at Hardenhuish,
taking advantage of a slip by Merthyr who were held to a 1-1 draw
at home to Tiverton. The two form teams in the chasing pack continued
to gain ground, with both Histon and Cirencester recording comfortable
victories over Stamford and Solihull Borough.
||J Cox (Evesham)
|| 16th (+1)
||dry, bright and
| by t-towel
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