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20th August '05
League Premier Division
Reid (Randall 81), Mansell, Griffiths, M.Thompson (Harris
56), C.Thompson, Mustoe, Webb, Addis, Davis, Knight.
Subs not used:
T-Ender Man of the Match: Lee
Davis; looked sharp and caused Cheshunt problems although he too ran
out of steam towards the end.
City's first visit to Theobalds
Lane ended in disappointment as a good first half performance was
wasted as our side lost their way in the second period and allowed
Cheshunt to push their way back into the match to earn a draw.
Our first two games had seen two defeats, but while
the pressure for points is already starting to build at least we
could take some comfort from knowing that both King's Lynn and Chippenham
are strong sides that we can expect to be amongst the promotion
challengers at the end of the season. With difficult games ahead
the visit to Cheshunt should have presented a bit of welcome relief
and realistic chance of points. The 'Ambers' had been shuffled across
from the Ryman league in the summer after escaping relegation only
because of the collapse of Hornchurch. They are being widely tipped
for another hard season this time around, and their dilapidated
ground and spartan support does not bode well for them.
City should have been lifted by the sight of a sacrificial
goat tethered in the wilderness just waiting to be savaged. We are
not that kind of club though and instead we sniffed it uneasily,
gave it a bit of a nip on the heel and then decided to warily leave
it alone in case it was a trap. We had our own problems to contest
with, although none excused leaving here without all the points.
With Burns still suspended and Tomkins injured our squad took a
further blow with Richard Kear now hobbling around on crutches.
After Tuesday night's flat attacking form Lance Lewis had been expected
to make his full debut up front, but as it was the speed merchant
has a stomach bug and was only fit for sprinting to the toilet.
That left us with a reduced sub's bench of three, including the
still injured Dave Wilkinson, and the considerable presence of Lee
Randall. Knight was drafted straight back into the midfield, with
Marvin still forced to play despite his continued hamstring problem.
To add to the general sense that we could barely tell the pointy
joint in our arm from the fleshy bits we sit on we also contrived
to arrive late and hand in the team sheet after the cut-off time.
Another fine to be paid...
Top - Addis tries to hook
the ball towards his strike partner.
Middle - Addis sees his shot charged down.
Bottom - Davis leaves Cheshunt thoughtful as City take the
For all of
our apparent limitations we started brightly enough, sporting the
new red away kit of which the club seems hugely proud. We've now
got more strips than we have defenders. The City players looked
quickly at home on the big, bumpy pitch and we were soon spraying
the ball around with some confidence. Mustoe hammered a long ball
wide, right in to the path of Webb who loped forward to the by-line
and sent over a good low cross that was forced out for a corner.
Not a bad start at all.
The whole atmosphere was strange. The large pitch
and barely interested spectators dotted around the crumbling perimeter
hardboard made it seem like a slightly overblown Sunday League fixture.
The Cheshunt players seemed no more at home here than ours. They
did manage to exert some pressure on us, but the ball was being
lumped forward fairly aimlessly and our defence wasn't too troubled.
Bath warmed his hands on one drive but it didn't force him to move.
It was all a little too much for the Cheshunt manager who was out
of his dugout and shouting in a strange strangled Essex-esque mauling
of the language. A particular target for his frustration was a mysterious
figure called Antnee, who appeared to be Anthony Fenton, the Ambers
hapless number 7. His players must find it difficult to settle if
they can hear how their manager slates them whilst muttering in
his dugout. An aimless corner upset him particularly: "I spend
half the night working out set plays just for you to f#*king ignore
'em". Such is the life of a non-league boss. Burnsie is temperate
Lee Davis looked in good nick today and it was his
extra effort that provided the impetus for a better spell of City
play. He was chasing back for every loose ball and was too nippy
for the lumbering Cheshunt defence. His sneak attack took the ball
off the opposition in midfield and allowed Mustoe to send through
a good ball that almost got Addis away. It acted as a wake-up call
for Cheshunt but also lifted City to better efforts. Webb almost
threaded another low ball across the box to Davis whose checked
runs suggest he's spent a worthwhile summer watching videos of how
forwards should move off the ball.
It wasn't quite one way traffic though. Cheshunt were
finding more width than City, and neither Reid or Mansell were really
able to get forward much. We weathered a spell of pressure with
Marvin Thompson doing particularly well to cut out a good cross
and get his header the right side of the crossbar despite the attentions
of Gregoriou. Cheshunt were pumping the ball high into the box but
for all that they never looked like scoring or seriously ruffling
our defence. Reid, Mansell and Chris Thompson all won important
headers and before long we were back on the attack. A good Webb
run found Lee Davis on the edge of the box and he laid the ball
off to Mustoe who blazed a shot high over the bar.
The breakthrough came as Marvin Thompson had time
to nod another hopeful Cheshunt upfield punt back down to the feet
of Knight. After the frantic start had passed him by he must have
been grateful for the chance to get a touch and he sent the ball
through the midfield out to Webb on the right flank. He cut in field
and poked the ball on towards Lee Davis. Defender Reddington and
keeper Martin Pete left it to each other while Davis scampered between
them. The keeper was too slow to get down and found himself stranded
as Davis pushed the ball beneath him and into the net.
City went on to establish a tight grip on the rest of the half,
but sadly we lack the firepower to put games away when we dominate
spells of the match. There was some great football for a while though.
Knight played an outrageous dummy on a Mustoe pass and allowed it
to run on to Davis, throwing three players with a wave of his leg.
Davis then pushed the ball on to Addis whose fierce drive was blocked
by a last ditch tackle from the busy Reddington. There were flashes
of inspiration from both Addis and Davis as they jinked around the
perplexed home defence. At one point Davis' turn left Cheshunt skipper
Dave Reddington on the floor, leaving him to bounce back-up and
shriek at the ref, but making people look silly isn't (yet) against
the rules. That turn again set Addis free but when he tried to turn
the ball back across goal to Davis it was easy for the defence to
Cheshunt still got the ball forward but they were
now struggling to get people forward and Chris Thompson was given
time to emerge imperiously from the back with the ball at his feet.
Stroll on Thommo! We looked in almost complete control and Mustoe
had started telling Cheshunt what to do as well as his own team
mates and the ref. The ball was being played about in some of our
best style, but we needed that second goal. Another clever Davis
turn won him space and he flicked the ball inside towards the run
of Rich Mansell who tried a difficult volleyed flick over the keeper
that ended up falling wide of the far post.
City tried to step up the pressure as the half drew
to a close. Webb was full of the usual nice switches and turns,
he made another long run that almost released Davis. It was a shame
neither Lewis or Kear could have played, as Cheshunt looked vulnerable
to pace and were struggling when the ball was played on the floor.
Even Knight had a go, and his legs shouldn't now be made to look
as quick as Cheshunt somehow managed. His run took him past a few
players but ran out of steam just as he neared the box. City could
reflect on a half-time lead, but that also gave the home side a
chance to re-group and poor Antnee to get the benefit of his manager's
| Keeper Martin Pete makes
another impressive claim from a City corner.
All City really needed to do was keep
doing more of the same and keep plugging away until the second goal
came. However our concentration was poor and the Tigers were stunned
by a Cheshunt equaliser that came in dramatic fashion. Reid stood
off Glen Parry a little too long as he ran down the Cheshunt left
wing, but even when he sent over a deep cross it looked as if Cheshunt
had too few in the box to offer a threat. However no-one had counted
on the finish that came from George Gregoriou, previously anonymous
up front for the home team. When the cross dropped though he twisted
to produce a spectacular acrobatic volley that crashed past Matt
Bath and into the roof of the net. No wonder the striker was pleased,
it was a pretty special finish.
With the scores pegged back level we went a bit to pieces. We made
a good initial response with a charge out of midfield by Webb and
Mansell cutting in from the left only to finally produce a disappointingly
weak effort. Addis also got on the end of a Reid pass and managed
a trademark turn to wrong foot the defender, but while his drive
had venom it was straight at their keeper. At half-time Cheshunt
had put on sub Ross White, and by the look of it the big balding
fella was someone who should have started the game. His bulk and
passing ability made the midfield a lot more fiercely contested
and Mustoe and Knight now had less time to dwell on the ball. Cheshunt
put some good moves of their own together and the extra running
forced City to make a substitution as Marvin Thompson limped off
with his hamstring finally giving in after lengthy treatment in
the first half. Adie Harris was the only genuine option, so a major
reshuffle followed with Mansell pushed further into defence with
the side seemingly unsure what formation was now in place.
Cheshunt were now producing their own chances but
Griff and Chris Thompson were managing to get in those crucial tackles
and interventions. At least with Cheshunt attacking a little more
the game was opening up and there was more space for both teams.
Jamie Reid has equipped himself well at the start of this season
and his hard-tackling and no-nonsense approach suggest he is a star
in the making. He ain't a right wing-back though, he can defend
but lacks the pace to get past people. He does have a good stamina
though, and he made a great run having gained some revenge on Parry
by taking the ball from him in a tough tackle. Having got free though
he found no-one with him.
|Top: Oops - Griff checks to
see if the ref's watching.
Bottom: Super Adie twinkles past another opponent.
City were now looking a little more stable and Addis latched on
to a probing Knight pass only to see his low cross stabbed out for
a corner by Reddington. Cheshunt were starting to feel the pressure
down the right as Addis had drifted further wide to give us some
much needed width. That put the left-back under pressure but left
a huge gap in the penalty area to convert the chances that were
now coming. Davis is sharp but needs to play-off someone with a
bit of physical presence and we lack that kind of figure at the
moment. Parry went in to the ref's book for a nasty hack on Reid,
and for once we managed to produce a dangerous set piece with Knight's
swinging cross almost met cleanly by Griffiths at the far post.
His header was blocked though, and Davis's volley back goalwards
was also charged down.
Cheshunt almost scored themselves as they broke out of defence
in a sweeping move that ended with Matt Bath grateful to clutch
at a downward header at the second attempt. The game was far more
end to end now, Davis soon back in the Ambers box where he lost
his marker and sent over a low ball. It looked like Mustoe would
reach it, but as he pulled the trigger Addis swept the ball of his
toe and scuffed his own shot wide. Aaargh - why don't they shout
to each other!
City then came close to finding a much needed cutting edge. Knight
jinked for space and produced a great ball inside to Reid. The naive
simplicity of youth - he charged towards the goal and pushed past
one defender before unleashing a vicious drive that flew just over
the bar with the keeper stretching. We need a bit more of that kind
of direct running, too often we seem to over complicate and want
to walk the ball into the net.
There was more space available and while the Cheshunt sub Adams
was an impressive player he wasn't all that mobile. Mustoe sailed
past him bringing the ball out of defence and set up Addis who was
once again crowded out before he could get a shot away. We came
close to having a shock at the other end when a long kick from the
keeper found it's way past the defence and ultimately had to be
cleared off the line by Chris Thompson.
The arrival of Adie Harris on the left flank did give us a bit
more pace down that wing and his run took him half the length of
the pitch and he was able to reach the by-line and cut into the
penalty area before pulling the ball back for Addis who once again
saw his shot comfortably saved by the keeper. Addis was still looking
for the ball, but always seemed to be just that half-yard too slow
or not quite strong enough to keep possession under pressure. He's
close to being a very dangerous forward, a goal might do him good
as he's now gone nine games without.
While City still looked by far the stronger and more
capable side we were starting to run out of ideas. At one pint Lee
Davis emerged with the ball on the edge of the box and dithered
for what seemed an age as he waited for support that didn't arrive
in time to prevent him being submerged by the Amber shirts. As City
ran out of steam Cheshunt began moving the ball around a little
more freely themselves, although despite the quality of that finish
they didn't seem to smart up front themselves. Our search for the
points saw Burns chuck on Lee Randall to try and see if he could
at least hold the ball up long enough for us to get forward in numbers.
In a few months some hard training and fitness work could yet see
Randall become a very useful addition to the squad, but he's simply
too bulky to yet carry a real threat at this level. He did well
to chase one ball down and step on it to prevent it going over the
by-line, still having time to come back and deliver a decent cross
to the near post. As with so many of our crosses though it was easily
plucked out by keeper Martin Pete.
City pushed for the vital winner but it wasn't happening.
Addis had another good run but was again pushed wide with just a
little too much ease. He seemed to have done better a few moments
later when he found Webb on the overlap but he always seems to want
another touch and the opportunity ended up with another corner which
we seemed unable to convert. The final whistle was a crushing shame,
this was a game we could and should have won. The team as a whole
just seems to lack a little of the self-belief that can provide
a cutting edge. We're starting to believe we are going to struggle,
when if you look at the individual talent and ability in the side
as opposed to the playing budget we should be aiming for a top half
finish. We need to shake ourselves out of our lethargy - Cheshunt
will struggle this season and these are the points we need to pick
up, even on the road. Burns will be glad to be able to bring himself
into the squad for the Merthyr match on Tuesday; his presence, strength
and commitment may lift the side to better things.
* City's first point of the season still leaves us
in 20th spot, not pleasant even at this early stage of the season.
Pre-season title favourites Tiverton suffered another shock defeat,
this time 3-1 at the hands of lowly Banbury United. Their three
first half goals leave the Puritans in a shock second place. Bath
City continue to set the early pace with Scott Partridge again on
target as they beat Grantham 1-0 to preserve the SLP's last remaining
100% record. Chippenham's early season form continues with Dave
Gilroy's hatrick seeing off ten man Northwood 3-1 at Hardenhuish.
Cirencester's early season form ended with a first defeat, losing
1-0 to an early goal by Grantham player-manager Lee Glover. Halesowen's
slow start has been boosted with an impressive 1-0 win over King's
Lynn ar The Walks.
|| 20th (=)
||mostly cloudy but
| by t-towel
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