This was another game full
of frustration for City who never regained their spark after seeing
the first half of the game all but overwhelmed by a fierce deluge
that made any meaningful moves impossible for either side. Despite
dominating possession for long periods some determined defending
from Christchurch stopped us from finding the breakthrough and leave
us facing a tricky trip to the south coast on Tuesday night.
The financial problems that followed last season's
debacle at Street when we exited the FA Cup at the first opportunity
have been well documented and fear of a repeat hung heavy over a
match described in the local press as "the match City cannot
afford to lose." The romance of the Cup is perhaps not what
it was. With the sad demise of Tuffley Rovers fresh in the memory
there is little room for anything other than hard-nosed business
reality with our current hand-to-mouth existence. Lose this tie
and the resulting prize money and we knew that in effect our budget
is already £2,250 down, and the hope of a decent Cup run and
a big pay day is also dead for another year.
Our start to the season had already done much to dampen
expectation but any optimism or cheer that could have risen with
the prospect of the Cup was spectacularly dismissed as the heavens
opened and both sides struggled to cope with monsoon conditions.
At times in the first half the rain was so heavy the players were
struggling to see through the water lashing across the pitch and
pouring into their eyes. It made for a strange spectacle where nature
really outclassed anything the drenched players could offer.
|Top: Davis and Mustoe push
on through the rain.
Bottom: Davis checks back for support on a City attack.
By rights even after our
difficult start to the season our status two divisions higher in
the non-league pyramid should have made City firm favourites over
Wessex League side Christchurch. However the Dorset side have had
some good results and sit 5th in their division, all in all they
had more wind in their sails than us. At our level of football little
things can signify much, and the Christchurch team bus suggested
that this was no two-bit outfit, and depressingly they are in all
probability operating in better financial circumstances than us.
None the less we had home advantage and should still have had enough
to see them off.
The horrendous weather had caused chaos all across
the City and our arrival was delayed as the Gloucester outer ring
road ground to a halt, a smash on the A40 closing the last link
to the ground. By the time we dashed across to the turnstiles the
pitch and players were already soaked and the match was degenerating
into a soggy midfield scrap. This was the footballing equivalent
of a wet towel fight. Christchurch could have taken the lead twice
early on as they went close with drives from distance. Our players
always seem to struggle to adapt to difficult weather conditions,
it was all a bit like the Cirencester game last year where our players
seemed slow to realise that there was little point in pumping high
balls into the face of a gale force wind. In the same way we took
a while to realise that the best thing to do was to fire in shots
to cause problems for the semi-blinded goalkeepers who would also
struggle as the slippy ball skidded off the pitch.
The match was a bit of a side show to the incredible
brute force of the rain. There was no atmosphere as you could hardly
hear yourself over the rain drumming off the tin rooves of the stands.
Just when you thought it couldn't get heavier it some how did as
it went through the gears from heavy, to torrential, to dleuge,
to oh my God did you see those pictures of New Orleans where are
my car keys.
Late arrival and the weather has precluded much of
the stuff you try and manage in match reports. There are no notes,
no player names to refer to, and the camera struggled to cope with
the blinding rain. This is all a little impressionist rather than
You had to admire both sets of players for managing
to do naything of any purpose at all. We had a little more polish
than Christchurch, as perhaps you'd expect. We were not able to
put many moves together though, players were all over the place
and just when a couple of passes seemed to open something up you
could guarantee someone would slip or lose track of the ball. Christchurch
were packing lots of people into the midfield and making things
tricky for us, and they managed to threaten on a couple of occasions.
Their number 7 looked impressive when he ran from midfield, put
fortunately when he did get away from Mansell and Harris he found
Matt Bath sailing through the tempest to clutch the ball out of
Top: Webb battles Christchurch
and the downpour as the deluge goes up another gear.
Bottom: Meadow Park at half-time - the terraces flood but
the pitch holds out.
With the rain slacening
off to a steady downpur in the second half the poor players trudged
reluctantly back on to the pitch. Alarmingly for us it was Christchurch
who started the half looking the better side and also the hungrier
side. They managed to get into us and everyone thought they had
scored when they got in between Adie and Mansell down the left and
sent over a deep cross that found their striker unmarked in the
six yard box. Fortunately he headed just wide when it seemed easier
to score. Perhaps he was distracted by the horrible noises being
made by the pump and drains at that end of the pitch. It was a let
off for City and there was another to come as City surrendered possession
cheaply in midfield and could only watch in hope as another fierce
drive from distance crashed just wide of Matt Bath's near post.
It was getting nervey.
This was always a match where the subs were going
to play an important part (Geddit?). The problems at the back were
too much and captain Neil Griffiths was thrown on to add some steel
and defensive nous to the side, everyone hoping his ankle would
hold out on the slippy pitch.
|Left: Griff comes back to
add a little steel.
Right: Burns looks for help from a disinterested tubster Referee.