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14th October '05
1st Qualifying Round
(26), Cowe (58)
Bath, C.Thompson (Reid 78), Mansell (Varnam 65),
Griffiths, Tomkins, Wilkinson, Mustoe, Webb, Addis, Kear (Harris
Subs not used: M.Thompson,
T-Ender Man of the Match: Dave
Wilkinson; continued to tackle and block long after the rest had let
their head's drop.
City will be wringing their
hands over a series of early missed chances that allowed an uninspiring
Cirencester side to eventually run out comfortable winners of this
Trophy derby match. Defeat leaves City already out of the two main
revenue generating knock-out competitions and with a hole in the
budget that could well only be filled by chucking in a couple of
players. On this latest dismal and wet showing from his team Burns
has plenty more choices of who to chuck out than of who to put in
his starting eleven.
It hasn’t been the best start to the season but there were
reasons why we entered the Trophy tie with something almost approaching
optimism, or at least an expectation this might not be a complete
fiasco. The fact it was Cirencester caused some hope that the players
might manage to find some extra steel and vigour to their play;
they seem to dislike our ‘new money’ upstarts even more
than we do on the terraces. Our recent form of a win and a draw
is about as good as we’ve managed recently and the return
of Chris Thompson from injury left Burns himself as the only real
absentee. The recent league match may have ended in defeat (again)
but only cos we woz robbed by the referee (again) and we had hardly
been outclassed by an outstandingly ordinary Cirencester team. Even
the hazy autumn sun was shining on the Concretium Stadium - a definite
improvement on New Year’s freezing downpour when we all realised
just how little cover there is at the new Ciren ground. Things were
certainly looking up.
|Wilko gets his back into the
This kind of feel good optimism
is reckless if not downright stupid in a City fan and rarely survives
the first few moments of actual action. This time though, there
seemed little reason to be worried in the opening stages of the
game. While City were struggling to string together too many passes
we were enjoying the bulk of possession and the only thing really
getting in our way was our own limitations rather than anything
much being thrown at us by Cirencester. Mustoe had retained the
defensive position he performed so well in at Evesham and even on
the few occasions Ciren got forward they were quickly under control.
Webb was dominating the centre of the midfield with Wilko breaking
up play when we lost the ball, which was unfortunately far to frequently.
For all that we looked vaguely in control, we were still struggling
to really create much in the way of chances. Ciren's Darren Robison
was a particular obstacle, even when the front two made a good run.
The first real chance came when Webb and Thompson found space on
the right and the cross was worked over to the opposite wing where
Mansell threatened to find some space. With enough time to pick
his spot the effort was a disappointing low drive that went the
wrong side of the post. If that was distressingly frustrating then
worse was to come. A good spell of City pressure resulted in Mansell
and Davis finding some space down the left and a decent cross towards
the back post. For once Ciren found themselves a man short at the
back and Chris Thompson could run in from the right to head goalward
unchallenged. Some how he contrived to put the ball wide with the
gaping goal at his mercy.
We’re not a team that can afford not to manage to capitalise
on our chances and you had a horrible sinking feeling when not
even getting in an effort on goal proved enough. Addis did well
to win a corner and the resulting cross soared over everyone to
find Lyndon Tomkins running in from the edge of the area. His
powerful header looked like it was destined for the far corner
of the net but Ciren’s keeper Steve Book managed to hurl
himself upwards and get enough onto the ball to tip it over. More
cursing and hand wringing followed, and there was worse to come.
Having soaked up the pressure Ciren then hit us
with a real sucker punch. The danger seemed to have been cleared
when Tomkins and Wilkinson closed down space on the right and
forced the ever popular Halliday back up the wing. The winger
managed to stay on his feet this time, and pushed the ball back
up field to Jackson. The defence then stood off and allowed a
dangerous ball to be propped up towards our back post, and with
Griff forced to back peddle we lost out under the high ball and
the header back across the goal mouth was bundled in from close
range. It was a soft goal against the run of play, but one that
in an odd way you knew was coming. Much in the same way you know
your numbers aren’t going to come up in the lottery.
Top: Lyndon Tomkins
goes up and over at a City corner.
Bottom: Webb whips a cross towards the far post where it
all goes wrong - again.
City should have seen
this as a trigger to get the game by the scruff of the neck. Didn’t
it make the players angry, the sheer injustice of it all? We were
behind in a game we should be winning. The answer is of course we
don’t know, because this lot don’t exhibit much in the
way of emotion. We prodded away a little more, but the goal increased
the confidence of the home team and did little to galvanise us.
We didn’t even seem too exercised by a needless nasty late
challenge by old boy Lee Smith. He’d had a quiet game and
Griff and Mansell had kept a watchful eye on him, limiting his influence
to one run for most of the first half. Frustrated he dived in on
Davis, clipping him as he went past and sending him spinning into
the air. It was a bad tackle and one that deserved the booking he
received, especially as it was so far from any possible threat to
the Ciren goal. The result was nothing. I get bored of our players
shouting at the ref all the time and swinging their handbags at
the opposition, but there is something terribly neutered about our
current attitude. That challenge should have brought about some
angry reactions, a few more determined tackles, an extra sense of
determination to get forward and hit the opposition in the back
of the net where it hurts most. We kind of shrugged and got on with
prodding the ball about in a kind of disconsolate fashion.
If the first half performance had started to drop
off then worse was to come in the second half. We managed an early
attack that saw Wilkinson almost get his head to a long searching
ball from Webb in midfield, but after that we found ourselves under
increasing pressure as Cirencester did their best to show that they
deserved their lead. After their pretty dire first half they managed
to find a higher gear and finally started zipping the ball around
a bit. Even just this extra bit of rhythm to their game was enough
to blow us apart and you could see us visibly fold in the face of
it. We survived a string of scares in the early part of the second
half and had Cirencester's shooting been a little more efficient
the score line could have become embarrassing. Cowe sent a screaming
volley wide whilst Lee Smith scuffed a shot wide as Matt Bath rushed
out at him. It could have been funny, but there wasn't much for
City fans to enjoy here. Matt Bath then produced a fine diving save
to turn a Halliday drive around the post.
|Top: Webb escapes for a while
in the midfield.
Bottom: City's bench hang their heads. Who said this was fun?
When it came the second goal was hardly
a surprise. It stemmed down the right with Chris Thompson beaten
by Fraser's run from defence and his low cross caused chaos in our
penalty area. We did well to manage to keep the ball off the line
when the first shot came in and Mustoe hacked Smith's follow up
effort away before Wilko had another go at clearing our lines. Somehow
we rarely seem able to actually get rid of danger, and again the
clearance only found it's way to the edge of the box where it fell
invitingly to the dangerous Steve Cowe. His venomous drive flew
through a crowd of players and with Matt Bath unsighted it whistled
straight into the net. Cue squeaky celebrations from the Cirencester
schoolkids, grumbled curses from the City faithful.
We did our best to galvanise some kind of response
but we look incapable of stepping things up when we need to do.
We only have two gears, and one of them is reverse. We did at least
manage to press forward, but chances were hard to come by as the
Cirencester defence remained resolute. At times you felt they were
toying with us and enjoying the chance to drill their defence in
an extended training exercise. It was painful to watch. In fact
Ciren went closer to extending their lead when Halliday's long punt
up field found our defence admiring their boot laces and left Cowe
to race free and crash another fierce shot onto our cross bar.
Burns tried to shake things up; off went the disappointing
Chris Thompson and Richard Mansell on the flanks, along with the
ineffective and largely invisible Richard Kear. They were replaced
by Jamie Reid and Adie Harris who at least showed plenty of vim
and vigour. Adie immediately skinned Lee Smith much to everyone's
amusement, but having got free down the left there was no-one to
aim for in the box. A few moments later Adie had another great run
and having cut in from the left at speed he went wide round Book
and shot for goal only to find Ciren's Craig Fullam on the line
to clear the danger at full stretch. Naturally, we had no one near
the ball to capitalise on the loose ball. Our forward movement at
the moment is appalling and the arrival of Andy Varnam added little
to our attacking presence. Varnam seems a very honest player who
works hard and can hold the ball up well, but today he looked as
likely to score as a eunuch. Poor Darryl Addis needs a holiday,
and we need to find someone with a hunger to find the net before
the side loses the will to even try and get the ball up field.
This was another hugely underwhelming
City performance after a first period of the match where we could
and should have taken a decisive lead and finished off Cirencester.
Having not taken our chances and gone behind we then seemed to slowly
fold. Burns' problems are twofold. The first is to find a consistent
goalscorer, easier said than done, especially at a time when the
budget will surely be shrinking having now lost our last remaining
chance of adding some meaningful FA prize money to our meager budget.
The second is perhaps even more challenging. Despite all the experience
on the pitch we are lacking leadership and courage, and God alone
knows how you inject that into a side. With the match still having
half an hour to run a two goal deficit against Cirencester is hardly
reason to give up. But we surrendered, rolled over, gave up. It's
not really good enough, and no budget restrictions or perceived
lack of ability is ever an excuse for what basically amounted to
cowardice in the face of the enemy. Our players need an injection
of belief, or failing that a rocket up the backside. Burns has a
week and a half to make sure the message gets home before we face
* This season's Trophy draw seems to have paired together
a lot of SLP opponents. Hitchin overcame Team Bath in another all
SLP encounter while Tiverton must replay at Mangotsfield after a
goalless draw at the Ladysmead. King's Lynn exited the competition
in front of 1,720 people at Wimbledon. Several SLP sides went out
to lower division opponents: Chesham losing 2-1 at Sutton Coldfield,
Cheshunt losing 1-0 at Tonbridge Angels, Evesham losing 2-0 at home
to Solihull Borough, Rugby losing to Leighton Town, Yate losing
at Burnham and perhaps the biggest shock seeing Merthyr Tydfil crash
out 3-0 at home to Rushall Olympic. Salisbury City were also taken
to a replay by Paulton Rovers, while Halesowen must replay after
a draw with Willenhall, Bath City needing a last minute equaliser
at Dunstable, Banbury held at Brackley and Cinderford were only
denied a shock win by a late Chippenham equaliser.
||M Weaver (West
| by t-towel
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