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25th February '06
League Premier Division
(9), Whittington (58)
Bath, Miller, Stonehouse, Preece, Tomkins, Holland, C.Thompson,
Webb, Bevan (Corbett 84), Whittington, Wilkinson.
Subs not used: Harris,
Mansell, Rimmer, Randall.
T-Ender Man of the Match: Chris
Thompson; a good energetic midfield performance with some great skill
on a difficult pitch.
City might have been content
to take a point from this match before kick-off but will be left
kicking themselves after being punished for some defensive mix-ups
that twice saw City pegged back having gone ahead through Miller
and Whittington. There were more signs that this team has the energy
and strength to keep Gloucester City in the SLP, but with other
results seeing us pushed back int othe bottom four City boss Tim
Harris will be a little anxious that his players learn to close
down matches having let Hitchin back into a game that could have
been put beyond their reach.
Despite the confidence boost of that vital home win over Grantham
last weekend that gave us our first win since before Christmas it
was best not to expect too much from City on the road. Hitchin struggled
last season and pre-season predictions that they'd again be down
amongst the relegation strugglers seemed sound enough as they got
off to a sluggish start in this campaign. However Hitchin rallied
and despite some similar budget limitations as City they've managed
to battle their way into comparative mid-table safety and no-one
in the City squad would have been expecting an easy day on a boggy
pitch at Top Field. Everyone was keeping a warey eye on Hitchin
after their amusing 7-0 League Cup drubbing of Ciren midweek but
we had a pre-match lift with the news that Canaries skipper and
one-man strike force Josh Sozzo was missing. Apparently their top
scorer was at a wedding in Italy, and no bad thing after he produced
an electric four goal display to help Hitchin to the Errea Cup semis
last Tuesday. Our own midweek activity had seen former Team Bath
skipper Chris Holland arrive on loan from Bath City to bolster our
defensive options and he went straight into the side with Harris
reverting to two up front and Chris Thompson reverting to a midfield
|Bevan bustles his way through
the Canaries defence.
City took the lead after
Mike Whittington was again on the end of some pretty uncompromising
treatment and was compensated with a free kick after a push in the
back. City sent the big guns up from defence for the free kick,
but as it was they weren't needed. Jonny Miller lined up the dead
ball and skimmed it into the box, and he must have been as surprised
as anyone as he watched it end up in the Hitchin net from more than
35 yards. He hit it well enough, but this was no screamer and it
even seemed to bounce as it some how fooled the bemused Hitchin
keeper. Perhaps he expected someone to divert of deflect it, or
perhaps he saw it late through a crowd of players, or perhaps he's
just not very good. Who cares really - City were ahead.
City were the side with the better attacking ideas and Hitchin
were more than a little fortunate to end the first half with their
full compliment of players. Whittington seems to be the kind of
forward that takes some physical stick, but in fairness to him
he doesn't seem to let it put him off. He was game enough as a
good ball over the top of the Hitchin defence saw him break free
down the left. The keeper raced out to meet the danger and Whittington
must have seen him coming, but still had the courage to nudge
the ball past him. However, the keeper just kept going and clattered
the striker to the ground. Whittington was clutching his head,
and the keeper soon got the idea and moments later also held on
to his. This left the ref with a tricky judgement to make. Had
the players collided as both went for the ball or had the Hitchin
keeper taken the attacker out? Needless to say the ref went for
the easy option and gave the free kick without the red card that
would have followed
The Hitchin equaliser came as a bit of a shock as
they'd hardly threatened the City goal in a serious way up to
that point. It seemed to be a defensive misunderstanding that
cost us dear. A good move down our left saw Stonehouse beaten
and a high cross pumped into the City box which Matt Bath or Lyndon
Tomkins may feel they should have dealt with, but even when it
was brought down Preece was in behind the forward to cover and
looked to have time to clear the danger. Instead he seemed to
miss that opportunity and former Dunstable striker Thomas Hayes
nipped between Preece and the City keeper and slam the ball into
the net from close range. It was good opportunsim from the Canaries'
forward but we shouldn't have left the ball so invitingly in our
Top: Miller tries his
luck again from another free kick but this time Wilmot is
watching in the Hitchin goal.
Bottom: Tomkins jumps highest to get on the end of a short
Whittington free kick.
City regained the lead
after a good spell of pressure, and it came with another show of
class from Mike Whittington who produced a goal that unlike the
others in the match would have been a fitting winner. The young
striker is on loan from Division 2 scum, sorry neighbours, Cheltenham
Town, and his form at the moment is such I'm starting to wish the
lad would take a slightly lower profile. At this rate he'll either
be back at Whaddon Road on the fringe of their first team squad
or someone else will come in for him. He's certainly now showing
the quality that suggests he could play at a high level and this
goal was arguably even better than those against Grantham last weekend.
He raced on to a clever through ball from Chris Thompson, but as
he latched on to the ball and pulled clear of one defender he was
still 40 yards from goal and had plenty to do. Whittington beat
two defenders as they tried to close in on him, but as he cut inside
he still had time to look up and pick his spot. He was still on
the edge of the box when he struck a sweet low drive just inside
the keeper's right hand post, just where the only fleeting gap existed.
It was a great goal, and he, his team mates and the ravelling fans
all knew it. Given that, and perhaps his particular need to show
the City fans that he knew it mattered, it would have been a complete
childish travesty with his exuberent celebrations and earned him
a booking. Fortunately the ref seemed to see sense and put his book
away with just the goal noted in it, and quite right too. Whittington
hadn't quite got as far as hurdling the fence to join the City fans,
and could hardly have been accused of inciting his own supporters.
|Top: Whittington sets of for
his goal and looks up for that route to goal.
Btm: Stonebridge heads for the wide open spaces as he runs in
from the left.
For all the Hitchin pressure and for
all the alarm bells that were ringing in our defence you'd still
have fancied our chances of carrying on doing just enough at the
back to hang on to the points. Unfortunately we managed to lose
our concentration and our luck didn't quite hold out. It was hard
to see exactly what had happened in our penalty box, but having
seen Wilko not put his boot right through a clearance the ball came
striaght back into our area. As it fell to ground it seemed as if
both Preece and Tomkins simply lost track of exactly where the ball
was. It was nudged into the six yard box and again Thomas Hayes
showed a good poacher's instinct to crash the ball past Matt Bath
from close range. Hitchin could argue they deserved the goal, but
to gift wrap a home side two opportunities of the sort we did can
only spark some sort of inquest on the coach home.
* On its own merits a point at Hitchin is fine, but
with other relegation threatened sides also starting to find form
the pressure is on and we now need to convert draws to wins. This
point takes our unbeaten run to four matches but with other teams
around us picking up oints City are back in the bottom four and
back in the relegation spots. Perhaps the most worrying result came
at Mangotsfield where our next opponents Northwood came away with
a very impressive 3-1 win.
|| 19th (-1)
||clear, cold &
sunny with brisk wind
| by t-towel
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