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29th August '05
League Premier Division
(25 pen), Wilmott (37), Claridge (45)
Harris, Mansell, C.Thompson, Lewis, Burns, Mustoe, Webb, Addis, Davis,
Knight (Kear HT).
Subs not used:
Wilkinson, Randall, Cook.
T-Ender Man of the Match: Neil
Mustoe; box to box energy that other players should be trying to emulate.
City's management team face
a difficult week but must hold their nerve and lift their players
after this demoralising dismal Bank Holiday defeat to an impressive
looking Mangotsfield side who outmatched our sad Tigers in every
department. Poor tactical decisions and lack of toughness in key
areas saw City contribute to their own downfall in one of the most
disappointing displays of Burns' reign at Meadow Park, and one that
the boss clearly took to his heart.
Mangotsfield have strengthened considerably over the
last season and their side is stuffed with good players, and a look
at a team sheet with a quality striker like David Seal on the opposition
sub's bench can't have done much for the City camp's already fragile
morale. Many City fans had hoped to see at least one or two of our
injured players make a return, but Wilko's ankle continues to cause
concern while Griff and Marvin Thompson are still at least a week
away from fitness. That left Burns with the same problem as on Saturday,
with no recognised defenders meaning we were forced to send out
a frail looking team with Mansell and Chris Thompson joining the
boss himself in defence.
That disappointment was as nothing when fans realised
we were also persisting with the same formation that had barely
got out of our own half in the first period at Tiverton. The sight
of Darryl Addis playing as a lone striker and target man in a home
match hardly lifted the crowd, so expectations were already sliding
even before the Mangotsfield defence so ably countered our tactics
within the first few minutes. Realising Addis was out numbered they
let him pick the ball up and then took it off him as easily as if
robbing a toddler of their jelly babies. Unless Addis managed to
find support instantly he was done for. Even his clever turns only
momentarily postponed the inevitable as possession was squandered.
Once Mangotsfield had the ball they could also push a defender up
into midfield to counter our extra numbers there, nullifying any
advantage we may have hoped for in the centre of the park.
|Top & Middle: Mustoe slots
his penalty and celebrates putting City ahead.
Bottom: Addis jumps highest, but who can help him.
It was hardly
uplifting football for the home fans and we had an early warning
when Mangotsfield's former Bristol Rovers forward Rob Claridge put
a speculative dipping drive just over the bar. Alarmingly he'd been
left with plenty of time to get his shot away on the edge of the
box. City were struggling to go any where with precious little width
and no options to aim for up front. The chances were all at the
other end and former City winger Luke Prince almost opened up our
splintering defence with a deep cross to the far post that the Field
striker should have put away.
You could not accuse any of our players of shirking
the challenges or lacking in effort, but unkind phrases like headless
chickens seemed to come to mind pretty easily. There were moments
of class. Addis did manage to bring down a few balls under control
despite the defensive pressure, and having wrestled off a few challenges
he managed to slide the ball wide to Adie on theleft. He beat his
man, but the City problems were there to be seen as the cross came
over and oddly enough Addis found himself alone in the box and marked
by four defenders. With one player up front and our midfield trying
to protect the defence we were sat too deep with a great chasm between
our attack and anyone else.
Incredibly City were then literally handed a chance
to grab the lead. We'd managed to win a free kick after the put
upon Addis was bundled to the floor and Knight sent over a decent
searching cross. Burns was the natural target and he tried to get
to the ball only for Field's Anyinsah to punch it away from him.
It was so blatant even a Southern League ref had no option but to
give it and Neil Mustoe stepped up to nervelessly slot the spot
kick into the net.
The surprised T-End tried their best to be jubilant
but you had a sense no-one was really fooled by having taken the
lead so early in them atch. Noen the less the goal lifted our team
and for just a few minutes we looked like we could make even this
strategy work. We produced some pressure on the away goal and managed
to keep possession long enough through Mustoe and Knight to get
some numbers up the pitch and around the Mangotsfield box. A Knight
header broke up an attempt for the Bristol team to counter attack
and Lewis' pace carried him forward before feeding Addis who was
unlucky with a shot that went wide.
All of that seemed a fleeting, perhaps imagined, memory
a few minutes later once we were back defending. There are too many
players back there being forced to carry out roles they are not
familiar with and it was not a surprise when Mansell carelessly
tripped up Luke Corbett and gifted the visitors a penalty. That
was duly slotted in by Drew Shore and our lead had lasted less than
City fans had precious little to enjoy in the match
so we made the most of watching one of our former players making
a tit of himself. Prince was getting lots of the ball but always
had a habit of not actually going anywhere with the ball and he
enjoyed plenty of runs across our defence without going through
them. The problem was you felt this was more out of his habit than
our defending. Prince also launched himself acrobatically at a cross
but his twisting volley was hooked well wide and he got to look
satisfyingly silly as he landed on the floor.
Such pleasures were few and far between though as
the Bristol side established a stranglehold on the match. We managed
a solitary attack when Addis got free down the right and his deep
far post cross even found a City player at the far post. Unfortunately
it was the slightly built Lance Lewis, pushed too wide and unable
to get any power on his header.
It wasn't long before the inevitable happened and
we fel;l behind. Ellis Wilmott must have got fed up with trying
to pick past the City defence and given the space available in midfield
he let fly with a low drive from around 35 yards. The ball whistled
inside the far post with Matt Bath left standing. Perhaps our keeper
was unsighted and it's very likely he wouldn't have reached it anyway
but there's something slightly consoling as a fan to at least see
your keeper try and get to the shot.
Once behind even a goal defecit seemed to leave us
with an insurmountable hurdle to overcome. In fairness Mustoe and
Webb were chasing every ball, but even when we won possession we
could not get forward. We seem to have forgotten how to move off
the ball, so all of our passing involved pushing the ball side to
side in midfield looking for openings that never came. Webb produced
a great turn that should have split the Field defence, but he just
faced the same problems. The City fans were getting hugely frustrated.
Some were shouting to hit it forward, but the problems were deeper
than that. There was no-one there to get a forward ball.
The next goal only seemed likely to come at one end,
and it was not the end with poor Darryl Addis stood as isolated
as a man with a rucksack on the rush hour bus. Matt Bath had been
in excellent form over the last few weeks and he made another great
save from Wilmott, rushing out to cut the angle and saving with
his legs. That didn't stop the questions of how Wilmott had sliced
through the defence without even a challenge. Worse was to come
in the last minute of a miserable half. A bizarre deep cross showed
just how bad our defence was, as our penalty area was so unguarded
it was allowed to bounce and lifted high up enough for Claridge
to meet it and lift a clever looping header over the stranded Bath
and into the net.
For the first time I remember in recent years City's
bewildered players left the pitch to muted booing from the T-End.
City fans have supported through thick and thin over recent years,
and have shown themselves willing to forgive performances that would
leave other supporters foaming at the mouth. Everyone understands
the loyalty the players have shown and the restrictions the coaching
staff are working under. This effort though smacked of total disorganisation
and incompetent tactical decisions. Knight reacted angrily and started
shouting back at the fans, but perhaps Knighter needs a bit of a
slap. He has given a lot over the last few years, but even in such
hard times the fans who prop the club up are entitled to demand
better than this. Your energy would be better directed at those
in the dressing room Mr Knight. Rumour has it that the disasterous
formation was something Knight has been pushing for, so perhaps
he took the reaction to it a little personally.
At least by half-time the system had been changed,
and with it had gone Knight, replaced by Kear as Lewis was pushed
up front to provide some very welcome support for Addis. It seemed
unlikely we could have got back into the match but if Kear had been
able to make more of an early chance then perhaps things could have
been different. He is a player who frustrates at times but he has
shown some good touches and he did well to take the ball past the
Field defence. As the goal opened up in front of him he inexplicably
checked and tried to pick out Addis in the box. Why!!! If you can
shoot, shoot for God's sake! Why do so many of our players seem
intent on making the game so difficult.
Left: Addis turns in
the Mangotsfield box.
Right Top: Mustoe looks for some help in the midfield.
Right Bottom: Burns gets crowded out at a City corner.
At least that attempt
on goal did at least seem to make us believe a little more and the
second half was a lot more even, all be it that the visitors had
probably relaxed back into their armchairs by now. They still looked
more likely to score, but at least we were also getting forward
ourselves. We could have fallen further behind when another bit
of terrible defending almost cost us dear. We were struggling to
clear our lines at all and one bad clearance fell to Rob Cousins
who crashed a shot onto the post, with Matt Bath needed to get to
the rebound whilst the rest of the defence admired the pretty clouds.
They were not alone in wanting to be somewhere else. The Bristol
side was pushing through without really needing to try too hard
and our side looked seriously demoralised. Even when we did get
forward it hardly seemed to be with a great sense of purpose. Webb's
finishing is often exasperating but under this kind of pressure
it seemed to sum up our spirits. Addis did well to find Webb behind
him and as the defence opened up it lookedl ike Webb could actually
still give us a late life line. His head was all over the place
though and the shot sailed high into the car park without troubling
If Mangotsfield felt they had the match won and it
was time to take it easy, and they certainly knew how to rub salt
into the wound. On came Ross Casey to take his place in the Mangos'
midfield. He didn't exactly set the world alight but just the sight
of him strutting his stuff didn't help an already thoroughly miserable
afternoon. I remember him - he was rubbish for us... We were not
exactly going out with all guns blazing, this was more the whimper
of an aged arthritic cat than the roar of what should have been
a wounded, well, tiger. By the end Mansell was booked for holding
on, quite strongly, as another Mangos player tried to slip past
him. The defence looked well battered and the forward line had been
barely glimpsed. Far too late in the match Davis was rescued from
midfield anonymity and moved further up front. It was too little
too late but he did have a moment to remind us this could have been
different. He wriggled clear to get onto a low Mustoe pass and his
fierce drive was tipped onto the post. It wasn't going to be the
kind of match that could be rescued with one shot against the run
|An emotional Chris Burns contemplates
the future on the Meadow Park turf.
This was a terrible disheartening morale sapping defeat,
not only had we been well beaten but we'd rolled over. Not only
had we rolled over, but we'd played into the hands of the opposition
with tactics so inept they'd disgrace a low division 5-a-side league.
Inviting the opposition onto our weakened defence was bad enough,
to leave one target man up front at home with no support possibly
unforgivable. To place our main chance of goals in midfield where
he is too lightweight to make an impact seemed odd. To have failed
to learn from the Tiverton misery was perhaps the biggest crime.
No wonder poor Chris Burns stayed out on the Meadow Park pitch,
close to tears and seemingly contemplating throwing in the towel.
Fortunately the City manager rallied later in the
evening but his anger and disappointment are understandably real
and etched deep. For City fans, whatever the disappointment, Burns
remains the man. Whatever has persuaded him to take leave of his
tactical senses that will hopefully prove temporary. What he has
achieved on a shoestring budget should not be forogtten too quickly,
and without him the club would be in far worse shape. That can be
no excuse for players settling for mediocre performances though,
and even if the players were playing for nothing the fans who work
every bit as hard for the club have aright to epxect better than
this. Burns' commitment and dedication shine through, and his main
task will be to instill the same hunger and will to win in the rest
of his charges then we still have little to worry about. And not
piss about with stupid tactics with such limited resources.
Now is a time for stout hearts, loyalty
to the cause and not allowing our nerves to fray. After six games
we're not where we hoped to be, but these were always difficult
fixtures. In reality we perhaps only have one or two less points
than we could have expected. Failing to beat Cheshunt was the worst
result of the lot, and perhaps we could have hoped to take at least
a point from three home games. That apart we knew we were not going
to challenge for promotion, and it is with the vist on Rugby next
Saturday and the FA Cup tie the follwoing week that our season properly
begins. Time for a steady hand on the tiller, and no panic on the
terraces. Burns deserves our vocal support over the next few weeks.
* Six games and only two points. Now might be a time
for calm but looking at the league table does make your heart palpitate
when you see City propping up most of the rest with only Northwood,
pointless and adrift at the bottom. Tiverton are the surprise strugglers
so far, and perhaps we should have shown their injury depleted side
less respect. Their 2-1 defeat to Yate today hardly suggests they
were amongst the pre-season title favourites. It hardly seems of
interest to us at the moment but there were some interesting results
amongst those setting the early pace and those who fancied their
chances of promotion at the end of April. Salisbury continue to
set the pace with two late goals seeing off Merthyr, while a solitary
Danny Bloomfield goal gave King's Lynn a 1-0 win over Bedford. Bath
City stuffed interlopers Team Bath in a derby of sorts, Scott Partridge
grabbing a brace in a 4-0 victory to confirm his place as the early
season leading goalscorer. Ciren's promotion hopes have been cruelly
tested, suffering another humbling moment as they were brushed aside
by Chippenham who won 2-0 at Hardenhuish.
|| 21st (-1)
||dry with sunny spells
| by t-towel
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