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27th August '05
League Premier Division
Harris, Mansell, C.Thompson, Lewis (Randall 78), Burns, Mustoe,
Webb, Addis, Davis, Knight (Kear 62).
Subs not used:
(foul), Webb (foul)
T-Ender Man of the Match: Tom
Webb; ceaseless running and today used the ball with more poise, getting
better as the match went on.
This was never going to
be an easy encounter but you get the impression that City caught
Tiverton on an off day but just didn't realise this match could
be won until it was too late. There were signs of hope from this
match, but the glimmers of gold did little to disguise the unwelcome
conclusion that we are currently a side that is also weighed down
with a fair share of players whose feet are currently full of lead.
Tivvy are one of the big-spending sides of the division
and at the start of the season the trip to Ladysmead didn't look
like one we would have been counting on for points. Tivvy were high
amongst the sides fancied for the title and they will be hugely
disappointed with a start that hasn't seen them win since the opening
day of the campaign. The pressure was on the home team and with
several players missing, including the formidable goal scoring prowess
of Jamie Mudge it's possible that on a better day City could have
taken advantage of the home side's problems. Unfortunately we've
got problems of our own and these only deepened with the news that
captain Neil Griffiths is out with an ankle injury, feared to be
possible ligament damage. That meant that with Tompkins and Marvin
Thompson already injured we were forced to field a side patched
up and sent out without a recognised genuine central defender. With
the injured Wilko and recovering Richard Kear on the bench and City
still only naming four subs you do wonder about our squad. Perhaps
the injury news came too late, but you'd have thought the presence
of a youth team player like Rimmer, Avery or Noakes may have given
us another option. At least we'd have the extra psychological lift
of a full bench, and a few people who could lift flagging spirits
later in the game.
The match opened with both sides looking like they'd
be a lot happier when this next 90 minutes of probable misery was
all over. Tivvy hardly established a stranglehold on the opening
exchanges, instead they more extended a limp, clammy palmed touch
around our throats. The lack of cut and thrust to those first few
minutes made it hard to spot what was happening, but then the penny
dropped. With our lack of defenders we'd obviously opted for one
up front and to try and sit back and defend. Davis was in a withdrawn
role deep in midfield, with Mustoe sitting so deep he was nearly
behind Matt Bath, never mind the defence. Striker Lance Lewis was
at right-back, leaving poor Darryl 'High Tower' Addis to gainfully
ape the role of target man and lone striker. The wisdom of this
tactical master stroke has to be doubted, it may have made sense
if we had a full strength squad but why bring Tiverton on to us
when our defence was so depleted?
Top - Stonehenge: nearly
as old as Burnsie, Knighter & Adie combined!
Middle - Davis reaches the half-way line to wild applause
from the City fans.
Bottom - City in danger of waking Tivvy's keeper.
The lack of attacking intent made for a first half
as depressing as any recent 45 minutes of watching City I can remember.
You couldn't accuse the players of lack of effort after Burns' criticism
in midweek, but we were just not designed for success this afternoon.
After the first 20 minutes Tiverton slowly began to realise that
they could press forward, and their early lack of confidence began
to ebb away. Fortunately the Devon side were missing their first
choice strikers and it showed with some wayward finishing helping
us out at the back. Every time the goal opened up Tivvy crashed
the ball wide or over the bar and they didn't seem to fancy trying
to get close enough to break down our defence.
We did try to get forward ourselves, but once again
the opposition just seemed to be a lot taller and stronger than
our boys. Adie managed a trademark foray down the left and found
space to turn in the box. He found Addis, but our problems were
well illustrated when the forward tried to turn only to find himself
surrounded and all alone with support still yards away.
Our makeshift defence was weathering Tivvy's attack
well, all be it more of a light drizzle rather than a full blown
storm. Burns is the one player who holds the rearguard together
at the moment, and his height and know-how got us out of a few tricky
moments. Rich Mansell must wonder how the hell he's at centre-back
having arrived as an attacking left-winger. However, needs must,
and he did well with an awkward cross and cleared well under pressure.
If we could be accused of lacking too much ambition
or polish Tivvy were hugely disappointing (or at least must have
been to the home fans). Mustoe and Webb were chasing and harrying,
but they were finding it all too easy to break up attacks without
really having enough numbers to mount our own attacks. The match
was rapidly descending into a midfield stodge. Once Tivvy threatened
to break clear after a rare City move out of our half, but Burns
was quick to the danger and was booked for a cynical body check
that none the less snuffed out the threat.
The Tiverton pressure was growing as the half went
on, Chris Thompson saved a certain goal when he headed back out
from under the cross bar. The one real positive moment in the whole
of the first half was one wonderful cross field pass by Lance Lewis,
finding Adie out wide on the opposite wing. Lewis clearly needs
time to settle in the Southern League, but that pass alone shows
he has more to his game than his pace. Those moments were few and
far between though, and just a minute later Thommo was back repeating
his earlier trick. This time he was forced to head clear from the
back post as Tivvy swung in a dangerous corner. Webb was then unlucky
to find himself also on the end of a yellow card for a routine challenge.
City's opportunities to attack were few and far between, but one
promising moment seemed to arrive as we broke out and a long ball
found Lance Lewis on the right and he was able to run at the Tiverton
defence. Knight picked up the loose ball and we held possession
for a while around the Tiverton box, but they were well organised
and our movement was flat and we eventually simply ran out of steam.
Former Tigers favourtie Paul Milsom looked surprisingly comfortable
in his new role as a central defender. However uninspiring our play
was, Tivvy had been little better and it did at least look as if
we'd reach the break with the match goalless. That isn't how things
go for us though, and it wasn't especially surprising when Tivvy
were given a penalty. Their winger had cut inside Lance Lewis who
caught back up with him as he entered the box, only for the Tiverton
player to end up tumbling on the goal. City fans better placed than
I thought it was a bad decision, but Lewis certainly ran behind
the attacker's legs and gave him every opportunity to go to ground.
Whatever the merits of the ref's decision it was naive defending,
but the risk you run playing en inexperienced forward in a defensive
position. Tiverton's skipper Steve Winter went forward to take the
spot kick and put it in off the post with a low drive to Bath's
right that left our keeper with no chance.
City came out in the second half and initially little
changed tactically. Our tackling was actually very good and you
couldn't criticise anyone for letting their heads drop now we were
a goal down. We were still very deep. Lee Davis was having a decent
game, but his skills seemed wasted. Our problems were typified when
he did well to win the ball and with few options around him he pushed
it up to Addis who did well to take the ball. He turned and held
off the defender at his back, but with no-one on for the pass a
second and third defender jumped on him and we lost the ball. A
few moments later Mustoe did well to win the ball back, only for
him to again pass to Addis and the process was repeated. It was
all very frustrating and some of our best play was on the edge of
our own penalty area. Webb made a wonderful sliding interception
to deny Tiverton a shooting chance, but as soon as he won the ball
you knew it wouldn't lead to a break away attack for us because
there was no-one getting forward.
No side can hold out under extended pressure, even
when a good part of it is self-inflicted. Considering how little
we were doing going forward and our lack of defensive players we
were actually holding out quite well. Eventually though mistakes
are inevitable and Matt Bath did well to hold on to a shot from
the edge of the box after Adie Harris had been caught in possession.
We then survived near disaster that began as Burns over-hit a back
pass, leaving Matt Bath to scamper back to avoid the corner. Having
got to the ball Bath then compounded the error by scuffing the clearance
straight to a forward. With our keeper out of the goal he curled
his shot towards the top corner, but Matt did ever so well to fly
back across goal and claw the ball away at full stretch. It was
a great save, but we know you're a great shot stopper Matt - you
don't need to give yourself the opportunity to impress like that!
Top - Lance Lewis finds
himself crowded out as City try to attack.
Bottom - Randall finds himself still a little off the
pace as Milse strolls past.
Even when we got forward we lacked ideas.
When City won a free kick and sent Burns and Thommo forward it seemed
at last like a chance to have a real go at goal. For some reason
though we instead tried another fancy free kick routine that ended
with Mansell running into no-man's land. With dead ball ability
from Burns, Knight and Mustoe it's hard to understand why no-one
seems willing to shoot from 25 yards when all of them have put away
such classy finishes over the last year or so. Tivvy were soon back
on the attack and Mansell was needed to make a fine tackle in the
box. Tivvy were soon back at us, and should have scored with a header
that flew across goal only for Mustoe to finally volley clear on
the goal line.
Something had to change. I'd thought that spending the best part
of two hours stuck in a traffic jam on the Salisbury plain whilst
getting here was going to be the most tedious part of the day, but
I hadn't reckoned for this. The temptation to see if any part of
my 50p car-parking fee was refundable was growing by the minute.
Fortunately we finally sparked into a bit of life as Burns waved
his arms about for a good while, presumably signaling a very welcome
switch to plan B (note to the gaffer, plan A stank).
The reshuffle initially seemed to simply involve moving to a much
higher line, and almost instantly Mustoe was able to get forward
to make the extra man supporting Addis. Mustoe is now at his best
breaking up attacks, but with his ability he should also be able
to find the extra touch to win us a few more vital points. It looked
as if he had for a moment as he got on the end of a Webb and Addis
move and broke into the box. Tivvy closed him down well but for
a moment it looked as if his scuffed effort may have foiled the
keeper, in Ashes parlance the slower ball had done him and he had
dived to far too early. Harris almost nipped in, but Tiverton scrambled
clear. Tivvy's keeper Mark Ovendale had barely seen any action before
that, and had been tested more by City's fans than by our players'
shots. As City began to press forward more he was to have to concentrate
far more on the match.
|Welcome to playing for City:
Rich Kear gets that familiar feeling..
With attacking pace now more important Knighter
made way for Rich Kear, with Lance Lewis pushed up alongside Addis.
At last we looked more of a threat and showed some sparkle. Mansell
combined well with Addis and got over a good cross from the left
that saw Tivvy relieved to get the ball away. The other very welcome
result of the reshuffle was that Lee Davis was now closer to the
opposition goal than his own. Davis is one of our few players with
some confidence at the moment, and his willingness to shoot almost
paid off. A City attack broke down as Addis was muscled off the
ball, but this time help was at hand and Davis curled a shot that
shaded the wrong side of the bar.
We were now looking like the better side and Tivvy must have wondered
what had happened. Their defence was well drilled but was at least
being forced to work now. You could almost hear the sound of the
trumpets as the red shirts swarmed forward. Addis was tripped and
this time the free kick was more threatening, whipped in by Mansell
and only half cleared to Kear down the right. He showed some welcome
urgency with an immediate cross back in. Some how Lance Lewis managed
to pop up in the box and his close range header brushed the bar.
We were closing in.
Rich Kear has already had critics in his short time with us, but
on this showing he could prove a useful addition if he is given
time to settle. He produced a fantastic turn that threw the whole
Tivvy defence, but having beaten one man and found Adie Harris on
the wing the resulting cross eluded our forwards. The new attacking
City side did of course leave us a little vulnerable to the counter
attack and Chris Thompson did well to keep the game alive as he
rushed across to make a great saving tackle.
Burns himself was also now getting forward and pushing up out of
defence. His reassuring presence helped us play some of our best
football for some while, but while we were now creating openings
the clock was ticking and time running out. It was time to gamble,
so the portly but experienced Lee Randall was thrown on for the
morel light weight Lance Lewis.
The former Oldham striker is still some way over his
fighting weight, but he almost made a vital contribution in this
game. His touch is still there and he showed a surprising turn of
pace over a few yards to get in front of a surprised defender and
meet a low Lee Davis cross at the near post. Randall's flick was
clever and Ovendale had to readjust quickly to block it. Tivvy's
first half dominance was forgotten now and Webb was the next player
to go close as he raced on to a pass from Addis, rejoicing in the
pleasure of some company in the Tiverton area. Tom often seems reluctant
to shoot, but this effort was well hit but sadly only ruffled the
outside of the net. Time was nearly up, but it was Tiverton who
were anxious for the final whistle. The match still had one moment
of high drama left as Webb and Kear worked their way down the right
wing. With City now forward in numbers he had plenty to aim for
and his cross was full of pace and menace. It cleared the near post
and Davis appeared in the six yard box, twisting himself acrobatically
to deliver a diving header. From only a few paces from the goal
line the equaliser looked certain, but Ovendale managed an incredible
reflex save from point blank range. It was a save fit to win any
match, and that's exactly what the Tivvy keeper had done.
By the end of the match we were unlucky not to get
a point, and to play like that against one of the strongest side's
in the division should do us the world of good. Unfortunately the
defeat has to be partly down to our defensive tactics, and who knows
what could have happened had we gone for the jugular from the first.
To play with Addis as a lone striker isn't the option it could have
been with a player of the Andy Hoskins mould, Addis needs a strike
partner and Davis needs to be in the attack not wasted further down
the pitch. If we can get at teams our defensive problems may be
less apparent, but we needed a strong, tall centre-back in the squad
even before the injuries to Marvin, Griff and Tomkins. At least
we've shown we can get behind teams given the chance, and the match
against Mangotsfield could be interesting if the players are given
the chance to cut loose and get at them.
* City's defeat leaves us in an uncomfortable 20th
place, still above Evesham and Northwood but now needing a win to
get back in touch with the mid-table sides. Eleswhere today the
division's last 100% record came undone with Bath City surprisingly
defeated 2-0 by Salisbury at Twerton Park, with a first strike from
former Southampton midfielder Tommy Widdrington. Merthyr have gone
top having dealt out a real shock to fellow promotion chasers Chippenham
who returned across the Severn Bridge pondering a 4-0 humiliation
by the Martyrs, Craig Steins back amongst the goals with a brace.
Two other fancied sides, Mangotsfield and Halesowen, scrapped out
a 1-1 draw that we must hope has left the Bristol side exhausted
for their Bank Holiday trip to Meadow Park in two days time.
|| 20th (=)
||overcast with some
| by t-towel
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