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31st December '05
League Premier Division
(18), Campbell (25), Edwards (64)
Bath, M.Thompson (Reid 71), Mansell, Griffiths, Tomkins,
C.Thompson, Harris, Webb, Addis, Corbett (Randall 78),
Subs not used: Knight,
(dissent 15), Wilkinson
(retaliation 54), Griffiths (handball 55)
T-Ender Man of the Match: Richard
Mansell; possibly his best game to date for City with several good
runs and important tackles.
There is a depression hanging
over the club at the moment and the City players looked like they
had the weight of the world on their shoulders as they slumped to
a half-hearted and heavy-legged performance against a Yate side
who strolled their way to victory without being tested by a City
side lacking zest or ideas. It was not a good note to end the year
on, with City struggling to claw their way back into the match after
drifting through the opening section of the game and finding themselves
two goals down before managing to produce anything at all. The match
was effectively ended when City were reduced to ten men when the
ever unpopular Dave Elsey goaded Wilko into a reaction that got
the City midfielder a second yellow card. Tellingly, this was not
one of those occasions when a riled ten man team fight back, and
Yate were able to coast their way to the points.
The match was shrouded in yellow and black despair before the kick-off.
It looks as if any hope of managing to keep Neil
Mustoe at the club has been extinguished. The player has provided
crucial backbone and experience to a somewhat brittle City team,
but as the club's highest paid player it looks like the former Manchester
United trainee is to be sacrificed to keep the rest of the side
together. It is horrible to see your side's best player looking
for other clubs when given the chance he'd stay. No-one seemed particularly
excited by the news that Darryl
Addis is staying, especially as we seem more than happy for
him to train alone and in turn have to sacrifice another player
to get the wage bill below the impossibly low level necessary because
of the club's suffocating financial position. To add to the sense
that the club is plunging into the abyss we seem to have rather
carelessly lost loan signing Alex Sykes who simply wasn't at Yate
for the match. One moment he's telling the local paper he'd like
to stay at Meadow Park, next he's gone with two games of his loan
All of this left City trying a fairly lop-sided line up, especially
in defence where Marvin Thompson seemed to be playing somewhere
out on the right of the defence and Richard Mansell re-called at
somewhere around left-back. Even in the warm-up our players looked
down and demoralised. The Yate players by contrast looked full of
life. It did not bode well and from the kick-off the home team looked
far stronger. Our challenges were simply brushed aside and Yate
seemed to have incredible amounts of space, probably helped by playing
on a pitch that must be as big as any in the division. Our defence
seemed to have only the vaguest idea of what formation they were
meant to be playing - to say they lacked shape would be kind. It
wasn't looking too promising for us, and then to cheer the fans
up even more it started to rain.
City's defence was having real problems down both flanks and we
survived a scare when our former centre back Lee Jeffries managed
to put a free header over the bar. It wasn't quite one way traffic
though. A bright City attack finally found Addis who laid the ball
back into the path of Richard
Mansell who had made a good run from the back. From the centre
of the pitch and 20 yards out his drive whistled just wide. Mansell
has been disappointing since joining City in the summer, but he
looked much brighter today and is perhaps beginning to adapt to
football at this level.
|Thompson brings the ball forward
whilst Addis tries to escape Lee Jeffries.
For all that brief glimpse
of the ball in the Yate half we were struggling to put anything
together and another of our former players, Paul
Chenoweth, was bossing the midfield in his usual frenetic way.
Wilko was frustrated and managed to talk himself into the book after
getting a talking to for a trip as Yate tried to counter attack.
Sometimes we have to learn to walk away. It can hardly have been
a surprise when after a few more scares Yate finally found the net.
It was a simple goal made even simpler by a shocking lack of defensive
pressure. Elsey had plenty of space on our right to put over a well
flighted cross into the centre of the goal mouth. No-one had picked
up the run from midfield and with our defence statuesque Jason Wood
rose unchallenged to plant a firm header past Matt Bath.
Dave Elsey is always an entertaining figure to watch in any game
he's playing in. He's carved out a bit career as the pantomime villain
of south-west non-league football, a position helped by looking
a bit like a pantomime dame with his deathly white pallor and his
wobbling chins. He should really have done so much more with his
career, he has a great left foot but is simply too fat and slow
to be real quality. He also has a nasty cynical attitude to the
game that always gets opposition fans on his back, no-one likes
a cheat. Elsey was too have a pivotal part to play in this match
having already created the opening goal, and his next contribution
was to crush poor Marvin Thompson under his not inconsiderable bulk.
At least he seemed to survive. A good Yate move involving Elsey
and Chenoweth set up Darren Edwards but with Griff struggling to
close him down the former Mangotsfield forward ploughed his shot
The warnings were there but a defence and midfield that had worked
so hard up at Rugby now seemed to be wandering in complete disarray.
The inevitable second goal came as the ball was worked well across
our penalty area, pulling our people all over the place until the
space was found on the Yate right. Steve Campbell had all the time
he needed to pick his spot inside the far post and drive the ball
low across the stranded keeper. It was no more than Yate deserved,
and to be honest with just 25 minutes gone it looked as if City
could be about to get buried, and Yate weren't even being forced
to work for their lead.
It might sum up City that the player who lifted
us back into the game was the old warrior Adie Harris who at 40
still seems to have more energy and drive than players half his
age. His scampering run down the left finally managed to get us
a platform in the Yate half and after beating two defenders he
laid the ball off to Corbett who won a corner that unfortunately
we wasted. But at least we'd been in the Yate penalty area. The
signs of recovery were there and another strong Adie Harris run
saw him cut into midfield and find Wilko. He turned and looked
to be heading into the penalty area before he was tripped just
outside. Luke Corbett lined
up the free kick, but no-one really had high expectations. We've
seen plenty of City dead ball efforts. But this was different
and the free kick gently curled and dropped about as snuggly as
it could into the top corner. Tony Court was no where near it
in the Yate goal. It was a hell of a shot and at least in Corbett
we do have a player who can still find something a little bit
The goal lifted the players and for the last quarter
of an hour of the first half we got back into the match and played
well for a short burst. We produced a great flowing move down
the right where Chris Thompson and Wilko combined well to slice
past the wheezing Dave Elsey but Addis seemed to trip over the
ball as he received it on the edge of the box. It was only prodded
as far as Thommo who fired in a shot from distance that flew wide.
Another great run from Adie Harris saw him exchange a one-two
with Addis and it was only a good last ditch tackle that prevented
the veteran winger getting a shot away. The favourite moment of
the half had to be Chris Thompson finally having space to knock
the ball behind Elsey and wave as he accelerated past the wide-load
fullback who turns with all the speed of an oil tanker. Unfortunately
the resulting cross was wasted when we had players in the box
and the equaliser looked possible.
For all our improvement it was not one way traffic.
Some of our improvement seemed to be due to a tactical reshuffle
with Mansell dropped deeper and Griff seeming to be in midfield
to add some bite to rival Chennas in the centre of the pitch.
Of course it could just have been players fling around out of
position. In the midst of all of this Yate wasted another free
header as we struggled to get near another deep cross. You felt
if we could play like this for long enough Yate were vulnerable
down the flanks and we could still win the match. Wilko went close
as another Chris Thompson
cross found the midfielder's run into the box, but he had to twist
to connect with the cross and his volley sliced just wide. At
least the match was more even now but we still looked vulnerable
at the back, and Richard Mansell did well to reach a goal bound
shot and clear from under the bar.
After a much improved end
to the first half the City fans were hoping that the early malaise
of the start of the match would be forgotten but the second half
started with City again pegged back in our own half and defending
deep. Another Edwards shot flashed across goal and Tomkins managed
to get ahead to get rid of a dangerous steepling far post cross.
Mansell looked more awake than he had for most of 2005 and made
a great tackle from behind to halt a dangerous run from Yate's
Steve Campbell, even managing to come away with the ball and get
Adie Harris away up the wing.
Griff tries to connect
as a City corner flies across goal.
There was more hope as
City settled back down again and both Chris Thompson and Adie Harris
got some success out wide. We seemed to very slowly realise the
futility of smacking high balls for Addis to lose against the commanding
presence of Lee Jeffries, but we had more success in the channels.
Corbett is now a central figure for us and he almost produced another
moment of individual magic when he picked up a loose ball and tried
to lob the Yate keeper from 30 yards. Corbett did well to spot him
off his line and Court had to back pedal to clutch the ball high
over his head as he got to the goal line. It was a good effort,
and if he'd been able to put it just a little to either side of
the keeper he'd have been in deep bother.
One of City's main problems is our reluctance to get
bodies into the box. Even when playing well we don't have forwards
to aim at in the goalmouth. Addis may be good at holding the ball
up but he is rotten at predicting play and gambling on crosses.
Corbett is a great forward but too often drifts wide to pick up
the ball in the manner of a poor man's Thierry Henry. All too often
this leaves him with the ball out wide when he is the person with
the job of getting on the end of his own crosses. At least Wilko
makes runs from midfield, but he's looking a little patchy at the
moment and we still miss Smith attacking the box from the far post.
Corbett showed the problem when he picked up the ball out wide on
the left. He showed good pace to beat two men and as he began to
cut into the box he found his options in the box limited. His only
choice was to shoot, and the ball was dragged well wide with a good
attack coming to nothing.
The turning point of the match came just ten minutes
into the second half. City had been given a free kick after Chris
Thompson had been tripped attacking down the right. City packed
the Yate penalty box for the free kick and there were all sorts
of pushing and shoving with Elsey's grabbing at Wilko at the centre.
When the ball went out for a corner there was more gamesmanship
from Elsey. Having tugged at Wilko, grabbed his hands and clawed
at his chest the tubby cheat stamped on Wilko's foot and tried to
scrape his boot down his calf. Wilko unsurprisingly shoved back
at the soft padding around Elsey's ribs, resulting in a great deal
of exaggerated clutching.
|Chris Thompson asks to be
excused after having to run too near David Elsey.
The ref summoned them both over and
there was a sickening inevitability about the yellow cards shown
to both players, and with Dave
Wilkinson now having his second yellow it was swiftly followed
by a red card. It's easy to accuse the ref of getting it wrong,
particularly a Bristol ref who seemed to be on very friendly terms
with the Yate players when the match started. For all of that though
Wilko really paid a heavy price for a needless booking in the first
half. The booking of both players is still a cop out though, it
seems grossly unfair that a player can attack another and know that
if he succeeds in getting a reaction the aggressor will only suffer
the same punishment as the victim.
That red card completely deflated City and you'd have
thought more than one man had gone as huge gaps suddenly appeared
all over the place. Wilko isn't yet in his best form, but even when
he's at the peak of his game he tends to be a player you notice
more when he's not there. We certainly could see the gaps now. It
was hardly a shock when having but together some sustained pressure
on the City goal Yate scored again, Darren Edwards finally finding
the net with a neat flicked header. At 3-1 and a man down we ran
the white flag up and the match was effectively over.
We offered little up front but Mansell did manage
another surging run that took him past several players. He rather
blew it when he arrived on the edge of the Yate area, laying the
ball behind Chris Thompson. Yate tried to rub it in by sending on
Jimmy Cox, but the former City
star had a quiet game. The only time he threatened to get free Griff
snapped at him and took the ball away. The sub didn't even have
a number on his shirt, suitably enigmatic but he's also more than
capable of having put it on inside out.
The last 20 minutes could have got even worse for
City as we showed precious little fight or spirit. Griff could also
have seen red after a trip on the edge of the area, coming just
ten minutes after he'd been booked for a dubious handball. Injury
plagued Marvin Thompson
probably had the worst afternoon of anyone at Lodge Lane as he staggered
off after getting a crunching blow to what is politely described
as the mid-regions.
In a twisted way you had to admire the award of Yate
man of the match to David Elsey, presumably a dark bit of humour
aimed at the away fans rather than a true view of the lumbering
wreck's contribution to the game. Sadly though his ethically dubious
contribution probably did make him Yate's match winner. There was
precious little else to talk about apart from the strange substitution
of Corbett, who could only have been carrying an injury, surely.
Addis had a quiet game even by his own standards, but it seems as
if he is the one player whose presence on the pitch is vital to
our well being come what may.
This was hardly a vintage City performance. Of course,
it's not the first game we've been off colour and it was match that
hinged a great deal on a bad red card. The turmoil of the last few
weeks seems to give it extra meaning, there is a serious danger
of the bond between players and fans beginning to unravel and the
mood among fans is dark. It is not enough for players to think they've
done everyone a favour simply by being here. We want to see blood,
sweat and tears - what's the point in making sacrifices on wages
and showing such incredible loyalty to the cause just to go through
the motions where it matters most? Fortunately today's defeat has
only seen us drop one place in the table to 16th. We are still in
the depths of a relegation battle given the amount of extra games
we have played, but we must hold our nerve. There are some games
against other struggling sides we must ensure we win, and just scrap
for what other extra points we can. The one advantage we have is
we still have a large number of home games to play, of our remaining
18 league games 11 will be played at Meadow Park including particularly
vital games against Evesham, Yate, Chesham and Hitchin.
* Many other results went our way around the division
with other struggling teams being beaten. There was no surprise
at the McEnhill Stadium where Salisbury stayed top by comfortably
dispatching bottom side Northwood 3-0 with the help of a first half
brace from Matty Tubbs. King's Lynn are in good form and are now
up to third spot after a comfortable 3-0 win over Hitchin with Danny
Bloomfield scoring the first after just two minutes. Our win at
Rugby Town is probably our best result of the season to date and
their continued good form saw Aylesbury crushed 4-0 at Butlin Road,
with David Stone adding to his reputation with another brace. Aylesbury
are looking to be in real trouble now after another round of pay
cuts have seen more reinforcements drafted into the squad from the
youth team and local football. Evesham also lost 2-1 at home despite
putting up a determined fight against Merthyr. Unfortunately Cirencester's
recovery continued with a Gareth Hopkins brace helping them to a
perhaps not unexpected 2-1 win at Cheshunt. Chesham also managed
to get a point at home to Banbury after a Leon Callander equalised
an earlier penalty. In the rest of the division Bedford dropped
points in a home 1-1 draw with Grantham while Halesowen earned a
good 2-1 win over Bath City after Steve Pope grabbed their winner
with three minutes to go. Tivvy won 2-0 at Team Bath, while Chippenham
won a tough game 3-1 over Mangotsfield to maintain their promotion
hopes and keep them second in the table.
||S. Snartt (Bristol)
|| 16th (-1)
||overcast with showers
| by t-towel
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