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21st March '06
League Premier Division
Miller, Stonehouse, Preece, Holland, Harris (Addis 82), C.Thompson,
Webb, Bevan, Whittington (Corbett HT), Wilkinson.
Subs not used: Reid,
T-Ender Man of the Match: Mark
Preece; the young Rovers defender was exceptional under heavy
Yate pressure in both halves.
Another display of nerveless
finishing by loan star forward Michael Whittington proved decisive
as this resurgent City side extended their current unbeaten league
run to seven games, notching up a third consecutive win and third
consecutive clean sheet in the process. In truth this was not a
classic performance but again Tim Harris' collection of the old,
the borrowed and the found showed a grit and determination that
may have seemed unlikely just a month ago. Yate fought and niggled
for every ball but for all of their defensive uncertainty they forced
City to work hard for the points and at times made us defend deep
and in numbers, but our concentration held and a combination of
weak finishing and spirited tackling kept the Bristol side at bay.
Points are really all that matter and at the end it was a vocal
T-End that could celebrate and reflect on a four point gap now established
between City and the drop zone. There's more work to be done but
at least we've now given ourselves a real chance over the remaining
seven matches of the season.
This game was always likely to be lively as the Yate
side have nearly half a team of players who used to play in City
colours who always seem to have something to prove on their return
to Meadow Park. Chief amongst them is David Elsey, a strange man
with obvious talent who seems to have sacrificed it all to become
the wobbling travelling pantomime villain of south-west football
and seems to relish the chorus of disapproval that follows his every
move. He's never been popular at Meadow Park from his time with
Ch#*tenham and despite a short spell with City, but a catalogue
of fouls and gamesmanship in games against us over the years has
earned him even more well deserved bile from the T-End. His most
recent contribution came in goading Dave
Wilkinson into a red card during City's 3-1
defeat at Lodge Lane in the away fixture earlier in the season.
It would have been worth winning this game just to beat Elsey, but
of course much more is at stake. City knew that we are running out
of games to earn relegation survival points, and despite a run of
six unbeaten league games going into this match the pressure was
still on. Yate meanwhile have been one of the teams of the SLP season
and have defied the odds to be within reach of the promotion play-offs,
but their league position belies one of the worst away records in
The evening didn't really seem to get
off to a very promising start as fans arrived to find no programmes
and no beer. In fairness the programmes only arrived a little late
and is the kind of hiccup that happens from time to time, but the
inability to generate a hiccup at the bar is a little more embarrassing.
Not being able to serve beer must have got the club a few hundred
valuable pounds and makes the club look a little slap-dash just
at a time when we seem to be stumbling our way forwards again. It
seems the 'no cash for beverages' scandal seems to be due to a cock-up
in the licensing paper work and hopefully the problem will be resolved
soon. It's sad to see the executive committee let down, we need
to try and project a professional image which we didn't tonight.
At least with only coffee, fruit juices and coca-cola to drink our
caffeine and vitamin driven fans got even more of a lift when the
Yate team sheet revealed their top scorer Darren Edwards was only
fit enough to make the bench. There were however all five former
City players in the Yate side: Elsey, Jefferies, Wyatt, Chenoweth
and Cox. The current City side remained unchanged from that which
beat Team Bath over a week ago.
The match saw City make the best of the opening minutes with a
few tentative probes down the left and Whittington almost haring
through on to a long ball from Chris Holland. Elsey got the predictable
but necessary hostile cat-calls from the City fans and responded
to his fan club by hoofing a sliced pass into the cattle shed, and
both Adie Harris and Jody Bevan made him look silly with a couple
of early feints and tricks that he couldn't keep up. For all of
our confident touches and forward pressure Yate could easily have
taken an early lead with two great chances that both fell to former
City favourite Jimmy Cox. With
nearly 100 City goals to his name Cox certainly should know where
the Meadow Park goals are, but his misses may have helped his former
club tonight as much as his scoring contributions have in past seasons.
First Cox was put through on goal by a clever ball between Miller
and Preece but Cox shot wide from 15 yards out. A few minutes later
another ball over the top of the City defence allowed Cox to use
his pace to again get clear on goal. This time he seemed to hesitate
and it was just enough for Matt Bath to come rushing out and snatch
the ball at his feet.
City looked a little fragile for a moment but we
then managed to steady ourselves and seemed to get tighter in midfield
with Tim Harris visible even in the stand waving frantically at
his players. We began to apply pressure ourselves and Whittington
suggested that Yate's slow defence could be beaten as he turned
Lee Jeffries with a bright flick and left him trailing in his wake.
It was a hopeful sign even if his shot from the edge of the box
went wide. He had no such problems a few minutes later though as
he latched on to a ball that cut between the Yate right-back and
the central defenders. Michael
Whittington is not a player you can afford to get half a yard
away from you and he was on to the ball and into the Yate box before
the defenders had turned. The striker was at a fairly tight angle
but he drove his shot low across the Yate keeper and inside the
far post. Whitt wheeled away and saluted the City fans who are now
rapidly beginning to worry just how long we can keep this talented
young lad at Meadow Park before his employers want him back. Certainly
his goals and willingness to go in where it hurts for our cause
have long since led to the City fans forgiving him even the grievous
sin of being a Ch#*tenham Town player. The young forward certainly
looks to have the ability and attitude to make it at League level,
but hopefully he can help us out of trouble first.
Yate's record on the road must have led them to question
how easily they can come back once behind away from home and City
certainly seemed the more likely to add to the scoreline in the
next few minutes. Jon Miller seemed to have a strong run blocked
off and a few minutes later the same player saw a deep free kick
tipped over the bar by the Yate keeper after his drive seemed to
flick off a head on its way goalward. City came even closer to going
further ahead when Adie Harris played a clever reverse path inside
the box to Jody Bevan who turned
well to put him within sight of goal. The former City youth player
is still waiting for his first goal from open play since returning
to Meadow Park, and he won't get much closer than this without finding
the net. He tried to place his shot underneath the Yate keeper as
he came off his line, but the ball just flicked the inside of the
keeper's leg and that took enough of the pace from it to allow a
defender to get back and crash it behind for a corner. The keeper
had known so little about it he could have been a Labour party treasurer.
Further City pressure came from a Stonehouse run down the left and
after Bevan did well to keep the ball alive in the box Wilkinson
almost reached the loose ball in the goalmouth and might have been
tripped by the defender as he closed in. Minutes later Miller forced
Tony Court to rush out of the Yate goal again as he almost reached
a long ball that seemed to entirely catch the Yate defence cold.
After surviving that City barrage Yate came back into
the match but the City players showed every willingness to match
their energy. Miller went into the book for a clumsy challenge on
Yate winger Jason Wood who looked their most effective attacking
player all evening. Yate kept trying to run with the ball but several
City players made notable tackles, Webb making one great challenge
that allowed Wilkinson to break through and set Whittington on his
way, Chris Thompson eventually producing a cross that Bevan almost
reached in the area. Mark Preece impressed again in defence, making
a couple of vital challenges in quick succession and with one of
them deep in our own penalty area his timing needed to be as immaculate
as it was. Wood was still getting far too much of the ball and several
times turned past Miller, Webb and Harris on dangerous runs, but
one run ended with a great block from Chris
Thompson. Yate also had a spell of pressure with a string of
corners, but twice Matt Bath acquitted himself well at the near
post to punch the inswinging crosses away.
|City attack a Miller long
throw in front of the T-End. And out of the dark came light.
City consolidated their lead just as the half was coming to an
end and it was Mike Whittington
who again provided the vital touch of class. City put together a
great move in midfield with Webb finally flicking a ball inside
to Adie Harris who was able to thread the ball forward between two
defenders and in to meet the clever angled run of Whittington. The
through ball was sublime and left the centre-backs trailing but
Whitt still had to beat one defender, and imagine our joy as we
realised the last man was none other than David Elsey. Given sight
of goal the forward seems to find an extra yard of pace and he simply
left the Yate man looking as if he was some how running backward.
David Elsey, more Elsey Tanner - and she'd have got closer to her
man (bad line copyright of T.Lezard esq.). With Elsey stranded Whitt
closed in on goal and even having ran wide you simply feel he's
going to score and he confidently slid the ball under the keeper
as he rushed out. The ball hit the net to initiate pandemonium on
the T-End, but Yate keeper Tony Court also smacked into the City
forward. It was certainly late but seemed an accidental collision,
although some fans who'd not been distracted by the ball hitting
the net were convinced the keeper had deliberately exacted revenge
on the forward who'd twice made him look rather redundant. The forward
was forced to hobble off having taken the congratulations of his
team mates whilst lying prone in the six-yard box, but whilst his
match was over prematurely he'd already done his job. We've had
other good loan signings at Meadow Park and even have other borrowed
players making vital contributions in this side but you have to
go back to Bristol Rovers' Marcus Browning or Aston Villa keeper
Michael Oakes to find a loan signing whose made a similar impact
in City colours as Whittington.
With Whittington in the stand holding an ice pack
to his swollen knee Luke Corbett came off the bench to stake his
claim for a return to the starting line-up. He was straight into
the action as his sharp turn saw him clattered by Yate's Lee Vickerman
who was booked for the foul which also caused the first of several
mini-scuffles that littered the second half. The match was struggling
to find any real rhythm for a spell, but with a two goal lead to
defend that didn't really trouble City. Yate were finding it hard
to find any space but whilst City were defending well we were starting
to find it hard to keep the ball ourselves. Gradually Yate began
to pressurise our goal and Holland was needed to block a Jason Wood
shot before Matt Bath made a
fine flying save to tip over a Metheringham header.
The match was now set and City were by and large being
forced to defend but we were also able to exploit a few more gaps
in the Yate defence as they pushed further up the field in search
of a way back into the game. A quick Adie
Harris pass got Corbett free down the City left but he drifted
wide and whilst he put in a good cross there were no other forwards
in the City box. The City fans could see that the remainder of the
match was going to be tough and really got behind the side with
the T-End in full voice, and it was good to hear both some sustained
noise and a bit more variety on the terrace, more like old times.
Perhaps that noise did help a little as both Webb and Preece put
in fine crunching tackles to keep Yate at bay. It looked momentarily
as if the goal had been breached when Metheringham hooked the ball
into the net at close range, but he was flagged for offside. The
decision was only just as Preece had been flattened off the ball
a few moments earlier, one of several examples of Yate strong arm
tactics that the ref missed through the game.
Jimmy Cox had largely faded from the match but he
popped up in the box and could have caused problems only to produce
a tame shot from close range that Holland easily cut out. For all
of our lack of possession we were still creating chances as good
as those as Yate were managing, and Bevan put a good chance into
the side netting after Corbett had done well to beat the full-back
and cut his pass back to his strike partner. Bevan hasn't found
his best form up front yet but does put himself about and as the
match wore on he dropped back deeper where he made several important
defensive headers as we packed our defence with yellow and black
shirts. Perhaps Yate came closest to getting a goal back when Wilkinson
ran back to head a dangerous free kick out from under our cross
bar, the resulting corner also going close as Holland's clearance
was blocked and looped just over the bar onto the roof of the net.
With City nerves now approaching hysteria
two of the biggest cheers of the night came late on, the first as
Mark Preece's thumping challenge
cut out a Jimmy Cox run down the City right touchline, and the second
as Elsey lined up a dangerous free kick 25 yards out. For all of
his unpleasant character traits Elsey has a classy left foot, but
whilst his curling effort beat the City wall it looped gently and
miserably into Matt Bath's waiting arms. It was all but over although
late sub Darryl Addis almost helped Corbett put a gloss on the scoreline
as the striker nearly reached a through ball ahead of the Yate keeper.
The final whistle was met with jubilation by the City fans and this
was a good night at Meadow Park, the atmosphere crackled and the
players showed great spirit in holding out for an important victory.
* City's result was made even better on the night
as other results this evening also went our way. One time run away
league leaders Salisbury City got their title challenge back on
track by beating our next opponents Aylesbury United 3-1 in Buckinghamshire.
Cirencester's recovery also came to a shuddering halt tonight with
a 3-1 home defeat to Banbury United who were two up by the break.
That defeat means City have closed the gap on Cirencester in 15th
place to just three points, with both Team Bath and Cheshunt a point
closer to the Tigers. Although City's league position remains an
unchanged 18th the gap between us and that critical last bottom
four berth currently held by Northwood is a slightly healthier four
points. Another result in that match against Aylesbury on Saturday
could allow our nerves to settle just a little....
|| 18th (=)
||overcast and freezing
| by t-towel
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