A glorious first half spell of decisive attacking football eventually
proved decisive for City as they returned to winning ways in a
seven goal thriller at a muddy, soaked Mangotsfield. A brace from
Jason Welsh and strikes from
Jamie Reid and Alex Sykes had put City into a commanding 4-1 lead
at Cossham Street, but the Maggots looked set to overturn their
own faltering home form as sub Aaron Cornwall came on to score
two rather soft goals and leave City nerves jangling in a tense
and heated conclusion. City will be delighted with the points
in a match that was a test of character and resolve, but whilst
this match showed huge improvements some of those old defensive
concerns have yet to be dismissed.
This looked like another game that may not get much beyond kick-off
and even in the opening few stages there were players slipping
all over the place on a very heavy pitch. City suffered an early
casualty as Michael Noakes
was left prone in the mud, he seemed to turn as he fell clearing
the ball under a challenge from Ryan Parker and it didn't look
good as he left the field on a stretcher. The departure hastened
the debut of Scott Griffin, recently signed for City having left
Cirencester and into the action far quicker than he could have
Perhaps it was that long stoppage or the conditions but the game
seemed to take a long time to really get going, although City
looked the more dangerous side with some slick passing movement
that just always broke down around the opposition box. Griffin
showed some neat touches and it was from his lay off that Mustoe
drove a shot just wide. Griffin himself went close as he found
the side netting from a narrow angle, while Reid ended in a superb
cross field move as he volleyed just over from Sykes' inch perfect
City were pressing all the time with Reid and Hodnett combining
to great effect down the right. Griffin had a wonderful chance
to mark his debut with a goal when a defensive slip found him
clear on goal, but his low shot lacked precision and was well
saved. You had the feeling City had to start converting this pressure
into goals soon, and finally after half an hour that started to
happen. It was another good City move with Webb's jinking run
finding Sykes on the wing, and his cross carved apart the Mangotsfield
defence and was tucked in at close range by Jason
Welsh sliding in at the near post.
Our lead didn't last long though as the home side revived and
pulled level. City had to defend a free kick and were perhaps
rusty having seen little action since the opening few minutes.
Hamblin seemed to have dozed off and lost his man, leaving Dave
Morrisey free to run at the far post and head home the cross.
City deserved to be ahead and in fairness got themselves right
back into the saddle with a blistering attack that got exactly
the finish it merited. Webb worked the bal down the right wing
and picked up Danny Hodnett's
bursting overlapping run. His cross was inch perfect and was met
at full pelt by a diagonal run across the box from Welsh who met
it with a finely judged volley that left Steve Book standing.
It took Welsh into double figures for the season but was also
the best goal of his time with the club.
There was more to come from City as they completed our best attacking
45 minute attacking display since the Merthyr Boxing Day game.
Reid went close as he nearly reached a Stonehouse cross at the
near post, the attack set up as Mustoe crashed through two Maggots
challenges in midfield. However the third goal came soon after
as Jamie Reid smashed in another
wonderful Sykes cross to cap a great first half.
It looked as if things could get even better for us early in
the second half as City seemed set to carry on and turn this into
a rout. You know things are going your way when Alex
Sykes starts using his right foot. Another slick passing move
saw Reid make space on the right and feed the ball inside to Webb
who split the defence with a well crafted pass to Sykes. It looked
as if the chance had gone as the winger struggled to dig it out
of the mud, but with the defenders descending on him Syko prodded
the ball half a yard wide and produced a delicate curling shot
that dropped out of the reach of the keeper. And wasn't he pleased
with it - and didn't he want to make sure everyone knew that it
was done with his 'useless' right foot.
At that point it looked more a question of how many, and little
did we know how much we'd need that fourth. However seasoned City
fans should have known better than to take anything for granted
from our side, and especially this fixture. Slowly the Maggots
began to fight their way back into the game, in no small part
due to the introduction of young live wire Aaron Cornwall. His
runs were causing problems on the muddy surface and when Mustoe
was booked for tripping him he was about the fourth City player
to do so in as many minutes. This time though Cornwall got up
and thumped a free kick goalward, it looked as if Ray
Johnston had it covered but somehow the ball sailed through
his arms and into the net.
Griffin had a couple of chances to make the game safe, almost
reaching a brave charging Welsh run and cross, but now our chances
were few and far between with the front pair having to work hard
to win the long balls being booted their way by an increasingly
under pressure City defence. By and large we were holding out
OK with Hamblin making a couple of important blocks, but all of
a sudden Cornwall got away and this time a frightened set of City
defenders stood off the youngster. It was a fatal error and he
finished with a low drive into the bottom corner.
The nerves were jangling now, but in fairness we held out well.
Paul Stonehouse did a fine job of unfussily clearing his lines
on the left while Webb and Mustoe were industrious in midfield.
Mangotsfield had far more of the ball but were struggling to get
through what were now massed ranks of very muddy looking City
players. We looked like we were closing the game down well, but
in the closing minutes things were looking frayed as Neil
Mustoe was obviously struggling with an injury and the ref
seemed intent on playing endless injury time.
The home team were getting frustrated and things came to a head
when Cornwall took a spectacular tumble over Tom
Hamblin on the edge of the City box and promptly got booked
for diving. It was impossible to see what had happened amidst
all the mud, but the player's continued angry protests saw him
red carded as the ref blew his final whistle. Cornwall was dragged
away from the ref by his team mates, but the celebrations were
all for the City fans and players at a hard won and memorable