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Saturday 24th March 2001: Hillsfield
Rocester vs. CITY
Dr Martens League Western Division
one comfort for the handful of City fans who made this trip to deepest
Staffordshire was the friendliness of Rocester's few fans and the
charm of the rural setting. That apart this was another bleak
afternoon of calamitous defending with little to cheer except Gary
Marshall's good luck.
The occasion didn't
start promisingly as City's minibus arrived at ten to three following
a traffic jam on the M6. City piled out and went almost straight into
the game, kicking off only about ten minutes late. Despite the lack of
preparation it was City who looked more alert and they took advantage
City pushed down the
right and won a throw in which Griff hurled toward the penalty area. Callinan,
playing up front, got his head to the ball and his flick wrong footed
the defence who allowed the ball to trickle to the far post. Marshall
duly tapped into the empty goal from close range. Easy.
It looked like it was
going to stay easy too, at least for the first twenty minutes as city
had every chance to create a commanding lead. First Marshall won a
free kick and Rocester again failed to clear, and Griff almost scored
from a narrow angle, only for the shot to crash off the post and
almost decapitate me in the process. By this point the cold wind was
biting, and given what was to come I almost wish it had. There was
more attacking City play to enjoy though, as Callinan spurned a free
header from a corner and Abbo saw a long shot clear the angle. The
best chance though fell to Jimmy Cox who did well to retrieve a ball
near the by-line, beat a defender and head in towards the goal. With
only the keeper to beat though he was defeated by the narrow angle and
pulled his shot into the side netting.
As always though you
didn't feel you could entirely relax, and with City seeming to ease
off the pedal we were having to defend more and more. Parnell and
Dicks both made fine tackles, and Ally made two good saves tipping
over the bar as the home side found their range. Sure enough City gave
away the lead on 35 minutes when a free kick led to a deep cross that
was nodded back across goal for the forward to tap in. Bish, bash,
bosh - as simple as that.
The match seemed to be nicely petering
out into a midfield stalemate, with the whole of our central four
working hard and none more so than the improving Mark Abbott. However
all that came undone in the last half hour of the match when both
defences and the ref seemed to lose it.
First Steadman blew a promisingly steady performance with another
characteristic lapse of concentration. The Rocester attack seemed to
have been broken up when Steadman got his feet to a low cross. Having
steadied himself Will then slid the ball straight to Ejiofor, and the
forward bore straight in on goal and scored.
corner heads past the clutching clown in goal
At least Will didn't
have too long to feel sorry for himself as Marshall completed what
must have been one of the oddest hatricks ever to restore the City
lead. First his in swinging corner evaded everyone and crept straight
in at the far post. The keeper looked a real soft touch, it wasn't a
fast ball and was at a nice height.
Within a minute the
Rocester keeper's day got even worse. Having committed the cardinal
sin of biting back at the opposition fans he then compounded his
problems by having an awful match. Even the ref couldn't resist taking
the mick out of him, awarding a dubious penalty and booking him too.
Cox had raced through onto a Marshall ball, but seemed to just tread
on the ball and fall. In fairness to the ref the keeper was within a
few miles of the incident, but even Cox looked a little surprised when
the spot kick was awarded. Marshall won the fight to take the kick,
and planted it past their sorry looking keeper to double his tally for
the season in one game.
penalty heads goalward
Guess what happens
next? That's right, we chuck away the lead through poor defending.
First the Rocester left-back ghosted past Griff, Tucks, Abbott and
Parnell before getting into the area and putting his drive beyond
Hines. Fair play, it was a good goal - but it might have been better
had he met some opposition on the way. Then, to make the capitulation
complete we completed the self-destruction job by failing to deal with
yet another high cross. The defence watched as the ball sailed over,
and Hines flapped at the near post, leaving Ejiofor to complete the
simplest hatrick he'll ever get by nodding into the unguarded
bosh - City concede a fourth
It's all very well to
thank Rocester for their hospitality, but do we have to always do it
on the pitch?
Yet again we dropped points against a side that didn't look anything
special. If we could tighten up just a little and work on defending as
a unit I'm sure we'd quickly pick up far more points. Even with the
loss of yet more key players we rarely look out of touch against sides
in this division. It's frustrating that with the games now coming
thick and fast before the season ends Tommy and Brian will have little
chance to spend giving the coaching that is desperately needed to
improve some of our young defenders.
Hinckley next, God help us.
(for 11; 88)
(for 10; 83)