Stourport v City

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Saturday 23rd March 2002
Walshes Meadow

  Stourport Swifts v CITY  

Dr Martens League Western Division

City's Team

City must have quietly fancied their chances of picking up three points at Stourport today after the league newcomers had put in an undistinguished performance at Meadow Park only a fortnight ago.

The Swifts only entered the DML last season and their ground must be one of the least developed in the division, one lonely stand decorating an otherwise desolate pitch. The locals were friendly though, and the low ceiling timbers in the bar added to the homely atmosphere. With no turnstiles and the crowd counted by tally marks it was perhaps a frightening glimpse of the Hellenic fate we feared last Autumn as our season threatened to unravel in front of us.

City made a couple of enforced changes with Craig Hampson missing through flu and City's youth brigade given a rest after two matches in midweek. Mike Cook came into the defence, freeing Chris Burns to again go back to a midfield role. However the opening minutes gave little chance for their older legs to get going gently. Both sides tried their best to rip into each other with a couple of speedy forays. Prince carried the City threat while Swifts sent in a couple of speculative efforts from distance that troubled no-one.

City had spent a frantic few days making sure Matt Bath was registered for this game, but the Gloucester keeper must have wished no-one had bothered in the seventh minute. Stourport won a corner which Richard Gardner sent curling high towards the near post. Bath came to meet it but seemed to fumble his high catch, knocking the ball onto the post and into the net for a bizarre early goal.

City pushed forward and enjoyed some concerted pressure with Prince flicking past a couple of defenders only to see the attack peter out. However moments later City got the quick equaliser they were searching for. Jenkins and Burns combined down the right, Hoskins flicked on the cross and Stourport were left floundering as Luke Prince tucked his shot into the corner of the net.

As the half wore on Stourport began to enjoy more of the play and the better of the chances. Will Steadman found himself the wrong side of the Swifts winger on a number of occasions, once needing to be rescued by a crunching McCluskey challenge. For all their possession Swifts had little in the way of shooting opportunities. One effort found the net but was ruled off side when the home team took one touch more than they needed. Bath was called into action only once, but he did well to dive and tip a screaming 25 yard shot around the post. 

Stourport's human beanpole gets the better of Andy Hoskins 

City were not quite clicking into a forward gear but were still creating good chances against a Stourport defence that looked decidedly fragile. Prince was sparkling and looked more like his old self after a few games out of sorts. At one point three defenders tracked his run, only to see him go past them with ease. Hoskins was full of running as always and on several occasions pushed past the strangely distended lanky Dave Davies. One of these charges saw him set up another great opportunity for Prince ten yards out. This time his shot lacked any power and allowed Clarke the chance to make a good save to keep the sides level at half time.

Last Saturday City capitulated in the second half at Solihull and for some reason the same happened today, although Stourport were by no means the same caliber of opposition. City began to misfire alarmingly with passes going astray in both defence and attack. City survived a couple of scares, most notably when Mike Cook was robbed of possession and could not get back in time to get a good view of Matt Bath's save at the attackers feet.

Ironically it was when City looked to have stabilised and began to push up that Stourport made the crucial breakthrough. Chris Burns had been disappointingly anonymous for most of the match but showed his ability with a swift turn on the edge of the box that suddenly opened the goal up in front of him. His shot beat the keeper but dropped onto the bar, the rebound falling to Hoskins who could not readjust to get any direction on his header that looped over. City sensed their chance and pushed forward again, this time Jenkins fed Wilkinson who was indecisive and lost the ball.

The home side counter attacked with appropriate swiftness and stormed towards the City goal only to see play broken up by Jenkins. However Burns immediately squandered possession straight back to Stourport who ended their move with a deep cross from Giddings nodded home at the far post by Andy Wright (57).

City rallied and almost got their second immediate equaliser of the day with Jenkins working himself some room and his slide rule pass sent in Andy Hoskins. However Clarke was alert in the home goal and narrowed the angle, getting a crucial touch to send Hosky's shot wide of the post.

How high can you go? The ball joins the City heads up in the clouds.

After that brief burst of resistance it was Stourport who looked most likely to add to the scoring. Bath made two further good saves, while Mike Cook resorted to rugby tackles to keep out the opposition. Bath showed his courage and needed lengthy treatment after coming off the worst in a last ditch 50-50 challenge with a Swifts forward. City seemed to tire and as the match went on our tackles became gradually later and less convincing. City tried to stir things up as they threw on all three subs, but although Webb sparkled for a few minutes none of the arrivals made any significant impact. The only real attempt to salvage the game had to wait for the last few minutes when Prince again created some space down the left. His cross was only half cleared and fell to Jenkins on the edge of the box, but he got under the ball and his shot ballooned over the bar.

Swifts talkative keeper Rob Clarke punches a City 
corner away from McCluskey and Smith. 

City had the sad look of a side drifting towards the close season, a malaise that the volume of Burns' post-match debrief suggests will not be accepted. At least City have a couple of games that they should find more inspiring as we face Cirencester and Chippenham over the Easter weekend. However no amount of fire in the belly will overcome City's lack of ideas or cutting edge up front, or that Burns himself seems better suited to the defence despite his wish to play in midfield. Whatever the teams problems though, the finishing power demonstrated by Taff and Co in the alternative match played behind the Stourport goal today didn't suggest the answers are to be found amongst the away support.

(HT: 1-1)
Steadman City


Prince (8)


McCluskey Bookings
Burns Cook


Wilkinson 12th
(for 3; 74)
(for 11; 63)
(for 7; 82)

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