City v Sutton C'fld

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Saturday 5th January 2002
Meadow Park  

  CITY v Sutton Coldfield  

Dr Martens League Western Division

City's Team

City had high hopes of continuing their recent run of form as Sutton Coldfield visited Meadow Park, but the Brummies escaped with a point in an ill-tempered game. The match was not helped by some poor refereeing and the settling of scores after City had won an equally bitter encounter away in late November.

City started brightly as befitted a team unbeaten for six weeks. The ball was played about smoothly with Jenkins and Prince involved in the best of the passing. However the fly in the afternoon's ointment was quickly identified after the ref booked a Sutton player for a foul on Dave Wilkinson, plus Wilky - seemingly his offence that of hitting his shin against the boot of the other player. The free kick could have seen City take the lead with Hoskins nodding the ball down to Wilkinson who pushed the ball through for Baylo to shoot. By now though the infuriating official had given a free kick against Hoskins, seemingly for a questionable push. 

The match was full of rough stuff but City were playing some good football in the final third. The pitch was soggy with the continuing rain but we were able to play down the flanks with some panache. Marshall forced Sutton's barely adolescent custodian to tip a dipping drive over the bar. Hoskins was then was unfortunate to place his header from the corner straight at the keeper. Hoskins was at the heart of City's best moves and was unlucky not to grab an early spectacular goal. Baylo had left Prince to chase a through ball which saw him clash with the keeper. The ball ran loose and Hosky chipped towards goal from 25 yards only to see Bray somehow get back just in time to flick it out of the goal. the young keeper then recovered again to smother at the feet of Bayliss before he could knock the ball into the empty net. 

Despite the combative tackling and pernickety refereeing City got a deserved lead after half an hour. Prince had been a constant thorn in the side and it was his run from deep onto a Wilkinson pass that earnt the goal Racing clear Luke Prince calmly placed the ball past the onrushing keeper with such aplomb you wondered how it was possible it was his first home goal.   

City could and should have taken a more convincing lead into half-time. Steve Jenkins won possession with a typically fierce challenge and set Hosky away down the right. The forward barreled his way beyond two defenders and squared the ball for Prince to tuck into the net. however the goal was disallowed as the linesman had put his flag up nearly a minute before, the referee managing to miss it for so long that he managed to cause confusion both on and off the pitch.

City didn't have the same drive in the second half. Steadman had limped off just before the break and we were dealt a further blow by the loss of Jenks with a knock. Mike Cook tried his best in midfield, but is simply not fit enough to cover the same amount of ground as Jenks normally does. He picked up an early booking for grabbing at an opponent as they sped past him in the centre circle. Sutton came into the game more and more, with Griff and McCluskey both being forced into lunging challenges to protect the City line.

An incredulous Andy 
Hoskins sees red at 
a rain swept Meadow 

The match turned on a dreadful injustice that saw the hapless Nick Barnes totally conned by Sutton's Steve Farmer. The defender had pursued Hosky towards the corner flag and then scythed him down as the forward threatened to twist away down the touchline. Hosky stood up to face his assailant, at which point Farmer fell to the floor clutching his face like the proverbial sack of dung. The referee trotted over and dutifully handed out the red-card, having obviously not seen the incident and probably wondering why City's players and fans were so outraged by the whole thing. Andy Hoskins trudged off and City never really recovered their composure.

The loss of the player was less of an issue than the arrival of the red-mist over the City players. Our concentration was gone and within minutes a Sutton long ball across the box was met by Dean Baker who had for once escaped the shackles of Darren McCluskey. Although it was due to the ref's mistake the visitors had come back into the match and may have begrudgingly deserved the equaliser.

With the scores all level Sutton decided to even up the players on the pitch as well. The Birmingham team looked to have a collective short fuse, proven by the two red cards they received in the November match. Leon Mitchell had been superbly shepherded throughout the match by Neil Griffiths and with twenty minutes left it all got too much for the forward. He seemed to push his head into Griff's face, leaving the referee little option but to send him off - gesturing at the fans in the stand as he went.

Both sides put on a grandstand finish with either side having chances to snatch it at the death. Sutton blazed two opportunities wide and City keeper Matt Bath did enough to put off Baker in a one-on-one. at the other end Baylo tried to rally some forward momentum into City's tiring legs. Late sub Lee Smith injected some pace into the forward dashes, but in truth we now looked the less likely to create a clear chance.

Although City had the better chances we lost our way a little in midfield after Steve Jenkins was forced off. Burns told The Citizen he had roasted his players for losing possession too cheaply, perhaps a little harsh but this is the sort of encounter a top team would win. Burns is setting his standards high, but then this City side has shown enough to justify his expectations.

(HT: 1-0)
Marshall City




McCluskey Bookings
Hoskins (off)

(for 5; 44)
(for 8; 45)
L. Smith
(for 2; 84)


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