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19th February '05
League Premier Division
L.Smith, M.Thompson, Griffiths, Tomkins, C.Thompson, Mustoe, Cox,
Addis (Harris 82), Webb, Wilkinson.
Subs not used: Knight,
(persistent fouls), Tomkins (foul)
T-Ender Man of the Match: Marvin
Thompson; his returning confidence showed with better tackling and
well judged passes down the wing.
City used every ounce of
their new found resilience to manage to hold off a strong Bath side
that despite all their possession and control in midfield lacked
any rapier thrust in their attack. By the end of the match Bath
had huffed and puffed for most of the 90 minutes but it was the
City side in yellow and black that created the clear chances and
came away with the points. Chris Burns got the reaction he wanted
from striker Jimmy Cox as he was restored to the starting line-up
and grabbed a crucial brace of goals against his former side, taking
the opportunity to rile his former team mates and delight the T-End
in the process. The win edged Gloucester a little further from the
relegation places and saw us record two consecutive home wins for
the first time since August.
By some quirk of fate the fixture computers had managed
to send Bath's football club to Gloucester on the same day as Bath's
rugby club traveled to Kingsholm. There were sections of the match
when you could have been forgiven for wondering if you'd gone to
the wrong ground as both defences kicked for touch and hoisted hopeful
up and unders with alarming regularity. This was no rugby match
though, there were glimpses of skill in places and whole passages
of play where you could see the ball. Bath made several changes
to their side as player-boss Gary Owers tried to freshen up his
squad, partnering Martin Paul with former Swansea striker John Williams,
the famed 'flying postman' winner when TV tried to put together
a sprinting competition for pro footballers a few years ago. Burnsie
of course has fewer options in his amazing ever reducing squad,
but Cox returned to the starting line-up with Lee Smith back on
the right wing.
|Top: Thommo glides past the
Bottom: Matt Coupe now keeps his bulging wallet taped to his
The match started
brightly with the wonderful Bath fans making themselves popular
with their taunts of 'Ch#*tenhamshire', especially rich from a bunch
of people living in the posh part of Bristol who can't decide if
their Avon or Somerset. You'd have thought that given the past history
of the two clubs they could've bought the odd golden goal ticket,
miserable tight-arsed lot they were. At least what has always been
a rather limp and polite local derby is now starting to get a little
bit of an edge to it. Before long we might even glance at their
results and stop confusing them with their student tenants.
Back on the pitch the match had started, the ref obviously
anxious to watch the Everton - Man. Utd. cup tie as he kicked off
whilst most of the players were still in their pre-match huddle.
From the start Bath looked a strong and well organised side and
noticeably held their shape much better than us. Within a few moments
we'd seen several moves slip past our midfield and then survived
an early scare when a short corner caught Lee Smith out and left
Bath captain Jim Rollo to fire in a low drive that needed a good
stop from Matt Bath. We were also hampered by playing into a strong
breeze which rather thwarted our preferred defensive tactic of kicking
the ball away as hard and far as possible.
Whilst we were looking more comfortable at the back
with both Lyndon and Griff making strong early blocks it was a different
tale for Bath. For all their clever touches and attacking spark
you could suddenly feel the surge of confidence in the City ranks
when we managed our first run at their defence. Hey, hold on, this
lot can't defend. At times the visitors gave a fair impression of
some of our own woeful defending of a few weeks ago. A fairly straight
forward ball over the top from Wilko saw some defensive consternation
and a soft header into the path of Cox who went on to win a corner
from nothing. A few minutes later and Coupe conceded a needless
free kick by tripping Webb and from the cross they failed to deal
with Tomkins at the far post and his strong header should have hit
The game was good entertainment in its early stages
as both sides were unable to gain any control of the ball and with
City coming back into the game it was end to end stuff. We escaped
a real scare when Matt Bath uncharacteristically lost track of a
deep cross towards the far post, and having made a late decision
to try and punch he failed to get there at all. With our keeper
stranded like a huntsman on every future Saturday we held our breath
as the striker headed goalward, but Mustoe was back on the line
and headed clear.
That rallied us a little and we went for the kill,
recognising the Romans' back line as being terrified and trapped
when pinned back by our attacks. A simple up and under from Mustoe
saw Addis win a ball he had no right to get near and manage to bully
Bailey into hacking clear for a corner. That was only partially
cleared and a sharp pass by Lee Smith cut straight through the defence
as they tried to push out and Addis slipped through to send over
a low cross to the near post that Coupe did well to cut out.
The visiting defence was not finding life easy though
and the opening goal soon arrived. Webb did well to attack down
the left and when he checked back Mustoe created space for Addis
to clip over a simple cross. Lyndon Tomkins was still forward from
a previous corner and his presence caused panic at the far post.
The ball dropped to Wilko and while the keeper did well to half
smother his effort the ball was prodded across the face of the goal
where Cox was on hand to roll the ball into the empty goal. Suddenly,
there was considerably less noise from the visiting fans - which
helped you hear Matt Coupe whinging about offside and being pushed.
Bless him and his mercenary ways.
That goal seemed to flatten the game for a while, and in retrospect
this was the time to go for your food or your pint as little happened
for the next 15 minutes or so. It was almost as if we were to wary
to get forward again and were waiting to see how Bath responded.
In fairness, that kind of concentration and caution is exactly what
we've missed in some games where we've allowed teams to get a goal
straight back once we've scored. The visitors looked equally unsure
of how to get back into the game, I think they were suddenly painfully
aware of their own vulnerability and reluctant to commit too many
people forward. The closest the game came to excitement was a gentle
back header to the keeper from Tomkins which the desperate Bath
fans greeted as if it was a shot on goal.
When the game did slowly begin to spark to life again
it was not at the right end for us and the end of the first half
saw us riding our luck at the back as Bath established a strong
grip on midfield. We again got caught out by a short corner and
Wilkinson headed just clear of his own post under pressure, a mix-up
which made Mustoe go a very funny colour indeed. The ball was eventually
half cleared but we got our defensive line confused and Wilko left
a vast gap behind him which was almost exploited and Matt had to
make another good stop. In the next few minutes the Romans had more
efforts, but they were largely from distance and failed to trouble
Matt's goal to any great degree. They seemed to struggle to find
a way past Griff and Lyndon, and while they often moved the ball
wide didn't seem to be able to beat either Marvin or Smith on the
flanks. The pace of Williams was ably marshaled by Thommo sitting
deep to pick up any attempt to get behind his defensive colleagues.
We survived another scare when at last the visitors got over a good
cross met with force by Martin Paul, but fortunately he planted
his header straight into the grateful arms of Matt Bath.
We managed to create a few moments of our own, and
despite not having so much of the ball we created as much in front
of goal as Bath. Cox demonstrated his gradually returning form with
a promising run straight through the middle that needed four defenders
to bring to a halt. A few minutes before the break we could have
gone further ahead when Webb and Cox made progress down the left,
with Cox turning on the by-line to put Matt Coupe on his backside
and create space for Addis who was unlucky not to hit the net. However
the home fans would have happily taken the half-time lead after
another near miss from Bath as a deep curling high ball caused panic
and was only half headed away by Griff at full stretch. When the
shot came in Marvin Thompson was on the line to smack it clear.
|Top: "Ref - they've
just put the ball in our net!" Despite the appeals Cox
takes the plaudits for rolling the ball in from a foot out.
Bottom Left: Cox causes more problems for bad boy Bailey.
Bottom Right: Marvin loses out in the air but the header was
gathered safely by Matt Bath.
The second half saw Bath introduce their speedy striker
Scott Partridge from the bench and it was clear the visitors meant
business. City fans would have been nervous, had the vast majority
not been watching poor Terry trying manfully to deal with a vast
throng of hungry fans trying to get burgers from his one-man catering
service. As the grumbling Bath fans stomped off you could only hope
they enjoyed the second half as much as their food, and so it was
to prove. Despite the new striking threat Bath struggled to get
their pacey forward away in the first phases of the second half.
Instead, it was the far less pacey Daryl Addis who seemed to have
got clear, only to fall victim to a late and dubious offside flag.
We came close to extending the lead with a fantastic move stemming
from an award winning midfield tackle by Mustoe robbed Owers of
possession in the centre circle. The ball was fed wide to Smith
who found Addis further down the right wing and the tricky forward
produced one of his turns to get free of the defence. His cross
was perhaps a little over hit for those in the middle of the goal
but Webb picked it up from deep and managed to send in a low ball
that was scrambled clear under pressure from Cox.
The game was now finely balanced with Bath exerting
most of the pressure but still looking very vulnerable to being
attacked on the break. Things were getting increasingly difficult
for us at the back, but we now seem more resilient and physically
robust. Eventually Griff went into the book for one niggling tackle
too many, but whilst it may not be pretty to watch it is exactly
what we need to add to our game to turn those draws into victories.
The free kick was in a dangerous position and former Sunderland
midfielder Gary Owers showed every bit of his craft and experience
to drive the ball straight down Wilko's throat. The wall stood firm
and brave as the follow up effort flew past the post and we lived
to fight again.
A string of good defensive tackles and headers suggested
that we may just survive this latest spell of pressure and with
the previously rather flat T-End finding it's voice we found a forward
gear and produced our best spell of the match. Addis picked up another
clever Mustoe through ball and then in turn released Cox who surged
past Coupe before being closed down by Steve Jones and pushed wide.
Cox is looking a lot more interested than at the start of the season,
but having missed so much pre-season work he is still probably a
few more months away from getting back to the electric best that
would previously have seen that chance carry him to a one on one
with the keeper. Roles were reversed a few minutes later as Bath's
defence was again sliced apart with a clever ball from Smith, flicked
on through by Cox. Addis was away and despite his comparative lack
of pace he is a strong player and once half a yard clear Bailey
could not get back goalside of him without bringing him down. Addis
closed in but his angles were well closed down by Bath's Paul Evans
and his effort was blocked.
The game was opening up again and suddenly Bath managed
to finally get Scott Partridge clear. The striker's reputation has
reached even the distant backwaters of Meadow Park and with his
shiny pate glinting in the sunshine it seemed the equaliser was
on its way. However, we reckoned without the pace of Marvin Thompson
and the left-back was across him and then made a fantastic tackle
to save the day. The confident and composed player who started the
season seems to be back, and it's like having a new signing in the
squad. If that was defending at its best then moments later we extended
our lead courtesy of some sloppy defending. A fairly aimless ball
from Wilko was picked up by Bath's Sam Bailey who turned and played
a weak back-pass without checking around him. Cox nipped on to it
and clipped a swift shot low past the stranded keeper. Queue general
celebrations and fits of giggles on the T-End as we looked to have
pulled off a great smash and grab against the highly rated Bath
|Thommo and Griff shepherd
another Bath attack sideways.
Matt Bath had taken stick from the
visiting fans in the first half for his failure to punch that high
cross, hopefully they appreciated the T-End chanting "dodgy
keeper" as our man threw himself full length to claw a drive
from Alex Sykes round the post. It was a great save but while the
defence is looking so much more robust there was a question of how
long this kind of defending could hold out. We needed a third goal
to be comfortable ,and it looked to have arrived in a sweeping City
attack. Marvin's distribution improved as his confidence came back
and he clipped a wonderful ball down the line that sent Jimmy Cox
away down the left. He smartly turned and put Coupe on his backside
for a second time (mind your wallet you money grabbing waste of
space) before shimmying into the area. His cross was met at the
far post by Smith whose firm downward header across the face of
the goal was perfect for Addis. The forward twisted to volley into
the net and from a foot out most of the fans were in the air, but
somehow former South African goalkeeper Paul Evans got back across
his line to make a save that was nothing short of miraculous.
On such things can a match turn and we all feared
the worst, such has been our lack of luck this season. Sure enough,
moments later Bath had pulled themselves back into the match and
got the goal that their pressure probably merited. After all our
good defending suddenly we had one of those horrible lapses of concentration
and when Sykes was blocked off by Griff the ball ran clear to a
big gap in the centre of the area and Jimmy Benefield drilled in
a low shot. In previous weeks you could probably turn for the exit
quite sure in the knowledge that we would go on to let in another
and end up with yet another draw. This left us with our hearts firmly
in our mouths and glancing nervously at our watches. The worst thing
is we know the players are as worried about this now as we are,
and would they have the strength to hold on.
We finally dug deep though, and managed
to keep ourselves going forward with enough confidence to relieve
some pressure from what was now a defence now unashamed to throw
anything and everything to keep Bath out. Some of the defending
was neither pretty or text book, but it was effective. Marvin produced
another imperious sweeping pass down the wing and again Cox was
on to it, tricking his way past the hapless Coupe and dashing into
the area before losing his way and settling for a corner. This helped
the clock tick down but there was still a lot of defending to do.
both Webb and Mustoe were now back almost full time helping out,
and on several occasions we had good reason to be grateful for Mustoe
scampering back to tidy up loose balls running around the area.
We survived a scare when Matt Bath mis-kicked and was rescued by
a smart Chris Thompson tackle. He then returned the ball to the
keeper who promptly did it again, but this time Griff and Mustoe
were on hand to force the ball forward and clear our lines.
The last few minutes were nerve wracking stuff, but
Adie Harris was thrown on to add some fresh legs up front and a
few of his scampering runs gave Bath a few news problems to worry
about. One run almost ended in a break away goal as Adie sent in
a low ball that missed Lee Smith at the far post by a hair's breadth.
The defending in front of our goal was largely of the 'man given
a live hand grenade' variety, but it was doing the job. Then Lyndon's
immaculate impression of an immovable object finally got on the
ref's nerves as he booked him and gave a free kick for an apparent
shove on their striker. Owers lined up his free kick, but again
the effort was well dealt with and ended up comfortably in the hands
of Matt Bath.
Finally the relief of the final whistle and a much
needed back-to-back win that gives us a little breathing space as
we edge away from the bottom of the table. The players know they
are again in the position of being asked to work miracles, with
the money as tight as ever and the club surviving at this level
against all the odds. The celebrations were understandable, but
obviously too much for some of the Bath players and fans who have
not had to tread our path. Suddenly, from no where, Bath's number
5 Sam Bailey charged over and head butted Lee Smith, leaving the
youngster on the floor. It was a mad moment after a match that had
not come close to boiling point, but now both sets of players instantly
laid into each other and the Bath players were left to troop off
the field in disgrace whilst the ref red carded Bailey. An attack
of that nature doesn't belong with the FA but in the courts and
hopefully City will inform the police of the assault. Fortunately
Smith didn't appear to be badly hurt, but the attack took a little
of the gloss off a fantastic victory that follows from the Hednesford
win and suggests a rejuvenation that would have been unbelievable
just a week before. Our position is a lot healthier, but we must
now push on and carry on picking up points to prevent an uncomfortable
few weeks at the end of the season.
* The win lifts us up to 15th spot and eight points
clear of the relegation places, and ahead of Rugby United on goal
difference after they lost 2-1 at fellow strugglers Team Bath. The
students came back after going behind to an early goal. The other
club at the bottom to win was Dunstable whose incredible return
to form continued after coming back from a goal down to grab a 2-1
win over promotion chasing Aylesbury. Stamford and Solihull both
lost 2-1 at home to Chesham and Halesowen respectively, while Hemel
Hempstead were unlucky not to make some ground after taking the
lead at high-flying Histon. However they also lost out 2-1 after
a last minute strike from Ian Cambridge robbed them of a point.
Banbury United are also slipping into the relegation battle as they
lost 2-1 to Merthyr whose win carries them back into the play-off
places. At the top Chippenham maintained their grip three points
clear of Bedford, winning 1-0 at home to City's next opponents King's
|| 15th (+1)
||cold and bright
| by t-towel
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