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4th December '04
League Premier Division
(34), Eaton (58)
(22), Fewings (24)
L.Smith, Knight (Cox 65), Griffiths, C.Thompson, Burns, Mustoe,
Webb, Eaton (Davis 82), Addis, Wilkinson.
Subs not used: Tomkins,
T-Ender Man of the Match: Darryl
Addis; good movement and at the heart of our better moments in attack.
This was always going to
be a tough encounter for City against a Bedford side who were the
form side in the division. Having gone two down in the opening quarter
of the game it would have been all too easy for us to cave in, but
this side is starting to find its feet again and we battled toe
to toe with the visiting side to pull level and in the end will
regret not managing to take all the points in a hugely entertaining
action packed match between two sides both trying to play proper
The City team selection was perhaps unsurprising with
Burns keeping faith with the same start that started against Chesham
a fortnight ago, but it was perhaps a little odd to see Lyndon Tomkins
pass a fitness test but only make the sub's bench while the young
hero of that game Michael Noakes will have to wait a little longer
to extend his reputation in the first team. Perhaps the most frightening
selection was that of Addis' bleached blonde hair, beware all. Bedford
meanwhile were able to choose their lethal front pairing of Chris
Dillon and Paul Fewings who have been grabbing the goals to propel
them up the table with five consecutive league victories.
The match began typically tentatively with both sides
treating each other with a little too much respect and the ball
pinging around midfield as the players found their range. However
it wasn't too long before the dangerous former Scottish youth player
Chris Dillon managed to find an alarming amount of space on the
right of the box but his shot was wild and cleared the T-End, but
our defence had been warned. City were enjoying more of the possession
in midfield but while we struggled to convert that into chances
Bedford seemed to find gaps in our defence too easily. Lee Smith
had his manager to thank as he lost possession and the dangerous
looking cross was cut out by a Burns header. Moments later Dillon
once again wriggled free of Burns and slipped past Griff only to
see Matt Bath rush quickly out of goal and save with his legs.
|Mustoe wins one of many midfield
have long been a side able to break out of defence well and the
pressure almost worked to our advantage when Tom Webb cheered the
home fans by charging out of his own area and running deep into
the opposition half with the Bedford defence retreating before him.
He found Addis on the left and he held the ball up well and checked
inside before arrowing a cross towards Eaton who just could not
dig out a shot before being tackled. The resulting corner caused
further problems for the Eagles and their defence only hacked the
ball back to Mustoe who put Addis in again down the left flank.
He produced another superb cross into the box and Wilkinson rushed
goalwards, his flick only just brushing over the bar.
City were exerting some real pressure now and came
close to scoring a few minutes later. Eaton brought down a high
ball and found Webb in support and the youngster showed some of
his best trickery to beat two men and push forward before finding
Knight on the left. He jinked past one and sent over an arcing cross
that found Addis at the far post and he was unlucky to see his effort
bundled away at the far post. However the signs of defensive frailty
were still present in our own back line with Burns fortunate to
escape after a push sent Fewings flying across our own penalty area.
We were just beginning to get on top though, and the early Bedford
forays were happening less frequently with both Griff and Burns
breaking up attacks in their infancy with crunching tackles to win
There is a great football truism that states you must
take your chances when you are on top and City were to regret not
doing that. Bedford midfielder Craig Rydehead went close with a
fierce shot from 25 yards that Bath did well to gather but City
appeared to be doing better in defence having closed down a few
attacks comfortably. However a bit of slack defending proved their
undoing. Former Hereford man Paul Fewings twisted and turned inside
the penalty area but looked to have been headed off by a combination
of Smith and Burns, but the clearance was poor and went straight
to Bedford feet. The instant cross made the most of our defensive
confusion and picked out Ricky Challinor on our left and he seemed
to have plenty of space to crash in an emphatic volley.
City tried to rally themselves and immediately
responded with an attack from the kick-off. Mustoe and Smith forced
themselves down the right wing and Smith was played in outside the
area but his shot lacked any real aggression and was comfortably
gathered up. City were then hit by a real body blow as a straight
forward ball behind our lines suddenly saw our entire defence freeze
and abandon Matt Bath to his fate. Paul Fewings was left with a
clear run on goal with our defence simply evaporating. Matt Bath
did well to come out and make a save but he was left helpless when
the rebound fell to Chris Dillon who was left with the simple task
of putting the ball into the empty net. Having conceded two goals
in as many minutes to a team in such form as Bedford rather suggested
the match was all but over and with us being carved open so easily
you could only see more goals for the visitors.
This City side is not much given to capitulation though
and they showed great spirit to come back. The experience of Mustoe
and Knight proved invaluable as they determinedly put their foot
ton the ball and slowed the game down to rob Bedford of their momentum.
Slowly we regained our balance and began to edge forward with more
conviction. Both sides were trying to play good attacking football
and despite the scoreline this was entertaining stuff of a surprisingly
good standard, we put together a fantastic move of more than a dozen
passes as we shifted from wing to wing looking for the opening.
One almost came as once again Addis was able to show some guile
and slip past the right back to send over another teasing cross
which this time just eluded the head of Wilkinson as he made another
late run into the area.
We got our just reward a little later with City now
in charge of the midfield and beginning to force Bedford into some
hasty defensive clearances that left their strikers short of ammunition.
One clever move saw Webb skip through a challenge and his ball into
the area deserved better than the hesitant stumbling effort managed
by eaton as he was closed down running in on goal. However it was
a sign of things to come as the next city attack was more profitable.
A flowing cross field move as Smith surged down the right before
finding Mustoe, who in turn checked out and stretched the visitors
with an inch perfect pass to the other flank where he found Addis.
The striker's cross was again testing and as Bedford flicked it
away they could only find Knight popping up in a central position
just inside the box. Knight showed every bit of his old class to
swivel and hit a perfect rasping volley into the net. It was his
first in open play this season, and whatever the rights and plentiful
wrongs of the Eaton move it certainly seems to have rejuvenated
|Top: Smith cuts inside and
heads towards the Bedford penalty area.
Bottom: Burns' free kick flies past the wall but past the
City could even have gone
level before the half time break as Bedford tried to lock down the
game. Webb was again halted only by a crude challenge and that gave
City a free kick 25 yards out. The player-boss stepped up to take
it and produced one of our better dead ball efforts, the shot going
round the wall and just a foot wide of the post with the keeper
stranded. Lee Smith went even closer a few minutes later when he
recovered well having been blocked on a run down the touchline he
cleverly cut inside and pushed past one defender before whipping
in a low shot that just slipped the wrong side of the post.
The second half started with a surge of expectation
and optimism from the T-End as City got forward and almost immediately
a smart Addis turn found himself room to send in a low shot that
needed a save from the Bedford keeper. However that proved a bit
of a false dawn. Bedford had found time to regroup and realising
they were leading and under pressure seemed to have decided to get
more men behind the ball and defend in numbers. This led to a frustrating
ten minutes as City found themselves holding on to the ball in their
own half but unable to find any room to operate closer to goal.
The problem seemed typified when Chris Thompson decided to run at
the Bedford defence and went past two with ease until hitting a
brick wall thirty yards out.
The T-End faithful played their part though and sensing
some belief may be ebbing away from the side the vocal support picked
up and the players picked up the message. The simple difference
between a good attacking side and a pedestrian one is the willingness
of forward players to make runs off the ball and in Addis we seem
to have found a genuinely imaginative attacking player. His runs
created space for his team mates and his run helped create a gap
that Lee Smith seemed set to take advantage of as he once again
checked one way and then the other before turning inside and being
spectacularly felled. This time Burns' free kick was closer to goal
but his effort was high into the T-End. City were starting to find
their rhythm now and when we are in our stride we are as good as
anything in this division and the City fans encouraged the side
to attack. Bedford were defending well but they were now looking
stretched and the vital tackles were having to be made closer and
closer to their own goal.
The break through came on the hour mark and it was
a superb team goal. Mustoe picked up the ball deep in midfield and
sprayed another pass out to Smith on the right. He charged past
one man before seeking the help of Webb down the right and he took
the ball on towards the touchline. Brushing the edge of the box
Webb was able to stretch beyond the defender and whip in an evil
ball across the face of the goal. The near post defender stretched
and flicked it beyond the keeper and into the path of the grateful
Jason Eaton who from close range nodded in his first goal since
returning to the club on loan. The equaliser was what the City efforts
deserved and was well created and it seemed the scorer was pleased
to have found the net. I couldn't tell you much about that because
the sight of Eaton back in a City shirt still makes me feel pretty
sickly and despite my delight we were level he is not someone I
would want to associate my support with.
|Burns brings City forward
as Bedford back peddle
With the scores now level some of the
confidence that had propelled Bedford seemed to fall way and the
next quarter of an hour was all City. Within minutes we almost went
ahead after Addis forced a corner and from it the ball fell to Chris
Thompson who flicked the ball towards the far post. It ended up
with Eaton but the keeper and defender were able to push him wide
and although his close range shot hit the outside of the post he
never had room to strike. The next wave of an attack was halted
before the half way line when Webb's legs were cynically swept away
from him as he attempted a break away with three City attackers
ahead and just two worried looking defenders to stop them. The resulting
free kick was wasted with Eaton managing only a tame header simply
collected by the keeper.
City were enjoying so much of the ball we were in
danger of getting reckless at the other end and rode our luck a
little as a cross ball whistled dangerously across the face of our
goal. A sloppy Smith pass almost let in Dillon again and Burns needed
to be alert to win the ball back before we were exposed. City threw
on Jimmy Cox and Addis headed off briefly for an unfamiliar role
on the right with Smith trying to attack on the left. He still does
not look fully fit but Cox still adds an extra dimension with his
pace and he was soon able to break clear and send in a deep cross
which eluded both Eaton and Webb. Webb did well to recover the ball
and again it whipped across goal and Cox was eventually able to
force a corner with Bedford's defence creaking and The T-End in
The corner saw City almost grab the winner as Burns
climbed highest and for virtually the first time City beat the Eagles'
defence in the air. In the resulting chaos Wilko found himself with
the ball inside the six yard box but he had too little room to turn
in the mud and eventually blazed his shot well over the bar. Minutes
later some City fans screamed for a penalty as Lee Smith charged
in on the left after another clever ball from Addis. Smith went
full length in the area as the Bedford defender came in, but he'd
taken the ball cleanly and it was just momentum that took Smith
down and the corner was the right decision. It was nothing short
of a miracle for a ref who had already entertained both sides with
some bizarre decisions over thrown-ins going to the wrong team.
However the ref then lost his way a
few minutes later as City attacked again. Addis attacked on the
right and tricked his way past a defender and found himself cutting
back in away from the touchline and into the penalty box before
a desperate lunge hacked him down. That could have been a penalty
but with the ball running towards goal the ref waved play on as
Eaton tried to latch onto the chance. What followed was an unseemly
flap in the mud between Eaton and Bedford keeper James Robinson.
The striker was unable to dig the ball out but the keeper appeared
to hold his leg to prevent him getting to the ball as City fans
wondered if they'd been transported a mile across the city to Kingsholm.
Astonishingly the ref missed all of this as the keeper somewhat
predictably pretended to be hurt in the tussle only to make an equally
predictable miraculous recovery. If Eaton was hard done by there
he should have done better minutes later as he was presented with
the best chance of the game due to a long looping Burns pass that
found him ten yards out and the goal at his mercy. He seemed unable
to pull the trigger and the chance was gone as quickly as it had
arrived. Moments later Eaton was subbed.
Although City were well on top during the second half
it was not entirely one way traffic and as the match drew towards
a close Bedford could have cruelly snatched away the points as Matt
Bath was called upon to make another fine diving save. Our side
seemed to be starting to tire in the final minutes and it was perhaps
surprising that Adie Harris didn't get a chance to stretch his legs
down the left. As it was we should have had another free kick as
Addis was thumped by a flying elbow in the head. Despite being right
by it the ref decided a head injury didn't merit stopping the game
and he was fortunate the youngster wasn't more badly hurt as he
left him on the floor. However in the dying moments City did get
a free kick taken by Burns and could themselves have finally won
the match as Cox jumped well to win the header which was clutched
out of the air by Robinson as it headed for the top corner. City
will probably be happy enough with a point but had it not been for
some momentary sloppy defending and some wasteful finishing we could
easily have pulled off another memorable win against one of the
top sides. It does seem churlish to gripe though, as this was a
hugely entertaining match between two good footballing sides and
all of City's players could have been pleased with their efforts.
* City maintain 13th spot and the table remains close
with the Tigers still just four points off the relegation places
but also still a manageable eight points off the top five and the
promotion play-off. At the top of the table Halesowen lost their
grip with Aylesbury nicking a late winner and Merthyr winning at
managerless Hitchin to go back into pole position. Chippenham and
Chesham also both won, the latter demolishing Stamford 5-1 and increasing
the Lincolnshire side's relegation worries. Our next opponents Team
Bath can consider themselves a bit unlucky to remain at the bottom
of the division having twice drawn level at Ciren only to lose out
as Gareth Hopkins completed a hatrick, one of three scored in the
The Southern Premier League's involvement in the FA Cup came to
an end in today's 2nd Round matches, but both our remaining sides
emerged with great credit and a few quid better off. Histon bowed
out with a 3-1 defeat to Yeovil in front of a record crowd of 2,310
while Bath City fans enjoyed a day out at Peterborough but saw their
side lose to two first half goals.
PS - Apologies again for the low quality of match pictures,
the winter gloom is simply too much for the camera to cope with.
||C Banks (Bicester)
|| 13th (=)
||overcast & dull
| by t-towel
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