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28th March '05
League Premier Division
Smith, C.Thompson, Griffiths (M.Thompson 69), Tomkins, Burns,
Mustoe, Harris, D.Addis, Knight (Webb HT), Wilkinson (Varnam
Subs not used:
(diving), Tomkins (total mystery), C.Thompson (foul),
Mustoe (foul), Griffiths (dissent),
T-Ender Man of the Match: Neil
Griffiths; again a steady and reliable defensive display despite his
This was not one for those
with attention deficit order. It can be estimated that in the whole
ninety minutes of the match only four or five interesting things
happened, and one of those things involved a seagull trying to take
away a beer barrel cap and repeatedly dropping it. The beer barrel
cap was red. The match was grey. And dull.
You had the impression it was all going to be so different.
City still need points to ensure safety from relegation, while a
few good wins would catapult Ciren back into promotion play-off
contention. As it was, both sides huffed and puffed, but never looked
at all convincing in attack. Too many passes went astray and too
few players showed any real ambition to make the kind of runs that
would open up either defence. There was no lack of effort, but no
real spark as the two teams pawed at each other like two sluggish,
flabby veteran wrestlers. Perhaps we paid the price for watching
sides that had played just two days previously. Certainly something
was missing from what has previously been a rather tempestuous and
at times spiteful local derby.
Both managers added to the strange atmosphere on the
pitch. Hughes had his side sat very deep as if expecting to have
to withstand a battering from the City attack. When that did not
materialise it took the Ciren side a long time to try and get on
the front foot and by that time they seemed resigned to getting
a point. Burns meanwhile seems to have had one of his occasional
tactical brainstorms, the results of which are rarely pretty. There
is an old rule about changing one thing at a time, but with players
all over the place the City side looked as disconcerted as their
|Addis is booked for diving.
You have to say the lad in the bottom right has a point.
the sight of Adie Harris up front didn't seem to fill anyone with
a great deal of confidence, especially when Lyndon smashed up a
high ball for poor Adie to try and win. It's bad enough watching
us doing that to the likes of Addis and Cox, but when your target
man is one of the smallest players in non-league football it's as
pointless as trying to stop a forest fire with a thimble of water.
Chris Thompson is generally accepted to have been a revelation since
his return to midfield, so naturally he found himself at left-back.
Lee Smith and Addis look to be building up a good understanding
and Smith has hit two vital winners in his last three games. So
he's off to right-back, while poor Marvin must have wondered what
on earth he'd done wrong to find himself back on the bench. It was
all the right bits, but not in the right place.
It's worth spending some time writing about the odd
team selection, simply because it fills up space you'd otherwise
fill talking about the exciting action on the pitch. I'm struggling
for material here. There was all the usual stuff; the odd tackle
or pass and too many aimless headers. What there wasn't from either
side was any pattern, and real moment of inspiration or cutting
Largely the ref tried his best to stir up some controversy,
but it was more strange decision making than full on incompetence.
Probably his oddest moment came as City made a rare incursion into
the Ciren box and Addis took over after a good move involving Chris
Thompson and Mustoe. His run took him to the by-line and he turned
back to run into the box when two defenders converged on him. The
ball was cleanly won by former City veteran Alan Bird (now aged
53), and Addis seemed to simply fall as he was squeezed out. The
T-End optimistically screamed for a penalty (we've got our job to
do too), but it plainly wasn't. We all had a moment's excitement
as it looked as if the ref was pointing at the spot, but then we
realised he was booking Addis for what they like to call 'simulation',
or diving to us mere fans. It was a strange decision as Addis fell,
but had not himself appealed for a penalty and hasn't previously
looked like the diving type. I'm not at all convinced the ref was
right on that one.
While Ciren looked like a pretty good side at times, they looked
like a pretty good side not playing very well. All their passing
seemed pretty impressive until they were confronted by one of our
players when they seemed to lose their way entirely. Griff must
have lost count of how many simple tackles he won, and even Burns
was finding plenty of time to be able to break up attacks as Ciren
were not exactly lightning quick in their play.
We probably shaded the first half, but nearly all
our attacking threat was coming down the right flank from Lee Smith.
He seemed able to beat their makeshift full-backs easily, but Ciren
soon sensed their vulnerability and cynically hacked him down every
time he looked like getting free. It was ugly football, but you
could hardly blame the visitors, and the ref didn't really get a
grip on it and we found the route to goal firmly booted closed.
That didn't stop Smith producing one of the few moments of class
in this dull event, and going as close as anyone came to a goal.
A half-cleared Knight corner fell to him on the edge of the area
and he kept his shape well to volley in a sweetly struck shot that
was dipping just below the bar before an equally fine save from
Ciren's Mark Bryant. He may be small, but he seems to have springs
built into his boots.
It was hardly pressure that either side was exerting,
but whatever it was it was far from one-sided. Matt Bath soon got
a chance to produce his own magic. Wilko was turned by Gareth Hopkins
and his pass found Jody Bevan and the former City youth striker
pushed past Burns to fire in a low shot that needed Bath at full
stretch to be able to tip it round the post. The chances for both
sides were so rare that neither side could afford to spurn those
that did arrive. Ciren could also have done better when a deep looping
cross was met at the far post, but the Ciren man pushed his header
wide when he really should have put it at least back across the
goal. Defences were very definitely on top and neither looked likely
to be forced to give up much by the fairly lacklustre attacks on
|Top Left: Harris and Addis
see Ciren's Mark Bryant snuff out any danger of something
Top Right: Griff gets down to do that defender boogie.
Bottom: Both benches watch in mild interest as Smith closes
down a Ciren attack.
We tried to settle into a better shape during the
break, with Webb replacing Keith Knight and players being restored
to slightly more familiar positions. Chris Thompson went into the
back three and the gaffer gave himself a brief spell up front, and
at least he has the height to do a fair impression of a forward
target man. Our plans to try and shake the game up a little needed
to be re-picked after only a few minutes though, as Wilko limped
off with what is feared to be a couple of broken toes. Andy Varnam
came on and went up front with Burnsie now in midfield. The boss
soon looked really out of puff and one of the few moments of genuine
entertainment this match provided was the sight of Keith Knight
telling Burnsie to get back into defence before he expired. It's
easy to criticise our management team at times, but you can never
doubt the effort Burns puts in.
If we had shaded the first half it was Ciren who looked
marginally the more likely to break the deadlock in the second half.
they made a few strong runs but were having the same problem as
us, with the players off the ball reluctant to make any real moves
and the man in possession soon being hunted down and losing the
ball simply through a lack of help. Ciren tried to vary it a little
with a few high balls, but soon gave that up as a tactic as they
realised Burns and Tomkins were capable of dealing with that all
day. Their attacks on the flanks fared little better, with Adie
Harris or Smith simply too quick for the Ciren players to get in
behind. however, the extra pressure did mean we weren't getting
forward down the wings so much ourselves. The whole thing had stalemate
written all over it.
The ref had plainly had enough of this rubbish and
decided to intervene. Mustoe made a rather silly tackle on the edge
of the box, leaving his trailing leg out for Ben Fitch to fly over.
The Ciren winger travelled a good distance but even he must have
found events exceeding his wildest dreams when he picked himself
up to find the ref pointing at the spot. There was little doubt
that the foul had been conceded, but it seemed to all apart from
the officials it had happened a good couple of yards outside the
penalty area. Then a very dangerous precedent was set as the ref
seemed to give way under the heated, if justified, protests of Burns,
Mustoe and an unusually incensed Matt Bath. The ref duly went to
chat to his assistant, but the linesman had himself already taken
up position for the penalty so that seemed fairly academic. The
only consultation I could see was which of our three most vocal
players was going to get a red card for dissent. But then, incredibly,
the ref changed his mind. Ciren were given a free kick not a penalty,
and peace was restored. Of course, we all know Burns and Mustoe
are incapable of keeping their gobs shut, and this incident is only
to convince themselves they are right even more often. It was a
brave decision by the ref to admit he'd got it wrong, but it was
a bizarre interlude and of course one that could have been avoided
had the linesman or the ref got it right in the first place.
|Marvin shows his mettle as
City get back to back shut outs for the first time since October.
The Ciren free kick was duly fired
into the wall and City survived the most severe threat we had on
our goal all through the match. One further good run by Fitch was
closed down with a smart tackle by Griffiths, but that was the last
of the game for Griff who is nursing a slight groin strain picked
up at Halesowen last Saturday. Marvin got a chance to point out
he's in pretty good form himself at the moment, and he certainly
picked up on the solid defending that we managed right through the
Just before Griff departed he became the fifth City
player to be booked, on the advice of the hapless linesman who hadn't
been sure if the earlier foul was inside or outside of the line
several yards away from where the fouled player even landed! It
seemed to be a booking for something off the ball, it certainly
didn't seem to be for a foul. One more booking could have landed
City a fine and more trouble with our friends at the FA. The ref
certainly did well to manage to get a total of eight bookings out
of a match that hardly had the fierce passions you might have expected
from a derby encounter. I think every single one of the Ciren bookings
came after fouls on poor put upon Lee Smith, they must have had
some sort of rota system for fouling him. The good news was that
the ref was being assessed on this game, so that should be the last
we'll be seeing of poor Mr Darlow!
People could have been excused for leaving this one
early as it wasn't exactly the most entertaining thing ever seen
at Meadow Park. It could have almost been a bad decision though
as for a moment it looked as if City had nicked it with a glorious
late winner. Smith cut in from midfield and his through ball to
the right flank suddenly cut through the Ciren defence. Webb picked
the pass up and made for the by-line, pushing past one before cutting
in a low ball across the six yard box. The Ciren keeper was stranded
and it looked as if Chris Thompson must score as he ran in. Somehow
though he got beneath the ball and it ballooned over the bar, and
another all too rare chance to gain all three points was gone.
Thankfully there were now only a few
more minutes of this dreadful tedious stuff to endure before the
final whistle went. All the players tried their best, but this was
actually a great advert for bank holiday gardening. On the vindictive
side, the draw probably did Ciren more harm than it did City, but
we still need another win to feel entirely comfortable when looking
at the league table. This could have been it, but we had no magic
The other sad thing to come out of this match was
the departure of a BBC Radio Gloucestershire reporter, never to
return. It seems the reporter, who as misfortune would have it is
also a regular City fan, was so badly and rudely treated by some
City officials he, and the radio station, won't be coming back.
As a reporter he wasn't even accorded the courtesy of being able
to use the press box. The City officials concerned need to ask themselves
exactly what they think this has achieved. Whatever we may think
of the station's controllers there are ways and means of influencing
the media, and that wasn't it. We have some stormy times ahead of
us and will need all the friends we can get, and that's a few more
lost because of what? Not one of the greatest moments of diplomacy
of behalf of our club.
* Our dull draw does at least mean that the points
meter keeps ticking over and we are surely now edging towards securing
our position in the Southern League Premier for next season, still
in 14th place but with our points cushion cut to eight precious
points. Our improved results have come just in the nick of time
as a few other sides are also now recovering their form. Perhaps
the biggest shock saw Dunstable, now under the management of Kerry
Dixon, beat local rivals Chesham 3-2 with a winner from Andrew Findlay
three minutes from time. Another result that could prove crucial
saw Hitchin's concerns deepen as they were thumped 4-1 at home by
Hemel Hempstead who also seem to have found new hope through a change
of manager. Managerless Solihull look to be in deep trouble at the
bottom of the table after a 2-0 defeat to Banbury whose current
form suggests they will pull themselves clear. It looks all but
over for Stamford too, they were dispatched 4-0 by King's Lynn.
Funny goings-on at the top of the table where Chippenham's wobble
is starting to look terminal as they lost 3-1 at Tiverton. Having
equalised due to a mistake by the Tivvy keeper with just nine miunutes
left the Wiltshire side must have hoped for a good point at the
Ladysmead, instead late goals from Kurt Nogan and Jamie Mudge made
sure they went home with nothing. Histon will be kicking themsleves
as they failed to take advantage, losing 3-2 at Grantham thanks
to a penalty hit by Jason Turner, formerly with the Stutes earlier
in the season. A win would have taken the Cambridge side to the
top spot, but they will still fancy their chances as they remain
two points behind Chippenham with two games in hand.
|| 14th (=)
| by t-towel
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