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12th March '05
League Premier Division
Webb, M.Thompson, Griffiths, C.Thompson, Burns, Mustoe, Harris (Reid,
88), D.Addis, Smith, Wilkinson.
Subs not used: Varnam,
T-Ender Man of the Match: Chris
Thompson: Hard to overstate the difference his return to midfield
made. Always available, looking for space & getting forward.
Followers of the genuine
big sides can't ever know the spectacular pleasure of the truly
unexpected victory, that sudden ecstatic leap of realisation that
your side is going to win against all odds. If you are Chelsea or
Manchester United fans you only have that feeling of rewarded expectation,
of a job well done - your team always fancies itself against anyone,
anywhere. City fans going into this game knew we had won just once
away all season, while Histon are still chasing the title and hadn't
lost at home since before Christmas. We weren't entirely joking
when we told Histon fans before the match we'd take a narrow defeat.
Wildest dreams consisted of a draw. We hadn't reckoned on the magic
of football and a side that just grew in belief and hope as the
match went on.
This was a match that saw City doing some things that
we happy band of traveling fans have been unused to seeing form
our side on the road. For a start we defended doggedly and kept
our shape, even when the Cambridge team attacked and put us under
pressure. Better than that, as the match wore on we grew in confidence
and by the end of the game were attacking with some real zest and
intelligence. We picked holes in them without forgetting to leave
enough players back to provide defensive cover against a quick break.
However, it was clear there was something odd in the air as soon
as you got to the stadium.
Histon were using comic relief as an excuse for all
sorts of zany fun and jolly japes. How we all laughed as the squealing
kids cavorted up and down the touchlines, we held our sides as the
local radio mascot jigged around and fell over trying to dribble
a football, we banged our heads on the walls hoping to end it all
as the dancing in the centre circle extended to a second song. Even
in the normal relative sanity of the bar there was no escape as
the Glassworld sponsorship means the entire bar is coated in mirrors,
which makes you feel like you're in the fun fair and can't find
the real door to escape from it all.
|Just say no to acid! Hundreds of kids,
a furry hedgehog and a dancing radio.
It was with some relief that we finally saw the match kick-off,
with Burns thankfully keeping faith with Chris Thompson in midfield.
Initial fears that Adie Harris had been asked to play centre-back
were eased when the game settled down to reveal Marvin as part of
the back three and Adie out on the wide left. With Cox now ruled
out for a month with knee ligament problems the forward line see's
Smith partnered with Addis, and the two of them looked lively from
the start. Even from the opening moments the expected Histon mauling
failed to materialise, with City the first team to put together
a real attack as Adie got forward well and Addis almost had chance
to turn on the edge of the box.
City have at times allowed other sides too much time
in midfield, but on this occasion we were simply everywhere. The
silky touches of Chris Thompson carrying the ball out of midfield
catch the eye, but the early success of this game was all about
old fashioned graft from Mustoe and Wilko. For once the opposition
found they had no time to settle on the ball, as they were instantly
harassed and pressed into mistakes. It didn't make for a pretty
game at times, but the lack of Histon attacks suggested we were
It may something about our squad that some of our rejuvenation is
doubtless down to the added zip provided by a diminutive forty year-old,
but Adie Harris has proved us wrong before and it would be foolish
to write him off as he plans his comeback from injury. His dashing
runs down the left were causing huge problems and had the whole
of that side of Histon's midfield back peddling on several occasions.
Before long the home side had a lop-sided look to them as they tried
to deal with Harris, creating enticing gaps in behind the defence.
Lee Smith has the pace to replace Cox in the forward role and exploit
those gaps, and he almost put us into a shock lead as early as the
10th minute when a deft flick almost scored at the near post after
Addis and Harris had created space for the cross.
City were not enjoying as much of the ball but we were creating
the better openings and really the player-boss should have edged
us ahead when a half-cleared Mustoe corner found him just inside
the area. Burns hit it cleanly on the volley but snatched at it
a little and the ball flew high over the bar. Histon then caused
some rare palpitations when their winger got past Webb and managed
to send over a cross that fell behind Griff and Burns. The ball
fell to Jamie Barker but his driven effort was kept out by the feet
of Matt Bath who had done fantastically well to get back across
his goal and into position for the fiercely hit shot. The squeals
of the children took a good few minutes to die down, and you did
wonder if the subsonic screams were distressing the Histon players
so much they were put off attacking. A Histon goal would surely
have shredded ear drums and shattered all those lovely mirrors back
in the club bar.
Histon looked thoroughly bemused by their own lack
of success but our midfield trio were nipping at their ankles at
every turn and their composed passing routine was quickly going
astray, with most of the loose passes falling to Webb or Harris
which helped us break quickly down the flanks. One good Thompson
run ended when he was tackled, but Smith picked up the ball and
found himself running into unfamiliar territory down the left. From
that side of the pitch he found himself cutting back inside the
full-back and produced a wonderful cross that begged to be smashed
into the net but it whistled past Addis and Wilko and beyond Webb.
Histon were lost and starting to point at each other, and they had
more to argue about when Mustoe created some space for Smith and
he wriggled free of one defender before laying the ball off to Adie
Harris. He was running at full pelt and couldn't set himself before
shooting, spannering his effort wide of diving screaming children.
Left: Gutzmore finds himself having
to defend as City press again. Right: Wilko and Griff fly
through the air as another City corner is cleared.
Bottom: Adie Harris shows his magic on the touchline as
the scary under age mob threaten to attack.
The Stutes did manage some
pressure before the half-time whistle but it got them little in
the way of sight of goal, with Griff looking much more together
again he was first to most things that came towards our goal. With
the home team having created little in the way of excitement the
pressure was really on the half-time entertainment. Not content
with one novelty penalty shoot-out the club had lined up a whole
string of kids to hammer the ball towards the hapless furry mascots.
You have to say that a radio of that size did not make the best
of its size in goal and you'd have been tempted to think it was
trying to get out of the way of the ball. I blame the pitch entertainment
for the size of the queue for the burgers, in fact it was so bad
that some people chose to stay in the queue for the rest of the
game. You can't have a go at the service, they dealt with a customer
every ten minutes all the way through. Before long it was time for
the screaming hoards to leave the pitch and for the slightly more
subdued players to take their place.
The announced crowd of 718 caused some chortling amongst
our fans as the crowd looked nowhere near that size, but that probably
didn't take into account that most of the paying visitors couldn't
be seen over the advertising hoardings. And of course some of them
were evil pixies that stole some of the good pixies as they came
in the gate.
Things didn't really improve for Histon as the second
half opened so they threw on Leon Gutzmore to make his debut for
the club. This is the same forward who caused us real problems in
January when playing for Aylesbury, so the sight of him joining
the fray must have caused some trepidation in the City back line.
However he never really got into the game. Griff had not enjoyed
his best game against him previously, but today he was straight
into him and the dangerous striker never really got into the match.
In fact City were able to get forward more and more, there was no
doubt about it - we were definitely the side doing more of the attacking
now. Smith probably should have put us ahead after a corner. Griff
managed to get to the ball first and having nodded it forward it
fell to Smith in the centre of the penalty area only for him to
rather lose his head and fire high over the bar.
The City pressure was starting to tell now and someone
with a less jaundiced view of our performances may have been rash
enough to think only the team in white could win it. The only thing
that was really keeping Histon afloat was a bit of good fortune
and some good defending by Histon's number four who twice got back
to clear off the line. One vital interception saw him poke the ball
wide of the far post after a good Thompson run had put Smith into
the box and he sent over a dangerous low ball in the direction of
Addis lurking in the goalmouth.
|Webb looks for
a way past Histon skipper Neil Andrews
It wasn't quite all one way traffic though. Gutzmore finally wriggled
free of both Griff and Marvin and arrowed in a low ball that looked
to be a real threat until it finally drifted past all the other
forwards to safety. The fact that was one of the more serious threats
to our goal in the second half spoke volumes of how well we'd done,
and Histon were looking tired.
Webb was now getting forward more down the right to
balance Harris' presence on the other wing. A quick interchange
with Smith sent Webb through but he didn't have the confidence to
take the ball on and his shot went rather aimlessly wide. A few
moments later and Webb was again clear before being hacked down
to earn Histon's dodgily coiffured Okay a yellow card for crimes
against hairdressing. A few minutes later Smith forced a good save
from the Histon keeper after he span onto a Burns lob which seemed
to catch the home defence standing.
Thommo then had a go from distance with a wonderful
dipping drive from 25 yards that only just cleared the bar and had
the Histon keeper looking concerned. A good burst of angry shouting
didn't help, and Webb made another burst down the right. His decision
making has been a bit dodgy of late and this time he chose to shoot
fairly limply into the side netting when both Smith and Addis were
well placed for a low cross.
And then suddenly the magic moment
happened. It looked as if City's chance had gone as Webb picked
up the ball wide on the right but seemed to have again taken a touch
too many and the opportunity to put over a dangerous cross had gone.
However Addis has impressed everyone with his tenacity and commitment
this season and he moved first onto the loose ball and pushed his
way to the by-line. Having burst past one man he then knocked in
an evil cross that left the keeper stranded at the near post and
the City fans were able to enjoy that wonderful moment when you
realise there's only one player coming into the six yard box and
it's your striker. A few years ago I remember Smith missing a chance
like that, but he's a different proposition now and he drove the
ball into the net and dived into the jubilant, slightly hysterical
traveling fans. Sheer elation!
With just a few minutes left to go surely even we
didn't have time to throw this one away? The last few moments were
agonising as the second half started late because of all the half-time
craziness so with watches edging towards 5 o'clock the tension was
even worse as we all tried to guess how long was actually left.
The City players have seen to many things fall from their grasp
in the last minutes of games this season and we tried our best to
keep the ball near the corner flag, it may not have been the most
ambitious bit of football you'd ever seen but it worked for me.
In fairness, we were still snapping in to our tackles while Histon
looked like a side whose legs had gone. There was no way back for
them, and eventually the ref's whistle went to the delight of the
City fans and players. The magic of the truly unexpected victory
and the slaying of away travel demons, a pretty satisfying day out.
Might you be taking pictures of young
ladies getting changed Mr. Phelps!?
* This fantastic win will have lifted the club, but
our second away win of the season makes no difference to our league
position and we stay 15th. At the top Chippenham failed to take
advantage of Histon's defeat with a 1-1 draw against Team Bath at
Hardenhuish. Banbury United eased their relegation fears with a
2-1 win over Hitchin, while Dunstable continued their good recent
form with a 1-1 draw at Ciren, but it may yet prove too little too
late for them. Hemel Hempstead lost at Chesham and Solihull came
away with nothing from a trip to Grantham, while Rugby and Stamford
fought out a 1-1 draw, and another point is not enough for the Lincolnshire
side anymore as they find themselves bottom of the division.
||J. Pearce (Norwich)
|| 15th (=)
||overcast and dry
| by t-towel
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