City crashed out of the league cup as ultimately
tiring legs gave out against a sharp Didcot side who belied their
lower division status and finally demonstrated their much vaunted
attacking power to devastating and decisive effect. However City
can look back on a much improved first half display and a string
of missed chances that eventually cost us dear - not least a second
Fowler penalty that should have sealed the tie before extra time.
Whilst their were still signs of our familiar defensive fragility
at least Tim Harris can take some comfort from some promising
performances in the match that may give him some options if he
looks to shake up his regular line-up in the near future.
City started this match in very determined fashion
and despite the slightly light weight looking team put out there
we actually had a spark about us all too lacking in some recent
outings. A stiff breeze helped us get forward quickly and we could
have put the game out of the visitor's reach in the first 15 minutes.
Ashford almost got his head on to a deep Wilson corner and then
a few minutes later Jimmy Cox went
even closer as he slapped a fierce drive onto the Didcot bar after
some good work by Tustain found him in space. City were winning
a string of corners and one of those saw Aaron Wilson force a stumbling
save from the lower division's keeper who looked slightly out of
his depth against players able to shoot accurately from distance.
It looked as if City would eventually score and sure
enough the opening goal came soon after, and the Didcot keeper looked
suspect again and played a part as he flapped at a well flighted
Michael Noakes free kick. With the keeper exiting somewhere out
in no-man's land the ball flew right across goal and it was debutant
Ben Ashford who capped his
step up from the youth team with a goal, reward for his bravery
in forcing his way to the far post to bundle the ball home from
That goal seemed to settle City who played some neat
football but were unable to make their dominance continue to be
converted into chances. It was a bit too frustrating for Jimmy Cox
who was now finding his runs rarely rewarded with a pass. He took
his frustrations out on the already suffering keeper, and was booked
for a rather lacklustre late push as he saw another chased ball
mopped up. The ref was having an odd evening, he spotted Grant Goodall's
repeated trips on Aaron Wilson
but despite their frequency seemed content to let them go without
any yellow card.
City were made to pay for their lack of cutting edge
when they found themselves pegged back soon after the half-time
break, Didcot revitalised by their orange slices. Didcot's attacking
partnership of Ian Concannon and Stuart Beavon has been prolific
for the Railwaymen, but having been kept quiet for so long they
suddenly sparked into life. Beavon wriggled free and his low cross
was flicked away by Tomkins, but only as far as Concannon who showed
great control to bring the ball down and smash his shot straight
past Lee Matthews.
That equaliser helped the game as City became a lot
more direct and City could have scored when Webb's thumping effort
was spilled by the Didcot keeper, but he did enough to get to the
rebound just ahead of Cox who was sprinting in on the loose ball.
The match was far more open now and teenage triallist Lee
Matthews got a chance to show what he can do with a fine diving
save to get a hand to a crisp Beavon shot. However there was little
the keeper could do when City got hit yet again by a pacey counter-attack,
a cleared Noakes free kick turned instantly into attack by a long
ball that found Concannon well placed to close in on goal and put
his side ahead.
City had gone from a position of some comfort to chasing
the tie, but there was plenty more drama to come as City's pace
in attack was forcing Didcot into a number of rash tackles. The
ref was to become a figure of controversy in the last part of the
game though as his reluctance to book players evolved into a reluctance
to get out the red card. Cox latched on to a clever Webb pass and
was clean through on goal when his heels were clipped by the stretched
leg of Jamie Heapy. The Didcot skipper was the last man and it seemed
a cert he would be dismissed, but some how the ref opted for leniency
and showed him yellow. At least Mike
Fowler stepped up to slot the spot kick home to level the tie.
City were chasing the win and Tim Harris sent on both
Adie Harris and Jason Welsh in
search of another goal. It was the veteran sub's extra turn of pace
that finally made Didcot seem to crumble as Adie raced clear of
the defence after latching onto the end of a one-two with Cox. The
keeper seemed beaten and when Adie lifted the ball into the goalmouth
it needed a desperate hand from Paul Bedwell to keep the ball out
of the net. With Cox, Welsh and Wilko all descending on what looked
like a goalbound shot anyway it looked like another clear straight
red, but again the ref confounded the incredulous home fans with
a yellow card. But we did have another penalty to surely take the
lead. Fowler again stepped up, but this time he tried to shift his
kick at the last moment and his powerful effort crashed back off
the bar with such force it was beyond the City players trying to
City should still have sealed it when Welsh picked
up a pass inside but ran out of room to shoot into the side netting
when a pull back across goal could well have found other players.
City were kicking themselves as extra time came, but we were now
in full flow and more chances came our way. Fowler's corner was
met by Welsh, but this time Didcot cleared off the line without
using their hands. A few minutes later Adie Harris crossed after
being put clear by a clever Wilko flick, but this time it was Mike
Fowler who dragged his shot wide.
City were now shooting from all angles and Jason
Welsh saw another decent drive charged down by a tied looking
Didcot defence. However in the second half it was our turn to look
tired and after all the missed chances there was a kind of sick
inevitability that it would be Didcot rather than us who would manage
to find the net. It had looked as if the match was drifting toward
penalties with both sides looking out on their feet, but Didcot
sub Glyn Jones still had the energy to dissect our defence with
a clever pass which found Beavon, who showed his finishing prowess
with a crisp strike past Matthews.
It was a rather cruel end to a game that was full
of incident and attacking football, but a game which will leave
City wondering exactly what they must do to kill off home games.
T-Ender Match Snaps
|Meadow Park: game on.
|Alright so the camera's crap under the
lights - but look: you can still see that their keeper can't
Harris took the chance to give run outs to some of the younger memebers
of the City squad and rested both Neil Mustoe and Jamie Reid. Rookie
keeper Lee Matthews made
a debut in goal while City youth team defender Ben
Ashford also finally got to make his first team bow. Lyndon
Tomkins made a welcome return from injury in the centre of the beleagured
City defence, with Michael Noakes, Michael Fowler and Joe Tustain
all also recalled to the starting line-up.
Obviously the league cup hasn't exactly gripped the Gloucester
City fans' imagination - there was no bloke behind me, or indeed
anywhere near really. Best bit though had to be the chorus of
"keep him on" as Didcot's struggling goalkeeper received
the physio's kiss of life after Jimmy Cox's slightly half-hearted
late shoulder charge in the first half.
With so many new faces
in the side the tactical fancy stuff was kept to a minimum with
a plain 4-4-2. Good to see Chris
Thompson able to get forward a little more from right-back though,
and also noticeable how much more solid we look with Noakes in the
City have won the Southern
League Cup just once, way back in 1956. We've now not managed to
win a tie in the competition since November 2000 when a Paul Chenoweth
brace took us past Clevedon Town in the 1st Round.
Plenty of reasons to be positive from this game, but there is
a nagging concern that we've yet again chucked away a game that
more clinical finishing and concentration in defence would have
seen us win. Didcot are a powerful attacking side, and with youngster
Ben Ashford making an encouraging
debut we still kept them quiet for long periods. For all of that
though we still acked the confidence to finish off lower division
opposition, and while an early exit from the league cup will not
cause anguish it does mark the surrender of our last chance of
silverware. Glory is a sparse commodity as a Gloucester City fan
and right now I'd like to see us lift an egg cup.