We’re a bit late with this, but after City got over Oumar Niasse’s recent (unjust) red card by winning the match, we look back at five other occasions City have gone on to win or clinch all the points while a man down…
1: Chesterfield, 2004/05
This was especially impressive, as Chesterfield (or Cheatersfield, as they were known at the time following some imaginative accounting a few seasons before which earned them a points deduction) were in control for large swathes of an entertaining match between two recently promoted sides at the Circle.
The visitors had already had a goal disallowed for handball before City skipper Ian Ashbee stamped on the Achilles of Adam Smith just after the hour and received a straight red card. There was little argument over the decision, despite Ashbee sarcastically applauding the ref as he made his retreat.
City were now in trouble – they were already under the cosh, they’d just lost their leader, they were down to ten men and they had Junior Lewis playing up front. So naturally, the response was to take the lead within two minutes, thanks to a cross from sub Delroy Facey that Lewis intelligently flicked down into the run of Stuart Green, who scored.
Chesterfield played out the game with the air of a beaten team who wondered whether it was all a bad dream.
2: v Bradford City, 1993/94
Dean Windass to the fore; an early goal, then an early bath. What he said is not known, but Teesside referee Jeff Winter was notoriously sensitive to industrial language and criticism in general and the straight red was quickly out of his pocket with the game hardly started.
Despite being one up, City were in real bother, a fact hammered home by Shaun McCarthy quickly heading in the equaliser from a corner. Yet there are few things in lower league life more fun than beating Bradford, something which we were enjoyably used to, and a foul on Linton Brown allowed ex-Bantam Greg Abbott to restore the lead from the spot before half time, taking a moment afterwards to bait the Bradford fans in celebration.
City relied on the counter attack in the second half and used it to full devastation, with Brown getting the clincher with one of those rolled shots past the keeper that seem to take an age to go in.
(PS – Clair Voyant? What was that all about?)
3: v Kidderminster Harriers, 2001/02
Dramatic one, this. Kidderminster were recent newcomers to proper football and had a certain corpulent Dane in charge, and a hardy 100 visiting supporters followed their team to Boothferry Park to take on an expensive new strike partnership in Gary Alexander and Lawrie Dudfield, heading a side that had missed out on promotion via the play-offs the previous season.
The visitors had injury issues early in the first half which forced the switch of a cumbersome forward to right back, and as a consequence we had the the seldom seen spectacle of David Beresford actually having the measure of a defender for a whole game. City spent the entire first half sending the tiny, fast and end-product-unfriendly winger up against the makeshift defender, one Tony Bird. He won every race but, naturally, didn’t deliver any crosses of note.
Bird’s one bit of respite came when he put a free kick against the City crossbar, and early in the second half finally he and the visitors gave way. Dudfield and Alexander combined with cross and bullet header respectively, and it was 1-0, with the latter getting off the mark for his new club.
But City being City, victory wasn’t going to be established easily. Justin Whittle tried a back header from too far away and allowed Kidderminster sub Stewart Hadley to race clear on goal. Whittle chased and chased and chased – and brought him down in the area. Whittle’s casual reaction was that he’d got the ball and play would continue, but the ref thought differently. Penalty, red card, booking for the arguing Alexander, and the tortured Bird got some mild form of respite by sticking away the spot kick.
City were grateful for Kidderminster’s subsequent lack of ambition, probably through being knackered and Brian Little decided to have a go. He sent on Rodney Rowe and, in injury time, his first touch was a low volley across goal from a long throw into the path of Alexander, who couldn’t miss.
A bullet was duly dodged in a season that eventually would disappoint slightly, to the extent that Little didn’t survive it and a certain corpulent Dane was deemed the correct person to take over. We all know how that turned out.
4: v Norwich City, 1970/71
When the rules on tackling could fit on to a folded sheet of A4 and a player had to do something close to hanging out of the back of a referee’s mother before he could be sent off, there was a genuine novelty value attached to dismissals in matches.
Chris Chilton was sent off right at the end of this hard-fought game at Carrow Road for retaliation to a quite remarkable bit of violence from Norwich’s known oppressor-in-chief Duncan Forbes, who aimed one kick at the City centre forward that didn’t stop his man, so chased him a few yards and aimed another. You can tell from Chilton’s split-second reaction of pain (prior to the split-second reaction of retribution) that it was a nasty, cowardly bit of brutality from Forbes that went against what was acceptable, and the headbutt that followed was as pinpoint in its timing and execution as any of his goals.
Even after all this time, you wonder why Forbes wasn’t sent off for the challenge. The referee saw it, as Chilton was controlling the football at the time, but the City striker was the only one he pointed towards the dressing room. Chilton, wearing City’s white change kit, had blood down his shirt – his own, not that of Forbes – as he listened to the referee’s lecture while Forbes was able to stand up, take a tongue-lashing and then line up for the free kick.
Not on the footage, most surprisingly, is confirmation that Chilton had actually gone. It took Brian Moore’s studio narration prior to the VT being run, and then a scene-resetting voiceover midway through, to make it clear it happened, as there is no sign of Chilton exiting the field and, more oddly, nothing from Anglia’s fine commentator Gerry Harrison, who knew Chilton and City well as the Tigers were anomalously on his patch. Chilton himself tells of how his blood-soaked shirt made him look like he was playing for Ajax, and how he squirted a sponge full of a subtle blend of blood and sweat at a mouthy Norwich fan at the tunnel. Imagine a player doing that today and not being a) noticed or b) reported for it.
City had been a goal up since the first half – a fine first-time shot from Ken Houghton – and didn’t have long to protect their lead with ten men as the 90 minutes were up, but nevertheless Malcolm Lord still found time to weave along the Norwich byline and set up the clincher for Ken Wagstaff. Chilton scored his 200th league goal for City at Sunderland a fortnight later, and then served a one-match ban for the headbutt more than six weeks after it happened. The disciplinary regulations in football really were in a different world compared to now.
5: v Plymouth Argyle, 2005/06
Do we give valuable oxygen to Marc Joseph’s boneheaded elbow on the half hour that saw City go in at half time a man down? Or do we just rejoice in the majesty of the second half winner by Stuart Elliott, scored from somewhere between the byline and the penalty area?