REPORT: City 0-1 Kettering

City tumbled out of the FA Cup in the first round, beaten 1-0 at home by the bottom club in the Nationwide Conference. The only goal of a dire game came from Matt Fisher in the 57th minute, after being allowed the freedom of Boothferry Park (and most of the surrounding district, had he asked) to fire past Paul Musselwhite from 20 yards. The goal was typical our City’s performance – feeble, lazy and totally unacceptable. In truth, City had had marginally the better of a dour first half. A 35 yard effort from Brabin early on tested Bowling in the Kettering goal, while Greaves wasted a one-on-one after nice play from Philpott. Musselwhite caused a scare after going walkabout outside his area, but Goodison was on hand to mop up the danger in the area. Soon after, the Tigers keeper was forced into an excellent save to deny Robert Codner from 30 yards. As half-time approached, City continued to push, with Eyre forcing a neat save from the visitors’ chubby goaltender, and Goodison heading narrowly wide after an excellent Philpott corner. However, the best chance of the half was the final chance. A City corner was only half-cleared, and the ball fell invitingly for Brown fifteen yards from goal, but he snatched at the ball, and screwed it well wide.

The second half began poorly for City, with Musselwhite having to be alert to foil a one-on-one chance for Hudson. At the other end, Eyre had a half-chance with a header from seven yards, but could only nod the ball over. City were increasingly being forced back though, and on 57 minutes disaster struck. Some wretched defending enabled Matt Fisher a clear sight of goal, and from 20 yards he lashed the ball past the isolated Musselwhite, to the unrestrained glee of the 200 Poppies fans. It wasn’t getting any better, as the crowd justifiably vented their frustration as yet another throw-in to City was squandered. That led to Brabin appearing to remonstrate with the Kempton as its patrons derided the lack of effort, though perhaps the player was having a go at himself, or his team mates. He had better have been – we paid to watch that, and any criticism aimed at the team was fully warranted. Back on the pitch, and things were becoming increasingly grim. Edwards took a free-kick 45 yards from goal, but somehow punted the ball into the mocking band of Kettering fans, as opposed to the penalty area.

Whitmore was thrown in, though he was clearly unfit, limping after three minutes. Despite the handicap of his groin injury, he briefly invigorated his team mates, and City came close when a superbly cushioned header by Brown gave Brabin a clear sight of goal, but his header flashed wide with the goal at his mercy. The final fifteen minutes were a numbing torture, as Whitmore faded from view, City’s players continued to show the same witlessness and deplorable lack of effort, while the City fans exasperation escalated. With a minute left on the clock, Brown provided Greaves a golden chance from 20 yards with only the keeper to beat…and he cleared the North Stand. Quite a fitting way to end a utterly disgraceful evening.

Particular criticism can be levelled at Harper, Eyre, Brabin and Philpott. If they have any decency, they will hand back their wages for this week to the club. Brown tried, but resorted to falling over for free-kicks, so poor was the support he received. Brightwell defended well, but wasted too many free-kicks up front. Musselwhite cannot be blamed, Perry was adequate, Edwards hapless out of position, Greaves ineffectual and Goodison isolated at the back, and relied upon up front. It was a humbling night for all. If City are to avoid a pasting at Scunthorpe on Saturday, changes must be made.

REPORT: City 2-1 Carlisle

City tried their hardest to snatch a draw away from the jaws of victory but nonetheless took all three points in a Jekyll and Hyde performance against bottom placed Carlisle. Ian Goodison returned to the starting XI after missing the Kettering cup game last week, but a lack of fitness kept out his compatriot Theo Whitmore. City took the lead after just 7 minutes following a display of unexpected benevolence from the Cumbrian’s keeper Matthew Glennon. Under no pressure whatsoever, he hacked the ball straight to David Brown, who gleefully took a few steps forward before unleashing an unstoppable shot into the far corner of the net, with Glennon looking just a tad bemused.

The goal calmed City down somewhat, and they began patiently plugging away for a second. It came on 23 minutes following a goalmouth melee, Edwards (I think) laid the ball back to Ian Goodison, lurking on the edge of the box, the Jamaican drew back a white boot and sidefooted through the crowd to double the Tiger’s lead. City were in control at this stage and could have had more, Brightwell played a long crossfield ball into the area which was met by Gary Brabin who thumped a volley a foot outside of the right post. Brabin went close again with a glorious chipped shot from some 35 yards out that forced an acrobatic save from Glennon who parried away. The half ended with City 2-0 up and seemingly in control, and things looked good when we began the second half as we had ended the first. A corner clearance fell to Clint Marcelle to the left of the goal and he struck a powerful shot that was cleared off the line by the far post. It all seemed to go downhill from that point, Carlisle took the initiative and the Tigers didn’t look to have a response, backing off and letting the visitors back into the game.

The Cumbrians had a series of corners, about 4 million in all, and they finally made one count on 71 minutes, Connelly hammering in a rebound as the City defence snoozed. The Tigers looked bereft of ideas and a change had to be made. With ten minutes remaining, Brian Little made three, replacing Brown, Marcelle and Philpott with Wood, Eyre and Swales. Paul Musselwhite wasn’t troubled a great deal, but he was forced to pull off a diving save to tip over a 40-yard effort. City jolted from their slumber and had a few attacks that ultimately fell apart due to poor final balls. Brabin dinked the ball to Swales in the right far corner, he laid off to Edwards who found John Eyre. He turned and scooped a shot just wide of the left post. Some nervy moments at the end, but we held on for a vital three points. We remain in tenth position, four points off seventh place currently filled by Cheltenham. Scunny lie in sixth after destroying Mansfield 6-0 ahead of next weeks Humber derby. Fun and games lie in store.

REPORT: Kettering 0-0 City

City and Kettering eked out a goalless draw in this FA Cup first round tie at Rockingham Road, meaning a replay is needed to see who will face Bristol City away in Round Two. The Poppies, currently propping up the Conference, battled hard and nearly took the lead after six minutes, Lee Hudson put in a cross that deflected kindly to Phil Brown, he struck a shot just wide of the post. Hudson fired a shot over from around 25 yards out before a Carl Adams free kick was hacked away. Finally City responded and Clint Marcelle had a near post shot blocked before David Brown had a low drive superbly saved by Ian Bowling, the ball rebounded back to Brown but he blasted wide.

Hudson fired wide with the break approaching after Musslewhite’s headed clearance dropped at his feet around 30 yards out. City were stronger after the interval and David Brightwell’s close range header from a Philpott free kick forced a good save from Bowling. On the hour mark Gary Brabin hammered a shot against the post after another Philpott free kick which popped loose in the box. Later David Brown rifled a shot through a congested penalty area which struck Bowling’s legs and bounced away to safety. Neither side had the cutting edge necessary and will have to do it all again on Tuesday 28th at Boothferry Park, the winners will meet Bristol City in the next round. The Robins beat Chesterfield 1-0 away to set up a second round tie at Ashton Gate to be played December 9th.

REPORT: Chesterfield 1-0 City

City succumbed to their first defeat in six games on a grey and blustery day at the home of the league leaders. It was an even affair and ultimately the only difference between the sides was that Chesterfield have a striker in good form whereas we don’t seem to have a striker at all. As you’d expect from the divisions leaders at home, the Spireites went on the offensive first, Paul Musselwhite tipped over a powerful header and Gary Brabin headed away the resultant corner. Chesterfields shooting in the opening stages was dreadful, otherwise they may have been able to take advantage of a goalmouth melee before a Tiger hooked the ball away. The early stages saw some good technical football but it suddenly degenerated to pinball with the ball being blasted at other players for no apparent reason. City’s first attack of note came when Mike Edwards had a shot deflected but Pollitt in the home goal got down well and collected. The game was then held up for some five minutes as a section of the Tigers support responded to provocation from home fans in the Crompton Street terrace by cutting across the pitch in an attempt to maim their tormentors. Order was eventually restored by baton wielding police and their snarling dogs and the game recommenced.

Mark Greaves foiled Luke Beckett, who the Spireites still haven’t paid Chester for, before the ever unflustered Ian Goodison put a back pass to Musselwhite, our number one wasn’t quite so calm and sliced the ball out for a corner. The kick was swung in and Williams connected well with a header only for our now recomposed keeper to tip over nonchalantly. Beckett was making a nuisance of himself up front for Chesterfield but our splendid defence, Goodison and Perry especially, where handling him well. The childish Chesterfield fans took to singing ‘you run from the Scunthorpe’ at us, which raised a bit of mirth, people don’t run from Scunny, they amble away smoking Bolivian cigars, but on with the game. City won a free kick on the right which was knocked in by Philpott, Pollitt punched away under pressure from Greaves and the ball fell to Edwards who struck a low shot that the keeper clutched. Therein lies our problem, two recognised defenders comprising our attacking threat, at times we appear to have no forwards on the pitch. A few minutes later, to the amusement of the Tiger Nation, Ian Goodison wellied the ball out of the ground for no apparent reason after the ball had gone out for a throw in, our throw in at that. In light of Chesterfields sudden financial strife, they won’t have been too chuffed to lose two £50 matchballs, earlier on a City fan had gleefully hurled a yellow Ultimax out of the ground when it came into the crowd. Beckett was put through (looking miles offside) and delivered a dangerous cross which was destined for the boot of a blueshirt but Goodison got between ball and boot to head away. David Brightwell went in the book for a tortoise-reaction-time challenge before Gary Brabin tried a long range effort that Pollitt batted away. Shortly after the ref peeped for half-time, 0-0.

City kicked off the second forty-five with a strong wind behind their back. City could have used this to their advantage, but strangely decided to kick the ball forwards as hard as they could at every opportunity, the ball would then be swept out of play by the gusts. Very odd, and disappointing after a good first half where we had quelled the home sides advances and were looking to hit them on the break. City had a great chance to score from a corner when Brabin looked to smash a shot in from close range, but he pulled out at the last second after seeing Goodison in front of him, the Jamaican fumed and rightly so. Mark Greaves went in the book after a tussle, not long before City’s most fluid move. Musselwhite tossed the ball to Marcelle who brought the ball forward up the left wing before passing to Whitmore who struck a dipping shot that went just over. Chesterfields 29 (you don’t expect me to find out his name do you???) wasted a fine cross, heading wide. The run of play was swinging in Chesterfields favour now, and it came as no surprise when they took the lead, Brabin lost the ball in midfield and a cross was swung in, Perry headed away but not far enough and the predatory Beckett was on hand to fire home from 10 yards.

City tried to claw their way back in but were utterly impotent upfront, seemingly playing Gary Brabin as a centre-forward before throwing David Brown on for the ineffectual Lee Philpott. Mark Greaves went close with a back header from a free kick that went inches wide. Steve Swales replaced Jason Perry, a bold but risky move, with only two at the back now we were fucked if someone ran at Brightwell. City had a spell of pressure late on but to no avail, Chesterfield had extended their lead at the top while City fell one place to tenth. It’s no disgrace losing to the leaders, it’s just a great shame we could not take a point since they didn’t look all that good. Once again a lack of firepower was made painfully evident, maybe we should try the Spireites trick of signing a forward and not paying for him.

REPORT: City 2-0 Darlington

City ended a string of unsatisfying draws with a heartwarming win at the Ark after sowing the Quakers oats (what a shit pun that is). It was all very even stuff in the first half, Darlo have lost their attacking bite of the last few years but they can still hold their own in the middle of the park, and indeed they did. City are very much the same and it meant a game where genuine goalscoring opportunities where few and far between as the action to’d and fro’d from one side of the pitch to the other. There was a spell of about quarter of an hour when City were camped in the Darlo half, but very little of note came of it. Mark Greaves had a header cleared off the line from a corner (well, that may have been what happened, it was hard to tell from my ‘vantage point’ from the, shudder, Family Stand. Never again…) and Clint Marcelle dragged a shot across the face of goal and wide. What this game needed was a goal, it didn’t really matter who to, just to liven it up, and lo and behold it happened. It happened on 35 minutes when Harper laid the ball square to Gary Brabin about 25 yards out, and you know how much he loves speculative shots? Well he tried one. This one however, did not result in City losing another £49.99 matchball over the north stand, nope, this one was struck low and fast and came to a stop in the net. Huzzah! And so it remained until the break, City fans warmed by the goal, and the news that York were being molested 3-0 at Cardiff. Chortle.

The second half saw City almost take on the role of the away team, soaking up pressure and hitting Darlo on the break. The Quakers were strong in midfield but as noted earlier just lacked oomph in front of goal, a charge often levelled at us I suppose, but not today. You never quite feel comfortable when City are a mere goal ahead, the seasons opening games beat that out of us, so it was cheesy grins all around when we doubled our lead with the best move of the game. On the break, Theo Whitmore laid off to Clint Marcelle just left of the centre circle and tiny Trinidadian scurried off down the left before obliging Whitmore with a neat return pass and Tappa masterfully passed the ball into goal. It was a splendid piece of football and one that seemed to wilt the visitors resolve. A few thing happened after that but I can’t be bothered to recall them, all that matters is we grabbed an important victory against a fairly good side. The three points launched City to the blood thinning heights of ninth place, the last time we occupied such a spot people were excited about seeing fire, or the wheel. Ok I lie, but you get the drift. Happy days indeed. Oh and far be it from me to omit the final score at Ninian Park, York lost 4-0. Bradford and Grimsby lost too, nicely wrapping up a day that reeked of awesomeness.

REPORT: York 0-0 City

The Tigers played-out their second consecutive goalless draw today in this eagerly awaited clash at Bootham Crescent. The attendance of five and a half thousand, boosted by over 2,500 travelling Tigers fans, provided York with their biggest crowd of the season. The match was played in atrocious conditions and neither side could stamp their authority on the game. The first half provided chances for both teams to take the lead, Alex Mathie had York’s best chance of the half when one-on-one with Musselwhite, but the Tigers keeper stood up well and blocked the shot. Marcelle had a shot from the edge of the area but the ball was impressively tipped over for a corner by ex-Tiger Alan Fettis in the York goal. The conditions got progressively worse in the second half and the Tigers were pushed back for long periods.

The Mincermen had the majority of the possession but failed to create any clear-cut scoring chances. City did have a good chance with a Clint Marcelle diving header but he slipped and only managed to connect with his shoulder. As it was, neither team really deserved the three points and the game ended in draw. The result does however see us move up into the top half of the table again, occupying 12th place and four points off the play-off places. York move up a place to 20th.

REPORT: City 0-0 Hartlepool

City failed to see off the Gorilla Killers despite dominating this drab game from start to finish. Unlike the last time these sides met, when Hartlepool won 3-0 at the Ark to clinch a play-off spot, the simian slaying visitors made no attempt to win this game, seemingly happy to disrupt the Tigers’ attacking momentum and collect a point. The best chances of the first half came just prior to the interval, when Whitmore played in Clint Marcelle whose shot was parried away by Williams in the Hartlepool goal. From the resulting corner Ian Goodison planted a header onto the crossbar, the rebound was cleared off the line by Baker.

Into the second half, and it was much the same with City playing almost exclusively in the oppositions half, yet to no avail. John Eyre hobbled off after 15 minutes with a suspected hamstring strain, he was replaced by David Brown. Gary Brabin was having a torrid time in midfield, but he did strike the bar after a goalmouth melee. A lot of City’s good work was undone by an assistant referee who was evidently so cold he had to keep waving his flag to keep warm. It was an offside decision (correct this time) that meant Brown was denied a goal after the goal line was finally breached. City remain in thirteenth place and despite two games without a win are still just two points off seventh place, currently occupied by Cardiff. Terry Dolan’s York managed a rare victory ahead of Saturday’s ‘Battle of Bootham Crescent’, they beat bottom club Halifax 3-1 at the Shay.

REPORT: City 1-1 Southend

Once again, City fell to Big Crowd Syndrome. 6,701 were present at the Ark, the highest home attendance of the season, mostly on the back of two successive away victories. And so, with optimism and hope anew, it was somewhat predictable that City would struggle. And how. After a lively opening from the visitors, City took the lead when John Eyre was felled by a crude challenge by Martyn Booty in the area. Eyre himself stepped up to take the penalty, and was slightly fortunate to score, his shot striking Southend keeper Woodman’s legs before entering the goal. The Tigers, buoyed by this rather fortuitous opening, attacked the Shrimpers goal with commendable intent, but to little avail. Gradually, as the first half wore on, the visitors gained territorial supremacy, and came close several times to equalising, their set pieces proving particularly worrying. Only a string of desperate clearance, poor finishing and superb goalkeeping by Musselwhite kept the score in the Tigers’ favour, though Goodison had an excellent chance in the closing minutes of the half to make it 2-0, a shot from an Edwards header flashing just wide.

The second half began terribly for City, the midfield completely overwhelmed, the attackers starved of meaningful possession, the defence looking increasingly uncomfortable. Former loanee Martin Carruthers struck the post with a superb volley, but five minutes later the visitors had their deserved equaliser. Yet another corner (City faced 14 in total) was swung in by Scott Forbes, and Leo Roget glanced a near post header past Musselwhite. Poor defending, but it had been coming. Visibly panicking, City very nearly sank without trace in the following five minutes. The game became a procession – Southend attacking, missing or having a shot saved, Musselwhite clearing, Southend regaining the ball, then attacking…. It took a double substitution to bring some semblance of order back to City. Brabin replaced the disappointing Philpott, while Wood replaced the isolated Marcelle. Brabin’s snarling presence shook things up somewhat, and as the game wore in, City began to re-enter a contest they should have been losing by a goal or two. The final fifteen minutes were mostly uneventful, though City very nearly snatched a wholly unmerited victory when Wood was put through by Eyre. Despite grimly holding off the thoroughly illegal challenged of two defenders, the Woodman was on hand to pluck the ball from Wood’s feet.

So, a point gained, though not earned. Nonetheless, despite playing very poorly, again the commitment was there, particularly from Brabin, who looks bloodthirsty when introduced to matches late on. Perry played quite well, but the undoubted man-of-the-match was Musselwhite.

REPORT: Exeter 0-1 City

Break out the oxygen masks!

City have reached the dizzying heights of the table’s top half for the first time since, err, well, quite a long time ago. A Mark Greaves goal five minutes from time was enough to give the Tiger’s their second successive away win in a scrappily fought contest at St. James Park. It was the home side who started the brightest of the two teams, and Paul Musselwhite made a good save after Grecian’s striker Christopher Roberts intercepted Ian Goodison’s feeble back pass. Greaves later struck City’s first chance of the game, his volley forcing Exeter keeper and shirtmaker Arjan Van Heusden to tip the effort over the bar.

Roberts then had another one-on-one with Musselwhite but City’s new number one was alert to the danger and sped out of his goalmouth to make a challenge on the edge of the box. Exeter were looking the better bet to score at this point, and Tomlinson wasted two good chances to put the home side a goal up. The Tigers seemed quite content to defend, though Clint Marcelle had a good effort saved not long before the break. City had a few more opportunities in the second half, Greaves and Whitmore both had efforts stopped by the Grecian’s netman.

The game was nearing its end when Theo Whitmore flicked the ball to Greaves (He was a defender once I think) who after controlling it, slotted a low shot beyond Van Heusden from 15 yards out. Ok, it was a crap game and Exeter were a little under strength due to injuries, but it was a win nonetheless. One that saw us climb four places to eleventh in the table, one place behind (though level on points with) Scunny who lost 1-0 just down the road at Plymouth. York lost too, with ex-Tiger Gavin Gordon scoring a late winner for Lincoln who ran out 2-1 winners at Sincil Bank. Happy happy! Joy joy!

MATCH REPORT: Leyton Orient 2-2 City

City earned a point at Brisbane Road but could have had two more having taken the lead twice. The Tigers started brightly and after surviving an early scare from a corner, took a deserved lead on 15 minutes. Gary Brabin chipped the ball into the box following a lay off from Lee Philpott, O’s defender Harris, attempting to clear, clumsily knocked the ball beyond his keeper and Theo Whitmore nipped in to slide home from close range. Steve Harper had an effort well saved by Bayes in the O’s goal, and at the other end Bracey saved well after Garcia had beaten the offside trap (ie the inept linesman failed to flag). Towards the end of the half Orient began to press for an equalizer, they had several corners that were whipped in dangerously from the left but City somehow survived until the ref blew for the interval.

The game restarted and City once again looked strong, Marcelle and Whitmore combined magnificently to create a goalscoring chance but a fluffed shot from Tappa saw the home side break away and level the score, Griffiths slotting past Bracey after a through ball from Brkovic (missing a vowel Ahmed?). It wasn’t long though, before the Tiger’s restored their lead. David Brown had a shot from just inside the area, Bayes responded well but his palmed save lifted the ball into the path of Whitmore who headed in his and City’s second goal. Orient’s response was to replace Brissett and Brkovic with Christie and Watts. That’ll be Iyesden Christie then, a regular thorn in City’s side in his Mansfield days, so you know what’s coming. Yep, Christie equalised, with just four minutes of the ninety remaining, lashed a 25 yard drive beyond Bracey.

City tried a late substitution, replacing David Brown with Dave Brightwell, ostensibly to keep the point secure. Not so, for the lanky Brightwell was deployed as a forward, and the ball was hoofed toward him a few times, which wasn’t much use to the tiny Clint Marcelle alongside him. And so it ended 2-2, an entertaining encounter in which City worked hard. A point away from home is never a bad result, but we could have had much more. Still we await our first three points of 2000/2001, though we have at least come of the bottom of the table, we are now second from bottom. Huzzah!