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.