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!

MATCH REPORT – Notts County 2-0 City

City bowed out of the Worthington Cup at Meadow Lane, but they put in a creditable performance against higher division opposition, only succumbing to defeat deep into extra time. After their spineless effort against Cheltenham on Saturday, this was a much-improved performance by City, who had to field 7 recognised defenders due to injuries and absences. The Tigers played with a containment strategy and the first half was largely formless, with neither side able to claim superiority, and chances at a premium.

The second half was much the same, and City were heading towards victory when a hideously clumsly tackle from Whitney gave the home side a penalty, which Stallard converted. The goal tilted the balance towards County, who had chances to secure the tie in normal time. However, the Tigers grimly hung on to force extra-time.

The game became somewhat open during the extra thirty minutes, with Marcelle looking particularly dangerous, and he struck the bar from twenty yards after a superb run down the right wing. Sadly, with just two minutes left, County attacked, and a shot from close range fell to Bracey. He appeared to have gathered the ball, but it was stabbed from his grasp, and in the ensuing melee Stallard poked home to secure a rather undeserved second goal.

REPORT: Torquay 1-1 City

Referee Scott Mathieson decided City were not deserving of all three points, handing bottom club Torquay a share of the spoils with a harsh last minute penalty. After a goalless first half, Andy Holt put the Tigers ahead in the 79th minute, heading home from a Brabin through ball. It all went sour for the on-loan Oldham defender, he was adjudged to have handballed in the area in injury time and Richard Kell scored from the spot to equalise. Seconds before Holt’s touch, Gull’s midfilder Rees deliberately handled before providing a cross that struck Holt, however the Stockport official spotted only the second offence and pointed to the spot.

Brian Little was none too chuffed, noting: “Rees deliberately handled and the referee was in the best position to see it. Yet five seconds later he has given them a penalty and its taken him three seconds to make his mind up and blow the whistle. It was a bad decision.” Even Torquay’s caretaker boss Colin Lee implied the Tigers appeals against the penalty had foundation: “The dispute was whether Jason Rees handled it just before then. Maybe the referee was unsighted – who knows? But that might have been the bit of luck we needed.” City started with David Brown and Kevin Francis up front in the absence of Rodney Rowe, though Francis made way in the second half when Little paired Gary Fletcher and John Eyre together.

The draw didn’t damage our play-off charge too much, of the teams scrapping for a top seven finish only Scunthorpe, visitors to the Ark next week, won, seeing off Barnet 2-1 at home. Southend drew 1-1 away to Chesterfield, Leyton Orient did the same at Darlington, while Blackpool surprisingly went down 2-0 at Exeter. The Tigers remain in seventh place, level on 59 points with Blackpool in sixth, two points behind Leyton Orient in fifth.

The Tigers:
Musselwhite, Whittle, Holt, Atkins, Brabin, Matthews, Edwards, Philpott, Mann
(Eyre 46), Brown, Francis (Fletcher 46)