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!

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)