This is my first proper report of 2017 coming at the end of our first game for six weeks and our first win since October. Though we have the third fewest league defeats we also have the third (equal) fewest wins (and more draws than either). City are always a real challenge and were unbeaten at home this season but we were full of positive intent and all-round endeavour. Interestingly both sides had stand-in goalkeepers: Craigy for us and Dan Atkins for City (and I’m always happier to see Dan in goal than up front!): both had really good games today and had no chance with any of the goals.
The pitch was horribly sticky and we set up positively with Tom and Ben Fowler up front and both were involved early giving plenty of cause for optimism. Ben Fowler was at his imperious best today and even a muddy pitch seemed incapable of stopping him. City too had forward momentum early on and our indecision in a muddy box gave them a chance which went wide. This was uncharacteristic of us on the whole though with Matty Williams the dominant force and Chrissy Staien at his flexible best. This was the foundation of a terrific team performance today and one that promised that we would end this long run without a win.
Though City were always competitive, I think we were the better side today in all phases driven on in midfield by Clive and Ben Smith. All we lacked was a goal and that duly arrived mid-way through the half and it was a beauty. Tom won the ball in midfield and nodded on to Ben Smith who volleyed a thirty yard inch perfect pass for Ben Fowler who, coolness personified, slotted it home. All was going well and further chances ensued before young Haydon, who’d been having a good game on the right got a red card for admonishing himself for a poor cross. We dropped to 4-4-1 but had a crazy 10 minutes wherein we sat back and stopped playing and encouraged City onto us. Their equaliser a minute before the break threatened to derail our morning!
Mark reinforced the positives but also stiffened our resolve and it was impossible to tell we were a man down in an excellent second half for us. All we lacked was a goal and with City dangerous on the break tensions remained. Once again Fowler was involved, driving to the bye-line and cutting back for sub Brad Rogers to drive joyfully into the net. This was 15 or so minutes from time and heralded City’s best spell and they threw everything at us but we stood firm. Craig was particularly good at this point: his handling was strong and his confidence exemplary. We also still had threat and effectively finished the game in injury time when Fowler beat their offside trap and rounded the keeper to score. Not that there wasn’t time also for City to get another to leave it at 2-3.
All the best to Martin and his lads!