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23:05 18th January 2003

Antony Moxey Presents a fans eye view of

So a desperately miserable afternoon couldn't dampen my enthusiasm for the game as McNab announced his attacking attentions by naming three strikers in the starting line up with a further two (Moor and Coppinger) on the bench as City ground out a slightly fortuitous 1-0 win. City lined up: Big Kev;Power, Rivaldo, Virgo, Hiley; Pettefer, Thomas, Cronin; Flack, Partridge, Devine. The weather gradually diminished throughout the afternoon, as did the pitch, but both teams tried their best to put on a show in the most difficult of conditions. Matters were not helped by some ridiculous refereeing, it has to be said, including needless bookings (mostly for City although similar offences by Carlisle were allowed to go unpunished) and an almost obsessive insistence of stopping the game for a free kick when the team to whom it was awarded still had good possession. However, despite City's best efforts, it was Carlisle who were clearly coping better with the conditions, and but for at least three now-customary Miller wonder saves, we would surely, and perhaps deservedly been behind at the break.

The second half was a different story, as City began to dominate. The Carlisle threat waned as the City one rose. Flack was winning most in the air and Cronin and Thomas were tigerish in the midfield. The decision to play three strikers appeared to have backfired, as City tried in vain to be too clever around the box instead of someone taking command and actually shooting, and all the while the heavy conditions meant the outnumbered City midfielders were finding the going increasingly difficult. McNab realised this and withdrew Thomas for Walker, and the extra pair of legs made up for the lack of numbers as Walker strode round majestically and purposefully. On the hour, though, came the breakthrough. Ugly work from Flack getting stuck in saw the ball out to Devine on the left of the penalty area. He took it to the by-line and a look up saw the keeper fast approaching. A sublime chip across goal evaded the keeper's outstretched arm to fall invitingly onto the shiny bonce of the completely unmarked Partridge who nonchalantly glanced the ball home from three yards out. Slightly harsh on Carlisle after their first half performance, but deserved for City's second. Carlisle wilted after this, and City grew stronger. More chances came, but nothing clear cut.

One thing that was clear cut was Devine's lack of match fitness, and he was beginning to struggle badly. In the dying minutes, Coppinger came on as his replacement and for a moment surged things on one stage further, but then Carlisle found a second wind and launched a furious injury time assault on Kev's goal. A couple more magical saves from one-on-ones from the big man and the game was won, with the crowd's shrill whistling for full time ringing round the ground.

So, another league game unbeaten, and on a day when we didn't appear to be firing on all cylinders. I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon meself, as it was nice to see two honest teams trying their very best to win the game from start to finish. Not too much skill, filthy conditions and plenty of effort made for good entertainment. Of the players, Miller was undoubtedly MOM, closely followed by Power, Rivaldo and Partridge. In the first half Virgo and Cronin were particularly poor, however in the second whilst things improved for Cronin sadly they remained ordinary for Virgo. Thomas I thought was unlucky to be subbed, but this was purely tactical to bring on Walker without sacrificing a striker. I have to mention Power, who I normally do for the wrong reasons: today I thought he was excellent, with well timed challenges and huge tackles. His passing, although still could be improved, was in the main to team mates so that'll do for me. Flack was a menace, and Partridge was slick (despite losing the ball more than he really ought to). Devine showed he was a striker with promising moves and for the most part being in the right place at the right time, but unfortunately his fitness let him down. This will come though.
There you go then, clear of relegation by two points now, fourth from bottom and seven points above bottom placed Swans, and with games in hand too. Things are beginning to look up. A decent performance today, full of encouragement and a strong bench including Walker, Coppinger and Moor. A good result at Scunny on Tuesday and then at Macc next week will set us up nicely for the Shrews at home next.

The weather may be dark, but the footy's bright so get along if you can.

Antony Moxey
    Data provided by Press Association