A bumper holiday crowd on a surprisingly warm, sunny, winter day saw City finish a fantastic year on a slightly bum note. The largest home crowd of the season saw a tense game that was mostly fought in the middle third in what was not the best game of football from either side.
City made two changes from the Boxing Day team, with the suspended Dean Moxey being replaced by Fred Murray, and Steve Basham starting ahead of Adam Stansfield. The 4-4-2 therefore had Jones in goal. Tully, Seaborne, Edwards and Murray making up the back four, Harley, Panther, Gill and Saunders were in midfield with Basham and Stewart up front.
In the opening quarter City were restricted to a couple of long range efforts from Panther and Gill, neither of which tested the opposing keeper. Brentford did have a series of corners in front of the big bank which were in general non-threatening and were dealt with relatively comfortably.
The possession was shared relatively evenly, but both teams failed to make it count. The only item of any note was when Bowditch got into the area down the Brentford right and hit a shot accross Jones. It was not a hard shot, but was heading to the bottom corner and Jones managed to push it wide of the goal.
Half time came with 0-0 a very fair score in a game that until that point had deserved no goals.
The second half started with a bit more urgency and excitement than the first ended. Jones made and excellent save in a 1 on 1 situation as well as other timely saves as Brentford started to take control.
City were finding it hard to get much joy upfront and on the hour mark made a double substitution with Stansfield and McAllister replacing Basham and Stewart. The extra mobility that this added had an instant impact and it saw City in the ascendancy. Almost instantly McAllister had a header just wide of the post after good work from Murray down the left. McAllister then did what no player had done until that point, and took on the full back, and instantly beat him and got in behind but the pull back did not reach Stansfield.
With 15 minutes to go, Adam Stansfield played a suicidal pass to play in Charlie MacDonald. Although it looked like Edwards got a good touch on the ball while tackling the referee deemed it was a foul and a penalty. It appeared as if Edwards was the last man so was lucky to escape without a red card as a result, however he escaped without even a yellow.
The penalty was dispatched past Jones by MacDonald into the top right corner, it was unstoppable. A couple of minutes later and the contest was over, a ball lifted over the top by MacDonald was chased by the left back, Wood, who finished cooly past Jones.
City had some late chances falling to Stansfield and McAllister, but if truth be told, City were quite tootless in front of goal all afternoon. Against a decent Brentford centre back pairing City never threatened them by running at them or by getting in behind.
The midfield had a reasonable game, Saunders and Harley both like to come inside so at times we can lack some natural width as an outlet. But in general the passing was decent and at times good to watch. However it lacked a cutting edge and the home crowd were getting restless at a few wasted set pieces as well as checking back when in decent positions.
The defence was quite solid, Edwards took a no nonsense approach and took safety first. Murray was excellent providing a decent attacking option, good strong tackling and fitted in very well. Jones produced a string of good saves and kept City in the match and deserved his man of the match award.
So we move into January and the opening of the transfer window, who will come and who will go? Well Tis has reportedly said that he is not looking for anything much and in all honesty at almost the half way point of the season we are sat in a play-off position with a game in hand over 4 of the teams above us. Therefore we don't need too much and who would not have taken this in August?
The obvious things missing from today is a lack of natural width and pace as an option off the bench, but then quick wingers are not easy to come by.
City now have 2 more home games coming up, Port Vale next Saturday and Macclesfield on the Tuesday after (6th Jan) and a couple of good opportunities to add some points on the board. All in all it is a busy month for us with 24 points on offer and it could really shape the season. Do you want to see if we can cement a play-off place? Of course you do, and it has to be better than braving the sales?
Happy New Year to all the Red and White Army.