The Ant Moxey Report
So on a chilly afternoon at the Park 4997 supporters see City spurn a golden chance to ease their relegation fears drawing 1-1 with fellow strugglers Oldham Athletic. City lined up: Jones; Friend, Taylor, Duffy; Golbourne, Dunne, Harley, Sercombe, Tully; Haber, Stansfield.
It was City who started brightest, and City who fashioned the first chance when in the fifth minute a surging Dunne forwarded the ball to Haber who fed Tully out on the right. Tully's good looking cross from the byeline was flicked away by a defender but only as far as Harley on the corner of the box who contrived to smash high onto the Big Bank without troubling the keeper.
Ten minutes later Sercombe produced the same outcome with a rasping drive from fully 30 yards with the outside of his boot after being set up by Haber and Stansfield. Midway through the half Harley ghosted into the box unchaperoned and clipped a clever cross to the far post where Sercombe was forced to cut back inside onto his weaker foot and only ended up dragging his shot wide from a promising position.
City's best move came on the half hour. Dunne launched a raking ball from deep to Tully who scampered down the right before drilling a cross at pace across the face of goal. Golbourne came steaming in at the far post to meet the cross fully on the volley but could only smash the ball into the keeper's midriff at the near post, and that was that for the half.
Hopefully the second half would provide a little more in terms of both entertainment and shots on goal, but it was fully tern minutes before City had any passage of play whatsoever, and even then it was limited to a Harley snapshot from distance that the keeper gathered with ease.
City were thrown a lifeline on the quarter hour though when Haber tried to reach a Harley flick on from a throw in just in front of the tunnel. Not content with blocking, shoving and shirt pulling, defender Rueben Hazell finally made the ref's mind up for him by wrestling Haber to the ground deep inside the box. The ref had little choice but to point to the spot, and up stepped Harley to confidently guide the ball low to the keeper's left while he dived right to make it 1-0 to City.
Not much happened for the next quarter of an hour other than Marcus Haber ran out of steam and was replaced by Marcus Stewart, and with the game drifting to a seemingly inevitable home win up popped Oldham to score, and in controversial circumstances too. With City desperate to make a substitution, the ref allowed Oldham to take a corner form the left. It was swung in and eventually found its way to the ample frame of Sean Gregan half way between the corner of the six yard box and eighteen yard box. With time and space to steady himself, Gregan smashed the ball back into the crowd where it eventually deflected into the net to give Oldham an unlikely equaliser. Then the ref allowed the substitution of Stansfield for Logan, whose height would surely have helped at the corner.
City fans to a man were on their feet in the 35th minute. A deep ball to Logan was flicked on at the edge of the box to the racing Stewart steaming into the box. As he collected the ball on the edge of the six yard area he was sent sprawling with everyone looking to the ref for a second penalty, then looking on in disbelief as he indicated a corner instead. Which typically came to nothing.
With five minutes remaining Dunne was replaced by Saunders and then with the fourth official showing five further minutes of play City had a glorious chance to win the game. A ball into a crowded box seemed to be going nowhere until Saunders gave chase only to be tripped before he could get there. The ref this time did point to the spot so up stepped Harley once more to do his thing.
Except he did exactly the same thing as with the previous penalty, the keeper guessed right and sprawled low to gather rather more comfortably than he should have.
So a point and not three, but a point that moved City up a spot, with both City and Oldham swapping places with Southend, next week's opponents in what is now quite simply a massive game. Whereas City were accused by some sections of not trying last week in the defeat at Brighton, the same accusations couldn't be made this week as they tackled hard and battled ferociously. The game wasn't pretty - if truth be told it wasn't much of a spectacle, and looked the sort of game you'd expect between two struggling teams, but both teams worked hard and tried their best.
Hopefully next week, if they show the same endeavour, they'll be rewarded for their efforts, but if not then so be it, so long as they give their all that's all anyone can ask. But today I thought they did give their all, and in the end could well have snatched all three points. Tricky games are coming up, and winnable ones too, so lets keep our support going and keep doing our bit to try and just give us the edge we need.
Today was close, next week might be that little bit closer before we're back at the Park in a week and a half for the visit of Bristol Rovers. Win the next two and we'll look at the table a lot more easily, so let's do all we can to try and make that so. We can do this, it's not over yet by a long way.