So on a chilly afternoon at the Park when it got dark all too quickly, City brightened the place up with a sparkling performance against a good looking Notts County running out 3-1 winners in front of a decent 5302 supporters. City lines up: Krysiak; Archibald-Henville, Taylor, Duffy; Golbourne, Dunne, Sercombe, Harley, Tully; Logan, Cureton.
Employing the usual 3-5-2 formation, it was most heartening to see Matt Taylor back at the heart of the defence with Troy and Duffy flanking him. It must have been heartening for the team too, as they began the game in determined mood. Indeed, a little over three minutes had expired before Logan tried his luck from range, dragging a low drive wide from 35 yards, then two minutes later Sercombe had a pop from slightly closer in, chesting down Dunne's long throw before firing over from just outside the 'D'.
It wasn't all City's way though, County had a decent effort of their own in the tenth minute, but Krysiak was equal to it spectacularly tipping a fierce header over the bar. Notts were buoyed by this, and from the resulting corner had a couple of great chances to take the lead but Golbourne was on hand to block twice on the line before eventually clearing.
In the 20th minute though City took the lead, and if truth be told it was somewhat against the run of play. A short free kick from Taylor was played wide to Troy who launched a raking diagonal ball towards the corner flag from deep in his own half. The defender gave it up, but Tully didn't as sped down the line in pursuit. He got there inches before the byline and drilled a low cross to the near post that was only partially cleared to the lurking Cureton who picked his spot before lashing home from about ten yards to make it 1-0 to City.
Almost immediately afterwards Cureton could have bagged a second after breaking the well drilled County offside trap, but his attempted lob of the keeper from distance was mishit and drifted harmlessly wide of the post.
In the 28th minute Notts spurned a good chance for an equaliser when Ben Davies was allowed to advance on goal as the defence backed off, but his flashing drive always looked too high and pinged off the top of the crossbar and high onto the Bank. Just after the half hour Harley and Cureton combined well down the left to set Golbourne away and as he got towards the corner of the box slid the ball in to the near post where Logan was making a diagonal run. With a defender in close attention, Logie expertly flicked the ball with the outside of his boot deftly past the keeper just inside the post from about six yards out to make it 2-0 to City.
Two almost became three a couple of minutes later when a corner was played deep to Troy at the back of the box, but his looping header was cleared off the line as it looked to drop in just under the bar. But then right at the death Notts were right back in it when former West Brom striker Lee Hughes managed to escape a static defence before crashing a header past the outrushing Krysiak to bring it back to 2-1 right on the half time whistle.
Notts were on top when City opened the scoring in the first half, and when they got one back it was City who were enjoying the lion's share of the game, but in the second half it was County who started brightest keeping the ball for long periods with City having to contend themselves with defending deep and hoping to nick something on the break.
Which is exactly what they did in the 20th minute when Harley intercepted a loose pass just inside his own half before setting off towards goal. As defenders scrambled back, and with Logan and Cureton looking for a square ball, Harley checked inside on the edge of the box before gloriously bending a peachy strike round the keeper and into the net via the far post to make it 3-1 to City.
There was still work to be done though, and half a half to get through yet, so the boys dug deep to keep Notts at bay. Which by and large they were pretty successful at, restricting County to a few half chances with Krysiak only really called into action once or twice for the remainder of the half. Sercombe nearly made it mathematic in the 40th minute chasing his own clearance from a corner and setting off on a ferocious run from his own goal line to the edge of the opposition penalty area before firing a rising drive just over the bar.
Quick-fire substitutions of first Cozic for Dunne then second Stewart for Logan pretty much saw the game out, but not before Alan Judge hit an outrageous 45 yard effort from just inside the touchline that cannoned back off the crossbar before being cleared to safety.
But this was a good win in the end against a decent team who worked hard and played the ball about well. Having said that though, we do exactly the same with the difference today being that final ball into the strikers.
For the first goal Tully's cross was all about determination to get to the ball, and Cureton's finish showed his desire to continue to be a threat at every opportunity. The second goal showed just what a good touch Logan has, but he couldn't have made that touch without the work from the midfield. And speaking of work from midfield, what a fine solo effort Harley's goal was, racing from his own half to plant an exquisite shot past the keeper.
But overall it was a fine team effort, from Krysiak in goal with a couple of decent stops and in the main assured handling, to Duffy, Troy and Taylor having their work cut out trying to contain the lively Notts forward line. In midfield the central three certainly put a shift in, and the relentless running and closing down by Sercombe and Dunne in particular allows Harley free reign to play his passes. But if the Notts forwards were a handful, then so were the City ones with Logan winning an awful lot of ball in the air and Cureton looking dangerous every time he had the ball.
And with us winning and Plymouth losing, we're back above them again, and with a net three goal gain in goal difference too, plus it makes the table much better reading when you're in the top half. With tricky fixtures coming up at Huddersfield and Oldham, City will have their work cut out if they're to remain there until we return to the Park in a couple of weeks for the visit of Tranmere before the Christmas fixtures kick in. This month is turning out to be a pretty good one on the pitch, let's see if it finishes up an excellent one. There's no reason not to think it can do, and if the boys can pinch a few points along the way then Christmas at the Park could be a very good place to be.