The Ant Moxey Report
So on an afternoon when the sun struggled to break through at the Park, City hearts were warmed by a sparkling display against their greatest rivals triumphing 1-0 over Plymouth Argyle in front of a season's best 7869 supporters, including just over a thousand who'd made the short trip up the A38. City lined up: Krysiak; Golbourne, Archibald-Henville, Duffy, Tully; Dunne, Noble, Harley, Sercombe; Nardiello, Cureton.
The atmosphere around the ground was electric by the time the teams kicked off at 12 noon, but on the pitch it took a little while longer for the players to find their feet as they spent the opening 12 minutes sizing each other up.
But then Harley and Golbourne worked a neat short corner routine before playing the ball back to Noble 20 yards out. His fearsome drive was heading for the roof of the net before it took a deflection from a defender skimming it over the bar and into the massed Argyle fans behind the goal. From the resulting corner Duffy dived low to head into the near post, but put the ball narrowly the wrong side.
For much of the following fifteen minutes the game fizzled out somewhat as a spectacle with neither side holding the upper hand and neither side troubling their opposing keeper either, but both sides worked hard and continually probed for an opening.
One materialised on the half hour when Cureton played a delicious defence splitter for Nardiello to latch onto around the back of a defender, however his touch was a little heavy as despite poking the ball past the keeper, he knocked it too far forward and it was rolling past the post before he had the chance to turn it into an empty net.
Nardiello found himself with another chance on 38 minutes when Dunne played the ball from the corner of the box out to Tully scampering down the right. His whipped in cross was well met by Nardiello, but his low header was straight to the feet of the keeper who got down well to smother.
On the stroke of half time Plymouth found themselves handed a terrific chance to take the lead when Duffy looped a hanging ball back to Krysiak. He chested the ball down under no pressure, controlled it under no pressure too, but instead of playing a simple pass out to a defender, decided to pick the ball up giving referee Mark Halsey little option but to award the visitors an indirect free kick fifteen yards out. With ten in the wall as soon as the kick was rolled sideways the whole City team rushed out to block with the ball eventually going behind for a goal kick.
So all still to play for in the second half, and a mere 22 seconds in City were in front. Noble played a simple pass to Golbourne who in turn played a simple pass to Troy. Spotting Cureton's run into the box Troy launched a long hanging ball forward that Cureton controlled superbly, laying the ball back to Dunne rushing into the box. Without breaking stride Dunne picked his spot and smashed home an unstoppable drive from 15 yards out to send six and a half thousand Grecians roaring with delight on three sides of the ground.
Four minutes later Nardiello worked himself an opportunity sidestepping a defender neatly from a throw in before crashing a fierce effort narrowly over the bar. In the 14th minute Harley and Noble combined to set up Sercombe, but the keeper was alert to the break and came out well to claim at Sercombe's feet. Nardiello again found himself with a great chance to increase City's lead two minutes later when a corner was driven low to him in the box, but his turn and shot to the near post saw the keeper claim well.
Then came the turning point in the game in the 19th minute. What looked to be a nothing challenge had Noble limping before he was forced to admit defeat collapsing to the floor clutching his ankle. He was eventually stretchered off before being replaced by Matt Taylor as City switched to a 3-5-2 formation with Taylor slotting in at the back between Duffy and Troy, and Golbourne and Tully moving forward from full back to wing back.
This signaled a stirring Plymouth fightback with first Rory Patterson trying his luck from range that had Krysiak scrambling to his right to make his first real save of the game in the 28th minute, then two minutes later Karl Arnason tried the same but this time striking the ball straight at Krysiak's midriff.
On the half hour Yannick Bolasie finally made a contribution to the game twisting his way round the outside of the defence before firing the ball across goal for Rory Fallon to gleefully slot home from close range, however his, and his fans', celebrations were cut short by a raised linesman's flag on the far side that went up as soon as Fallon touched the ball. Oh well!
But Plymouth tails were definitely up, and Bolasie in particular was causing the City defence all sorts of problems. In the 33rd minute he dribbled through the defence before forcing Krysiak into a smart parry to his right that Duffy hacked clear, then a minute later had another great chance with a low drive to the near post from a corner that Krysiak was grateful to plunge on to.
A minute later Nardiello made way for Logan, but the pressure on the City back line continued, although by now the clear cut chances had dried up. Harley had a chance himself as full time approached, but after a bit of trickery following Logan's knock down of a Tully long ball, he couldn't cap his final appearance at the Park with a goal as his 25 yard effort drifted wide of the near post.
And that, apart from a 20 yard Plymouth free kick hit straight at the wall, was that despite a nervous five minutes of stoppage time, leaving Plymouth perilously close to relegation and elevating City - for now - to a heady eighth spot in League One, which would equal their highest ever finish in their history.
As for the players, well for each and every one of them this will be their first ever home win in the greatest derby in football. It'll also be a first home win for many supporters too, it's just a shame that it look unlikely that we'll get the chance to lock horns again next season, although one suspects that for many it won't be a shame at all. But back to the players, and despite his serious error of judgement over the back pass, Krysiak made a series of fine saves late on when Plymouth were pressing hard. Centre backs Taylor, Duffy and Troy in particular restricted Plymouth's chances, and combined with excellent full backs Golbourne and Tully helped earn Krysiak his first home clean sheet of the season.
In the middle Noble's loss was a huge blow, as up until then City had looked fairly comfortable, but with City light it meant an awful lot of work fell on the shoulders of Sercombe and Dunne. Dunne in particular showed tremendous industry, and to cap a fine performance scored a cracking goal. We must also give thanks to Ryan Harley for his performances not just this season, but throughout his City career. Today was his final home game in a City shirt before leaving us for Swansea to continue his career in the Championship, or, hopefully, the Premier League&nbsp;if things go well for the Swans this season. It was a shame he couldn't finish off with a goal, but given the goals he's scored for us - important ones too, who could forget his winner against Huddersfield in the final game of last season - then I guess he'll be happy enough to sign off with a win.
Up front both strikers looked lively, and it was a fine piece of skill from Cureton to set up Dunne's goal. Nardiello can consider himself a little unlucky from a couple of chances too and if we can keep all four at the club then this bodes well for next season.
But there's still one game to go though, and it's at arguably the biggest club in the division Sheffield Wednesday. We can go there in good spirits though, off the back of a good win today and a run of only one defeat in seven, plus back in December the Owls were sent packing after a 5-1 thrashing. There's also the little matter of ending the season as the most successful in the club's history, so plenty to play for and plenty for manager Tisdale to think about before he sets about plotting how to go even better next season, which surely will be the biggest task of all.
So thanks to each and every one of you for your support this season. You've turned out in numbers both home and away, and got behind the lads when they most needed it. It's all over now, bar next Saturday, so see you all back here next season to see just how far Tis can take us - Championship anyone?