So on a chilly afternoon at the Park, City warmed the hearts of 4108 supporters with a battling 3-0 thumping of visiting Tranmere to record their biggest and best win of the season so far. City lined up: Krysiak; Golbourne, Coles, Archibald-Henville, Tully; Frear, Duffy, Bennett, Hackett; Logan, Taylor.
Robbed of the services of Bauza, Noble, Nardiello, Dunne, Sercombe, Jones and Oakley, it was a somewhat unusual line up for the Grecians with Scot Bennett and Richard Duffy drafted in to central midfield roles, Elliot Frear making his first home start on the left wing and new loan signing Chris Hackett making his debut on the right wing. The line-up was a 4-4-2, but with Bennett and Duffy making it four central defenders in the starting line up and the two wingers buzzing up and down the line it was also 6-0-4 at times too.
But it was Tranmere who nearly took the lead in the third minute with a shot from the edge of the box, but regular number one Krysiak got down sharply to his right to turn the ball round the post with an excellent save. Tranmere then nearly gifted City the lead seven minutes later when a defender made a complete hash of a pass stumbling over the ball inside his own box. Frear collected and drilled a low cross across the goal line where the keeper let it slip through his legs. Taylor looked to rush in and poke home, but somehow two defenders converged to scuff the ball away in the nick of time.
In the 20th minute Frear raced down the left to whip in a cross that deflected to Taylor with his back to goal on the penalty spot, but his turn and hooked shot to the far corner was cleared via a defender's thigh. On the half hour Tranmere again came close when Jose Baxter got on the end of a cross from the right, but his powerful header from 15 yards out crashed off the cross bar with Krysiak at full stretch. Ten minutes later Krysiak's quick free kick was flicked on by Logan for Frear to collect. He scampered tound the back to cross for Taylor ten yards out, but his shot to the far corner was once again blocked away.
In the 40th minute City's industry and persistence was finally rewarded when Hackett and Tully combined down the right for Tully to drill in a low cross. The block fell to Frear on the corner of the penalty area who fired in a fierce looking shot, and this in turn was blocked out to Bennett central just outside the box. In a single movement he smashed the ball back in, beating the keeper all ends up as the ball whistled inside his right hand post for Bennett's debut City goal putting the Grecians 1-0 up at the break.
In the second half City almost doubled their lead within the first couple of minutes. A long punt upfield was nodded back by the effervescent Taylor for Loagn 40 yards out. He hit the sweetest dipping volley over a furiously backpedalling keeper, but unfortunately it didn't quite dip enough skimming the top of the cross bar before flying high onto the Bank.
Tranmere appeared to have luck on their side 15 minutes later when Hackett burst down the right and cut into the box between two defenders before seemingly being brought down. Despite the appeals the ref was having none of it, and when Taylor pounced on the loose ball before being brought down himself again the ref was having none of it as Tranmere cleared more in relief than belief surviving two huge penalty shouts within seconds of each other.
But City quickly put it behind them and pressed on, with Logan chasing a ball into the box before shielding it back to Taylor. His shot was blocked at source before eventually Hackett collected on the corner of the 18 yard box. Having worked his way inside with his right foot, he bent a delicious curling shot to the far post with his left, but the keeper was equal to it diving full length to turn it around the post for a corner.
From that corner City won another that Hackett drove in from the right. Danny Coles went steaming in at the far post to send an unstoppable bullet header down onto the goal line and in from 15 yards out to make it 2-0 to City with the second debut goal of the afternoon midway through the half.
Tramnere's response was instant with Baxter lashing a fine drive from distance, but Duffy was on hand in the box to head clear for a corner, however it could have been somewhat moot as it's not certain that it was either on target or that Krysiak didn't have it covered. But Duffy wasn't to know so did the right thing anyway.
City's third came in a somewhat unconventional style when Troy chased a ball to the touchline deep in his own half under heavy pressure from a Tranmere attacker. His hurried clearance down the line turned into the perfect defence splitter as Logan latched on without a defender within yards. Bizarrely the keeper stayed rooted to his line when surely had he rushed out he'd have beaten Logan to the ball to clear, so Logan carried on forwards into the box, again without a defender in sight, steadied himself, then gleefully smashed the ball under the keeper to make it 3-0, game over and his second in successive games with the coolest of finishes.
With seven minutes to go Hackett was replaced by McNish, presumably as a precaution with Hackett testing a right hamstirng, then a minute after that Frear and Logan combined to mug a dawdling defender high up in his own half. Frear scurried forward at speed before crashing the ball across the keeper towards the far corner, but he got his angles right tipping the ball around the far post for yet another City corner.
Unlike the Walsall FA Cup game a fortnight ago, the wall and Krysiak were in union as a free kick from a dangerous position was blocked away, but it fell kindly to Martin Devaney 25 yards out who hit a fearsome drive towards the top corner drawing a spectacular save from Krysiak fingertipping it over the bar for a Tranmere corner. From the corner City broke with Frear bombing down the left before hoisting an inviting cross to the far post where it was met on the full by a rampant Logan, however he seemed to hit it too well butting the ball down only to see it bounce up and over the bar from what looked like inches out.
But no matter, the game was long since won and soon after the ref blew the whistle for full time. And what a game it was too, especially after a somewhat scrappy start in which neither side really got hold of the ball. However, the longer the game went on the better City looked, and equally the longer it went on the worse Tranmere looked. And what a great time to record the biggest, and arguably the best, win of the season so far. With City going out of the FA Cup at Walsall on Wednesday meaning a blank weekend next weekend, it was important to go into that mini break on a high, so well done to all of the players for such a great effort today.
Everyone put a shift in, and picking a man of the match must have been difficult today as everyone did so well, but a few mentions need to be made. Firstly, at the back, it was a rare clean sheet, and to be honest Krysiak never really looked like being beaten when Tranmere did manage the odd pop at goal. In midfield the two central defenders did a sterling job of protecting the other two central defenders, and hats off to Scot Bennett who capped a fine performance with a fine goal. Likewise to Danny Coles too, it must be pleasing for both to break their City scoring ducks.
Out wide it was a pleasure to see two wingers surging up and down the flanks, with both Frear and Hackett making encouraging home debuts. Speaking of encouraging, it was a somewhat rejuvenated Logan up front winning virtually every header, and his well taken goal was just rewards for his hard work today, although if goals were awarded purely for hard work alone then Jake Taylor would surely have a hat trick every game - his running and chasing is utterly relentless and worked well in tandem with Logan's battling determination.
So no game next week, which considering the injury list at the moment is probably no bad thing, before we travel to Leyton Orient the week after. Then it's back home here the week after that when Scunthorpe visit for our only home game in December, and thus last home fixture of 2011. It's traditionally one of the least supported weekends of the football calender, so let's see if we can buck that trend and give the lads plenty of pre-Christmas cheer as we look to continue our superb recent run of six league games unbeaten. See you in a couple of weeks, and bring a friend too!