So on an overcast afternoon at the Park, City almost snatch an unlikely win at the death and have to settle for a point in a decent 1-1 draw with visitors Colchester United in front of 3889 supporters. City lined up: Krysiak; Baldwin, Fortune, Archibald-Henville, Duffy; McNish, Noble, Dunne; Gow; Nardiello, Dalla Valle.
An iteresting line-up then, with four centre halves across the back and a 4-3-1-2 formation, but it appeared to be working early on with the defence comfortable and the midfield three confident and in control. However that was to last a mere five minutes as Colchester eased into the lead from a ridiculously soft goal. The ball was played somewhat innocuously down the left channel for Karl Duigud to amble after in acres of space. The defence stood still confident of an offside decision that never came as Duigud was clearly miles onside, so he trundled froward into the box unchecked to guide the ball past Krysiak with nonchalant ease from about 15 yards out to give the visitors a somewhat unlikely and against the run of play lead.
City were shellshocked for some time after and took a while to regain their composure and dominance, but they gradually worked their way back in and midway through the half fashioned their first attack of note. Nardiello played an intelligent ball out wide to the impressive Alan Gow who sped down the left flank to power a cross to the near post. On the way in it took the slightest deflection, but that was enough to take away from Nardiello and into the keeper's grateful grasp.
McNish then fired a long range effort wastefully high over the bar, but on the half hour did better latching onto Dalla Valle's knockdown from Baldwin's long ball to the edge of the box. Unfortunately a defender was on his toes and blocked McNish's 20 yard shot sending it looping high to the keeper for an easy collect.
Five minutes later Gow again set off down the left hanging a deep cross to the far post to Dunne, but he couldn't connect properly and stubbed a weak shot into the ground that spooned up into the keeper's midriff. Gow then turned and shot over the bar under pressure from Baldwin's through ball before City came to close to goal of the season from a passing move that involved pretty much the entire team. The business end of the move ended with a raking Noble ball into the box for Nardiello to flash a ten yard volley goalwards, but unfortunately it was straight at the busy Ben Williams in the visitor's goal.
With the fourth official showing a minute of stoppage time Fortune gave away a free kick twenty yards out injuring himself in the process forcing manager Tisdale to introduce Frear in his place. Three and a half minutes later Michael Rose struck a superb free kick around the wall and towards the far corner, but Krysiak produced a stunning save diving full stretch to his right to fingertip the ball onto the post and away to end the half.
After ten minutes of the second half Dunne set off on a typically surging run down the right, cleverly backheeling the ball to McNish as defenders closed in. McNish whipped the ball in, but unfortunately too quick for the forwards to get in and capitalise. Quickfire substitutions of Gow and Duffy - the latter through injury - for Cureton and Tully respectively ensued before City got back to the business of trying to find an equaliser.
In the 25th minute LDV's poor touch on the edge of the box when well placed meant his second touch was a tackle, but the resulting clearance eventually found its way to the effervescent Frear on the left. His searing cross to the near post flashed millimetres past the lunging LDV , then two minutes later Colchester survived a huge penalty appeal when Cureton was sent sprawling chasing a delicious Nardiello defence splitter into the box. However, whilst three sides of the ground bayed for a penalty, the referee got it spot on waving appeals away as the defender timed his challenge perfectly.
With ten minutes to go Cureton smashed a shot high over the bar under pressure from a Dunne long throw, then two minutes later Noble showed superb twinkle-toed balance to skip past a bunch of challenges into the box where his fierce shot was deflected onto the Bank for a corner. A minute after that, and with momentum building City finally got their reward with a well taken equaliser. At lightning pace Dunne broke free centrally deep in his own half before sending Tully scampering down the right. Tully then screamed a devilish first time cross into the box where Cureton showed a turn of speed Usain Bolt would be proud of to meet the ball with the deftest of glancing headers to steer the ball home as the ground erupted in celebration.
City sensed a much needed win was on the cards and continued to pile on the pressure. Minutes after the goal Dunne invited Cureton to chase a ball down the right, but his good looking cross just evaded the charging LDV and Nardiello. LDV then flicked the ball on to Cureton inside the box but Cureton could only fire into the side netting from a tricky angle, then Nardiello streaked down the left before playing the ball inside to Cureton. Looking for space to shoot, Cureton raced across the edge of the box before eventually finding space and firing inches past the far post. Noble then played the ball through to Nardiello in the final attack of the game, but the result was the same as Nardiello also fired wide the same side as Cureton previously.
So in the end it was a terrific end to an intriguing match where for all but ten seconds of the ninety plus minutes played City dominated, played the best football and fashioned the best chances. The passing was measured and controlled with Noble at the heart of everything playing at his very best. Along side Dunne worked so hard and McNish showed plenty of promise before understandably tiring towards the end. It was a good home debut for Gow too, who had an excellent first half, and bar the daft offside attempt that led to the Colchester goal, the defence was pretty solid throughout.
City might have fared better had Frear been on from the start as makeshift left back Baldwin isn't a makeshift left winger, but you have to suppose manager Tisdale didn't anticipate bringing him on later in the game with City trailing. But whatever, the upshot is that with six games remaining we're now eight poinst and twenty five goals from safety. It's a near impossible ask, but playing like they did today is the only way to keep the unskinny one from warming up her vocal chords. Lets hope the boys can carry their momentum from today to Scunthorpe on Friday before returning to the Park on Easter Monday for the visit of Leyton Orient. Who knows what bearing that will have on our season, but there's only one way to find out, and that's to keep supporting and keep turning up to try and help the lads ensure we're watching League One football next season.