Rovers gifted win
So in front of comfortably the biggest home gate of the season of 5454, the only thing bright and sunny was the weather as City handed visitors Bristol Rovers both goals on a plate in a poor 2-1 home defeat. City lined up: Krysiak; Woodman, Baldwin, Coles, Amankwaah; Davies, Bennett, Doherty, Oakley; Gow, Cureton.
With neither side managing to string together anything of note in the early exchanges, it was somewhat out of the blue that Rovers opened the scoring in the fourth minute, and somewhat par for the course as far as City were concerned with the manner in which it was scored. A long diagonal ball should have been easy meat for Woodman to deal with in the corner of the box, given he was unchallenged, but with both time and space and colleagues available he somehow contrived to knock it straight to the feet of David Clarkson, who was as surprised as he was grateful. Not wishing to look a gift horse in the mouth he took a few strides forwards before effortlessly sending Krysiak the wrong way and stroking the ball home to the right of the goal from 10 yards out to give the visitors an easy and unexpected lead.
For the next fifteen or so minutes both sides treated the ball as if it was one of those comedy bombs you used to see in comics, so keen were they to give it back to the other side before it went off, but finally in the 21st minute City did manage to construct a move that wasn't full of mistakes. Cureton did well down the left to rob lumbering defender Garry Kenneth before drilling the ball back to Gow on the edge of the box. He in turn played a sumptuous defence splitter to Davies who was narrowly beaten to the ball by a defender who poked it behind for a corner.
Cureton then found himself clean through for a one on one with the keeper on the edge of the box, but as he looked to round him, the keeper guessed right and plunged onto the ball to deny Cureton an easy roll into the net from 15 yards. On the half hour City's best effort so far came when Davies' corner from the left was met by Coles on the corner of the six yard box who glanced a good looking header towards the far post that went inches wide. Five minutes later Krysiak's booming clearance was deflected off Kenneth's shiny bonce back to his keeper, but Cureton had guessed right and intercepted. Unfortunately it took too long to bring the ball under control as a combination of keeper and defenders crowded Cureton out before he had chance to shoot.
Cureton was again in the thick of it a couple of minutes later chasing a dink forward from Doherty. Forced wider than he'd like, he still managed to get a shot away but it flew across goal instead of in where a defender at the far post headed behind for a corner.
In the 43rd minute Krysiak had a real rush of blood to the head sprinting out from his line to try and deal with a high hanging ball to striker Tom Eaves. Natch his attempt at a punch missed, leaving Eaves with an open goal that he somehow managed to miss completely hooking the ball past the far post. But somehow parity was restored two minutes into stoppage time. Gow made a surging run into the box before easing the ball right to Oakley. He then played the ball forward to Cureton with his back to goal six yards out. As only Cureton can, despite the close attentions of a number of defenders he managed to wriggle free before turning and gleefully smashing home from close range to make it 1-1 at the break.
The second half was soon upon us with City much more positive and much more the side likely to score first. In the sixth minute Cureton's crazy mazy run to the edge of the box looked to have been halted by a sharp defender, but Gow was there to fire a first time effort narrowly over the bar from 18 yards out. On the quarter hour Gow and Cureton combined again when Gow stormed through the heart of the Rovers defence before hoisting the ball forward to Cureton in acres of space just to the right of the box. Cureton's blushes were spared by the linesman's flag for offside as he screwed his shot horribly wide, then three minutes later Gow was replaced by O'Flynn, presumably as a precautionary measure with a midweek game to come and Gow just back from injury.
A minute later Baldwin nutted a free header from a Davies corner straight at the keeper, then midway through the half after pretty much constant City domination, Rovers went ahead. The excellent Doherty undid all his previous good work with a nightmare pass to Woodman that never had a hope of getting there as Eliot Richards intercepted easily. With the defence stranded Richards stormed down the right flank before cutting inside and lashing a shot rather too easily through Krysiak at his near post from 15 yards to make it 2-1 to the visitors. City almost made the perfect response when O'Flynn got between two defenders to connect with Woodman's deep cross, but the keeper proved alert enough to tip the ball away to safety with a full stretch dive to his right.
Oakley and Balwin were then replaced by Keohane and Moore Taylor before City's miserable afternoon was completed with an injury to Bennett as he challenged for a header in the Rovers box. After lengthy treatment he was stretchered off with a suspected broken leg reducing City to ten men for the remainder of the game, and despite a whopping six minutes of stoppage time all they could muster in that time was a tame Davies effort from the edge of the 'D' that the keeper gathered comfortably.
So back to back defeats for the first time this season sees City slip to fifth in the table and if they play like that much more it won't be long before they slip further. Far too often the ball was needlessly given away with sloppy passing or simply hoofed up the pitch for someone else to take responsibility when it was crying out to be played on the floor either out wide or around the giant Rovers central defenders. Quite simply, we played exactly the way they wanted us to, and combined with gifting them their goals it couldn't have been a better - or easier - afternoon for them. We were outmuscled and outfought and that's something that must be addressed before we visit strugglers Barnet on Tuesday and welcome high flying Port Vale next Saturday.
So plenty for manager Tisdale to think about in the coming weeks, not least of all on how to replace player of the season so far Scot Bennett. As for the rest of us, we wish Scot a speedy recovery and hope he's back on the pitch before too long.