Back to Clarence Park for League action on a miserable November afternon. Heavy rain from mid-day. It's a good job the pitch is in good condition. Today's visitors are Braintree Town, one off the bottom of the League with one win (a while ago), 8 draws and 8 defeats this season.
For today, The Dynamic Duo selected Roberts in goal; 4 at the back: Moran, Townley, Campbell and Naylor; 4 in the middle: Kean, Challinor, Castle (C) and Smith; and up front: De Souza and Browne. On the bench: Wilmot, Martin, Mackail-Smith, Oakes and Gould. In the stand injured were Brown and Crawshaw and with the Reserves today: Hollenbach and Evans.
Well this was a strange one.
Braintree work hard. They keep a minimum of six players between the ball and their goal. The casual observer could see why they have managed just one win but secured 8 draws this season. Today, they created 4 chances, due to lapses of concentration on the part of the home defence for the most part, and scored 4 goals, one in the first half to lead 1-0 at half time, one within a minute of the re-start to go 2 up, one to restore the advantage to 3-1 ten minutes from time and the final goal in injury time to win 4-2.
The same casual observer would not recognise The Saints as the League leaders. So the defence had a bad day at the office. It happens. But it's not just that. For the first hour of the game, the midfield played 30 yards behind the two strikers, both of whom are goal 'poachers' who thrive on service, on the ground. And the midfield have the talent. City played long balls out of defence, and with the midfield playing so deep, second (and third) balls are picked up by the opposition unchallenged. No consistant pressure was created. Several half-chances came, of course, but the visitors keeper was untroubled.
Braintree's second goal at the start of the second half made the task a steep hill rather than a mountain. City increased their work-rate on the hour. Oakes replaced Keen, and a few minutes later, Mackail-Smith came on for Browne. Far too late in the game, City were going forward with purpose and a result was certainly 'on' providing the defence held firm. A Challinor header from a corner and it was 1-2. Saints were pressing, chances were being created and the visiting keeper was now kept busy. Martin replaced De Souza. Against the run of play, Town scored again. 1-3. A lively last 5 minutes saw Campbell score but the match was put beyond doubt in injury time when another defensive lapse was punished. F.T. 2-4.
Its been coming, as City have been 'getting away with it' for some weeks. If this was American Football, The Defensive Coaches and The Midfield Co-ordinators would have a torrid Monday.
Braintree wont worry about the manner of the victory, they will be delighted with 3 points. The Duo have to sort it out. Fortunately, they have the players. The crowd was 438 and from the deafening silence that greeted each Braintree goal, I'll be kind and say that they didn't bring many from Essex.
Entertainment 6/10. Atmosphere 5/10. Technical merit 4/10. Referee 7/10.
Match report by Homer