It was a case of two lots of the dirty dozen for the Saints at Church Road on Saturday as Hayes all but ensured their Conference South survival whilst forcing City to sweat it out just a little while longer. Given each sides recent form, City were optimistic of gaining the three points required to secure their own safety but results elsewhere made sure that little harm was done to our cause.
The dirty dozen? Hayes have now avoided defeat in all of the past dozen matches between the two clubs
while our second reference to those three words is that Chris Wild had the dubious honour of taking our dismissals to the season to an astonishing dozen; eleven of the red cards have been for the players and the other for the removal of our former manager from the bench – consistent if nothing else. Wild went at the end of two mass brawls – mostly the usual handbags stuff – but how the Missioners keeper, Kevin Davies, stayed on the pitch after striking Matt Hann was mystifying to say the least. It just about summed the performance of referee Mr Hooper for his display was, at best, frustrating. He appeared determined not to allow any contact whatsoever and destroyed what, for 20 minutes, had been a thoroughly enjoyable opening spell with both teams eager to attack and generally getting the better of the opposing defence. His use of the yellow cards also followed little logical pattern and doubtless contributed to the regrettable scenes witnessed during almost nine minutes of added time.
City made two changes from the side that won in midweek at Margate with Gary Elphick returning in place of the suspended Ben Martin and Lee Clarke replacing Nick Roddis. Hayes, with one win from eight games behind them and without a home success for two months, were ahead inside five minutes when their captain Mark Molesley finished off good work involving Kieran Knight and Stuart Tanfield with a crisp drive past Paul Bastock. City hopes of ending their lengthy winless run against the Middlesex club rose a minute later when a powerful Ben Walshe shot was pushed wide by Davies but picked up by Gavin Tomlin who easily sidestepped his man before slipping a perfect pass into the path of Kezie Ibe who calmly slotted home his second goal in just three games for the Saints.
Hayes would have scored a superb second on 12 minutes when excellent skill by Knight set up Kevin McKenna whose fine shot was superbly pushed away by the fully extended Bastock. After the absorbing start to the game chances became more infrequent but City required a vital touch by Dean Hooper to stop a Jon Case cross finding the unmarked Knight on 39 minutes but three minutes later Hayes were ahead for a second time and again the move which brought about City’s downfall came down the Missioners left. Although simple it was a classic goal with Josh Scott playing the ball out to the free Tanfield who carefully picked out Knight to score his 18th goal of the season. City suffered a further setback before the interval as a hamstring injury ended Walshe’s afternoon, he had started the game in good form but faded as the pain took a grip on his leg.
The second half almost got off to a sensational start as Bastock had to react smartly to deal with a misdirected header by Wild that was goalbound. Moments later Molesley left Wild in his wake as he burst into the penalty area before forcing Bastock into a good save low down. Thereafter City got the upper hand and for a long period bossed the play without causing Davies any undue concern. After the good team performance at Margate this was a game in which far too many players had an off day, that said Tomlin’s exceptional skills would brighten even the dullest of days; one flick in particular during the first half was a glorious party piece, not that we had much cause for celebration!
Hayes’ third goal, on 69 minutes, came completely against the run of play although City’s threat on goal had been minimal. Again the goal had its origins down the City right before a cross to the back post was knocked back into the middle by Case for Knight to score from close in
Another good save by Bastock stopped Hayes from equalling their highest home score in the league since beating Cambridge City 4-0 in August and with that the game appeared to be petering out most tamely although the criticism of Mr Hooper continued unabated. Certainly Hayes found plenty to say for themselves when Ibe, after being put through by Tomlin, somewhat dramatically, went down as Marvin Bartley slid in to concede a penalty. After the petty delaying tactics had subsided Clarke duly sent Davies the wrong way from the penalty spot to become the first City player since Simon Martin in 2001-02 to score 20 league goals in a season.
Before the game restarted the first scuffle broke out, caused by Davies doing his best to stop Clarke and Hann from retrieving the ball. Referee Hooper, who simply stood rooted to the spot blowing a pretty melody on his whistle while the mayhem went on all around him, bizarrely took no action despite the keeper’s blatant blow on Hann. But the man in black did reach for his red card shortly after as a second free-for-all ensued with the former Hayes player Wild being dismissed; how just one player saw red from the two incidents was quite remarkable. Even so, it was the players who were involved in the two incidents but it is the club who will pick up the fine that is sure to be heading our way following recent mutterings from the F.A about our poor disciplinary record. If only the record were simply poor, sadly it is the worst in the clubs history, which is quite remarkable when one considers that, on the whole, this is not an aggressive side.
Other points of note from the day; the pitch was well grassed but it was one of the poorest surfaces we have seen this season. And the P.A. system, what a din. No doubt the rest of the county enjoyed it but those in the ground had their eardrums pierced by it. Off the pitch the Hayes matchday programme is head and shoulders above practically everything else to be found in this league.
Report by David Tavener