Battling City Share Spoils at Bears
A Man of The Match performance from Jack Delo helped City secure another 2-2 draw
At the end of an entertaining afternoon City will probably be the happier of the two sides as the spoils were shared at a very wet White Horse Lane. Whilst the Bears twitter feed claimed that they could have been 10 ahead by the time the midway point of the second half had been reached their dominance wasn’t that clear but it would be fair to say that keeper Jack Delo put in a stand-out Man of the Match performance for the visitors.
In fairness City were forced into a defensive reshuffle with Will Hadler, Pat Nzuzi, Gary Sayer and Jamie Maxted all unavailable and then to make matters worse Josh McCallum pulled a groin in the warm up. All of this meant that skipper Laurence Harvey was teamed up with Robel Grant, Ryan Catmull and makeshift left back Ollie Mentessi whilst youngsters Tom Barton and Billy Lewins were given a rare start together.
The pitch was heavy having survived a late morning inspection and with rain falling throughout most of the afternoon it was always going to be a test of whichever side adjusted better to the conditions. In the early stages it was very much the home side who did so, looking dangerous as they attacked particularly out wide.
Ryan Croucher who had a curate’s egg of an afternoon was the first to probe the City defence playing in Peter Williams whose scuffed shot posed no threat to Delo. Croucher then ensured that Delo was alert with a well struck free kick after Lucian Scarlat had drawn what appeared to be a cheap foul. Scarlat then tried to turn provider when his cross from wide on the Bearsted left was deflected by Harvey into Croucher’s path only for Delo to deny him again going down bravely at his feet and all of this within the first 7 minutes!
City eventually started to find some purpose moving forward with Wayne Wilson firing well over from 25 yards after the battling Dan Keyte had won the ball in midfield. Moments later a lovely exchange of passes between Lewins, Barton and Dave Pilcher saw Lewins chest the ball forward but fail to keep his shot on target as he approached the penalty area.
Mentessi was being given a through examination by David Baranoski who was looking to get in behind the City full back at every opportunity.
With 17 minutes on the clock Bearsted will surely feel they should have taken the lead when Scarlat swung over a corner from the right. With Delo blocked off by Bears players centre half Edas Valionis rose highest but watched in horror as he glanced his header narrowly wide of the target.
City were, at times, guilty of trying to overplay in midfield so it came as something of a surprise when Wilson hit a long diagonal ball to Barton that he was able to control before, unfortunately, overhitting his cross. As the game approached the midway point of the first half Bearsted fashioned themselves two opportunities to lead. First a combination of Delo and Grant combined to deny Baranoski before with 23 minutes gone Williams found himself on-side and goal-side of the City defence with only Delo to beat. The City stopper was out quickly to deny Baranoski with a fine block on the edge of the area before watching with relief as Croucher screwed his shot wide.
There was almost an exact repeat of the situation barely a minute later only this time it was City who were denied when Harvey set free Barton but Bears keeper Scott Andrews just got a touch to deny City the opener.
As the game reached the half hour it witnessed what some will consider to be its most controversial moment. Croucher launched himself into a challenge that scythed down Keyte on halfway and it would be fair to say that the home fans probably waited in fear of the colour of card that the referee would be producing. When referee Harry Wager summoned home Captain Graeme Andrews to be part of the discussion it had to be assumed that this was at best a borderline red card/final warning. To everyone’s amazement no card at all was produced. Moments later Harvey fouled Baranoski, pulling him back about 20 yards out. Some bright spark in the home crowd called for the production of a yellow card which caused plenty of laughter in the stand as spectators were still trying to come to terms with the lack of card from the earlier decision.
In the referee’s defence he was at least consistent throughout the afternoon which is exactly what clubs seek these days. On another afternoon he could have had a player off from each side but he did well to maintain an 11-a-side game.
On 37 minutes Pilcher fed Lewins but with the pitch becoming stickier by the minute he was unable to get the ball out of his feet quickly enough and when he did eventually get a shot off it was deflected kindly for Andrews who plucked the ball out of the mud. A couple of minutes later Grant was indebted to Delo who again denied Williams after the centre half had been dispossessed as he looked to bring the ball out of defence.
With three minutes left before half-time and against the balance of play City took the lead. The ball was played out of defence for Matt Martin to run on to in behind the Bears defence. With Andrews charging from his goal the City wide-man lifted the ball over the keeper for the alert Lewins to run on to and dive to force home before defenders could get back to clear.
City finished the half in the ascendency and Martin’s long diagonal ball found Barton whose instant cushion control was sublime but his cross was deflected behind for a corner. A half time deficit was tough on Bearsted but they really only had themselves, and Delo, to blame.
Five minutes into the second half and the hosts spurned what was to that point their best chance. A perfect ball in from the right was nodded down by Croucher to the profligate Williams who conspired to somehow blaze over from about 8 yards out. Up the other end Lewins was just unable to bring Wilson’s ball under his spell and the chance was gone before on 57 minutes there was a brief flash point. Grant fouled Croucher and in the aftermath of a bit of pushing, shoving and handbags both players were booked.
City then had a great Martin chance blocked following a neat interchange with Barton and Pilcher before the hosts levelled just before the hour mark. In fairness a two-goal deficit would have been hard on the Bears and given the chances they had missed they perhaps deserved the slice of good fortune that accompanied their equalising goal. Baranoski’s cross from the left appeared to be so bad that it drew groans from home supporters but Scarlat managed to get the ball back into the City six yard box where Reece Collins headed past Delo.
City looked to hit back immediately and perhaps deserved a little better when Keyte’s ball over the top was controlled on his outstep by Barton but as he cut inside he could only fire a shot straight at Andrews.
With 68 gone Bearsted thought they had taken the lead. Initially Delo made an excellent save from a Valionis header but the ball was then forced home by a home player who as he turned to celebrate was dismayed to see the assistant referee’s flag raised for, presumably, offside although a signal given by the referee suggested it may even have been for the use of a hand. Either way it didn’t go down at all well with the home bench who for the second time in as many minutes incurred the wrath of the referee.
A couple of minutes later Croucher got the early bath that some had been fearing almost an hour earlier although only because he was replaced by James Coppins! Three minutes the Bears took the lead when City switched off at a corner. The ball was played back for Baranoski to run onto from halfway. Advancing towards the edge of the penalty area he let fly with what could be described as an old fashioned daisy cutter had there been any surviving in what was becoming something of a muddy mess of a pitch. Somehow the ball managed to travel through a forest of legs and nestle into the far corner of Delo’s goal.
However, the lead only lasted six minutes. Delo’s long clearance found the willing runner that is Martin and having jinked inside to create space for a left foot strike went down under the second foul challenge some 25 yards out. With most City supporters expecting to see Pilcher take the kick it was Wilson who stepped up and a curled a beauty in to the top corner leaving Andrews grasping at thin air.
City almost created a chance to win it five minutes from time when Wilson’s delicate ball almost put Pilcher through one-on-one with the keeper but City’s top scorer couldn’t bring the ball under control.
As the game entered the first of five minutes of added time Grant was lucky not to see a second yellow card for something of a lunge tackle in midfield. In the final of those five minutes City sent on the hobbling McCallum for Martin just to add height to defend a free-kick from close to the by-line all of which brought a degree of amusement to proceedings as some home fans suggested he might only last long enough to take up position in the six yard box. Fortunately the referee drew proceedings to a close within thirty seconds and the players and spectators were finally able to head off to find somewhere to dry out.
All-in-all, weather excepted, a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon in the Kent countryside was had by the travelling City supporters who were made to feel most welcome by their hosts.
City: Jack Delo, Ryan Catmull, Ollie, Mentessi, Dan Keyte, Laurence Harvey, Robel Grant, Tom Barton (Matt Catmull), Wayne Wilson, Billy Lewins (Rob Lawrence), Dave Pilcher, Matt Martin (Josh McCallum). Unused Sub: Dan Lawrence