Saints survive late scare to extend winning run
David Willacy at Hayes Lane IN what City manager, Steve Castle, described as horrendous conditions to play football his side slipped and slithered to their six successive win in this the 100th game between the two clubs. The victory moved the team to wit
David Willacy at Hayes Lane
IN what City manager, Steve Castle, described as horrendous conditions to play football his side slipped and slithered to their six successive win in this the 100th game between the two clubs.
The victory moved the team to within touching distance of a play-off place but it was a close call.
With a two-goal advantage and against ten men the, three points looked secure but an opportune goal in the last minute of ordinary time by the home side led to a nail-biting period of stoppage time for the vociferous City fans.
Castle was forced to make one change from the previous week, James Quilter replacing the injured Lee Clarke in midfield. But within minutes of the start Simon Martin was felled by a nasty tackle from Fiston Manuella and after an uncomfortably long wait, was stretchered off with a twisted knee. Manuella was cautioned. Sam Hurrell came onto the left flank, Jonathan Hunt switched to the right and Gary Cohen became Paul Hakim's strike partner.
Quilter soon gave Manuella a dose of his own medicine and was also booked and from then on a blend of slanting rain, cold wind and two anxious sides led to a scrappy affair. City, with five consecutive wins to bolster their confidence, might have been expected to do better downwind but too often clearances from the back were overhit and chances were difficult to create. However, after Cohen had seen a curling shot easily saved by Gareth Williams, City took the lead on the half hour mark. Hakim won a free kick almost on the dead-ball line out towards the corner flag. With wind assistance, Hunt swung the ball under the crossbar, Williams could only palm it onto the woodwork and Hakim prodded in from a yard out.
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Then just before half time Hurrell sped past two defenders before being brought down by Mark Corneille. The Bromley captain was yellow carded. It had been a poor game so far and City went into the break wondering whether or not a single goal would be enough.
The second half was a much livelier affair with Hakim taken to wearing gloves, although a so'wester would have been more appropriate. And City's top scorer scored his seventh of the season on the hour mark. James Fisher contrived to put in a splendid cross under pressure, Cohen's header was beaten out and Hakim was on hand to finish coolly.
This success inspired the striker to show close control and almost dribble through a congested defence for a hat trick attempt. Instead, Bromley got back into the match via the wind and rain. Fisher misheaded a clearance, then Ben Martin slipped as he tried to cover which allowed Warren McBean to cross for Bromley's leading goalscorer to rap in past Paul Bastock.
Five minutes later City contrived a flowing move down the left. Hurrell's low cross was controlled and swept on by Hakim and Hunt, timing his run and shot to perfection, was unlucky to see his shot just miss the target. Bromley, despite having had to rejig their side because of financial constraints were not done yet. McBean beat Bastock and was unlucky to see the shot hit the far post and Bastock had to save from McDonnell.
Bromley's Rob Gillman was cautioned for shirt pulling and ten minutes from time his captain Corneille was given red after another yellow card misdemeanour in the gathering gloom. Then four minutes from time Luke Thurlbourne, who had played his usual combative game in midfield to perfection, burst forward on the right. His cross reached Cohen who deceived both his marker and goalkeeper Williams with the deftest of instep touches into the bottom corner of the net right in front of the exultant City fans. It was as good a finish as you could wish to see.
Williams made amends with a super save preventing a Hakim hat trick but then a deep cross over Bastock allowed McDonnell to head in at the far post which led to those anxious minutes of stoppage time.
Castle was glad that a second manager of the Month award did not cast a spell over the winning run but he is conscious of his squad being diminished. He said: "(With Clarke out) we were down to the bare bones today. It was a scandalous tackle on Simon Martin. In the end we made it a bit of a cup-tie." But with strugglers Fisher Athletic the visitors to Clarence park on Saturday Castle must be expecting his side to continue their winning ways.