As Liam Moore clenched his fists with delight at the hard earned last gasp draw at Morecambe on Saturday, there was an odd feeling of joy tempered with despondency, having seen that City have dropped into the bottom four of the football league. A position, which compared to this time last season, is not too dissimilar.
Saturday couldn’t have started any worse for the team; having to stop off for food as the on coach cooker broke, and then getting caught up in traffic, delaying arrival until 2.30. These sorts of mishaps can often have a noticeable effect on the opening stages of the game, but perhaps aided by the atrocious conditions, City coped admirably as they shaded a weak first half with minimal chances.
City started the second half in a good manner, pinning back Morecambe for periods, but fell behind to a well struck shot from Izak Reid after a goalmouth scramble. A long range shot deceived everyone including keeper Matt Duke as it dipped to hit the bar. Two 6 yard blocks from Luke Oliver prevented a goal but the ball fell to Reid who smashed it home.
The goal came somewhat out of the blue and knocked City totally out of their stride. Having tried to play some football in the diabolical conditions, all City’s progressive work went out of the window as panic ensued and the long ball was resurrected. Allowing Morecambe to gain a strong grip on the game, it looked as it City would yet again come away from Morecambe pointless. But once again, as at Oxford, Ross Hannah came off the bench to secure a vital away point for the travelling masses. Now I love Hannah, his attitude is spot on but I don’t think he is ready to start games yet – he looks slow, weak and a little lost; all things which can be worked on - but one thing you cannot fault him for is his ability to be in the right place at the right time. Hannah seems to posses the lauded after ability of being the ‘fox in the box’ which means he will score goals given the service.
The table may make for similar reading when compared to this time last year, but the difference in attitude from the players, and fans, could not be more evident. This team encapsulates the determination of captain Guy Branston. It doesn’t know when it is beaten and won’t give up until the final whistle is blown. All very positive to see. And this was reflected in the celebrations; exuberance which hasn’t been seen in a long time – even including Robbie Threlfall accidentally taking out a fan who had encroached onto the pitch!
There were positives all over the pitch, particularly Kyel Reid and Jamie Devitt. Reid, despite clearly not being match fit, showed touches of class and when fully fit should be a menace to League Two right backs. And Devitt, who came on with 30 minutes to go, nearly scored twice and showed enough enthusiasm to pop up all over the pitch, often running off the front two as a support striker.
James Hanson remains an enigma, though. He comes in for a lot of undue criticism but equally receives vastly over the top praise and if we look at it objectively, he is an average League Two forward. However, following two impressive performances against Barnet and Sheffield Wednesday, including two goals, Hanson struggled to make any impact on Saturday. Admittedly, long balls pumped up to him while he is 35 yards from goal are far from perfect, but he rarely won a header, looked lost on the pitch and when he had a golden opportunity from 6 yards out, his header lacked conviction. Frustrating is not the word as we know what Hanson can be capable of, but into his third season as a pro now, he should be aiming for greater levels of consistency.
Follow this up next week with a win though and I think we can firmly believe City are heading in the right direction, two homes wins sandwiched either side of a point away from home is the hallmark of a good team. The slow start would be slowly forgotten about and considering the amount of upheaval in the last two weeks, this would represent excellent progress for the team.