City were looking to build on their Boxing Day win, but instead slumped to a heavy defeat at the hands of play-off chasing Bishops Stortford, with home striker Greg Pearson netting all four of the home sides goals.
Gary Roberts had spoken following the win at St Albans, stating that City needed to show belief in their own ability and get some much needed consistency into their performances. Sadly, City yet again showed their Jekyll and Hyde nature producing ninety minutes of football devoid of much idea of how to unlock a Bishops Stortford defence that has leaked 14 goals in their last five games.
Josh Simpson tries to stop Loui Fazakerley
The opening few minutes of the match were pretty even with both sides trading blows. Strong hold-up play in the 4th minute from Pearson enabled Danny Lunan to clip a cross to the back post where Craig Edwards was inches from making contact with a diving header. Then Lee Roache should have done far better when he was presented with a free header from Steve Wales free-kick, but flicked his effort wide of the target.
Stortford then nearly took the lead after only twelve minutes when a great run from Lunan deep into City territory saw him release Ahmed Deen on the flank. The wingers low cross to the near-post was just missed by Danny Harris as he slid in and Martin Davies grabbed the loose ball as it pinged around alarmingly.
Citys escape was short lived though and just three minutes later they found themselves behind. Lunans long throw into the area was not dealt with and when Harris flicked on, City were in trouble. Loui Fazakerley miscued his shot which fell to Pearson, Dave Theobald dived in to block, but the ball rebounded kindly for the striker and he rifled the ball past Davies.
As the half progressed, City really were asking no questions of Stortford and the home side seemed almost to be in cruise control as they readily snuffed out Citys less than convincing efforts to make any inroads.
Stortford always looked likely to add to the scoring and Deen was just off the mark with a shot from distance before City were presented with a mountain to climb.
A speculative lob from Pearson over the City back-line should have resulted in nothing more than a goal-kick but as Fazackerly gamely chased the ball, Davies rushed from his line and clattered the winger, giving the referee no option other than to point to the spot. Pearson made no mistake from 12 yards.
Pearson flicks beyond Dave Theobald
At two goals behind, City needed to hit the road running as the second half got underway and to an extent they did as Roache set up Josh Simpson for a shot from the edge of the area that had Joe Welch sprawling across his goal, although the ball was always rolling wide.
City then enjoyed a brief spell of pressure but if this was to be a turning point for City it proved to be a false dawn as Stortford again upped the tempo and put the game beyond them. Davies had already turned Ahmeds shot around the post before Pearson struck again to notch his hat-trick, sliding home Jack Midsons pinpoint centre.
The Lilywhites should have pulled a goal back immediately, but somehow Roache managed to make no contact at all with Michael Gashs excellent knockdown.
Soon after, City produced their best move of the match. A penetrating run down the left from Craig Radcliffe provided Simpson with space to roll an inviting ball into the path of Gash. He let fly with an angled drive that clipped the outside of the post and ended up rippling only the side netting.
Any hopes that might have been lingering of a miraculous comeback were dashed when Pearson added to his goal tally, converting another penalty in the 72nd minute after he had been upended by Lee Chaffey.
City threw on substitutes and with Stortford no doubt easing off a little, ended the game strongly. They were denied a potential consolation when Roache appeared to be hauled down in the area by Sam Taylor as the City man cut in along the goal-line. In keeping with how Citys day had gone, somehow the referee and his assistant managed to miss it and instead opted for a free-kick right on the line.
In the 90th minute, City again came close to finding the back of the net but it wasnt to be as Tom Youngs shot at the near-post from Simpsons cross, was deflected behind to end a miserable day for The Lilywhites.
Post match reaction
It wasnt a very inspiring afternoon at Bishops Stortford particularly coming on the back of our good result and performance at St Albans on Boxing Day... more