Updated: Feb 27
With very little sign of the injury crisis clearing up, Manager Robbie Nightingale had to turn to recruitment again this week.
Theo Alexandrou has impressed since joining from Stevenage Academy and so we turned to the Hertfordshire team again for some support and they answered the call in the shape of 18-year-old Attacking Midfielder, Jake Watkiss. Jake will be a much-needed boost with City still without regular starters, Ryan Ingrey, Tommy Rigby, Matty Miles & Scott Bridges.
Taylor Parr was also unavailable for the match meaning 16-year-old Ed Tassell could make his first start in his preferred position of centre-back partnering Yaw Ofosu.
Khalsa came into the game with their play-off hopes still very much alive despite a poor run of form by their standards.
The match started in brilliant sunshine with City, unusually, attacking the Bridge Road end of the ground and playing into the sun. Both sides started well, playing the ball around nicely. It was immediately apparent that the Khalsa tactic was going to be long ball up the middle to frontman and headline writers dream, Miracle Okafor. Yaw and Ed were wise to it from the off and with Joe Welch also alert to the tactic coming out of his box to clear his lines regularly, the City defence handled the threat with relative ease.
It was an entertaining game, despite both defences stifling their attacking counterparts, chances were at a premium and neither keeper called into serious action at all in the first half. The first decent opportunity of the game came on 28 minutes, a towering header from Yaw Ofosu from a Daniel Cotton Corner that was comfortably dealt with by the Lions keeper Sam Arnold. 4 minutes later and Cotton himself picked up the ball with his back to go about 25 yards out, the City hitman turned well but his shot was deflected wide for a corner.
Khalsa’s only series attempt on goal came on 40 minutes, a neat pass through to Okafor set the striker through on goal, he finished neatly at the near post only to be denied by the offside flag.
As the game was heading towards the break a scramble in the box led to a Ben Bradley shot, the Khalsa Defender Matt Fulloway throwing himself in the line of fire, deflected the ball to the feet of Theo Alexandrou who smashed the ball into the roof of the net from 2 yards out, unfortunately for City he was rightly flagged offside and the goal was chalked off.
The second half started with the Lilywhites on the front foot, many had not taken their places back in the stand when Jarrid Robson broke down the right, latching on to a good cross-field ball from Ben Bradley. Charging into the box on the angle, his goal bound right footed shot was parried away by the onrushing Arnold, an excellent save to keep Robson’s effort out.
The opening goal game on 51 minutes, Jake Battersby found Alexandrou down the left with an excellent through ball. The 18-year-old cut back to deliver a cross into the box that had the Khalsa defence in disarray for the first time in the match. It was Fulloway again flinging himself at the cross, but this time he only managed to scoop the ball up in the air and it fell kindly to Tom Waumsley who turned and flicked the ball into the roof of the net from close range. It was a scrappy goal, but they all count, and City were rightfully a goal to the good.
Another good chance game on 68 minutes when Alexandrou beat the offside trap to get in behind the khalsa defence, his effort saved well by the feet of Arnold, who, while grounded, brilliantly plucked the ball out of the air before it could fall to the city man for a tap in.
That was the chance to kill the game off. Khalsa came close 3 minutes later when a stinging drive from 25 yards by Cunningham was brilliantly turned over the bar by Welch.
Refereeing controversy is never too far away, and so it proved to be again. Khalsa broke down the left, Ben Nolan challenging for the ball with Toumani Sidibe, The strikers arms were flailing around trying to shake Nolan off and he connected with the right elbow. To Nolan's credit he stayed on his feet but a second swing with the left connected, sending Nolan to the floor. To the amazement of the crowd and the City defence, the referee who had given some pretty soft decisions all day, decided the challenge was fair and let play go on. The lucky Soudibe made his way to the by-line and crossed in for a close-range effort from Harry Cunningham who beat Welch at his near post for a contentious equaliser with only 7 minutes left to play.
The final chance of the game fell to Khalsa in the last minute of the game, Soudibe was put through on goal but lifted his effort over Joe Welch and luckily for City it also cleared the cross-bar.
Speaking with Robbie after the Game. “It was a difficult day for us with the injuries we have, Mikey Davies wasn’t fully fit and Simon Swinton came in ill. We played some really nice football for such a young team. None more so than Ed Tassell who came in and impressed everyone again, especially in the first half. Playing against an experienced striker who scores a lot of goals. Credit to Ed he’s really learning quickly and enjoying his football.
1st half, we took time to settle and had one or two good moments, although probably could have done better in the final third, often rushing that final pass but having said that, we’re playing against a top 6 side and we’ve restricted them to a handful of half chances while arguably creating the better opportunities in the game. Especially in the second half when we had Theo one on one with the keeper and the earlier effort from Jarrid. We’re disappointed to have only come away with a draw but again we’ve taken points off one of the top sides in the league.
We turn our attention to the CIC cup in midweek in what will prove to be a tough game against Wisbech. It’s a competition that we want to progress in and would love to get to the final, then we have another big game against top opposition in Boldmere St Michaels next weekend. Hopefully we’ll have a few back for that one”