City’s third home game in a row was a visit from Leicestershire’s Gresley Rovers. The Moatmen came into the match having only won once away from home all season so with City’s less than impressive home form against sides from the bottom half of the table, something had to give.
Preparation wasn’t the best and the home side had a barrage of injury problems, Mikey Davies still not 100% fit was on the bench Long Term Absentee Scott Bridges, Ryan Ingrey and Tommy Rigby were all in attendance but watching from the comfort of the bar. Matty Miles still struggling with a foot injury and Tom Waumsley on leave awaiting the imminent arrival of baby Waumsley meant that Robbie had to turn to local Striker Callum Harrison from West Wratting FC and 18-year-old Stevenage Borough Academy player Theo Aleandrou as temporary cover. Both went straight into the starting line up .
The last thing City needed was another injury so hearts were in mouths when long throw specialist Albert Landsdowne launched a missile into the box, Taylor Parr out-jumped everyone to clear with his head but landed awkwardly on his ankle after less than 5 mins of play. Luckily for City Parr is made of pretty stern stuff and he soldiered on for the rest of the game.
The 1st chance of the game came from a Jarid Robsobn Cross. A slide rule pass from Alexandrou set Robson free and his in swinging cross looked like it was dipping under the cross-bar but keeper Lewis Fenney did well to claw the ball away. The rebound fell kindly for Isaac Maynard who dragged his snapshot wide.
On 23 minutes Jake Battersby Challenged his man from behind, resulting in a badly timed theatrical fall under minimal contact to win a free kick 35 yards from goal on the angle. The ball was whipped in and found the stooping head of Gresley number 10 Ryan Nesbitt, his glancing header hit the outside of the post and went behind for a goal kick, Welch had it covered.
Gresley were looking dangerous down the right wing and when Jonathan Letford found himself on the end of a dangerous cross and just 6 yards out he seemed to completely mis-judge the flight of the ball and it went harmlessly across the face of goal and behind.
Debutant Theo Alexandrou was impressing the home supporters with his intelligent play and when he was bought down skipping between 2 defenders City had a free kick in a dangerous position. Dan Cotton clipped the ball into the box and found the head of Jarid Robson who, with his back to goal, flicked the ball on and it looped over the despairing dive of the Gresley keeper putting City 1-0 in front.
With 42 minutes on the clock, some excellent work from Ben Nolan on the right saw him make a jinking run into the box, he laid the ball off to Robson who found Maynard in the space. Maynard took a lovely first touch to get the ball out of his feet and his right foot shot was heading for the top corner before being tipped over the bar by the keeper.
2 minutes later and Nolan was at it again, linking up well with Robson, this time down the right wing. With Jarid easily outpacing the defender, he whipped in a low cross to new boy Alexandrou smashed his volley passed the keeper from 7 yards out. 2-0 to City right on the stroke of halftime.
With the second half only 3 mins old, Yaw Ofosu challenged in the air to clear from the Gresley Keepers long ball. An accidental clash of heads that saw the City man requiring treatment and a bandage applied to his cut forehead. Just like his partner in defence Yaw returned to the action to see out the game.
The game was ebbing and flowing but when Alexandrou intercepted a poor clearance he sent Robson free down the right, the City mans first time cross looked like it would be an easy clearance for the defender who completely missed his kick and the ball ran through for City Top scorer Daniel Cotton. First time control and smashed his shot in passed the hapless keeper for 3-0. He doesn’t miss those.
With the game effectively killed off, Gresley were pushing to get a foothold but City were comfortably dealing with anything that came their way. Neither keeper was called into action again until the 73rd minute when Callum Harrison turned inside his man on halfway and delivered a stunning long range cross for Jarid Robson, the attacker pulling the ball out of the air and charging into the box, only to see the advancing keeper parry his shot wide for a corner.
With City well in control, Robbie made a couple of changes, no doubt with thoughts turning towards the upcoming match away to Harborough Town. Cotton and Harrison made way for Conway and Mikey Davies. Then on 81 minutes Ed Tassell came on to replace the tireless Ben Nolan.
With 7 mins to go, Gresely broke through the City Defence with Ryan Nesbitt producing a thunderous effort from the edge of the box but Welch was equal to it, diving to his left the push the ball around the post.
The final chance of the game fell to Mikey Davies. After an awful attempt at clearance from the Gresely number 5, who was having a torrid time trying to deal with Man of the Match, Jarid Robson. The ball came across the box to Davies who had time to drill his shot across the keeper only to see his effort cannon back off the post.
A good performance from City, under really difficult circumstances. Both Theo and Callum had excellent debuts for the Lilywhites and with Ingrey looking likely to be back in the line up and possibly Tom Waumsley, we’ll be taking a slightly stronger side to take on 7th placed Harborough Town on Saturday.