Six and Out for Meridian
It was six and out of the cup for Meridian as the City goal machine rolled into town again.
Canterbury City 6 Meridian VP 0
A dominant performance from City to progress through to the next round of the Kent Senior Trophy. They won at a canter barely breaking into a sweat to defeat a Meridian side seemingly short on confidence and lacking any sort of organisation or attacking threat. City were able to rest a few players and give debuts to new Gibraltan international Mikey Yome and also to U-18's keeper Ryan Birch in what was an excellent warm-up for the important FA Vase match at home to Lydney Town next Saturday.
The game started slowly with most of the early play concentrated in Meridian's half, but it soon became clear that only one side had the capability of going up through the gears and that was City. Their first sight of goal came in the sixth minute when Taser Hassan found Yome with a long, classy cross-field pass and the debutant cut inside before seeing his firm shot saved at head height by home keeper Ben Ashton. Meridian responded with an attack down the inside right channel that was broken up by Jack Healey with Birch quickly out to claim the loose ball with a sliding stop at the feet of an attacker. A confident and assured start by the impressive youngster, attributes he showed again shortly after when claiming a high ball under pressure that had been lifted into the City box.
It was City though that were monopolising the attacking play and Yome again showed his strength striding forward and cutting inside before seeing a low shot saved by Ashton. It took City just fourteen minutes to open the scoring when Danny Lawrence slipped a lovely ball down the left wing into space for Gary Mickelborough to chase. His determined run into the box took him through two challenges before he fired low past a flat-footed Ashton for 1-0. City were inches from making it two just a couple of minutes later when Lawrence clipped a ball in that Alfie Nunn couldn't quite get a touch on which undoubtedly would have deflected it past the keeper for a second.
City's next move completely scythed Meridian apart when Hassan's brilliant ball over the top of the defence found Lawrence tearing down the right wing and his excellent low cross just bypassed Yome as he attempted to touch the ball home. City were playing some great stuff, knocking the ball around with confidence and style with quick-fire passing and lovely little touches and it wasn't long before they deservedly doubled their lead. Healey looked up and bent a perfect and measured pass around a closing defender into space and once again Mickelborough seized upon it and after another determined and strong run into the Meridian box, he fired it across and low, past Ashton for 2-0.
Another City move then opened up the hosts again as Hassan battled down the left, cut inside and played a deft one-two with Lawrence, before hitting a sweet strike that Ashton was forced to tip over the cross-bar to safety for a corner. Another couple of chances came and went for City as Laurence Harvey saw his header from the corner saved by Ashton, before in the very next attack, Mickelborough fired just wide. City were at full flight now and Yome burst through after being set by Lawrence but just overran the ball seeing it roll through to a grateful Ashton. He made no mistake just after though when Hassan drove forward again and sent over another inviting low cross. Mickelborough couldn't convert it but Yome was in the right place, arriving at the far post to force a shot home despite the intervention of a defender on the line for a debut goal and 3-0.
The home side were unable to put the City goal under any sort of pressure and more importantly they had so far failed to put their opponents young debutant keeper to any real test either. Their attacking threat - and what they did have was negligible - was only coming from Adrian Brown and thirty-five minutes had passed before even he managed to get into the City box only to be thwarted by Birch dashing out bravely and going down at the striker's feet to firstly knock the ball away and then being the quickest to react, chasing after it to clear before Brown could threaten further. That apart, it remained City in control as Mickelborough, chasing a first-half hat-trick, just overran a Lawrence flick-on before a lovely City move involving several players just failed to produce a stunning goal as Mickelborough, clear through, was flagged inches offside.
A rare effort from Meridian saw Birch well behind a Brown shot with a comfortable, but well positioned save before City increased their lead still further on forty-two minutes. Mickelborough was involved again as he pounced onto a through ball in the home box before being forced wide and seeing his effort blocked out from a narrowing angle. Hassan picked up the loose ball and tried to find some space to make a shot, but with defenders closing him down he appeared to be in a cul-de-sac before a clever turn in the box found the minimum of space and he curled a delicious shot around his marker and just inside the post for 4-0.
With such little time remaining before the break there was remarkably still time for action at both ends. Meridian finally had a meaningful look at the City goal when from a corner, a Michael Skipp shot hit the City post. Birch must have got a touch though as another corner was given which was swung in and a towering home header was cleared off the City line by Gary Clarke.
This was just a blip in the City dominance however as they immediately went down the other end and a Nunn ball, straight down the middle, found Mickelborough in full flight and clean through once more. As Ashton came well out of his box to challenge, the striker knocked the ball past him only for the keeper to bring him down. After consulting with his linesman, the referee showed the keeper a straight red card and Meridian were reduced to ten men. Under the letter of the law, it was probably a red card, the keeper was by a long way the last man, but the ball had been knocked several yards past him and to the side so it was debateable if a clear goal-scoring opportunity had been denied. However, on the other hand, with the game already gone at 0-4, you could argue that it was a poor piece of decision making by the keeper in making the challenge in the first place, as having their keeper sent off was probably the last thing his team needed in the circumstances. Thankfully for the home side though, City weren't able to capitalise with the free-kick, Lawrence firing over the bar from twenty yards.
That was the last action of the half and the whistle saw two sets of contrasting emotions as City trotted off with a spring in their step and four goals in their back pocket, their opponents trudging off, playing poorly, a man short, four goals behind and in a pretty hopeless and hapless position.
Without a reserve keeper on the bench, Meridian were forced to play the second half with an outfield player in goal and Chas Davies duly stepped up to take on the responsibility. Needless to say, City were straight onto the front foot and a Chris Webber cross took a wicked deflection off the foot of centre-half Ashley Carman and everyone in Meridian sky-blue was highly relieved to see it slice wide of the upright only for a City corner. They couldn't prosper from that situation but it wasn't long before they scored again. Man-of-the-match Mickelborough chased a long clearance into the box forcing Davies to come sliding out to clear. The stand-in keeper just beat him to the ball but his clearance failed to gain any height and it only came out to Hassan and with the keeper now awol, Hassan looked up and from about thirty-five yards out crashed the ball forward into the vacant net for 5-0.
With such a lead, City were now in cruise control. Their opponents had little to offer shown as a free-kick from a very handy position soared over everybody in the City box and went out. Mickelborough continued to pose problems though holding off a defender and getting to the byline only to see his pull back cleared as only Clarke had got forward and then a lovely little back-heel from Nunn put Lawrence through but his chipped shot was just gathered by Davies from right under his own bar. City were also probing from set pieces as a well worked corner routine between Hassan and Lawrence ended with Harvey heading just wide, while another saw Lawrence himself curl a shot just over from twenty yards.
With City in such a dominant position, it was a great time to make some changes as another City youngster, Will Hyndman came on to replace Webber while City then later made two other substitutions with Jordan Casey returning from suspension and Sam Conlon also being introduced for the last fifteen minutes. City continued to press forward as Mickelborough was almost through before being fouled, Lawrence firing wide from the ensuing free-kick and Healey hit a scorcher from thirty-five yards only to see it thunder back off the upright with Davies completely beaten.
The home side could only muster one effort on goal during this period, left-back Skipp getting forward to scoot a low shot wide, while another Lawrence effort went just wide again for City. Mickelborough, still searching for his elusive third was beaten in an aerial challenge by Davies who was equipping himself well as a stand-in keeper, proved shortly after when he sprinted out to thwart Mickelborough once more after the striker had again beaten the defence with his pace and rode though three challenges with his strength and determination.
Davies then saved from Healey before the latter created the perfect opportunity for Mickelborough to score his third. A ball over the defence from Healey was perfect for him, but he still had plenty to do - controlling the ball and cleverly flicking it over his marker, but Mickelborough, presumably with hat-trick lights and bells flashing and ringing, blazed the ball over the bar from a brilliant position.
On eighty-four minutes, City scored their sixth as Yome clipped the ball into the box and Harvey ran on and planted a cracking header wide of Davies's valiant but despairing dive and in off the upright for 6-0. City were also keen to record their third consecutive clean sheet and Hyndman put in a superb challenge deep in his own box to stop a rare Meridian attack, while the hosts saw a desperate long shot disappear well over the city bar.
With the ninety minutes almost up, City were still searching for further goals. Casey poked a volley wide before then helping to create another chance for Mickelborough. Running through with the ball, he was met by a challenge from Davies and the ball rebounded off the pair of them and ricocheted towards goal, but fortunately for Meridian, Carman just got back to clear the ball off the line as Mickelborough tried in vain to force it over. The last chance of the game fell to Yome when he fired over the bar from a stoppage time City corner.
A thoroughly professional performance from City, they dominated from start to finish and totally outplayed and outclassed the home side who were never in the game. It was six and out of the cup for Meridian, but if City had really gone though the gears you couldn't help thinking then it might have been a real 'cricket score'.
Final score; City 6 Meridian VP 0
City; Ryan Birch, Chris Webber (Will Hyndman), Jack Healey, Gary Clarke, Laurence Harvey, Josh McCallum, Mikey Yome, Danny Lawrence (Sam Conlon), Alfie Nunn, Gary Mickelborough, Taser Hassan (Jordan Casey).
Unused subs; Matt Martin, Ryan Philpott.