This was a crucial game if City were to keep title hopes alive and not an ideal time to play the top side straight after New Year with everyone rusty and full of excess spirits! Harworth are a good side and worthy of top spot. It is sad that a stiff wind and decisions spoiled what should have been a free flowing contest. At half time, 2-0 down and 10 men, the final result may have seemed a remote possibility. Oddly enough we fancied ourselves at half time; we couldn't produce another half as poor, we felt that the Harworth lads thought the game was done and we knew thay had underestimated the wind. The first half was a neutral affair with both sides lacking a cutting edge; the keepers made a decent save apiece but were relatively untroubled. With 8 mins to the half the game changed; the referee awarded a penalty under interesting circumstances and we found ourselves 1-0 down. Against the wind that would have not been too bad. Unfortunately we conceded a sloppy second from a corner and then things got even worse as the referee confused all by awarding us a foul but straight red carding Ryan for something that few others within 10m heard. Enough said but not good. The first half effort was woeful from some and the tactical discussion easy. To City's credit we executed the second half much better, using the conditions as we pegged Harworth into their own half but still clear chances were few. Haynes and Foster had been unusually quiet in the first half but started to play a bigger part in the game as Ballard and Ness drove them on. Barrowcliffe replaced the tiring Gleeson only to be replaced himself within minutes by Johnson following a knee injury. Johnson had a massive impact on the game with energy and commitment inspiring others. Foster had the ball played into feet and was dragged down to give Carpenter the chance to calmly put us back in the game. We continued to press and Harworth were restricted to counter attacks which we handled well. As poor as the effort was from some in the first half, 10 men City were outstanding in the second and continued to push. Walters pulled up with cramp and was replaced by Tyler who looked solid. We looked after the ball much better and played a high tempo game which was rewarded when a driving Haynes cross was shinned into the roof of teh net by a defender and put us level with 4 minutes to go. The game had one last turn as Foster and Haynes were played through and Ballard scythed down to give us a penalty in injury time which Carpenter duly dispatched with a calmness reflecting his years! The whistle blew seconds later to give City an unlikely 3 points and leave 4 sides level at the top of the league on 21 points. Harworth are still favourites with games in hand but we have all to play for. I was proud of the second half display but both sides can feel aggrieved that the level of officiating hampered what would otherwise have been a high quality game. We now have to perform to our standards week in and out to give ourselves a shout! To their credit, the Harworth lads took the result on the chin and will remain the side to beat as the season pans out.
Man of the Match for an outstanding game was Dean Carpenter.