Saturday, December 10, 2005

THE pantomime season arrived at St George's Lane -- although it stirred no

festive laughs from Worcester City supporters.

Thwarted City mustered a single point as backs-to-the-wall Worksop Town successfully strangled this Nationwide North contest with their top-heavy defensive approach.

In true pantomime style, Worcester, as the Big Bad Wolf would have it, huffed and puffed but could not blow the Tigers house down.

Adam Webster was again on the spot to lash City in front, but once Glenn Kirkwood levelled from a dubious set-piece, the home side rummaged for the key to unlock 'Fort Knox' Worksop.

It was a frustrating afternoon for City fans, who vented their feelings by letting rip at pantomime villains, Town's feisty Mark Wilson and referee William Smallwood.

Both were at the centre of Worksop's equaliser, netted from a 25-yard free-kick when Smallwood harshly penalised Chris Smith for a challenge on Wilson.

Smith nipped the ball from Wilson's feet, but the shaggy-haired midfielder's histrionics -- worthy of a scene on stage at Malvern Theatre -- swayed the feeble Northwich official.

Smallwood and his assistants continued to bumble their way through the game, making several erroneous decisions that angered both managers.

Andy Preece, clearly seething when an obvious City throw-in went the other way, called the referee "an embarrassment".

Ronnie Glavin raged as Smallwood awarded multiple free-kicks outside the Worksop penalty box late on, while constant Tigers time-wasting went unpunished.

It is perhaps a mark of respect to City that in-form Worksop -- just five points off the play-offs having lost once in seven league games -- set their stall for a draw.

Worcester should have won, as Leon Kelly spurned two glorious second-half chances, but Preece was unwilling to criticise the striker.

"Leon was disappointed himself," said Preece. "He apologised to the lads in the changing room, but he needn't have.

"The main chance Leon had was all his own work again. It just needed a finish at the end and it would have been an unbelievable goal.

"Fair play to Worksop, their game plan was to come and get a point and they did that, so they will be satisfied. But there was only one side that really wanted to win the game."

It took more than 15 minutes for City to rev their engine, with little energy to feed from a hugely disappointing crowd of 806.

But two good, fast-flowing moves set them on their way, with Les Hines smashing shots wide and into the canal.

Another quick counter inspired by Nick Colley forced a 20th minute corner, from which City pressed their noses ahead.

Hines' delivery fell at the far post to Des Lyttle, whose stinging low drive could only be parried by Tigers goalkeeper Adam Sollitt. Webster coolly swivelled the rebound home from close range, registering his fifth goal in six outings.

Worcester are fast developing a healthy reputation for shutting out opponents. Once they snatched the lead, it was a surprise that they conceded so quickly.

Smallwood got it wrong when penalising Smith on Wilson, and from Steve Robinson's in-swinging free-kick, Wilson glided in to head on goal before Glenn Kirkwood slotted easily past Danny McDonnell.

From then on, Worksop took refuge in their own half as City struggled to find a way through.

On 54 minutes, Kelly latched on to Colley's sweet pass and brushed aside Simpkins and Steve Nicholson into the Tigers box.

But composure deserted Kelly as he looked to loft the ball over Sollitt, instead firing horribly over.

Preece's thunderbolt 25-yard free-kick was also fisted clear by Sollitt.

City: McDonnell, Warner, Hines, Smith, Thompson, Lyttle, Colley, Hyde, Kelly, Webster, Clegg.

Attendance: 806.

Referee: William Smallwood (Northwich).