Saturday, April 22, 2006

ONE last hurrah was the least Worcester City supporters demanded on their final home game of the season.

And although City's players are still smarting a fraction after losing the play-off race, they served up a St George's Lane treat.

Effectively a dead-rubber following last Monday's killer defeat at Droylsden, this contest, a second helping of Manchester opposition, could have turned into a spiritless, anti-climatic affair.

But it never materialised. For over an hour, it was surprisingly entertaining and feisty, with Hyde United, one of Nationwide North's brighter sides, keen to make their long haul worthwhile.

Fittingly, at the final whistle, supporters gave the players a raucous reception, no doubt confident of brighter times lying await next year.

As part of the package, Adam Webster volleyed home arguably Worcester's sweetest goal of the season.

Fans can argue over it -- as City have unearthed a raft of special strikes this season -- but as team goals go, it warrants pride of place.

Once City's play-off hopes evaporated, player-manager Andy Preece insisted he would take a look at the club's emerging youngsters.

And he kept to his word. Troy Wood, making his second league start, again took his chance to shine.

Through sheer foot-speed, 18-year-old Wood gave the Tigers plenty of headaches and maintained his goal-a-start ratio with a clinical finish.

Academy team-mate Gary Walker also made his case for re-selection with a wholehearted display in the centre of midfield, while Dale Watkins enjoyed a 10-minute cameo.

And there was room for experimentation too. Nick Colley was given the right wing-back berth ahead of ever-present Rob Warner, who may feel disgruntled not to complete the full 42 league matches.

The only disappointment for City was that, on two occasions, they relinquished a goal-lead.

City gained the upper hand on eight minutes with a strike deserving of winning any game.

It was Webster that struck gold on his landmark 200th City appearance, although credit goes in equal measure to those supplying the in-form marksman.

Crisp passing from Walker, Stanley and Colley had Hyde in knots before the latter's cross found George Clegg, back to goal, inside the penalty box.

Forever the conjurer, Clegg nonchalantly flicked the ball to Webster who hooked a right-foot volley off the upright and past flat-footed goalkeeper Jean-Paul Ndjebayi.

That took Webster to 25 goals for the season in all competitions, bettering his 24 from last year.

United drew level within three minutes of the home side's celebrations. Midfielder Neil Tolson first wasted a glorious opportunity, side-footing a poor effort wide of the post.

From a long-throw in moments later, Steve Brackenbridge made no mistake, sliding in at the far post to beat City stopper Lewis Skyers.

But on 21 minutes, Worcester were in pole position again. Facing the sun, former Manchester United and Everton centre-half John O'Kane horribly misread a bouncing ball.

Stealing in, Wood took his time, opened up his body, and placed a careful shot to the right of Ndjebay.

Skirmishes then developed across the park. City's Chris Smith and Tolson were booked during a running feud, while Paul Armstrong earned a caution after barging into Skyers.

Hyde levelled again during a pocket of pressure after the interval. From the left, substitute Lincoln Adams whipped over a dangerous cross into the City danger area.

Two United forwards queued up unmarked as, waiting at the back post, Tolson stuck his boot out to slide the ball low past Skyers.

Skyers came to the rescue as the visitors went closest to snatching a winner. Just three yards out, unmarked Mark Quayle was odds-on to score, but Skyers sprawled low to save with his legs.

City: Skyers, Colley, Burley, Khan, Smith, Lyttle, Stanley (Warner 61), Walker, Wood (Danks 80), Webster, Clegg (Watkins 80). Subs (not used): Warner, Hodnett.

Attendance: 803.