Saturday, August 12, 2006

THE record books will show Worcester City began their Nationwide North campaign with a 1-0 victory at Barrow.

They will also credit close-season signing Craig Wilding with the winner, scored after 25 minutes at Holker Street on Saturday.

But they won't tell the whole story. Wilding may have bagged the winner but it was the heroics of City goalkeeper Danny McDonnell that ensured Andy Preece's side, depleted by injury, left Cumbria with three precious points.

The City stopper produced two top-drawer second-half saves to keep Barrow out and further underlined just how vital it is he stays fit with no recognised 'keeper on the bench.

McDonnell, rarely called on in the first period, showed superb reflexes to stick out his right hand to deny Nick Rogan with the striker clean through on 76 minutes.

He followed that up in the second minute of injury-time with another fine right-handed stop to push away substitute Tom Pope's effort across the goal.

How Barrow could have done with such a presence between their posts.

McDonnell's opposite number, Jamie Speare, looked far from comfortable at times and it was his error of judgement that ultimately decided the contest.

Chris Smith's hopeful punt into the box was met by a slightly off-balance Wilding at the far post and his tame header looped over the static Speare, hit the crossbar and bounced down over the line.

Wilding's surprise was in total contrast to a dejected Speare, who no doubt thought the ball was going harmlessly over the top.

Although that seemed to spark the game into life, it was one of precious few first-half chances for either side. Barrow's best opportunity to restore parity came on the half-hour mark when Alex Taylor blazed over from close range after being played in by Andrew Bond.

It was typical of the hosts' afternoon. Time after time they squandered good positions and their woeful set-pieces were either gobbled up by McDonnell or cleared by a solid looking City back-three well-marshalled by Smith.

Not surprisingly, Barrow pushed forward after the break and introduced Kyle Wilson as a third forward, but City, playing in red and black, seemed content to soak up the pressure and take their chances on the break.

Troy Wood, who hit a fine shot on the turn just wide on 47 minutes, was left on his own up-front for the visitors as goalscorer Wilding dropped back to pack the midfield.

Barrow began to incur the wrath of disgruntled home fans as they found it hard to breakthrough.

Dennis Pearce almost gave Phil Wilson's men something to cheer on 67 minutes but McDonnell was on his toes after the centre-half got a little too much on a looping header in the penalty box.

George Clegg and Wilding, both booked in the second-half, and Adam Burley all went close for City.

But it was boss Preece, a late replacement for Wood, who wasted the best chance on 89 minutes.

The former Carlisle striker completely miskicked in the six-yard box after a neat cutback by Nick Colley.

It could have proved costly had it not been for McDonnell's match-winning efforts either side of Preece's howler.

But the only thing that will matter to the City manager is that his side are off to a winning start.

City: McDonnell, Sztybel, Burley, Smith, Pearce, Hodnett (Thompson 80), Colley, Stanley (Walker 74), Wilding, Wood (Preece 87), Clegg. Subs not used: Khan, Watkins.

Attendance: 986.