For Tamworth FC, it’s something of a rarity for an end of season game to have nothing riding on it. Cast your mind back just 12 months when we all ‘packed’ inside The Lamb for our game against Forest Green Rovers not knowing which league we would be playing in the following season. Despite being secure in our position this time round, it would be wrong to suggest that there was nothing left to play for.
Those interested in statistics would have been well aware that a win for Tamworth would not only take our points tally to 50, equaling those amassed by Mark Cooper’s side in 2004/05, but also give us an outside chance of securing 16th place, depending on results elsewhere. Arguably, simply ending the season a high note would be enough for some, while many were just looking forward to seeing the back of what has been a proverbial ‘roller-coaster’ of a season.
First however, Marcus Law’s side would have to overcome an in-form Cambridge United, a side which beat league Champions Fleetwood Town last week and were looking to avenge the 1-0 defeat Tamworth handed them at The Abbey Stadium earlier in the season. Having saw their play-off challenge falter recently, the U’s have won four of their last six fixtures and have the second best defensive record in the league so the Tamworth strikers would have to be on top of their game if they are to test the resolute Cambridge defence.
In the Tamworth Herald this week and also in his programme notes, Law concedes that for next season he must make changes if we are to improve next season, going as far as branding certain players as ‘selfish individuals’ in the process and that he wanted to ship them out a good while ago. It seems fair to say that alot of the players would be pulling on the Tamworth shirt for the final time.
Law made four changes to the side which were defeated 2-0 at Stockport last weekend. Richard Tait, Jean-Paul Marna and Charlie Collins all returned to action following recent injury, while there was a place in the starting line-up for Kyle Nix. Sam Oji, Connor Taylor, Connor Gudger and Kyle Patterson were the four players to make way, with the latter three taking up a place on the bench.
Having kicked off towards the Castle End with their large band of travelling support in fine voice, it was Cambridge who were quickest out of the blocks, with Luke Berry dragging an early opportunity wide from the edge of the Tamworth penalty area. Shortly afterwards, the visitors struck the woodwork as Dale Jennings’ excellent cross was turned onto the bar by the head of Liam Hughes before some good work from Gash down the right was almost rewarded with a goal as his cross was met by Jordan Patrick, who’s volley was well saved by Jonathan Hedge in the Tamworth goal.
Despite the early dominance, it was Tamworth who went ahead, somewhat against the run of play. U’s goalkeeper Dan Naisbitt failed to deal with a cross into the box under pressure and the ball fell to the unmarked Jean-Paul Marna, who casually slotted the ball into the open net to give Tamworth an unexpected lead. Almost immediately the visitors came close to an equaliser, although Rossi Jarvis’ 20-yard strike was denied by another fine stop from Hedge. Christie wasted an excellent chance to double The Lamb’s lead when his low shot from inside the box was denied by Naisbitt.
On the half-hour mark though Cambridge’s huffing and puffing finally resulted in an equaliser when Adam Marriot powered a header past Hedge having got on the end of a Liam Hughes cross. The visitors continued to dominate possession for the remainder of the half, but failed to do anything with it. Iyseden Christie however found room for a shot late on, although his effort was well blocked by U’s defender Jonathan Thorpe.
HT: Tamworth 1-1 Cambridge
Tamworth player’s heads must have still been in the dressing room as straight from the re-start Cambridge took the lead as Jordan Patrick and Adam Marriot took advantage of a sleeping Tamworth defence. Patrick broke into the Tamworth area and drove a low ball towards goal from a tight angle with Marriot inadvertently guiding the ball into the net off his midriff.
Nine minutes later, following a good spell by Tamworth, The Lambs were awarded a penalty when Iyseden Christie was felled in the box by Rory McAuley. Christie stepped up looking for his 13th goal of the season only to see his penalty well saved by Naisbitt who in turn was left powerless to deny Jean-Paul Marna scoring his second of the game, nodding a home a Charlie Collins cross in the immediate aftermath of the save.
Paul Green was the first player to pick up a booking not long after following a foul on Berry as Tamworth made their first changes of the game with Kyle Patterson and Connor Gudger replacing Kyle Nix and Charlie Collins.
Michael Gash fired straight at Hedge for Cambridge having got the better of the Tamworth defence, before a Scott Barrow free-kick was hit straight into the wall as both sides pushed for a winner. Naisbitt was forced into another decent save, this time tipping away Connor Gudger’s fine 25-yard curling effort before U’s Jordan Patrick’s header was flicked over the bar by the excellent Hedge. Deep into injury time, Scott Barrow headed straight at Naisbitt who held well as the final whistle blew on an exciting encounter to end the season.
Final Score: Tamworth 2-2 Cambridge
Man Of The Match: Jean-Paul Marna. His last few performances have drawn criticism from certain areas of The Lambs’ support and although both of his goals were not exactly world class, they were well taken all the same. He also held the ball up well and distributed it to good effect. A good effort.
The Verdict: Well that’s it, another season over. I mentioned earlier about the team ending the season on a high and I believe that’s something they have done, despite ending the season with just a draw. We could have won, but supporters can be pleased with the way the team performed. It’s good to see JP Marna in the goals again and his partnership with Christie looked quite promising, albeit too late in the season. This season really has been a roller-coaster, but with Law admitting this season has been a learning process and underlining the fact there will be changes next season, plus the fact he will be appointing an assistant to help ease the burden, I for one am quite optimistic about the future. We have Euro 2012 over the summer of course to provide us with our football fix but it’s never quite the same as watching your club. It’s going to be an interesting few months for TFC. Roll on pre-season!