City made an early return to the new Nerf JPL post-lockdown league competition, thanks to hosts Corby Town kindly agreeing to the fixture being brought forward due to the visitors' involvement in the WFA County Cup later this month.
On a chilly morning in Northamptonshire, City had the first serious attempt on goal when Charlie Grubb forced the Corby keeper to tip over a free-kick at his far post. The same part of the goal was threatened moments later when Guy Collett created room for a shot that had the goalie clawing at thin air as it eluded him and appeared to rebound to safety off the inside of the post despite pleas from several City players in proximity that the ball had in fact come out off the stanchion.
The scare appeared to wake Corby into life as they broke dangerously on the left but crossed slightly behind the striker who was unable to get any power on his shot. However they went mightily close to taking the lead on two occasions before the interval - Alex Fenn firstly blocking a goalbound effort before Grubb cleared off the line at a corner.
Q2 saw the home side take a grip on proceedings as they got a foothold in midfield and scored twice. City will be disappointed with both goals that they conceded.
For the first, a Corby midfielder wasn't closed down but allowed to advance before unleasing a piledriver that Josh Reed-Jones did well to touch onto the bar. Unfortunately the ball went up and not over and when it came down, it was only a home player who reacted to touch unopposed over the line.
Whether the second was lucky or a well-worked set-piece routine, City will rue the fact that the ball ended in their net. A free-kick inside the visitors' half appeared to have been miskicked as the ball rolled into the left side of the visitors' box where an onrushing opponent was allowed to meet it unchallenged and steer across the goal and in.
City lifted themselves in Q3 and put in a much better display when they were so nearly rewarded with a goal that would have brought them back into the contest. Jesse Asomugha intercepted the ball on the halfway line, outpaced the Corby defence but shot agonisingly wide of the far post with the keeper beaten.
Reed-Jones made an excellent save at his near post to keep his side in the match as Corby continued to threaten a defence that was well-marshalled throughout by Will Sankey.
As players tired from their first match in over three months, the game became scrappy - an apt description of Corby's third goal in the final quarter as City failed to deal with a corner to their near post. In the resulting melee, Reed-Jones punched the ball but it smashed into the face of an unsuspecting Corby player and rebounded into the net.
Whilst the result deservedly went the hosts' way, it was just great for the City squad to be out on the pitch again. And with three fixtures in the coming week, they will have ample opportunity to raise the bar and improve on this first competitive, post-lockdown outing.