Murphy's Law For McDermott

Farnborough Town

Farnborough Town

Robson (78), Underwood (81)
Slough Town

Slough Town

Murphy (52)
League Attendance: 892 Robert Smith
Friday the 13th held no torments for Slough Town boss Brian McDermott, but Satan's armies were still abroad the following day when the Rebels lost not only three Conference points but possibly three players into the bargain at Cherrywood Road.

Perhaps of least significance on a diabolical day was the result - defeat after taking the lead in the 52nd minute through substitute Michael Murphy.

The real terrors began with the sight of striker Mark West, back in the side for the first time in six weeks, being stretchered off in agony with the recurrence of a knee injury in the 42nd minute. Six minutes into the second half and Cliff Hercules' mistimed tackle on Boro' winger Steve Baker earned him a booking and possibly a two-match ban on the tally system. And with the game petering out in injury time, full back Garry Smart was red-carded for a tackle from behind on Boro' striker Chris Boothe.

Smart, like Hercules, will miss the trip to Woking and the home match against Stevenage Borough, but the return match against Famborough in addition. But McDermott's problems do not begin or end there. A scoreless first half saw the Rebels play some pretty football without ever really threatening even an off-key Boro' whose position in the league owes much to their performances on the road.

At home Boro' are there for the taking, but McDermott's plea to his players to attack the target seems to have fallen - in some cases at least - on deaf ears. Hardest of hearing was striker Gary Abbott who now barely resembles the player about whom McDermott raved after two early season hat-tricks. But another lacklustre show prompts more questions about Abbott's desire and about how long any side can carry a frontman who has failed to find the net in 14 of his 20 appearances. Abbott had a glorious opportunity to silence his critics in the 10th minute, but headed Danny Bott's well struck free kick to the far post over the bar.

If Abbott flashed momentarily, Simon Stapleton continues to flicker like a distant, fading star. The former Wycombe Wanderers midfielder rescued his reputation with three goals in quick succession after failing to live up to expectations early in the season. Fans are still waiting for Stapleton to stamp his authority by taking on defences in the way that Mark Fiore has begun to since getting another chance to command a first team place.

Fiore ran and chased to exhaustion and had the only other chance of the first half, appearing in space on the left but firing wide from 12 yards following a flowing move down the right. He then made a vital contribution to the goal which came after the Rebels had successfully soaked up some early second half pressure.

Breaking back down the middle he combined with Bolt for Murphy to finish off his first goal for the club after Mackenzie had committed himself to coming off his line. But instead of riding their luck the Rebels lost the initiative with Phil Wingfield and Pat Gavin both going close as Boro sharpened up both in open play and from set pieces.

Rebels keeper Paul Wilkerson, growing in self confidence with each game, had already earned himself a few more brownie points by getting down well to save from David Harlow after he had intercepted Andy's Clements intended cross field pass just before the break.

Clements had his keeper in more trouble midway through the second half when this time. Jon Underwood stole the header back and Wilkerson finally pouched the ball at the second attempt.

Wilkerson's confidence in his defence was further undermined when he was sold short by Stapleton, and Darren Robson whipped in to fire an angled shot home from the left for a 78th minute equaliser.

Murphy might have restored the Rebels' lead moments later his shot from a comer went straight into Mackenzie's arms while Gavin skied a shot in front of an open goal. The killer punch in the 81st came instead when Boro' winger Steve Baker set up Robson for a shot from the right which Underwood steered home from close range.

Murphy went wide with a header from six yards before McDermott made a double substitution in a bid now to salvage a point. Grateful Boro' were happy just to hang onto the ball and Boothe went into hiding by the comer flag as the clock passed time.

Schoolteacher Smart, who impressed as an England semi-pro triallist in the match against the ICIS League a few days earlier, never gives up. But his attempt to retrieve the ball from Boothe ended with players grappling and was then judged by Paul Vosper to have constituted violent conduct. The only good thing about nightmares Brian, is, that eventually you will wake up.

Farnborough Town Lineup

Mackenzie, Stemp, Underwood, Coney, Williams, Harford, Boothe, Harlow, Gavin, Baker, Wingfield. SUBS. Steadman, Denny, Robson (71, for Harford).


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