12:00pm Tuesday 27th July 2004
IT'S apt at Christmas time to pay tribute to City's Scrooge-like defence but nagging doubts persist at the other end of the pitch.
John Barton's wheeling and dealing has forged the nucleus of a championship-winning team together - almost but not quite.
Defensively it is championship winning material - no question.
Danny McDonnell continues to make important saves every match while ahead of him Allan Davies, Paul Carty, Carl Heeley and Jon Holloway/Dan Jones have proved equally resilient.
The midfield with the marauding presence of John Snape, touch and link up play of Pat Lyons and attacking verve of Darren Middleton has had the finishing touches applied by the electric pace and skill of Adam Wilde.
But at present the final piece of the jigsaw is missing - the piece that leaves a big 'but' hovering over City's hopes of overhauling the challenge of rivals such as Tamworth.
It is simply the absence of an out-and-out goalscorer.
Ironically for a side that at times last season scored for fun, this could turn out to be the Achilles heel for Barton's team.
Close inspection of the forwards at his disposal reveals quality players but not those with that knack for putting the ball in the net 20 plus times a season that is deemed necessary to win a title.
Adam Webster combines awareness and no shortage of skill in his play, but he is not a 20 plus goals a season man though he is more than capable of chipping in with 15 (he has five to date).
David Holmes is in the Webster mould - his control and ability contributing to City's excellent displays against Hastings and Crawley - but whether he can take on the mantle of goal poacher remains to be seen.
There of course is a player in the squad with more than 100 goals to his name and a reputation to match but Mark Owen is still on the long arduous journey back from an appalling injury.
The fact he is even playing again is something to cheer about but to even think about him scoring goals in the same prolific manner is perhaps too much to hope for at present (though not forever) - five goals for the reserves show he's not lost his eye for goal.
If there is a solution to the problem that doesn't require dipping into the transfer market it could lie in restoring Middleton up front.
The untimely injury to David Foy saw Middleton's spell in attack, in which he scored six goals in seven games at the start of the season, come to an end as he was withdrawn to a midfield role.
Now would seem an opportune time to give Middleton forward momentum in a bid to help City enjoy a merry Christmas and happy New Year period on the goal trail.
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