City Win GFA Cup

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Full speed ahead: City slickers see off spirited Cirencester to clinch GFA Senior Cup

BRISTOL City’s rising under-23 stars brushed aside stiff Cirencester Town opposition to lift the Gloucestershire Senior Challenge Cup with a 4-2 win at Oaklands Park, writes Simon Parkinson.

They had to come from behind to achieve it after Jack Watts had fired the Evo-Stik Southern League West side ahead eight minutes in before two Opi Edwards strikes, and a Jonny Smith thunderbolt for starters, ensured Ashton Gate’s fledgling professionals a healthy 3-1 interval lead.

While winger Watts again provided a rasping finish to restore Cirencester hopes seven minutes into the second half, centre-half Aaron Parsons fittingly wrapped up the win on the strength of a stand-out display at the back to secure the trophy with City’s fourth goal on 69 minutes.

City’s youthful slickers, who had sounded an early warning on a rain-soaked 3G surface at the Gloucestershire FA’s Almondsbury HQ through Jake Andrews’ well-struck but wayward left-foot shot, had to dig deep to respond to Cirencester’s eighth-minute breakthrough.

A deep delivery from the left by skilful Brazilian-born forward Felipe Barcelos invited Watts to rifle a finish on the slide at the back post to hand the Southern League side, eager to begin the process of gaining upward momentum again following last season’s relegation frustration, an eighth-minute advantage.

The Centurions, managed by former Bristol Rovers youth striker Charlie Griffin, somehow survived a serious assault on their goal soon after when marauding City marksman Kel Akpobire squeezed a low shot seemingly destined for the net as he burst into the box, only for backtracking Ciren defender Ellis Dunton to cleverly hook the ball along the goal-line.

The ball nonetheless fell to Robins No.10 Andrews who appeared to have the simplest of chances to break the net from point-blank range at the far stick, only for Ciren keeper Mateuz Wieczorek to produce a magnificent save to beat away the goal-bound attempt.

At the other end relieved 18-year-old City keeper Alhaji Sesay reached high to grab the ball after his miscued clearance handed Ciren midfielder Henry Spalding, loitering on the edge of the area, the chance to net but couldn’t quite get enough lift on his attempted chip.

The tide began to turn City’s way from the 26th minute when livewire Liverpudlian Smith, a recent Cheltenham Town loanee, found space inside the left side of the box to crack an unerring finish past the flailing arms of Wieczorek into the roof of the net.

Twelve minutes on Smith was enjoying the freedom of Oaklands Park once more pounding down the left wing before drilling a precision cross into the middle for Edwards to score with a high finish from eight yards out.

It got better for Luke Williams’ young professionals a minute before the interval as Andrews somehow rattled the base of the bar in trying to convert another Smith cross, this time from two yards out, but was happy to see the alert Edwards seize the rebound and force the ball over the line, despite the close attentions of the Ciren keeper snapping at his heels.

Any hopes City had of pushing on from there were dealt a setback in the early stages of the second half. Ben Whitehead had just tested Sesay with a firm strike in darting on to Watts’ neat pass when another incisive Town move led to the busy Watts smacking a fine angled finish off the inside of the far post to make it 3-2 on 52 minutes.

Chances were limited at both ends after that, despite the contest opening up, but it was City who eventually prevailed 20 minutes from time by finding a fourth goal without reply.

Edwards had just embarked on a mazy run to leave a string of Ciren players in his wake and play a key part in forcing a corner. City captain George Dowling’s flag kick into the centre was just perfect for Parsons to punch an unstoppable header into the net.

City U-23s: Sesay, Pring, (Turner-Williams 89), Nurse, Dowling (c), Parsons, H Smith (Baldwin 80), Richards, Edwards, Akpobire, Andrews, J Smith.

Cirencester Town: Wieczorek, Stoddart, Coupe, Dunton, Watts, Horrell, Connolly, Spalding, Barcelos, Whitehead, A Griffin. Subs: Lewis, Loader, Bennett. Unused: Mortimer-Jones, Diaz-Benitez.

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