Cardiff 1s 1 - 4 Bristol 1s: Bristol make statement of intent ahead of semi-final fixture

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Freddie Keighley reports on more Bristol joy in the BUCS Trophy, as the 1s progress to the last four of the competition.

With Cambridge 1s swept aside without breaking sweat in a 2-0 victory in the previous round, Bristol faced Cardiff 1s in the quarter-finals of the BUCS Trophy. The home side may have overcome East London 1s at Hackney Marsh last week, but they were thoroughly outclassed in a physical encounter with an in-form Bristol team.

Goals from George Coy, Matt Hinks, Cam McEwan and Jasper Harlington were the product of a dominant performance by the away side, in which they were convincingly tactically and technically superior.

Coach Alan Tyers’ men arrived in Cardiff in good spirits with a generous two hours to spare ahead of kick off. Preferring not to be cramped in the Guantanamo cell of a changing room, the 1s were treated to a spectacle on the Llanrumney 3G; an encounter between Cardiff 3s and South Wales 2s in which the away side had two red cards but equalised in the last minute - saucy.

Apart from Al Harlington, who remains sidelined with a bruised hip, the 1s went into the quarter-final with a clean bill of health and operated in their preferred 352 formation. Centre half Ben Bodha, after nearly half an hour of animated stretching, declared five minutes before kick off that he wasn’t sure he could kick a ball yet. A couple of pings between him and Charlie Murgatroyd put these worries to bed.

Bristol looked to assert their authority on the match from the outset, while Oli Henery was fit to continue after an early injury scare following a crunching challenge on five minutes - a sign of things to come.

Centre half Murgatroyd was unfortunate to be penalised after a forceful header - indicative of the aerial dominance he and his defensive peers would go on to display throughout the game - but Ross ‘Clean Sheet’ Cusdin punched away the delivery from the free kick with two strong hands.

Wing-back Jack Haire, seen before kick off using duct tape as opposed to Kinesio tape for his shin pads this time, skinned a Cardiff defender but his cross from the right came to nothing. Striker Cam McEwan was able to get on the end of a better cross shortly after, but his header missed narrowly wide and the away side were disappointed not to take the lead.

Wide man Harry Cruttenden located McEwan once again on fifteen minutes, but the striker’s shot was saved well and a corner earned. From this, Bristol took the lead in perhaps their best incarnation of the fabled set piece routine to date; a fabulous low delivery from Hinks, dummies from Bodha and Bertie Lloyd and a class finish by captain Coy.

Composure was required to settle after taking the lead in what was becoming an increasingly feisty encounter. Bodha picked up an early booking after a crunching tackle which looked worse than it was, but saying this it did look fairly awful.

Bristol doubled their lead on thirty-three minutes courtesy of a delightful poked finish by in-form forward Matt Hinks following McEwan’s powerful delivery from the left. Murgatroyd nearly added another shortly after, but his header from the corner flew wide after good work by Ed Mahoney and Haire on the right to earn the set piece.

Ball-playing centre half Lloyd located Coy in space on forty minutes, allowing the midfielder to drive inside the pitch and release a powerful effort that sailed narrowly wide to the goalkeeper’s left. Shortly after, the captain was on the receiving end of a terrible challenge from a Cardiff midfielder who escaped only with a yellow card.

Bristol should have entered half time with a three goal margin, but McEwan’s effort from within the six yard box was denied by a magnificent reflex save after Haire’s cross. The team talk at the halfway stage praised the diagonal balls in to McEwan, Hinks and Haire in particular, and called for the intensity to remain high throughout the second half.

However, it was a dream start to the second half for Cardiff, as the ball pinged around the box following a headed clearance and was finished well by a forward; there was nothing Cusdin could do about such a powerful finish from that range.

Bristol’s goalkeeper prevented the equaliser with a vital save shortly after, clawing away a shot from the left of the area. Following this, the away side began to reassert their hold on the game and push to restore their two goal lead. Coy released Cruttenden down the left, but his cross narrowly missed the Bristol heads in the box.

Haire produced perhaps the game’s best pass to locate McEwan on the other side of the pitch, but the forward was tackled well after bringing the ball down. However, McEwan brought the third goal for Bristol on sixty-five minutes, pressing excellently to earn possession on the edge the area, playing Cruttenden in on the left and finishing his cross with an unconventional strike that nestled in the corner of the net.

A first change for Bristol saw McEwan make way for Toby Thomas during a period where Bristol moved the ball well and retained possession excellently. Cardiff’s lack of desire to press Bristol’s three centre backs was remarkable and disappointing from their point of view.

Thomas’ pace was also beginning to cause all sorts of problems at the other end of the pitch, almost catching the keeper out as he held the ball for too long and launching counter-attacks after a succession of Cardiff corners. Thomas drew a foul just outside the box after one such counter-attack, but Coy’s effort from the free kick sailed harmlessly over the bar and was perhaps reminiscent of James Byrne’s efforts with the dead ball in recent weeks.

Mahoney marked his return from a week of toe injury rehabilitation in the southern hemisphere with an energetic performance in the midfield, and made way for Oliver Smiles on eighty minutes. This was shortly before Bristol’s third and final change; Jasper Harlington came on in place of Hinks, who left the field with a goal, assist and man of the match performance to his name.

Bristol continued to defend Cardiff set pieces well, while Bodha made an excellent tackle in his own box to prevent a dangerous moment in the defensive third. A deserved spot in the semi-finals was secured on eighty-nine minutes after Thomas released Jasper Harlington on the counter-attack. The latter produced a magnificent effort - half finesse, half chip - which dinked beautifully over the helpless Cardiff keeper.

The final attack of the game came from the home side, but their corner came to nothing due to an acrobatic leap by Cusdin to claim the ball. By the full time whistle, Bristol had earned their spot in the semi-finals through excellent finishing of their chances and midfield dynamism, also aided by Cardiff’s failure to press their away side’s backline, who had all the time in the world on the ball.

The semi-final fixture will be played next week, and is a trip to another familiar team from the Western 1A League. Bournemouth 1s overcame league leaders Exeter 3-1 to reach the semis, so Bristol will have to be at their game to repeat their league double over their hosts.

Featured Image: Epigram / Freddie Keighley


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