Bristol City 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

 

Ashton Gate: 12 March 2004

Match report by J Roberts

A new era unfolded for the Diamonds on a rainy Friday night in Bristol. After seven years with Brian Talbot at the helm, Barry Hunter took charge of the team for the first time at Bristol City’s Ashton Gate.

The new player-manager made two changes to the line-up in his first game in charge, with Edwards and Kitson coming in for Hall and Lowe. City also made changes, with Hill, Roberts and Lita in for Bell, Wilkshire and Miller.

Big Barry also changed the formation of the team, switching back to the system with three centre-backs and two wing-backs that garnered a draw in Talbot’s last away game at Wrexham.

The system seemed to be working for the first 15-20 minutes as a lot of the play took place in midfield, with the Diamonds generally keeping City at bay. Indeed, Underwood probably had the best chance of the first 20 minutes after Kitson’s beautifully weighted cross. Unfortunately, having made an excellent run into the box on three minutes, Unders skied the ball from about six yards out.

However, around the 20-minute mark City seemed to really wake up and put the Diamonds under some concerted pressure for the first time since their flurry of corners in the first couple of minutes.

City’s best move of the match to date saw Tinnion cross well for skipper Doherty to head just over the bar on 23 minutes.

City continued to apply the pressure and it finally paid off on 29 minutes when a good Carey cross from the right was headed back across the box by Brown for Lita to head home. A good goal and, in all honesty, a deserved lead for City.

For most of the rest of the first half City looked in control and Diamonds continued to struggle to make any real headway going forward.

Although the Diamonds finally managed to apply some sporadic pressure towards the end of the first half, it was City who had a glorious chance to make it 2-0 in injury time. An awful back pass by Edwards let in Lita, who only had to slot the ball past an advancing Ashdown – but thankfully pushed the ball past the post.

With a shot count of 7 to 1 in favour of City and a corner count of 6-0, a one goal lead was the least City deserved after the first period.

Within three minutes of the restart, Diamonds could have fallen further behind as Hunter headed a corner against the bar.

However, just a minute later Rodney Jack, played in by the industrious Gary Mills and helped by some non-existent marking, nearly equalised as he beat the keeper but saw his shot skim away off the outside of the post.

The Diamonds enjoyed reasonable amounts of possession during the rest of the second half, but rarely exerted any real pressure or created any clear-cut chances. They were also understandably caught on the break a number of times, with the lively Roberts guilty of not making enough of many of counter-attacks.

Overall, the second half was relatively even, but with the hosts again having the better chances and looking the likelier to score.

On 67 minutes Hunter, in his first game as manager, was shown a deserved yellow card for hauling down the lively Lita near the touchline.

This was the impressive Lita’s last involvement in the game, as he was subbed straight afterwards. For someone making his first ever start for City, admittedly after numerous substitute appearances, he certainly looked the part.

The Diamonds made their first substitution when Andy Burgess replaced Stuart Gray after 71 minutes. Burgess looked lively and was involved in a lot of the good moves that Diamonds had after his arrival.

But it was City who continued to have more chances, with Roberts, Miller and Fortune, among others, putting efforts wide. On one occasion, with only 10 minutes remaining, Ashdown was called upon to make an excellent tip-over from a Roberts shot. The on-loan keeper was once again a very impressive last line of defence throughout.

It took the Diamonds until the first minute of added time in the second half to win their first and only corner and, if hitting the post is not counted as being on target, then the Diamonds did not have one effort on target all night.

All in all, City were well worth their win and perhaps could, or even should, have added at least another goal. However, that should not detract from what was a decent effort by a Diamonds side that has had a lot to cope with in recent times and is understandably low in confidence after just one win in eight games now.

When considering the calibre of the opposition – a second-placed team that had not lost at home in 12 games and had recently won 11 matches on the spin – the Diamonds did not disgrace themselves by any means. And who knows, had Unders buried that chance after three minutes, or Rodney equalised early in the second half, the result at Ashton Gate might have been very different.

As it is, the future will look bright for the Diamonds if everyone is willing to put in the same kind of effort and drive that Gary Mills showed in Bristol – and has been doing for some time now. The young midfielder is surely enjoying the best period of his career to date

1st minute: City have four corners one straight after the other in the first few minutes.

3rd minute: Bell to Kitson, who crosses to Underwood, but Underwood’s shoots over the bar from close range.

5th minute: City’s first shot on target, but Ashdown comfortably holds Brown’s effort.

20th minute: City begin to pile on the pressure, culminating in a great cross by Tinnion and a header just over by Doherty.

29th minute: Long cross from the right by Carey, Brown heads back across the box and Lita nods home.

40th minute: Lita booked for play-acting after Hunter challenge.

43rd minute: Goodfellow on for the injured Brown.

45th minute: Lita played in by poor back pass, shoots just wide.

48th minute: Hunter heads a corner against his own bar.

49th minute: Jack hits post.

53rd minute: Hunter and Ashdown combine to clear danger after break by Roberts.

56th minute: Bignot crosses, Bell can’t quite get the ball under control in the penalty area – muted appeals for a penalty.

59th minute: Good run and cross by Bell, Jack and Kitson cause confusion in the City box, but the move comes to nothing.

63rd minute: Good shot from distance by Peacock that is well saved by Ashdown.

66th minute: Kitson almost gets his shot away in the box after a good ball in by Bell.

67th minute: Hunter sees yellow for challenge on Lita.

67th minute: Miller replaces Lita.

71st minute: Burgess replaces Gray.

75th minute: Good run by Goodfellow, lovely one-two with Roberts, but sends his shot wide.

76th minute: Fortune on for Doherty.

78th minute: Pinball in the Diamonds box, with new man Fortune causing the problems.

80th minute: Great defence-splitting ball by Miller plays in Roberts, whose shot is brilliantly tipped over by Ashdown.

80th minute: Hanlon on for Mills.

81st minute: Powerful Fortune shot just clears the bar.

83rd minute: Good run and shot by Roberts.

90th minute: Duffy on for Kitson.

91st minute: Diamonds win their first corner of the game.

Diamonds: Ashdown, Bignot, Underwood, Edwards, Hunter, Roget, Mills (Hanlon 80), Gray (Burgess 71), Bell, Jack, Kitson (Duffy 90)

Subs not used: Sambrook, Hall

Bookings: Hunter

Diamonds MoM: Gary Mills

Bristol City: Phillips, Carey, Coles, Butler, Hill, Tinnion, Doherty (Fortune 76), A Brown (Goodfellow 43), Roberts, Peacock, Lita (Miller 67)

Subs not used: Wilkshire, Woodman

Bookings: Lita

City MoM: Carey, Lita.

Referee: Mr P Taylor

Attendance: 12,559 (209 visiting supporters)

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