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Bristol City 0-3 Town
Bristol City 0-3 Town
Saturday, 6th Aug 2011 16:58

Michael Chopra’s Town career got off to dream start as he netted twice as the Blues beat Bristol City 3-0 at Ashton Gate. The former Cardiff man – who makes a habit of scoring against the Robins – netted one in each half with Lee Martin sandwiching his first of the season after the break.

Boss Paul Jewell named the expected unchanged side from last week’s friendly against Wolves with David Stockdale, Aaron Cresswell, Ívar Ingimarsson, Lee Bowyer, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Michael Chopra all making their debuts. Grant Leadbitter continued to wear the captain’s armband which had been his for most of pre-season.

Keeper Márton Fülöp was left out of the starting line-up with his move to West Brom now looking inevitable. Ex-Town man Jon Stead was in the Bristol City line-up.

On four Mark Kennedy, again in the holding role, curled a shot over. Moments later, skipper Leadbitter did much the same after a tricky run in from the right by Carlos Edwards.

The Blues had made the stronger start but without either keeper – former England man David James for the Robins and England hopeful Stockdale for Town – being significantly tested.

After Bowyer had required treatment for a knock, Leadbitter sprayed a superb crossfield ball to Emmanuel-Thomas but the former Arsenal man was unable to beat Jamie McAllister as he cut in from the right.

Town went in front in the 13th minute via Michael Chopra’s first goal for the Blues. Kennedy played a ball over the top behind Bristol City defenders Jordan Spence and Liam Fontaine from the left from just inside Town's half. James came off his line far too slowly and probably needlessly and the former Cardiff man lobbed perfectly under the bar.

The Blues had looked the more composed and organised team in the opening quarter of a hour, although Chopra’s goal – his sixth in nine games against Bristol City - was the only decent chance created by either side.

Keith Millen’s team came close to getting back on terms in the 22nd minute when David Stockdale superbly pushed Marvin Elliott’s header from a McAllister freekick wide. The midfielder was again frustrated from the corner, Kennedy blocking his shot with the home side becoming more of an attacking threat.


Nicky Maynard just failed to get Elliott’s through ball under control and Stockdale gathered as the game reached the half-hour mark with the Blues starting to have one or two careless moments.

Chances continued to be few and far between, McAllister saw a freekick from 25 yards deflect wide, then Martin, who had by now swapped flanks with Emmanuel-Thomas, was unable to get to crosses from the left first from Chopra and then from Emmanuel-Thomas.

As the half moved into injury time, defender Liam Fontaine headed a corner wide for the home side with set pieces having been their main threat.

Town were deservedly in the lead at the break but without having looked like adding to their lead. Defensively, they had looked organised and solid with Stockdale only seriously tested by Elliott’s header.

Bristol City striker Nicky Maynard had the ball in the net within two minutes of the restart but having misjudged his run, triggering a linesman’s flag.

The Blues increased their lead in the 51st minute when Emmanuel-Thomas caught Cole Skuse in possession on halfway and found Martin on the left in space with an inch-perfect pass. The former Manchester United man took the ball away from Fontaine and Spence and hit a low left-footed shot across James and into the net.

A minute later Elliott volleyed wide for the Robins, then Jamal Campbell-Ryce struck a low shot from the left which Stockdale pushed into the sidenetting. From the resultant corner, Albert Adomah volleyed over.

Lee Bowyer was lucky to avoid a debut card on 58 when he caught Skuse with a high but unintentional boot.

Two minutes later it was three when Campbell-Ryce played the ball back to David James, perhaps a touch too weakly. Chopra closed down the veteran stopper and dispossessed him as he tried to flick the ball past him and nonchalantly stroked the ball into the empty net for his seventh goal in nine games against the Robins. James claimed handball but to no avail.

After Tommy Smith had replaced Damien Delaney, who had appeared to have picked up a knock in the first half, Maynard shot straight at Stockdale, then Elliott headed over.

The home side continued to huff and puff, largely unconvincingly, but on 71 they almost pulled a goal back. Adomah whipped the ball in from the left but Stockdale superbly blocked Maynard’s point-blank volley.

Adomah headed over from a Kilkenny corner as the game moved into its final 10 minutes with Town comfortably sitting on their lead.

Leadbitter almost made it four in the 84th minute with a low 25-yard shot which struck the post, before Emmanuel-Thomas was replaced by Carson, the scorer in last season’s 1-0 victory at Ashton Gate.

Nathan Ellington became Town’s seventh debut of the day, taking over from Chopra, who was given an unsurprisingly warm reception by the 1,654 travelling Town supporters, who were on their feet again minutes later when referee Mark Haywood blew his final whistle.

Town manager Paul Jewell could hardly have dreamt of a better beginning to the season. The Blues looked a solid and organised side, despite seven players making their competitive debuts and when their opportunities came – largely via poor defending and goalkeeping from the home side - Chopra and Martin didn’t waste them.

The Blues midfield and defence worked hard for the full 90 and Jewell will be pleased with the defensive application from the likes of Martin.

Keeper Stockdale will be delighted to have kept a debut clean sheet and his goal was only rarely under a serious threat from a Bristol City side which lost their opening game last season by the same scoreline at home to Millwall.

A year ago Town won their first match 3-1 at Middlesbrough. That victory ultimately proved to be a false dawn. Only time will tell whether the same will be the case this time around.

Town: Stockdale, Edwards, Cresswell, Delaney (Smith 63), Ingimarsson, Kennedy, Bowyer, Leadbitter, Emmanuel-Thomas (Carson 84), Martin, Chopra (Ellington 88). Unused: Lee-Barrett, Healy.

Bristol City: James, Spence, Fontaine, Nyatanga, McAllister (Woolford 72), Adomah, Skuse, Elliott, Campbell-Ryce (Kilkenny 63), Maynard, Stead (Pitman 63). Unused: Carey, Gerken. Referee: Mark Haywood (West Yorkshire). Att: 13,107 (Town: 1,654).


Photo: Action Images



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