If you looked simply at the final 4-0 scoreline of City’s Twerton Park meeting with Bishop’s Stortford you’d think it was a one-sided game, dominated from start to finish by City but, in truth, the actual game was as far removed from that as possible and, on another day, it could have easily been the visitors celebrating a comfortable victory. For long spells of the match the Blues produced some of the best football City have faced this season, especially in a 30 minute spell between City’s first and second goal, but the one thing missing from their play was the final product. City made them pay for this wastefulness, scoring at the beginning and end of the first half, and then adding two more goals in the closing minutes to put a final slant on the result that could be called slightly flattering.
With Stortford coming into the match as the Blue Square South form side City got off to the perfect start with a goal after just four minutes. Phil Walsh had already headed a Mark McKeever cross over the bar when he combined with Darren Edwards to swivel and fire a low shot toward goal. Keeper Young managed to parry the effort but could do nothing to prevent McKeever firing the rebound into the net. However, this was a good as it got for a City side missing suspended Lewis Hogg – Sekani Simpson taking over his right midfield role with Gethin Jones continuing at right-back. The Hertfordshire side almost immediately began to show why the were the joint-highest scorers away from home and, in the league’s top scorer, Pearson had a threat that City struggled to deal with for most of the afternoon. He was involved in almost all their threat, shooting over two minutes after McKeever’s strike then only being denied by a great last-ditch tackle for the bizarrely-gloved Chris Holland. Matt Coupe then charged down a goalbound strike from Stanbrook and Pearson appeared to pulled down right on the edge of the box on 12 minutes on the for the referee to ignore a linesman flag and wave play on. It looked certain that the Blues would draw level on 17 minutes when Pearson raced away down the right wing. He crossed the ball to a completely unmarked Langer who flicked it toward goal only for the out-rushing Paul Evans to somehow turn it over the bar with his legs. Although they needed little help to create openings a wayward back-pass from Adie Harris gifted them the next after 24 minutes. He failed to spot Pearson between him and Evans which allowed the striker another run on goal. Evans did manage to force him wide but his cross-shot looked certain to give Midson a simple tap-in at the far post. This was before Holland intervened to somehow lift the ball over the goal from almost on the line. The visitors did suffer a set-back on the half-hour when a harmless looking challenge from Walsh saw defender Jones limp off with a knee injury. There were still further efforts on goal by Pearson, a lob that just cleared the bar and a shot that Jim Rollo bravely blocked, before on 35 minutes, and with there first chance since the opening goal, City doubled their lead. McKeever won a free-kick level with the 18-yard box just inside the left touchline and his centre was headed home in typical style by Holland. This understandably deflated Stortford and City almost grabbed an improbable third goal just before half-time when Simpson tested Young with a well-struck shot that the keeper managed to grab at the second attempt.
As if their attacking options weren’t already pacy enough the Blues added another lively forward at half-time, Fazakerley replacing Stanbrook. Edwards then headed over from the substitute’s cross as it looked like the first-half pattern was to be repeated. Pearson, once again, got behind the City defence on 50 minutes only to selfishly shoot rather than squaring of the much better placed Fazakerley and moments later another shot from Stanbrook. However, City were slowly beginning to stem the tide and prevent Stortford from creating the space they had managed in the first-half. This forced them into playing a longer ball game which was much more confidently dealt with by Holland and Coupe. This also allowed City more ventures into their opponents half with Walsh spurning two chances before the hour mark. In an eight minute spell City made their three substitutions, replacing Rollo, Walsh and Harris with Paul Keddle, Dave Gilroy and Steve Jones respectively. These changes helped give City a tighter grip on the game and for a 15-minute spell it looked like it would peter out to a uneventful, but satisfactory, conclusion. This nearly changed in the 78th minute when substitute Essandoh headed past Evans, which would have set up a tense final period. However, much to City’s relief the ‘goal’ was ruled out for offside by the linesman and this finally seemed to show Stortford that it wasn’t to be their afternoon, which City took full advantage off. Five minutes after this escape Scott Rogers latched onto a Gilroy pass and crossed for the ex-Chippenham man to flick the ball, via a slightly deflection, up and over Young into the net. If three-nil was hard on Bishop’s Stortford then six minutes later it got even worse. A McKeever corner caused panic in the visitors defence and after Young failed to hold the ball from Rogers’ shot, Gilroy followed up to steer it into the net.
Throughout a season you expect to win games you don’t deserve to (and lose ones you should have won) but not many of these finish 4-0. In the end though, football is all about scoring goals and for all Bishop’s Stortford’s excellent build-up play only on a couple of occasions did they come close to scoring, Evans’ great save and Holland’s goalline clearance during the first half, and Essandoh’s disallowed second half effort. By contrast, City showed a clinical nature in front of goal that they have not produced since last season’s title winning run and, combined with their league-best defence, meant the difference between the sides occurre