So on a warm summer's evening at the Park, City once again make an early cup exit losing 2-1 to lofty opponents Crystal Palace despite taking an early lead in front of 3650 supporters, including a hefty 850 from the visitors. City lined up: Krysiak; Moore-Taylor; Coles, Baldwin, Amankwaah; Davies, Doherty, Bennett; Bauza, O'Flynn.
Barely two minutes were on the clock when City took a shock lead. Sercombe pinged in a corner from the right that found its way all the way to Bauza lurking at the far corner of the box. His lazy looking swing at the ball looked to be heading to the top corner of the net when it ricocheted off the side of a Palace head before landing on the bleach blond bonce of O'Flynn. Showing double quick reactions, O'Flynn wasted no time in gleefully butting the ball home from a couple of yards out to make it 1-0 to City.
But Palace seemed unconcerned and worked the ball back into their favour enjoying huge dollops of possession and pinning City back in their own half leaving them chasing shadows. However, despite their near complete dominance, they offered very little in front of goal except the odd pot shot from range that gave Krysiak little else to do other than watch them sail harmlessly over or wide of his goal.
In the 20th minute City finally got the ball into the opposition half again, and from a well worked move too. Bauza trickery down the right saw the ball fed inside to Davies. His effort was blocked but fell to Bennett 20 yards out who saw his fierce drive deflected for a corner. Two minutes later though, with City's confidence growing, things were all square. Palace worked the ball down right before sending a cross in from close to the byeline. It skimmed Davies as it went behind for a corner, but with everyone getting set for the corner the ref noticed the linesman stood there with his flag across his chest to signal a penalty.
Hard to say whether it was or not, but he appeared to be the only person in the ground who noticed it and after a brief consultation the referee awarded the spot kick. Jermaine Easter stepped up and with no little guile confidently slammed the ball straight down the middle to make it one apiece. City upped their game and pushed Palace back, but were dealt a blow when debutant Tommy Doherty was forced off through injury to be replaced by livewire Elliott Frear on the half hour. He almost made an immediate impact whipping in a devilish corner from the right that Baldwin attacked with authority, but his thumping header flashed inches wide of the base of the post.
Ten minutes later Frear was again the provider sending O'Flynn scampering to chase a delicious ball in from deep, however it was millimetres too far in front of the charging O'Flynn giving the keeper the opportunity to collect before O'Flynn could strike. He then launched the ball upfield where Krysiak and the defence were on different wavelengths as a Palace forward nipped in to hoist the ball over a hesitant Krysiak to the far post where Kagisho Dikgacoi had a simple nod home from about an inch out to give the visitors a 2-1 half time lead.
City started the second half in much the same way as they started the first: on the front foot and on the attack. In the first minute O'Flynn and Frear combined to set Frear away down the left. His hanging cross looked a peach, but the keeper was alert and punched the ball off the head of O'Flynn as he looked to capitalise. In the third minute Palace had a tasty attack of their own when a crazy mazy run down the right ended up with a square ball to Easter. With both time and space to spare, Easter swung a leg at the ball only to turn away in disbelief as it clanked off the outside of the post and away to safety when surely it seemed easier to score.
In the tenth minute a long ball pumped forwarded was nodded on by a crowded Bennett dropping perfectly over the shoulder of O'Flynn. Seeing the keeper off his line he hit an outrageous dipping drive from 25 yards that the furiously backpeddaling keeper did well to tip over for a corner. Five minutes later the excellent O'Flynn and hard working Bauza were replaced by Gow and Cureton as City looked for an equaliser, and once again a substition almost reaped immediate benefits. Bennett's flick on found Cureton directly in front of the keeper, but he couldn't direct his rushed header past him and the keeper gratefully clutched the close range effort.
Midway through the half Dikgacoi burst through a square looking City defence for a one on one with Krysiak, but the City keeper was on his toes and came rushing out to bravely block the shot at source. From the resulting corner Aaron Martin thumped a good looking header towards goal, but Krysiak was equal to it acrobatically tipping the ball over for another corner. On the half hour a corner ended up with a flick from Baldwin that Gow collected expertly, but his first time curling snapshot from the corner of the box was well saved by the keeper at his near post.
City's final chance came as the fourth official was indicating three minutes of additional time. City worked the ball from the right side of the pitch over to the left, then back to the right in a fine passage of play looking for an opening. With the ball at Amankwaah's feet he curled in a fine cross towards the near post where the keeper's punch got to the ball milliseconds before Cureton's head, clearing it to safety and ensuring it was Palace who progressed to the second round of the Capital One Cup and not City.
But all is not lost despite the result. Palace are two divisions higher and City played the majority of the game with four youth products on the pitch: Elliott Frear, Scot Bennett, Liam Sercombe and debutant Jordan Moore-Taylor. All played their parts, and all looked comfortable in the team. Plus of course we shouldn't forget the fifth youth player on the pitch as Crystal Palace lined up with former Grecian Dean Moxey amongst their ranks. It all bodes well for the coming season though, epsecially considering three other players were making their debuts too. We look forward to further performances from Kevin Amankwaah, Tommy Doherty and Arron Davies as the season progresses.
So plenty to be encouraged by and plenty of positives to take into Saturday's League Two opener at home to Morecambe. If we play like we did tonight then surely a decent season beckons - see you there on Saturday as we begin to find out, and after a big summer of sport isn't it great to be back at the Park again?