So for the second season running City's first round Johnstone's Paint Trophy match ends up being decided on penalties, unfortunately this time losing 4-3 to Aldershot after finishing 0-0 at the end of normal time in front of 1944 supporters. City lined up: Krysiak; Woodman, Baldwin, Moore-Taylor, Tully; Doherty, Bennett, Sercombe; O'Flynn, Bauza, Gow.
The first ten minutes or so began at a pretty frenetic pace with City employing a sort of 4-3-3 formation reverting to a 4-4-2 with Gow in a free role between the two formations. Chances were at a premium as neither side could stamp any sort of authority on the game, especially in midfield, although it was the visitors who had the first effort when Jack Barton had a decent effort blocked at source. In the 10th minute City fashioned a chance of their own when O'Flynn nodded on Bauza's ball to Sercombe in absolutely acres of space in the far corner of the box. He hit a fierce drive that was swerving away from the keeper, but not far enough to trouble him as he made an easy enough save.
In the 22nd minute City looked to have taken the lead when Bennett followed up Gow's powerful shot with a fearsome effort of his own from 16 yards out, but the referee had other ideas deciding Bennett had fouled on the edge of the box in his eagerness to latch onto Gow's rebound. Bauza then set O'Flynn away in the 37th with a glorious deep raking crossfield ball, but with O'Flynn collecting expertly and racing towards goal with the whole right side of the pitch to himself, the linesman on that side after lengthy deliberation eventually decided O'Flynn received the ball from an offside position and thus the move was ended.
Little else happened for the remainder of the half - indeed, little happened during the half full stop as both sides cancelled each other out pretty effectively - and so it was that an entertaining half full of effort but lacking in that spark need to unlock the opposing defence was bought to a close.
The second half began in a similar fast paced fashion but this time with City the brighter. In the sixth minute Gow trickery down the right worked an opening for a cross that was nicked off the head of Bauza as he looked to finish from close range, then a couple of minutes later Gow and Bauza again combined for Bauza to attempt a chip to the far corner that the keeper spotted and covered comfortably.
In the tenth minute manager Tisdale decided to up the attacking tempo further by withdrawing Baldwin for Frear with Frear taking the left wing spot, Bennett moving back to partner Moore-Taylor at the back, Sercombe moving into the middle alongside Doherty and Gow dropping to a wider right role. Bauza then pounced on a Gow through ball nicking it past the keeper but having to go wider than he'd like to collect. With a shot not on, he played the ball back to Sercombe on the edge of the box who lashed a cracking drive towards the far corner. It looked to be going miles wide but a suspiciously offside looking O'Flynn stuck out a leg to divert the ball an inch the wrong side of the post with a cheeky backheel.
Frear was then sent racing down the left where he crossed for a rushing Bauza, but unfortunately it was marginally too far in front for Bauza to capitalise, then midway through the half Gow's clever nutmeg saw him racing towards the box before playing the ball wide to Frear. He chipped back in to O'Flynn, but the keeper was out quickly to flick the ball from his head as O'Flynn looked to butt home. On the half hour Gow was fouled just outside the box and while they decided who was going to take it Bauza was withdrawn for Chamberlain. Gow then stepped up to bend the ball towards the far post, but it lacked either the whip or pace to trouble the keeper unduly.
Chamberlain then played the ball inside to Gow to let rip with a 30 yarder that was always swerving just outside the post before Gow was replaced by Keohane with ten minutes to go. In the 40th minute Sercombe's corner was played back to him from Doherty where he smashed in a terrific drive that a startled keeper could only parry. Another corner was nodded back across goal by Tully where Keohane came racing in at the far post to somehow butt the ball over from close range with the goal at his mercy. City continued to press, but their efforts never got as close as Keohane's and so for the second season running their first round tie would be decided by the dreaded penalties.
O'Flynn stepped up to take the first, drilling an unstoppable effort high to the keeper's right giving him absolutely no chance and putting City 1-0 up. Craig Reid then equalised with a firm effort to Krysiak's right before Moore-Taylor's shot to the keeper's right wasn't far enough right and was saved easily by Glenn Morris in the Aldershot goal. Michael Rankine drilled the ball to Krysiak's right to put the Shots 2-1 up, then Keohane equalised witha cool effort to the keeper's right as he dived left.
Aaron Morris hoisted an effort so far over the bar that if there was another goal on top of the one already there it still would have cleared it comfortably before Doherty put City back in the lead with a well placed finish to the keeper's right as he dived left. Alex Rodman levelled things up again putting the ball high to Krysiak's right, then Tully hit a weak effort straight down the middle that spooned up in the air off the keeper's trailing leg. With the scores level at three apiece it was left to Shots' captain Ben Herd to drill low to Krysiak's right as he dived left to send the visitors through to the second round with a 4-3 scoreline after five penalties each.
Which is a bit of a shame after City completely the dominated the game aside from two shots from the visitors from their only two attacks of the game. But that's football so we must now look forward and see what we can take from the game, which is quite a lot actually. The starting line up had five changes from the one that beat Burton 3-0 on Saturday, yet it looked equally as good a line up as we've seen so far. Also, it was good to see a number of younger players in the side, and by the time the final whistle came round we had Moore-Taylor and Bennett at the heart of the defence, Sercombe, Keohane, Frear and Chamberlain in midfield as well as Krysiak in goal. Bennett was given man of the match, but he was pushed by the excellent Moore-Taylor, and we appear to have an abundance of talent in the middle of the Park too. Oakley and Bennett normally claim those berths, but strong displays by both Doherty and Sercombe when he moved inside in the second half show strength in depth.
Same as up front with O'Flynn looking particlulary dangerous and full of running in Cureton's stead. So a defeat yes, but that's the third clean sheet in a row now, and still only one goal conceded with eight scored since the opening day debacle at home to Morecambe. Plenty to take to Oxford then before back to back visits of York and Wycombe. Good stuff, see you there.