Cureton, Davies & O'Flynn net for City
So on blistering day at the Park, it wasn't just the sun shining as City romped to a fine 3-0 win over visitors Burton Albion to confirm their best start to a season for 12 years in front of 3707 delighted supporters. City lined up: Krysiak; Woodman, Baldwin, Coles, Amankwaah; Davies, Oakley, Bennett, Sercombe; Gow, Cureton.
The opening exchanges were a fairly even affair with neither side really dominating. It was, however, City who had the first chance of the game when Sercombe and Cureton swapped passes before the ball was laid off to Gow. A couple of strides later Gow fired off a 20 yard daisy cutter that the keeper made a meal of pushing round the post for a corner. Burton responded a couple of minutes later with a cross from the right that giant striker Calvin Zola latched on to, powering a header down onto the line that Krysiak dropped on well to save.
But it soon turned into a game of hoof and counter hoof with neither side able to work an opening. City because it's just a waste of time banging high balls to pint sized livewire Cureton, and Burton because no-one was able to capitalise on the balls that Zola won every time he went up for a header. But eventually a breakthrough was made, from a City corner in the 18th minute. The ball was worked back to corner taker Davies who swung in a good looking ball to the edge of the box. Gow rose highest to direct his header back to Cureton who had both time and space in the corner of the six yard box to lash a swerving volley across the keeper and into the far corner to give City a 1-0 lead.
In the 25th minute Gow magic saw him rob a defender on the left touchline before skipping his way into the box and past a lumbering defender with the deftest of feints. Unfortunately the goal of the season didn't arrive as Gow make a complete mess of the shot dragging it wide of the near post from a couple of yards out.
The comedy shooting continued with Zola performing some weird balletic airshot cum spin ending up flat on his backside amidst howls of laughter from three sides of the ground. Mirth soon turned to incredulity as the referee decided no-one could make that much of a hash of it without help so it must have been a foul by a City player. Chris Palmer obviously agreed with the City faithful by floating the free kick high over the bar and onto the Bank. Proper football resumed in the 32nd minute with a whipped in Gow free kick from right in front of the players' tunnel that was cleared only as far as Woodman lurking 40 or so yards out. He came rushing in to meet the ball halfway back to the box but couldn't get over his ferocious thunderbolt as it seared over the crossbar from about 30 yards. Three minutes later Gow harrying saw a defender hurried into a backpass that with a fortunate bounce beat both the darting Cureton and the keeper, however before Cureton could react the keeper recovered enough to clear.
In the 40th minute City scored a second, despite conceding huge rafts of possession to the opposition. Sercombe's raking cross from the right found Cureton in bags of space on the left of the penalty area. Showing great awareness Cureton cushioned a clever header back to Davies stationed centrally on the edge of the box who gleefully crashed home his first goal for the club into the top corner despite the keeper managing to get a strong hand to it.
At the other end it was Krysiak's turn to show strong hands with a quite superb save to claw the ball around his near post from a raking drive out of the blue from Lee Bell. The resulting corner came to nowt and so it was City maintained their two goal cushion at the break.
In the second half City almost added a third within the first sixty seconds. A long ball to the right channel was collected by Cureton who cut the ball back inside to Gow who in turn fed the ball across the box to Davies on the left. With both time and space Davies hesitated for too long trying to cut back to find the perfect angle. In the end, with defenders closing, his hurried shot was comfortably hacked off the line. Sercombe in the seventh minute played the ball out to Gow wide on the left who then breezed past a bamboozled defender with an outrageous drop of the shoulder. However, with Cureton rushing into the six yard box Gow elected to shoot firing off a ferocious effort from a tight angle to the near post that the shocked keeper could only parry.
But Burton upped their game again and once again dominated possession, particularly in their own half. Frustratingly, City continued to back off allowing them to advance, but fortunately without causing the defence too many problems. Portly striker Billy Kee did give Krysiak a bit of a moment though midway through the half with a fine curling effort from the corner of the box, but it lacked enough pace to really trouble the City keeper who pushed it around the post for a corner with relative ease.
City came back with a fine 60 yard surging run from Sercombe who exchanged passes with Davies who then sent the keeper scrambling to turn his effort from distance behind for a corner. That corner fell to Oakley lying deep who came perilously close to opening his City account with a dipping swerving drive that just beat the angle of post and bar with the keeper no more than an admiring spectator. Bell then saw his near post drive from a corner tipped over well by Krysiak before the extremely hard working Cureton made way for O'Flynn in the 27th minute amidst rapturous applause.
Burton then twice came close with blocked drives - the first by a Burton player who couldn't get out of the way quickly enough, the second by a plunging Krysiak who got down well to collect. Bauza replaced the silky skilled Gow in the 35th minute and from then on it was pretty much all City to the final whistle. O'Flynn scampered after a ball down the right before squaring for Bauza who crossed to Davies in the box. Unfortunately it caught Davies off balance as he crashed a first timer over the bar from 10 yards out. Bauza then let fly himself with a 25 yard rocket that flew past the top corner before the move of the game saw the goal of the game with two minutes left.
O'Flynn worked devilishly hard to win the ball deep on the left of the pitch, and held it up well as others joined in the attack. He played the ball across the pitch to Oakley on the right who hoisted it forwards to Bauza working his way down the channel. His driving run to the touchline finished with a low drilled cross that O'Flynn came charging in on to flick the ball home from close range to finish the move he started with a fine goal to make it 3-0 to City for the second week running.
Coles made way for Moore Taylor immediately after, then on the whistle Bauza lifted the ball forward to O'Flynn who smashed a 20 yard effort just wide of the far post.
So three wins on the bounce, two without conceding and an 8-1 aggregate scoreline. Can't be bad after the disastrous opening day capitulation, and sends City flying up the table to second spot, one point behind early leaders Gillingham. All good then, but perhaps there's still things to work on. The defence must learn not to let the ball run past them before playing it either back to the keeper or away as it puts unecessary pressure on both them and the keeper who can't be expected to race ten yards outside his box every time the opposition attack. The defence also needs to stop pumping the ball up to Cureton at every opportunity - it's meat and drink all day long for the opposition centre half. When we play it through Bennett - who had an imperious game today - and Oakley, and out to Sercombe and Davies it's much more effective than simply hoofing it to your opposite number.
Having said that they've only conceded one goal in three games so the solidity that was missing for much of last season is strongly in evidence this, so top marks for plugging the gap that played a big part in last season's relegation. Another part was a lack of goals scored - well we've got eight in the last three, and all spread around the four main strikers too. Naturally goal poacher supreme Cureton leads the way - in every sense of the word - with three, but he surely looks to be pushed all the way by some excellent finishing from the others. If Sercombe can rediscover his devastating end of season form might we be looking at another season when we have five players finishing up with double figures? Too early to tell, obviously, but it's something to work towards nevertheless.
And so on we go, with Aldershot visiting the Park on Tuesday for the first round of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy before we make a tricky visit to Oxford. The hectic month continues with the visits of York and Wycombe before we finish off with a trip to Southend then home to Bristol Rovers. So lots of points up for grabs and if we can secure a decent bunch of them it'll be a good pointer to how our season should progress. So I expect like me you can't wait for the next game already - see you all on Tuesday!