On Sunday 9 December, the Bristol City Panthers crossed the border into Wales for our final GSFN league 2 tie of 2018. And in the Welsh dusk, we seized 3 points from Cardiff Dragons FC to cap off an amazing year of growth and development.
The Panthers started off the first half strong, with the midfield trio of Dean, Charlie and Stu setting the tone for the match by closing down Cardiff, and getting the better of the Dragons in the air. The hosts fared better when they came down the wings, but even the formidable pace of wing-backs Devon and Tom neutralised a number of attacks and gave the Panthers a number of opportunities to break on the counter. Devon's power throw-ins, in particular, came into their own in the final quarter of the pitch. Tom too had a blinding run down the right wing which cut through the Dragons' defence but sadly the team couldn't quite find the net.
The Dragons had some chances in the first half but a solid effort from the back 3 of Ross, Kevin and Jonathan meant goalkeeper Alex didn't have too much to worry about. Panthers looked most likely to break the deadlock and drew first blood after a stunning half-volley from Chris Miles (set up beautifully by Mike Green) found the top corner of the net. And shortly afterwards, Mike and Chris teamed up for a very similar second goal to take the Panthers 2-0 up. Cries for a third goal by Devon off a corner were, however, unheeded by the referee who judged the ball not to have crossed the line.
The second half saw both sides make changes, with oncoming defenders Pete, Mike and Glenn having to fend with some very pacey attackers. And the second half started with injury drama as Mike Clements bashed heads with a Cardiff attacker which saw both players treated on the sidelines. Clements would gamely finish the match, putting in a tremendous shift in at centre-back, before being treated by the good folks at Cardiff A&E for a nasty cut under his eye.
At the other end of the pitch Alex Kohnert had a number of promising runs at goal (including one collision with the keeper that everyone thankfully shook off!), and some excellent corners from Phil and Chris Robinson kept the Cardiff defence busy. However, both sides dug in and when the final whistle blew, the Bristol City Panthers emerged with the 2-0 win.
With the whole team having put in a shift, competition for man of the match was fierce. However, Charlie eventually walked away with the plaudits in recognition of his strong headers and some brilliant tackles that shifted the momentum of the game on a number of occasions. All in all, it was the perfect end to the Panthers' 2018 - an excellent, competitive game against friendly and strong Welsh hosts with 3 away points in the bag at the final whistle. And we end the year tying East End Phoenix for points at the top of the GFSN league 2 table!