The Bristol City Panthers unveiled their vibrant new kit on Saturday, besting Leftfooters in a 5-2 win at South Bristol Sports Centre to take the Panthers second on goal difference in GFSN league 2.
The weather was certainly better than last time the two teams clashed, and both teams brought a strong competitive spirit from the get-go. The Leftfooters surged forward from the opening whistle and gave the starting defensive back 3 of Ross, Joe and Jonathan and goalkeeper Adam some work to do. But the Panthers struck back quickly - and effectively - taking the hosts into the lead within 5 minutes. That first blood came from what the players involved termed a "pinpoint corner" from Captain Stu, and a header from Luke where he "rose like a graceful salmon". Sadly there's no pictoral evidence of Luke's salmon-like qualities, but said header was enough to put the Panthers 1-0 up.
The Panthers would strike again very soon after the restart, with Mike Green scoring rather than assisting by converting a timely cross from Luke. After conceding two, the Leftfooters turned up the intensity, and gave the midfield of Dean, Stu and Charlie plenty of work to do, as well as attempting some breaks down the right wing - expertly seen off by Joe and Ross. However, their persistence paid off after the referee judged Luke to have climbed on a player in the box and awarded the Leftfooters a penalty. The visitors were able to convert that chance, despite goalkeeper Adam's best efforts.
The Panthers were able to keep their heads, however, and sought to protect and extend their lead. Winger Devon had plenty to do on the left wing and made several incisive runs, forcing a number of corners out of the Leftfooters defence. Attacker Chris also created a number of problems for the defence. Sadly, some refereeing controversy denied the Panthers a penalty after the ref missed a handball from the visitors in the box (which the Leftfooters confessed to in the pub afterwards!). Undeterred, the Purple-kitted Panthers pressed on and a through-ball from Devon to Mike Green allowed him to put in a low cross which Luke hammered home to take the team 3-1 up going in to half time.
The Panthers made some changes in the second half, with Pete coming on for Joe in defence, and Luke making way for Tom on the right wing. But the Leftfooters got going sharpish, and after a number of brilliant saves from Adam, the visitors were able to best him after seizing an opportunity from a throw-in to take the score up to 3-2. The Panthers knew they needed to turn on the intensity, and Mike Green was able to provide a response, slotting home an excellent cross from Chris Miles at the back post.
The Leftfooters kept fighting, but new man in defence Rob Alsop kept their attacks closed down by winning the battle in the air. For the remaining time, the Panthers changed to a 4-4-2 formation, bringing on Alex Kohnert and George Pillas in attack, and Oscar and Scott in to support the midfield. All four made an impact on the game, with Kohnert and Scott in particular getting a couple of cracks in on goal.
Another goal always seemed a possibility in this game, and it fell to the Panthers to provide it, after a corner from Tom Marlow found its way into the Leftfooters net to take the home side 5-2 up (players from both teams have claimed responsibility for putting the ball across the line but the Panthers' human VAR and Treasurer Glenn assured us that Marlow deserved the glory).
The Bristol City Panthers were delighted to pick up their first win at home this season, but most importantly, enjoyed another friendly and good-spirited game against our friends the Leftfooters. And despite conceding the penalty that put the visitors back in it, the club forgave Luke and voted him man of the match at the Bristol Bear Bar afterwards!
So the Panthers run in in the GFSN league gets off to a good start, but before our next league match, we have our fundraiser, which we're holding at the Queenshilling on Friday 8 March (more details on our Facebook page!). Six members of the team are having their heads shaved to support Maggie's Centres - a charity that works with people who have been diagnosed with cancer, who have supported our friend and former captain Chris after he was diagnosed with a life-limiting brain tumour.
Everything we take on the door for the night will help us grow and develop our club - to provide a space for LGBT people to play football in Bristol in a friendly and welcoming environment. But we are also running an online fundraiser where everything donated goes directly to Maggies. If you can, please support us at www.justgiving.com/bristolcitypanthers.