It was a wild and windy day at South Bristol Sports Centre, as Bristol City Panthers faced Cardiff Dragons with Bristol's promotion hopes in the balance. However, despite the howling wind from Storm Hannah causing troubles in the first half, the Panthers delivered a dominating performance to record an 8-0 win over the visitors.
Cardiff started out the stronger teams in the early moments, having won the toss to ensure they were shooting with the wind behind them. That gave the Panthers' defensive line of Rob, Jonathan, Ross and Tom some early wake-up calls as the Dragons tried to break through. And Cardiff weren't without their early chances, securing a number of corners and a free kick on the edge of the area that goalkeeper Adam had to push onto the crossbar for safety. On a couple of occasions, Cardiff were able to give their defenders the slip and push onto the goal but the home team were able to see off the threats thanks to some solid goalkeeping and defensive teamwork.
Panthers, however, gave as good as they got, and braved the driving wind and rain to push forward. Playing out from the back was often the only way to counter the gales, and the pairs of Rob and Jonathan on the left, and Ross and Tom on the right had some strong 1-2s to push the ball onto the midfield. Scott, Stu, and Tom Wren in the centre were a formidable trio, and were able to push the ball on to Alex and Mike Green on the wings. That perseverence helped to break the deadlock and allowed Mike Green to open the Panthers' account by hitting a low shot across the box into the bottom left corner. That was swiftly followed up with goals from Chris Miles and Tom Wren to take the Panthers 3-0 up going into the half time break.
The Dragons had drawn blood, however, as Captain Stu had to come off at half time as someone had clearly breathed near his calf...! The team refreshed with some water and orange juice kindly provided by Chris Robinson, before Marley came on for his GFSN league debut and immediately made an impact in the midfield.
At the restart, the Panthers now had the wind on their side, and that proved to be decisive, with the Dragons struggling to break out of their half. The Panthers' aggression was rewarded when Chris Miles slotted home his second of the day to take the hosts 4-0 up. Marley was then able to open his account with what he described as a "screamer from 30 yards out" - a description which was met with some scepticism from his teammates afterwards!
The Panthers' sixth goal saw Alex Kohnert do what he did throughout the match - breaking through the Dragons' defence with strong counter runs. He was almost rewarded with a goal but a foul in the box thwarted his efforts. The referee allowed Panthers to play the advantage and Mike Green was there to pass the ball into the net.
It looked like fate wasn't going to reward Kohnert with a much-deserved goal as shortly afterwards he earned a penalty. Tom Marlow thought he'd scored a goal in the melee but the whistle had already bown for the spot kick. Kohnert stelled up for the penalty but the Dragons' keeper pulled off a superb save to push the ball out of danger. It would then fall to Chris Miles to get the lucky seventh goal and give him another hat-trick.
The Panthers had a scare at their end after a quiet second half for new full-backs Glenn and Basham. A foul on the edge of the area gave the Dragons a direct free kick in dangerous territory, but the shot rose up over the bar. Shortly afterwards, Kohnert's persistence was finally rewarded, as he slotted home the Panthers' eighth goal off a great diving header. His efforts deservedly earned him the man of the match award.
The final whistle blew and the Panthers had secured a definitive victory heading into their final GFSN match. The win puts pressure on Leicester as they now have to win both of their final GFSN league clashes to pip the Panthers for second place, and the Panthers have strong momentum going into their final match against league leaders East End Phoenix in late May.
The visitors had some awful conditions to contend with against an in-form Panthers, and in many respects the scoreline did not reflect their performance as the Dragons were a continual threat pushing forward. And, as ever, they were a fun and friendly team to play, and both teams had earned the excellent buffet put on by Vice Chairman Pete at the Bristol Bear Bar afterwards!