Report from Paul Evans
The Bristol Rovers team beaten 3-0 by City's reserves today were not very good - they barely threatened the City's goal all game and finished a very well beaten team. The fact has to be faced that the teams City's reserves are playing this year are, mostly, not of the same standard as those First Division reserve sides we regularly faced last season, so any judgement of this season's reserve side has to be made with that in mind.
That said, this was another impressive performance by City's second string. Conditions were awkward, with a bobbly pitch, strong and cold wind and a fussy referee who stopped the game flowing (reserve match refs are, by and large, not that bad, but today's was poor), but a City team which, by my reckoning, only had two players (Bowen and Collins) out of their teens overcame them all to play with some fluency on their way to a comfortable win (3-0 certainly didn't flatter them).
The two senior players shone today, Jason Bowen worked hard today and had an excellent first half (he also made the best tackle I have ever seen from him!) whilst I was very impressed with James Collins who could be forgiven for thinking that he could, under different circumstances, have been playing a part in tonight's International match. However, he gave a committed and wholehearted performance which marked him out as a leader as well as a very promising centre half. Not everything Collins did today came off, but his quality, whether it was in taking a quick free kick from twenty five yards which flew just over with the keeper beaten, knocking piercing long through passes for our strikers to run on to or winning towering headers that flew twenty and thirty yards upfield shone through - quite why he is not even considered worthy of a place on the subs bench for the first team, I haven't a clue!
I had my first look at Cameron Jerome the young trialist from Middlesbrough today and was pleasantly surprised by how good he was. Standing well over six foot tall, you would expect him to be good in the air which he is, but he also has a good touch and a nice turn of pace. Jerome and Stuart Fleetwood, who has become a real force at this level this season, gave the Rovers defence a torrid time throughout and fully deserved their goals.
A word also for Johnathan Kift who looked a neat and tidy footballer on the left hand side of a City midfield that got more and more on top the longer the game went on.
The first half was fairly quiet, Jerome forced a decent save from Greaves the Rovers keeper and the City should have had a penalty when Greaves brought down the hard working Nicky Fish (true to form, the ref booked Fish for diving instead!). It looked like it would be 0-0 at half time, until a minute or so before the break when Jerome skilfully worked a chance for himself, Greaves blocked the shot, but Michael Parkins following up scored easilly (Parkins has no chance of succeeding at the City because he is a midfield player who is forever making forward runs beyond the strikers - sorry for the cynicism!).
The second half was one way traffic towards the Rovers' goal, Collins (twice), Fleetwood (twice), Jerome, Bowen and Parkins all came very close to scoring, but there were just two more goals. The first of these was similar to Parkins' goal except that this time it was Fleetwood who did well to get a shot in and it was Jerome who had the simple finish from the keeper's save. The third goal arrived shortly afterwards and was the best of the afternoon as Fleetwood's pace took him clear of the Rovers centre backs and he then confidently side footed past the keeper.
The reserves are now well on the way to winning this league and have three more home matches left this season (including one against the Jacks next month), if you are able to, why not try to get along to one of these games - unlike last year, the reserves are well worth watching this season.