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James Crawley

James Crawley writes

Posted Monday, July 30th 2018

Report: Gloucester City 1-1 Bristol City Under-23s (6-7 pens)

Alhaji Sesay was the penalty shootout hero as Bristol City Under-23s beat Gloucester City to retain the Gloucestershire Senior Challenge Cup.

Luke Williams’ City took a deserved lead through Ricardo Rees but the Gloucester Robins soon grew into the game and were level in the second half.

With the game poised at 1-1 after 90 minutes, spot kicks would decide the winner at the Gloucestershire FA’s Oaklands Park Stadium.

It went as far as sudden death with five penalties converted each, before Tom Harrison made it 7-6 and Sesay dived correctly to keep out the decisive Tigers’ spot kick.

City were certainly on top in the opening exchanges and fully deserved their lead when it arrived. They forced the Tigers back into their own half after clearing a free kick and Rees forced an error before bearing down on goal with the ball himself. He played a one-two with the supporting Rory Holden, whose return pass to Rees took the goalkeeper out of the play, leaving Rees with the simplest of tasks by putting the ball into an open net.

But Gloucester soon settled and Adam Page’s cross from the left almost caused problems for the City defence before the ball was hooked away for a corner.

It was heart in mouths time not long after too when a header from Jack Deaman was tipped away by Alhaji Sesay. The keeper pushed the ball away at the second attempt and City finally cleared their lines as the ball pinged around in the penalty area.

The City keeper plucked out a long-range effort from Jake Johnson, with Noah Smerdon firing wide as the Tigers looked for an equaliser.

But it was the Robins who edged the first half as the break neared, with Saikou Janneh firing narrowly wide before Jake Andrews came within inches of doubling City’s lead with a trademark free kick.

Williams’ side faced early warning signs in the second half before the Tigers’ eventually found their breakthrough - Joe Parker shot wide before forcing Sesay to block when one-on-on.

But it was former Cheltenham Town midfielder Joe Hanks who tapped home to make it 1-1, as he converted a drilled cross.

The Gloucester forward was proving a thorn in City’s side and could have made it 2-1 but for a good save from Sesay from a tight angle.

City weren’t without their own threats as Janneh went close to restoring the lead with a free header. Unfortunately for the summer recruit, the ball curled wide of the top corner.

Jamal Lawrence then showed raw pace when he burst down the left-wing, his agility proving too much for the Robins backline, but Sesay got down smartly and held the low shot when it came.

The game was proving far from a bore draw at this point and again came City with Andrews going close as he poked the ball wide from the edge of the area.

But neither side could force a late winner and the full-time whistle confirmed this one would be decided by a penalty shootout.

What followed was a penalty masterclass, with both keepers comfortably beaten with well-placed strikes. But Sesay dived at full stretch and kept the ball out when it mattered, to scenes of jubilation on the pitch.

City: Sesay, Ali, H Smith, Harrison, Turner-Williams, Rees, Andrews, Morton, Day, Holden, Janneh. Subs: Harrison, Z Smith, Buse, Spark, Webb, Harper.

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