Goals from Jed Meerholz and Brandon Liggett either side of half time set up a dramatic end to the GFA Senior Challenge Cup with penalty hero Mac Boyd making the difference for Bristol City.
A young Cheltenham side travelled to the Robins High Performance Centre for the Gloucestershire FA Senior Challenge Trophy final against Bristol City. Alfie Taylor captained a team containing only one professional and took Category One Bristol City all the way to penalties, with the hosts winning the shootout 4-1.
The hosts opened the scoring after Cheltenham struggled to clear a ball into the box and Meerholz capitalised to head home 12 minutes in. They ramped up the pressure as they searched for a second with first year professional Zac Guinan called upon multiple times at corners to clear.
A freekick from the left of Jude Franks’ area was played into the six yard box with Franks forced into a good save before the young shot stopper was called upon again to punch away the resulting corner. David Romer put in a good standing tackle to deny City as they charged towards goal soon after with the hosts starting to take control. A strong tackle from Cam Walters halted a powerful run into our box with Franks called upon again.
Meerholz opened the scoring on the night as he capitalised on Cheltenham’s struggles to clear the ball as a corner was headed back across goal by Guinan, competing with a City man, into the path of Meerholz in the 16th minute.
The hosts began to take control of the game, forcing Cheltenham back with Guinan called upon multiple times to head clear and 'keeper Franks forced into multiple saves, including one from point blank range to deny Ephraim Yeboah making ten minutes after the goal with another with ten minutes left of the half, again at point blank range.
Cheltenham did threaten the City goal with a quick free kick from Liggett releasing Tom King down the right with the young striker’s ball into the box flying across goal but without a touch to guide it goalwards.
Half time came with no further goals as Ashley Vincent’s side having to work hard to go in only one goal down.
It was a stronger second half performance with our young robins coming out to impress as Eddie Lewis saw a header saved after Guinan won the ball from a corner in the 47th minute before Guinan was involved again, having his shot blocked on the edge of the Bristol after being played through on goal by King just a minute later.
Franks made another good save to deny Yeboah low driven effort after Cheltenham were caught in possession in midfield. The game looked destined for an equaliser when the ball was lobbed over the City defence to Liggett who played the ball across goal to Adulai Sambu but he couldn’t keep his effort down and it went over the bar just under 15 minutes into the second half.
Ibby Olateju replaced Guinan on the hour mark and was instantly involved, releasing Tom King who slotted past the keeper but saw his effort rebound off the bar. Five minutes later, King was released again but City keeper Mac Boyd came out well to clear.
The goal finally game with eight minutes to go as King charged towards goal, finding Liggett to the left of the edge of the box, with Liggett’s low effort finding the bottom left corner to equalise to a great reception from the travelling supporters. City almost immediately took the lead once more as Bristol City countered from a corner and looked destined to score with the goal at their begging with Yeboah denied once more by an outstanding save from Franks.
Injury time saw plenty of drama as five minutes in King was brought down and Cheltenham were awarded a penalty. Liggett stepped up to take but saw Boyd save well low to his left with two rebounds saved and blocked before we hit the post in a chaotic final minute.
The game went straight to penalties with captain Taylor scoring for Cheltenham and Josh Owers, Callum Hutton, Taine Anderson and Yeboah scoring as City won the GFA Senior Challenge Cup.
Speaking after the game, Professional Development Phase Lead Coach Vincent was proud of his team despite not winning: “I thought we had a bit of a tough first half, although I there were some good performances in there. I thought there were some little bits of information that we needed to get on to the players to help support them in the second half but we go in at half time only 1-0 down and we’re very much still in the game.
“In the second half I thought they took that on board and came out and performed really well and created some chances, had some really good opportunities, but couldn’t put the ball in the net. Listen, the penalty in the last minute is the penalty and we couldn’t put it away but that’s football for you.
“I’m hoping it’s going to show them that they’re never out of games and they’ve got to keep competing, take the information on, keep developing. They took a Cat One side all the way and they should be really proud of that."
Bristol City: Boyd, James, Anderson, Hewlett (Churchley 64), Campbell-Slowey, Meerholz, Nelson, Owers, Phillips (Rose 64), Hutton, Yeboah
Subs (not used): Brown, Bak, Oputeri
Robins: Franks, Lewis, Romer, Burgess, Walters (Wilkie 90), Willcox, Sambu, Liggett, Guinan (Olateju 60), King, Taylor (c)
Subs (not used): Bamana, Shumba, Burford