Bristol City 0-0 Portsmouth: who stood out, what happened and Marlon Pack’s return

Matty James of Bristol City as Bristol City play Portsmouth FC in a pre-season friendly Matty James of Bristol City as Bristol City play Portsmouth FC in a pre-season friendly
Matty James of Bristol City as Bristol City play Portsmouth FC in a pre-season friendly | Rogan/Fever Pitch
Robins handed a surprise start for 20-year-old defender James Taylor on Tuesday afternoon in stalemate at the HPC.

Welcome back, Marlon Pack and Joe Morrell. Bristol City played their second pre-season friendly of the summer at a behind-closed-doors High Performance Centre, which ended 0-0 after 120 minutes of play.

A year ago Marlee Francois scored a late equaliser for the visitors but this year and even though the side in blue had four Robins temporarily in their ranks, there were no such late twists.

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Indeed there were no scorers as pre-season continued with a clean sheet as a reward for the day’s efforts. (Although if you wanted goals, the U23s beat Birmingham City U23s in a friendly 10-0 earlier in the day).

City played their 3-5-2 of the week before with academy graduate James Taylor involved in place of Jay Dasilva or Cam Pring (out with a minor knee injury) down the left and Chris Martin missing out as his wife gives birth.

Tomas Kalas watched on from the sidelines, injured, and Tyreeq Bakinson was still exiled but otherwise this was an almost full strength Robins outfit, with Antoine Semenyo recovering from a shin complaint and Alex Scott given time off following the England U19s Euros win.

Although Pack was readmitted to his old training ground with a cheeky elbow from kitman Scott Murray, Morrell was injured and not involved for this one.

What happened

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Bristol City pressed high early on and pinned back the visitors, who had Pack spraying the ball around in Failand in a way not seen since 2019.

Kal Naismith’s early free kick almost led to the opening goal, while a precise tackle stopped Ronan Curtis bursting in on goal.

Connor Ogilvie headed a corner wide on 21 minutes before Andi Weimann volleyed over following neat play by new boy James Taylor, who is normally a right-back but swapped sides here.

With Pack rouletting past opposite number Joe Williams, albeit not at break-neck speed, Pompey were holding out.

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Dan Bentley saved from Curtis after half an hour, which had followed Weimann almost converting a low Mark Sykes cross.

Pack’s screeching from the middle, a drone from high above and the shouts on the pitch filled the air as both sides cancelled each other out in the opening 45 minutes.

Bentley denied Curtis, set up by Louis Thompson, when one-on-one on 44 minutes to finish the first half.

A Taylor cross almost fell fortuitously for Nahki Wells after the break, as the home side pushed back the south coast side after the break.

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Klose was cautioned for a studs-up tackle on former Swindon Town man Thompson on 54 minutes and Kane Wilson was finding space to hurl several threatening balls into the box.

Sykes set up Weimann to swipe at goal from inside the box but goalkeeper Alex Bass saved well, with Weimann firing wide just before the hour mark.

Bentley was replaced by O’Leary and Wells had to score as Williams crossed to the back post on 66 minutes but the Bermudian headed over the bar.

Mass changes came at 68 minutes: Jay Dasilva, Tommy Conway, Ryley Towler, Zak Vyner, George Tanner and Duncan Idehen all coming on.

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Bristol City against Portsmouth in pre-season.Bristol City against Portsmouth in pre-season.
Bristol City against Portsmouth in pre-season. | BristolWorld

And they weren’t the only Bristol City players to get game time. Callum Wood, Omar Taylor Clark, Prince Henry and Zac Bell all came on for Portsmouth briefly, to help the away side and possibly earn a loan?

Sub Conway sliced a Sykes low ball just wide with 80 minutes gone before Sykes hooked over the bar. The goal would not come.

Bass saved from Tanner, Idehen smashed the crossbar, Conway butchered a fantastic opportunity with just the keeper to beat and still it remained 0-0 at 90 minutes.

Han-Noah Massengo, Andy King, Sam Bell and Seb Palmer-Houlden joined the fray for an extra 30 minutes of play, as Palmer-Houlden sliced wide when presented with just the keeper to beat after winning the ball high up the pitch himself.

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A burst down the left by Bell then led to Conway crashing low at goal, only for City’s Wood to block on the line. Then O’Leary kept out Gifford, as Bell became the latest unable to net from close range with just one man to get past, and Bell came on for Portsmouth after Vyner had headed a corner over the bar.

Exercise completed. No goals. Much to do but some good signs as well. Onto the next.

Who stood out

Youngster Taylor, likely involved due to injuries, put in an impressive shift down the left flank. Sometimes just playing the simple ball is the best ball, and Taylor kept it simple, winning duels and hoisting over the odd cross.

Rob Atkinson read play superbly to mop up one particular counter as Timm Klose was caught forward, and was the pick of the bunch as a clean sheet was kept in regular time.

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Bentley made several top stops, none better than denying Curtis who was adjudged not offside in the final seconds of the first half.

Who has work to do

The intensity of the game meant it was a tough afternoon at times for Matty James, who was otherwise the metronome for the home side, passing the ball around well.

Sykes received the ball in a couple of good positions but was unable to find the cutting pass to create for his team-mates.

Massengo was beaten in a 50/50 by fellow City youngster Taylor-Clarke in the final stages, which will surely be noted by Nigel Pearson on the sidelines.

Starting teams:

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Bristol City (3-5-2): Bentley; Klose, Naismith, Atkinson; Wilson, James, Williams, Taylor; Sykes, Wells, Klose

Portsmouth (4-3-3): Bass; Swanson, Robertson, Mnoga, Ogilvie, Tunnicliffe, Harness, Curtis, Pack, Thompson, Jacobs

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