Bristol City and Mark Sykes prove too hot to handle for Forest Green Rovers on UK’s warmest day

Robins saw off League One opposition 3-1 with their best showing of pre-season at the High Performance Centre.
Bristol City played Forest Green Rovers in their fourth pre-season friendly.Bristol City played Forest Green Rovers in their fourth pre-season friendly.
Bristol City played Forest Green Rovers in their fourth pre-season friendly.

Bristol City warmed up for the new season beginning in 10 days with three matches all on the same day, as Forest Green Rovers made the short trip down the M4 for the latest friendly game.

After Rovers, Bristol City face Exeter City just half an hour later, with an U23s match at Chippenham Town taking place too.

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All of the playing squad are due to play 90 minutes of action, with just an away trip to Bournemouth on Saturday left, before the next Championship campaign begins in earnest.

Perhaps it helped with it being the hottest day since records began, as temperatures soared across the country, as the football played was the best yet seen in pre-season at the Failand training ground.

The heat is on Nigel Pearson to improve on last year’s 17th position in the league and this latest tune-up, first against the League Two champions then later against the runners-up in the fourth tier, went as well as could be: three goals, plenty of chances and just the clean sheet missing.

Chris Martin opened the scoring after 25 minutes before Andi Weimann and Mark Sykes wrapped things up shortly after the break. Substitute Josh March grabbed the consolation on 75 minutes.

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Those 30 minute drinks breaks and, thankfully, some cloud cover helped with the afternoon - as an unexpected downpour even arrived during the second period. It was certainly a warm one up at the HPC.

Tale of the game

A bright start saw Weimann find space on the left and play the ball through for Sykes to shoot at the near post in the opening 90 seconds. Luke McGee saved.

“He needs a runner, Sykesy,” yelled assistant Curtis Fleming from the sidelines as the Green threatened from a corner and Nigel Pearson looked on from the stands, with the Robins aiming to maintain the tempo.

Martin couldn’t latch on to a Joe Williams through-ball in the early stages as the two sides tried to get on top, and somehow Sykes, Martin nor Weimann could convert on 18 minutes as the ball bounced across the area after some sublime play in midfield by former Ram Martin to set his ex-Oxford United team-mate away.

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After 25 minutes the opening goal: Weimann crossed deep from City’s right and Sykes nodded down for Martin to volley in adroitly at the near post via his right boot. Hot stuff from the front three and more was to come.

Weimann irritated opposition head coach Ian Burchnall with a late tackle on FGR’s Udoka Godwin-Maliffe, with some verbals exchanged - welcome to the HPC! - and Rob Atkinson survived a penalty shout as the visitors looked to get on even terms.

Meanwhile David Davies was on hand to thwart another City counterattack as the Robins tried to extend their lead. The defensive midfielder nipped in to stop the latest break from the West Country outfit late in the first half as Martin again threatened.

After half-time City were instantly two goals to the good, as Weimann crashed in at the near post on the volley, following Martin flicking on a Zak Vyner long ball forward.

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And finally the home side were in fine flow for the first time in pre-season as Sykes netted his first goal for his new club as Jay Dasilva won the ball high up the pitch.

Weimann collected and played the ball through and Sykes rounded McGee to pot into the open net. A well deserved goal for the Irishman, who has had a very good off-season.

Dasilva and Vyner went close to adding to the scoreline as sub Jamille Matt came off the bench and proved a problem; he was penalised for a swinging arm against Rob Atkinson denying him the chance to score from close range.

That welcome second-half downpour arrived as Regan Hendry blasted over the bar from long range, and Forest Green rang the changes.

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Weimann attacked once more but Rovers grabbed the next goal as Matt won first contact following a free kick and substitute Josh March bundled home from close range, the first goal City have conceded this summer.

Things heated up in the last minutes as Joe Williams and March came together aggressively with Williams tossing his opponent to the floor and sparking a few unsavioury scenes. But this was the hottest day.

Who stood out

Mark Sykes - the attacking midfielder again caught the eye, finding space and causing alarm to the Green defence. He set up the first goal, meeting Weimann’s cross and then scored his first for the club.

Chris Martin - an effective focal point in attack involved in most of City’s best moves and who had Tomas Kalas purring on co-comms on Robins TV and joking about a “surpisingly sharp turn” in midfield. Grabbed a goal and an assist.

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Andi Weimann - City’s top scorer last season scored the second goal, set up the third and played a big role in the first. The front trio were too hot to handle for FGR, appropriately given the conditions.

Who has work to do

It was a good display from all, but Jay Dasilva also deserves mention for a fine display down the left.

If George Tanner had a quieter game down the opposite flank, we would have liked to have seen a bit more from James and Williams in the middle.

Starting teams

Bristol City (3-4-1-2): Bentley; Vyner, Naismith, Atkinson; Tanner, James, Williams, Dasilva; Sykes; Weimann, Martin

Forest Green Rovers: McGee; O’Keeffe, Cargill, Stevenson, Hendry, Little, Moore-Taylor, McAllister, Godwin-Malife, Davis, T

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