The Dayshift Recruitment Bristol Pitbulls endured a tough home opener to the season, beaten 7-1 by Oxford City Stars.
The first period gave no indication as to how the game would end up. It’s true that Oxford had much of the possession, particularly in the initial phase of the game where Stars came out strong. However, Bristol were able to show the speed that had made them so effective against Haringey the week before.
So, while Bristol were doing a good job soaking up the Oxford pressure, they continually looked dangerous on the break. And sixteen minutes into the game, that was how Bristol opened the scoring. Nathan Chilcott finding space around Ronai’s net after being fed by Asprey.
A two-man advantage created by penalties to Hayes and Manning gave Oxford the space they needed in the Bristol zone, allowing Alex Staples to tie the game up before the first break.
But, Bristol’s often poor second period made a re-appearance.
Lee Richardson, brother of Grant, gave Oxford their lead after 25 minutes, starting a six minute period in which the red light behind Bristol’s net would be lit four times. Elliott, Oliver and another from Richardson doing the damage.
By now, a frustration had entered Bristol’s play. Guilty of a pass too many, their ability to create breakaways was particularly absent. In general, they seemed to be a step behind Oxford, struggling to exert any sort of control back on the game.
While the third period didn’t quite get Bristol back to their first period performance, it was certainly an improvement on the second.
Joe Edwards put the game beyond doubt after 45 minutes, but Bristol were doing a much better job of soaking up the Oxford pressure and keeping the shots away from dangerous areas.
A late goal by Oxford import Michal Oravec finished the game off.
However, as disappointing as the result may be, it should be acknowledged that Oxford won the league last season and are most people’s favourites to repeat that success. And, despite Oxford arguably being stronger this year, seven goals is also how many goals Bristol conceded in both of their league games against them last season. Indeed, only the first leg of the playoffs last season saw a better defensive performance by Bristol against Stars.
Ultimately, this was a fixture that Bristol will be glad to get out of the way. No one will look forward to playing Oxford this season and Bristol had the added disadvantage of Oxford essentially giving Oxford an extra home game.
The team’s next five fixtures all feature teams who are unlikely to be fighting for the league title and so will perhaps give a better indication as to how Bristol will fare this season.