Bristol City 1 Stoke City 0: Mind games help Elliott put Stoke on wrong foot

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The Independent Football

Marvin Elliott's pre-match mind games helped to produce a wonder strike against Stoke City, which once again underlined Bristol City's legitimate promotion claims.

The Robins, promoted from League One last season, have only lost one game all season and four victories on the bounce leave Gary Johnson's men just three points adrift of the Championship leaders, Watford, who play Crystal Palace today.

The club's confidence coach, Mark Layder, who has worked alongside Johnson for over 10 years, played his part in this win when he had Elliott, the former Millwall midfielder, visualising hitting a target – in this case, company advertisements – behind both goal nets before kick-off.

Elliott, who has emerged as a key player in Bristol's remarkable start to the season with his never-say-die attitude, unleashed a 25-yard left-foot shot on 35 minutes which curled beautifully into the top corner beyond the Stoke goalkeeper, Steve Simonsen.

The player did not want to go into many details about Layder's psychological influence, but paid tribute to the confidence coach's work, saying: "Mark works with the team and the players on an individual basis and he has certainly helped me.

"This is one of the best goals I have scored but I don't score enough. It's down to confidence and I want to add goals to my game, but if you don't shoot you won't score."

Tony Pulis, the Stoke manager, was certainly one man in the ground who was taken aback by Elliott's long-range effort, which left the Potteries club facing only their third defeat in 21 league games.

He said: "We watched Elliott a few times when he was at Millwall and the reports said he couldn't kick a ball with his left foot – and he hits one in from 25 yards!"

Pulis, surprisingly, included the striker Vincent Péricard in his starting line-up just three days and two training sessions after the former Portsmouth player had been released from Manchester Strangeways prison following a driving offence.

Péricard, and the side as a whole, made little impact up front, although Ricardo Fuller should have done better that screw his early shot wide after he forcefully made space for a clear run at goal.

Elliott was by far the most influential man on the park and, after getting his goal, tested Simonsen with two more efforts before Darren Byfield, a first-half replacement for the injured David Noble, saw his volley clawed away by the visiting goalkeeper.

Pulis, the former Bristol Rovers player and failed Robins manager, shrugged off the frosty reception he received from the home fans by praising the chairman, Steve Lansdown, and the vice-chairman, Keith Dawe, for dragging Bristol City through a "nightmare" period into an exciting new era.

Goal: Elliott (35).

Bristol City (4-4-1-1): Basso; Orr, Carey, Fontaine, McAllister; Sproule (Skuse, 90), Elliott, Johnson, McIndoe; Noble (Byfield, 14); Trundle (McCombe, 90). Substitutes not used: Henderson (gk), Murray.

Stoke City (4-4-2): Simonsen; Wilkinson (Wright, 83), Zakuani, Shawcross, Dickinson; Lawrence (Sweeney, 80), Eustace, Matteo, Delap; Fuller, Péricard (Parkin, 59). Substitutes not used: Hoult (gk), Hill.

Referee: R Shoebridge (Derbyshire).

Booked: Stoke City Delap, Lawrence.

Man of the match: Elliott.

Attendance: 15,012.