HERO LIT­TLE EYES THE BIG TIME...

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By John Lyons

MARK Lit­tle made it suc­ces­sive win­ners’ medals in the Johnstone’s Paint Tro­phy with a vir­tu­oso show in the fi­nal – but he has no de­sire to make it a hat-trick.

The ma­raud­ing rightwing back won the com­pe­ti­tion for the Foot­ball League’s bot­tom two di­vi­sions with for­mer club Peter­bor­ough United a year ago.

And when he net­ted Bris­tol City’s sec­ond in their im­pres­sive victory against Wem­b­ley debu­tants Wal­sall last Sun­day, it put the seal on an­other glory day.

But the fact he’s not got his eyes on a tre­ble next term is not be­cause he’s got bored of Wem­b­ley or blasé about suc­cess, it’s be­cause he doesn’t want to be el­i­gi­ble for the com­pe­ti­tion.

And with Steve Cot­ter­ill’s Bris­tol City miles clear at the top of the League One ta­ble, it’s a good bet that Lit­tle and co won’t get the chance to de­fend their crown.

The 26-year-old, man-of-the­match at Wem­b­ley, told The FLP: “I’m not say­ing I’ll never be back in the com­pe­ti­tion, but I’m hop­ing not be in it next sea­son – and I don’t ex­pect to.”

Pro­mo­tion

With the JPT safely tucked away, the Robins can now fo­cus all their at­ten­tions on se­cur­ing pro­mo­tion to the Cham­pi­onship in the re­main­ing weeks of the sea­son.

Lit­tle said: “Ev­ery­one is ex­cited and ea­ger to get back to the

league All the lads are buzzing this week.Win­ning the league is the most im­por­tant thing and the pro­mo­tion that comes with that. "We need to ap­proach the games prop­erly and not take any­thing for granted.”

What­ever does hap­pen from here on in, Lit­tle is de­lighted he made the move to Ash­ton Gate last sum­mer.

"It's been un­be­liev­able,” he said. "I couldn’t have asked for a bet­ter place to come. I’m lov­ing ev­ery minute of it – the club, the place, the peo­ple. I couldn’t have ask for more.”

With a crowd of 72,315 pack­ing into Wem­b­ley, Cot­ter­ill’s troops proved they are the real deal by eas­ing to a 2-0 victory.

It was the Sad­dlers’ first-ever ap­pear­ance at the home of foot-ball but the ruth­less Robins showed them no mercy. Let’s hope it’s not an­other 127 years be­fore they re­turn. They would have hoped to have given City more of a run for their money, but big­ger and bet­ter teams have come un­stuck against them.

The scene was set when tow­er­ing de­fender Aden Flint leapt high to power in a back­post header from Mar­lon Pack’s 15thminute cor­ner. It made it ten goals this sea­son for the im­pos­ing cen­tre-back – plenty of strik­ers would be pleased with that tally.

With mid­fielder Luke Free­man show­ing ex­actly why he’s rated so highly, the west coun­try out­fit con­tin­ued to pull the strings.

And the ex-Ar­se­nal man was given too much time and space to send in a su­perb cross with his weaker right foot to set up the sec­ond in the 51st minute.

Lit­tle showed real de­sire to get there first and head goal­wards. Wal­sall keeper Richard O’Don­nell made a great re­ac­tion save, but the ball ric­o­cheted into the net off Lit­tle’s knee to dou­ble the ad­van­tage and seal victory.

When the closing stages came around, it was clear that the League One pacesetters weren’t go­ing to be thwarted.

Ju­bi­lant

As the cel­e­bra­tions started, a ju­bi­lant Lit­tle donned a red wig and milked the oc­ca­sion.

Fel­low goalscorer Flint was just de­lighted the club’s sup­port­ers had a suc­cess to savour.

“The fans all came out to see us win a tro­phy and it’s great that we’ve been able to do that,” he said. “To see 40,000 sup­port­ers turn­ing up at Wem­b­ley just shows how big the club is.”

Boss Cot­ter­ill has mas­ter­minded a mag­i­cal sea­son at Ash­ton Gate and be­lieves his young side will be all the bet­ter for their Wem­b­ley ex­pe­ri­ence.

“To play in front of 72,000 peo­ple was some­thing they wouldn’t have done be­fore and I was pleased with the way in which they han­dled it,” he beamed.

“The ex­pe­ri­ence they gained will be so im­por­tant to them go­ing for­ward. It is some­thing ev­ery young manager and player needs to ex­pe­ri­ence early in their ca­reer.”

While City cel­e­brated, there was dis­ap­point­ment in the los­ing camp that they hadn’t shown their best face on the big stage.

Boss Dean Smith ad­mit­ted: “The build-up is su­perb, but Wem­b­ley is no place to be on the los­ing team. We just wanted to give our fans more to shout about.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Images

A LIT­TLE BIT OF HIS­TORY: Mark Lit­tle bun­dles home the sec­ond Right: Aden Flint nets the opener, top, and ex-loa­nee Matt Smith lifts the tro­phy, bot­tom

ALL-SMILES: City’s Mark Lit­tle cel­e­brates scor­ing the clincher and, be­low, boss Steve Cot­ter­ill gets a soak­ing

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