FREE­MAN CAN’T WAIT FOR DOSE OF CUP FEVER AGAINST AL­BION

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Chris Dunlavy

BRIS­TOL CITY star Luke Free­man says FA Cup heart­break with Steve­nage will spur him on to bounceWest Brom out of the FA Cup.

Free­man 23, was part of the Boro squad that hero­ically held Spurs to a 0-0 draw at Broad­hal­lWay in Fe­bru­ary 2012, putting the Hert­ford­shire min­nows in the hat for the quar­ter-fi­nals.

But, while his team-mates did bat­tle un­der the lights of White Hart Lane, a crocked Free­man could only watch pow­er­less as the Premier League gi­ants won 3-1.

“It was to­tally gut­ting,” re­calls Free­man, who came through the ranks at Arse­nal be­fore mak­ing his name at Boro.

“That first game was bril­liant be­cause they had ab­so­lutely ev­ery­one play­ing – Jer­maine De­foe, Gareth Bale, Scott Parker.They fin­ished fourth in the Premier League that sea­son and we more than matched them.

“I couldn’t wait to go to their place, but we had a league game be­fore the re­play and I took a knock. I couldn’t be­lieve it. I worked like mad to get fit but I didn’t make it, which was dev­as­tat­ing.

“As an ex-Arse­nal boy, I would’ve loved to play at White Hart Lane.

“There’s noth­ing bet­ter than an FA Cup run for a smaller team.When you start to get known as a gi­ant killer, the buzz around the club is al­most like win­ning the league. Af­ter miss­ing out last time, I’m des­per­ate to taste that again.”

But for a last-gasp equaliser, City would al­ready be through to a fourth-round tie at home to Peter­bor­ough.

Hav­ing come from be­hind to lead 2-1 at the Hawthorns, Steve Cot­ter­ill’s side were left shat­tered by a 95th-minute equaliser from James Mor­ri­son, de­spite the fourth of­fi­cial’s board show­ing only four to be played.

Ac­cord­ing to Free­man, it was typ­i­cal of the luck that sees the Robins strug­gling in the Cham­pi­onship’s bot­tom three – and this week cost League One-win­ning gaffer Cot­ter­ill his job.

“It was the same old story,” says the winger, whose side were beaten 2-1 by Pre­ston in Cot­ter­ill’s fi­nal match.“We played well, dom­i­nated the game.Then we got done by an­other last-minute goal.

“Pretty much ev­ery game we’ve played, we’ve been the bet­ter side. Look­ing back, I can only think of Burn­ley and Derby where you go ‘Fair play, they were a lot bet­ter than us’. It’s one of the most frus­trat­ing sea­sons I’ve known.

“If you look at the stats, we’ve reg­u­larly dom­i­nated pos­ses­sion, had more passes, more crosses, more finalthird en­tries. No­body can put a fin­ger on it.

“It’s like we used up all our luck to­kens win­ning League One last year. Look at Pre­ston’s win­ner on Tues­day night.Their striker tried to con­trol the ball, hand­balled it, then fell over. But the ref­eree misses the hand­ball, gives a foul and they go and score from it. It’s an­noy­ing, but all we can re­ally do is keep work­ing hard and hope things turn around.”

Hav­ing failed with a £2m bid for Bolton won­der kid Zach Clough, City re­main on the hunt for a new striker.

“It would be nice be­cause we’ve got such a small squad,” adds Free­man.“It’s only 15 or 16 strong, which is tiny at this level. Hope­fully we’ll get a few play­ers through the door and give the place a bit of a lift.”

And, if the new man is any­where near as suc­cess­ful as Jonathan Kod­jia – signed from French Ligue 2 win­ners Angers for £2m in the sum­mer – City could fi­nally stop re­ly­ing on luck.

“Jonathan’s done re­ally well,” says Free­man.“I know a few teams were in­ter­ested in him over the sum­mer. Read­ing cer­tainly were.

“But we were the ones who put the money up and got the deal done and it’s just as well we did.To score ten goals in a strug­gling side is im­pres­sive and you saw against West Brom the qual­ity he has.

“It’s just a shame his English isn’t as good as his fin­ish­ing!”

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