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Match Report

 

Posted Sun 03 May 15 at 14:00 PM

Report: City 8-2 Walsall

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Mark Perrow reports from Ashton Gate

City signed off a memorable campaign in style to put Walsall to the sword in a party atmosphere at Ashton Gate.

The visitors played their part in an entertaining season finale, taking a 13th minute lead through the impressive Jordy Hiwula.

But City were not behind for long as Aden Flint volleyed the home team level before Jay Emmanuel-Thomas scored from the penalty spot in traditionally casual fashion.

Hiwula sent the visitors in at the break with parity restored, but four goals in 11 second-half minutes blew them away.

Kieran Agard put City back in front, while Marlon Pack got in on the act before Emmanuel-Thomas and Flint each scored their second of the day before the midway point in the second period.

But that was far from the end of the fun, as Flint got the party started early with his first career hat-trick, tapping in from close range before Agard added City's eighth to round off a remarkable afternoon.

Steve Cotterill named an unchanged starting line-up following victory at Chesterfield last time out, with Aaron Wilbraham still sidelined by injury.

There was good energy about City early on, looking sharp in their brand new home kit for the first time, but no clear chances to report before Hiwula opened the scoring to send a buoyant Ashton Gate into a temporary silence.

It was a nicely taken goal to put the visitors in front and a clear example of their confidence on the back of a seven-game unbeaten run that has carried them into the top half of the table.

Sam Mantom’s driving run at the heart of the City back three left the hosts exposed, sliding the ball to his left for Hiwula, who simply passed the ball inside the far post with admirable composure.

Cotterill’s men are not used to being behind and, even in a match of relatively little significance, were not prepared to accept the deficit lightly.

It would take no more than three minutes for City to restore parity, as Flint added goal number 13 of a tremendous individual season and possibly the pick of the bunch.

Pack’s short corner to Luke Freeman caught Walsall off guard, and when Freeman’s ensuing cross took a deflection, Flint had to improvise by hooking a brilliant left-foot volley in off the far post.

It was a fitting moment for the man rewarded as the club’s Outstanding Player of the Year shortly before kick-off.

It was as if taking the lead was the worst thing Walsall could have done, as City continued to attack with a greater sense of purpose.

Before long the scoreline was turned on its head as Emmanuel-Thomas kept the play alive on the far side of the penalty area and sent a deep cross back into the danger zone.

Derrick Williams retrieved possession and crossed against the raised arms of Kieron Morris, who was duly penalised with the award of a spot-kick.

Emmanuel-Thomas was typically nerveless in taking his season tally to 11 despite the best efforts of goalkeeper Craig MacGillivray, who got closer than most but was beaten by the accuracy of the kick low to his right.

It was an entertaining spectacle played in driving rain until Ashton Gate was later bathed in sunshine, although clear-cut chances were in short supply aside from the goals, which kept coming.

Again Mantom was involved, this time seeing his shot blocked before falling at the feet of Hiwula, who had Luke Ayling standing between himself and the goal on the left-corner of the six-yard box.

There seemed no way through, but the Manchester City loanee succeeded in threading the ball between the legs of the defender, perhaps only finding the bottom corner via the inside of Ayling’s heel – not that Hiwula was bothered as he celebrated his second of the day in front of the travelling fans.

The second half began in similarly open fashion, starting with a James Tavernier burst down the right flank and low cross towards former Rotherham United team-mate Agard, who was only denied at point-blank range by a brave MacGillivray save.

But Walsall would continue to give as good as they got, possessing the most dangerous player of the first hour in the lively Hiwula. 

The winger was hat-trick hunting and not far away with a low shot that flashed just past the post, before City broke quickly from a Walsall corner to retake the lead.

Or, more specifically, Korey Smith broke quickly from a Walsall corner, as one last lung-busting run from the popular midfielder carried him from one box to the other, eventually slipping the ball to his right for Agard to take a touch and finish ruthlessly across MacGillivray.

Having been 2-2 until the 57th minute, it was 6-2 ten minutes later as the champions turned on the style.

The irrepressible Emmanuel-Thomas turned provider in pulling the ball back for Pack to convert with a low shot from 15 yards, before Emmanuel-Thomas breezed past James Chambers with his first touch and rifled a shot into the roof of the net with his second.

That was City’s fifth, and the sixth would arrive within a matter of moments as Freeman crossed for Flint to edge back in front of Agard, second only to Aaron Wilbraham in the club scoring ranks.

Emmanuel-Thomas and Freeman later departed to rapturous applause from another sell-out crowd, before Flint and Agard scored again to sum up a surreal afternoon at the end of a season to remember for many, many years to come.

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