Mark Perrow reports from Ashton Gate
City recorded a second successive goalless draw against a Brighton side pushing for the play-offs at Ashton Gate.
Tom Heaton was hardly tested in the home goal, and the hosts looked the more likely winners in a game lacking clear chances from start to finish.
Sean O’Driscoll brought back Cole Skuse from injury to stiffen up a five-man midfield, sacrificing Steven Davies who dropped to the bench.
It was the visitors who enjoyed much of the early running, but City grew into the contest and began to force the issue.
When Jon Stead’s run and cross forced a corner, the quickly taken kick eventually fell to Skuse on the edge of the box who twice saw shots blocked, before Paul Anderson stung the palms of Tomasz Kuszczak from 25 yards with the first attempt on target after 19 minutes.
It was an opening period of few chances, but Greg Cunningham’s diagonal ball into the penalty area threatened to cause problems when Marvin Elliott climbed highest to head the ball back into the path of Brendan Moloney, but the defender’s shot looped away for a corner via a deflection.
Moloney was becoming increasingly involved, and his low cross from the right flank caused real problems with Elliott again in the mix, but a combination of Adam El-Abd and Liam Bridcutt smuggled the ball to safety with Stephen Pearson also lurking.
From the resulting corner, Kuszczak’s unconvincing punch only fell to Liam Kelly just outside the box, who took a touch before returning the ball with interest albeit too close to the ex-Manchester United stopper, who pushed the shot up in the air before winning a free kick when Stead attempted to barge man and ball over the goal line.
Brighton nearly shot themselves in the foot shortly before half-time when El-Abd sold central defensive partner Matthew Upson short, but, when Anderson nipped in and looked set to race through on goal, the former England international just got a toe to the ball to stop the winger in his tracks and the chance was gone.
It would prove a surprisingly eventful end to the first period, as Elliott headed a Cunningham free kick into the East End and a Pearson cross into the arms of Kuszczak, before the visitors lost top scorer Craig Mackail-Smith to injury in stoppage time.
A similar pattern continued after the interval – no clear chances, but City still looking more likely. Anderson and Kelly both cleared the crossbar from 25 yards, before Moloney stepped inside on to his left foot and shot from the same sort of range, only to see El-Abd divert the ball inches wide of Kuszczak’s left-hand post with the keeper beaten.
However, it would prove to be the closest either side would come to a winner in a victory for both defences rather than either team, although City, in truth, were hardly ever tested.