Mark Perrow reports from Ashton Gate
City were victims of football’s oldest curse as former loanee Chris Wood returned to haunt Derek McInnes with a first half hat-trick at Ashton Gate.
Matty James struck his side’s fourth just six minutes after the interval to condemn the Robins to a humiliating defeat in front of their own fans.
A familiar tale of soft goals proved City’s downfall again, with all three of Wood’s goals particularly prevenatable, and, although the hosts improved in the second half, the damage had long since been done.
McInnes handed a debut to former Kilmarnock midfielder Liam Kelly, signed late on Thursday evening, as one of five changes to his side knocked out of the FA Cup by Blackburn Rovers.
Dean Gerken returned in goal, with Richard Foster, Stephen McManus and Steven Davies also back in the starting line-up.
Louis Carey, Mark Wilson, Paul Anderson and Ryan Taylor all dropped out of the side, with Tom Heaton, Matthew Bates and Sam Baldock all suffering with calf problems.
City started positively enough, with Davies and Jon Stead keeping the Leicester defence occupied, but the visitors also looked a threat through lively winger Anthony Knockaert before opening the scoring thanks to a familiar source.
Ben Marshall’s pass in behind Foster found the willing run of Wood, who ran into the box, cut inside and buried a low shot past Gerken at the keeper’s near post.
It was the New Zealand international’s fourth goal on only his third appearance for his new club, and he was gifted a fifth seven minutes later.
From Marshall’s left-wing corner, Gerken failed to collect the high ball, Liam Fontaine was unable to clear and Wood pounced from just a couple of yards out to double his tally for the day.
Having started brightly, City were in danger of a repeat performance of the first half against Wolves before Christmas, when a four-goal blitz had the result tied up before the interval.
But the hosts nearly found a way back into the contest when Davies’ inswinging corner appeared to elude everybody inside the six-yard box before Ritchie De Laet uncomfortably cleared from on the far post.
Any hope of going in at break still in the contest was extinguished by Wood’s hat-trick goal on 41 minutes. Collecting the ball on the edge of the City penalty area, the striker’s weak shot squirmed beneath the body of Gerken to round off a half to forget for McInnes’ men.
The City boss responded at half-time with a double change, withdrawing James Wilson and Stead in favour of Paul Anderson and Wes Burns – the youngster handed his first-team debut at just 18 years of age alongside Davies up front.
And Burns’ enthusiasm was immediately evident, as he chased what looked a lost cause towards the touchline, overtaking Wes Morgan at full pace before clattering into Kasper Schmeichel – no respecter of reputations, obviously.
But the good feeling from Burns’ desire to make an impact was soon a thing of the past when the ball broke to James, who rifled home a sweet low shot across Gerken, leaving the City keeper no chance.
McInnes’ side continued to plug away, as Greg Cunningham joined in some neat passing before dragging a low shot wide, while Burns’ attempted cross ended up closer to Schmeichel’s far corner than a red-shirted colleague with the Dane anxiously backpedalling.
At the other end, a strong run from former Manchester United midfielder Danny Drinkwater culminated in a chance for substitute Lloyd Dyer, who replaced the injured Knockaert in the first half but could not hit the target from ten yards.
Then some fine individual play by Davies inside his own half set Burns free down the right flank, and the lively forward left Michael Keane in his wake before cutting the ball back for Anderson, whose shot was half-blocked before Schmeichel saved comfortably.
Soon after, Anderson’s break from deep fed the marauding Fontaine before the defender’s shot just disappeared wide via another slight deflection.
Next to threaten was Kelly, who shot straight into the arms of Schmeichel with City intent on adding an air of respectability to the scoreline.
The new arrival’s debut came to an end ten minutes from time, as McInnes opted to boost Bobby Reid’s first-team experience in the closing stages.
Another lively run from Burns saw his cross parried only as far as Stephen Pearson, but the Scot skied his lunging shot high over the East End to sum up the mood among a sombre home faithful.