Mark Perrow reports from Ashton Gate
City soared to the top of Sky Bet League One with a comprehensive victory over Doncaster Rovers at Ashton Gate.
Scruffy first-half goals from Aaron Wilbraham and Mark Little had the home team well on their way before Kieran Agard added his first for the club eight minutes from time.
The visitors were not helped by some woeful defending at critical moments, nor by the dismissal of Harry Forrester early in the second half.
Steve Cotterill named the same starting XI for the third successive game, with Joe Bryan continuing at left wing-back despite Greg Cunningham’s goal as a substitute against Scunthorpe United last time out.
It was a sharp start from the hosts, who had the first chance inside five minutes when Wilbraham headed a Little cross a couple of yards wide.
Then Luke Freeman blasted over from distance before his clipped pass over the visiting defence found Agard no more than a fraction offside.
But City were not exempt from a worrying moment of their own, as Derrick Williams made an important intervention to keep out Theo Robinson before the loose ball ran through to Forrester who claimed a penalty when challenged by Joe Bryan only to be booked for diving.
it was a moment typical of City’s openness, but such was their energy going forward attack was proving very much the best form of defence.
And it was no surprise when Cotterill’s side turned their early pressure into an opener on 13 minutes.
A Freeman free kick wide on the left found Aden Flint peeling away at the back post. The defender’s header back across goal was meant for Agard, who looked set to pounce before Wilbraham
eventually did so after an untidy scramble inside the six-yard box.
The tempo of City’s play only served to increase with a lead to their name, and Bryan cracked a shot against the crossbar after some neat footwork from Derrick Williams.
Firmly on the front foot, the Robins struck again on the half-hour mark, albeit in comical fashion.
A bright team move involving Freeman and Wade Elliott culminated with a disguised pass from the latter into the path of Agard, whose square ball was begging to be finished by Wilbraham.
When he missed it, Doncaster left-back Cedric Evina seemed to have the danger snuffed out only to dally in possession just a couple of yards from his own goal line, allowing Little
to slide in and force the ball into the net.
It may not have come the way the former Peterborough United man would have dreamt it, but his first goal for his new club was warmly received all the same.
Doncaster had won their last four away games in all competitions but were being brushed aside at Ashton Gate.
Freeman and Wilbraham both chanced their arm from range – the latter stinging the palms of Jed Steer in the Donny goal with a dipping volley.
Freeman was getting closer and only evaded the bottom corner by a matter of inches just after the break with a skimming drive.
Things were about to go from bad to worse for the visitors as Forrester was dismissed for a second yellow card on 51 minutes.
Having been booked for a dive in the first half, the midfielder was given his marching orders for kicking the ball away in the second – not the way to the heart of distressed boss Paul Dickov.
Cotterill made a double change with just under 20 minutes to go, giving rests to Little and Freeman – likely with taxing trips to Port Vale and Fleetwood Town in mind over the next seven days.
The sense of urgency with which City had torn Rovers apart (always nice to say that) had given way to a more measured approach after the interval, but Agard
’s moment would come eight minutes from time to set the seal on a perfect afternoon.
When Bryan dispossessed Reece Wabara and surged into the penalty area, his first thought was to look for the new arrival, who dropped back into a pocket of space and saw his deflected shot wrongfoot Steer for number three.
He might have doubled his tally on two separate occasions soon after only to be denied by Steer on both occasions – first a sprawling save as Agard looked for a cheeky chip before a more routine stop kept his left footer at bay.
It could easily have been more, but 3-0 was plenty enough to take the unbeaten start up to a magnificent seven.