Secure your seat for opening day
Posted: Monday, July 31st 2017
Saturday, August 5th 2017
City started the new season with a bang to blow Barnsley away in a whirlwind first half at Ashton Gate.
Bobby Reid continued from where he left off in pre-season with two goals and an assist, leaving City 3-0 up inside half an hour.
Famara Diédhiou scored City’s second with a close-range header to mark his Sky Bet Championship debut with a goal.
The hosts were dominant throughout and only Barnsley keeper Adam Davies prevented an even more one-sided scoreline.
Lee Johnson started with the same starting XI who began City’s last pre-season friendly – the 2-0 victory over FC Twente eight days ago.
That meant Jens Hegeler continued alongside Bailey Wright in central defence with Aden Flint on the bench, while Reid partnered Diédhiou up front.
There were competitive debuts for Diédhiou and Eros Pisano, but fellow summer signing Nathan Baker was serving a one-match ban having been sent off for Aston Villa on the final day of last season.
Johnson always demands a fast start on home soil and the first ten minutes were explosive as both teams struck the woodwork.
First up Josh Brownhill, facing the club he helped reached the Sky Bet Championship in 2015/16, who turned on the edge of the box and curled a left-footed shot towards the top corner that Davies miraculously tipped on to the crossbar.
Diédhiou just could not adjust himself quickly enough to turn in the rebound and Barnsley survived.
The Tykes were counting their lucky stars again when young debutant Joe Williams dallied and lost possession inside his own penalty area, only for Jamie Paterson to shoot tamely into the hands of Davies.
At the other end, George Moncur, twice a scorer at Ashton Gate in the past, set his sights on a hat-trick with a similar effort from even further out that had Frank Fielding beaten but not the frame of his goal.
The breakthrough was not long in coming. Perhaps it was no surprise that Reid would be the man to provide it when you take into consideration his outstanding pre-season form.
The Bristolian fired eight goals in seven friendly games over the summer. That sharpness was evident when Davies rushed out to deny Diédhiou and the ball ran loose for Reid, who thumped it in from 15 yards.
Reid has looked like a new man in recent weeks, but until the serious stuff starts you can never quite be sure how things will play out.
What soon became clear is that the 24-year-old will not be feeling any extra pressure just because points are up for grabs.
His impact for the second goal was even more impressive. Receiving the ball down on the byeline with a defender at his back, Reid shimmied to buy himself a yard of space and teased a delightful cross on to the head of Diédhiou, who was up and running at the first time of asking.
Five minutes later, Reid was in the position Tammy Abraham made his own last season.
Joe Bryan surged purposefully into the box and drilled a low shot Davies did well to parry, but there was Reid for an easy tap-in.
The scary thing from a Barnsley perspective must have been that Davies was having a decent game. He sprawled to his left to keep out Marlon Pack’s low curler, before making an even better stop to repel Hegeler’s header at point-blank range.
Visiting boss Paul Heckingbottom, previously Johnson’s number two at Oakwell, made a half-time change in a bid to turn the tide, but the second period involved more of the same.
Korey Smith teed up Brownhill for a low shot pushed out by Davies, with the onrushing Paterson only denied a stab at the rebound by a last-ditch tackle.
City lacked their first-half urgency but understandably so. They had earned the right to play on the counter-attack and a Barnsley fightback never looked remotely likely.
When substitute Ryan Hedges tried his luck with a long ranger comfortably held by Fielding, all four sides of the ground greeted the shot with ironic cheers. “It’s just like watching Brazil,” cried the away supporters – ten out of ten for humour.
Reid, meanwhile, was hat-trick hunting. Another fine move saw Pack open up the Barnsley defence to find Brownhill, whose square pass to Reid deserved better than a slightly wild finish – but you could forgive a bit of overexcitement with the matchball in his sights.
Johnson could afford to hand cameo roles to Callum O’Dowda and Gustav Engvall off the bench, with both hoping to start against Plymouth Argyle in the first round of the Carabao Cup in midweek, while the arrival of Flint was greeted by rapturous applause.
The only blot on the City copybook was a very late reply from Hedges, who took his time before coolly slotting home in the final minute of added time.