Preview: Bristol City v Brentford
Posted: Friday, August 14th 2015
Saturday, April 16th 2016
An expertly-taken goal from Lee Tomlin and a dramatic penalty save from the inspired Richard O’Donnell were not enough to secure victory for Bristol City at Brentford.
There was drama late in both halves, as Tomlin found the net at the end of the first period before substitute Scott Hogan was denied by O’Donnell from the spot with only five minutes left.
But Hogan would redeem himself right at the death, heading a stoppage-time leveller at the end of a breathless encounter.
Lee Johnson made one change to his side following the resounding home victory over Sheffield Wednesday last time out, with man-of-the-match Bobby Reid the unlucky omission.
Scott Golbourne’s return at left-back prompted Joe Bryan to move up to the wing and Tomlin to tuck inside to fill the number ten role vacated by Reid.
It was a blistering start from City that laid the foundations for the Wednesday win, just as it did when Bolton Wanderers were torn apart at Ashton Gate last month.
But this time Johnson’s men were immediately pinned back as the Bees buzzed straight from kick-off.
Danish international Lasse Vibe had the first sight of goal, dragging a shot wide from 20 yards, before Marlon Pack’s underhit backpass was seized upon by Sam Saunders.
In fairness to Pack he looked to have been impeded in trying to find his goalkeeper, but Saunders was intent on taking advantage only to fail to pick out Vibe as O’Donnell charged from his goal-line.
City’s first attempt at goal came from top scorer Jonathan Kodjia, but his low 20-yard shot rolled harmlessly wide in similar fashion to Vibe shortly before him.
Sergi Canos and Nico Yennaris both tried their luck from distance without success, before O’Donnell was called upon for the first time inside a frantic opening ten minutes.
Brentford’s passing had been short and quick, but it was a long ball from the back that prised City open.
Vibe collected it brilliantly in his stride, but O’Donnell advanced with such speed that the striker had little time to compose himself and the keeper saved crucially with his foot.
It had been a tough start for the visitors but the storm had seemingly been weathered by the time Bryan had the chance to break the deadlock midway through the first half.
A flat-looking ball over the top from Luke Freeman was probably helped by the touch of a defender that allowed the Bristolian to steal in with Kodjia in support.
But perhaps unaware of the absence of any retreating red and white shirts, Bryan ambitiously headed for goal in trying to catch out David Button, who was able to take a step back and claim the dropping ball with ease.
Such chances were going to be less frequent for Bryan when Golbourne went down after 25 minutes unable to continue, prompting Johnson to revert to his previous starting line-up by bringing on Reid and sending Bryan trotting back to the left side of City’s defence.
It was a smooth enough transition and City’s early struggles were a thing of the past. Instead the major talking points from an entertaining first half would come courtesy of two City attacks late in the first half.
Both involved Kodjia and fellow Frenchman Yoann Barbet and both involved the City man outrunning the defender as he charged into the box.
The first time he appeared to be impeded outside the area causing him to stumble but stay on his feet, which allowed Barbet to get back and win the ball.
The City argument was that had Kodjia not been so honest in trying to score, Barbet may have been sent off as the last man.
Having already ridden his luck, Barbet was walking an even thinner tightrope when Kodjia escaped again and this time turned sharply in the box, inviting the Brentford man to slide in and miss the ball, bringing down his compatriot in the process. No penalty.
In between times, City were indebted to some heroic defending from Aden Flint, who stuck out a leg at just the right moment to send Vibe’s goalbound shot flying into the sold-out away end behind O’Donnell’s goal.
But if they had started second best, City were undeniably ending the half on top and the unusually quiet Tomlin took advantage with a finely-taken opener as stoppage time approached.
Collecting the ball 20 yards out, he turned to face the target and placed a perfect curling shot into the bottom corner to silence the locals, who had been taking great satisfaction in taunting the physique of City’s maverick number nine, prompting ironic cries of “you fat so-and-so” from the travelling contingent. Or words to that effect.
A thoroughly watchable game continued to ebb and flow after the break. Again it was the home side who came out of the traps quickly, as O’Donnell flew to his right to keep out Alan McCormack’s header that was creeping inside the far post.
Then Pack suffered a dose of deja-vu when another intended backpass fell short, allowing Vibe to bear down on goal, but Flint came across to put him off as he snatched at the chance and sent his shot dribbling out for a throw-in on the far touchline.
But the City response was encouraging. Reid chased down a long ball that tempted Button to rush from his box and only succeed in heading the ball against the City man, but Reid hesitated over the bouncing ball and Barbet of all people made an excellent last-ditch tackle.
City looked comfortable enough but would have been well aware a one-goal lead is always a precarious one, particularly when time is running out for a home team chasing a point with less and less to lose.
But in O’Donnell City had a keeper playing at the top of his game. Another miraculous save kept Vibe at bay, who must have been wondering how he was yet to find the net, and this was the best yet as a thumping header destined for the top corner was somehow helped over by.
But there was still more to come, as substitute Hogan stole a march on Nathan Baker and was tripped by the retreating defender.
It would be an eventful 18-minute cameo for the striker, who duly picked himself up to take the spot-kick, only to be thwarted by the inspired O’Donnell diving to his right to make a tremendous stop.
Just as O’Donnell looked like being the hero, Hogan would have the final say when his close-range header found the net in the first minute of stoppage time to put a dent in City’s optimistic hopes of a top-half finish.
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