It's A Cup Final - Johnson
Posted: Friday, March 3rd 2017
Saturday, March 4th 2017
Bristol City were made to regret a missed penalty midway through the second half as they were held to an unsatisfactory goalless draw by fellow strugglers Burton Albion at Ashton Gate.
The Brewers, making their first ever visit to BS3, spurned a golden chance of their own shortly before Lee Tomlin blazed over from the spot.
Chances at both ends came and went in a frantic second half, but a combination of good goalkeeping and poor finishing kept two committed sides at bay.
After naming an unchanged line-up at Aston Villa in midweek, Lee Johnson made two alterations to his team.
Hordur Magnusson and Tomlin were the men recalled at the expense of Zak Vyner and Callum O’Dowda, as City adopted a 3-4-2-1 formation.
David Cotterill and Joe Bryan were the wing-backs, with Bobby Reid and Tomlin supporting Aaron Wilbraham in attack.
The new system appeared to be having the desired effect as Johnson’s men stormed out of the blocks, creating three clear chances in the opening five minutes.
First off Fabian Giefer’s routine clearance was flicked on by Wilbraham for Tomlin, who allowed the ball to bounce once before connecting sweetly on the half-volley with a dipping shot from 20 yards that crashed against the crossbar – possibly with the help of the goalkeeper’s fingertips.
Burton stopper Jon McLaughlin was busy again when City broke with purpose and Tomlin laid the ball off for Bryan to strike first time and force a save at the keeper’s near post.
When Cotterill delivered the resulting corner, Bailey Wright made a late run around the back and connected with a goalbound header that was blocked before Tomlin sent a clever chip on to the top of the net.
It was an explosive start from the hosts, but they were in danger of overcommitting bodies forward when Albion launched a couple of counter-attacks.
Marvin Sordell was denied by Giefer from the first of those, before Gary O’Neil was booked for a cynical foul 25 yards from goal, conceding a free kick from which Cauley Woodrow struck the wall.
Giefer had to be alert to keep out Sordell again midway through the first half with a more taxing save high to his left, but the forward kept finding gaps on the left side of the City defence, later sending a teasing cross along the six-yard line that was uncomfortably smuggled to safety.
Having flown out of the blocks, City were struggling to build sustained attacks and had not tested McLaughlin since the opening minutes.
Tomlin dropped deep in search of the ball instead of occupying areas where he could really hurt the opposition, while referee Graham Scott continuously called back quickly-taken free kicks as City tried to maintain a high tempo.
Finally it looked as if the home team had found a way through in first-half stoppage time when Cotterill’s corner from the left was powered home by Wilbraham, only for the skipper to be penalised for a foul as he headed home.
City came close again at the start of the second period. Magnusson sent a long free kick into the Burton box that was nodded down by Wilbraham to Reid, who was forced away from goal and could not generate the necessary power on his left foot to beat McLaughlin from eight yards.
Wilbraham, starting his third game in eight days at 37 years old, lasted an hour. Reid joined him in making way as new-look strike duo Milan Djuric and Matty Taylor were thrown on.
When play resumed, Cotterill lined up a 30-yard free kick that veered wide before an instant Burton attack should have broken the deadlock.
Quite how Lloyd Dyer missed an open goal from four yards only he will ever know, but there were no excuses for the winger when John Brayford rolled a square ball on a plate. Somehow the chance was prodded wide when it seemed impossible not to score.
After receiving a major let-off, City were handed a similarly gilt-edged chance to go in front.
Magnusson hurled a long throw towards the near post, Flint was held by John Mousinho and Scott did not hesitate in awarding a penalty.
Up stepped Tomlin, who slammed his last spot-kick into the roof of the net at the same end of the ground, but this time his radar was off and the ball sailed into the Atyeo Stand.
Chances kept coming at both ends. Burton, at no stage content to play for a point, came close when Woodrow fired wide inside the box, before Cotterill crossed for Djuric who headed too close to McLaughlin.
The visitors threatened again when Kyle McFadzean strode into the penalty area and pulled the ball back for Woodrow, who this time lifted his shot over, while Cotterill had McLaughlin worried when his free kick destined for the top corner was clawed out just as it looked to be dropping in.
Then after Taylor’s low drive was kicked behind by the keeper, Cotterill’s corner caused mayhem as three City players were denied by crucial blocks in quick succession.
McLaughlin saved again from final substitute Jamie Paterson, on for Tomlin, just as the fourth official signalled five added minutes.
But when Cotterill struck a close-range free kick straight into a massive Burton wall, the visitors left the happier of the two sides as the spoils were reluctantly shared.
Olly Robinson has agreed terms to switch to Cardiff Blues for the 2018/19 campaign.
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