- English Football League - Championship
- Wednesday, July 15th 2020
- Ashton Gate
James Crawley reports from Ashton Gate
Report: Bristol City 1-1 Stoke City
Wednesday, July 15th 2020
Filip Benković’s sweetly-struck second goal in Robins colours wasn’t enough as Stoke City fought back to earn a point at Ashton Gate.
Benković broke the deadlock with a curling effort just before half-time with City looking comfortable.
But Michael O’Neill’s relegation-threatened Potters improved in the second half and after hitting the post had Danny Bathh to thank when he latched on to the end of a James McClean cross.
The hosts battled on and despite their pressure were unable find the breakthrough.
Interim Head Coach Dean Holden named an unchanged team, for the third game in a row, to face Stoke with Benik Afobe replaced by young striker Freddie Hinds on the bench. It was only Hinds’ second appearance in the matchday squad this season, with Afobe unable to feature against his parent club.
The home side had scored five goals in their last two wins and they were looking to take advantage of their firepower against Stoke’s three-man defence. They nearly did exactly that when Jack Hunt’s flicked ball over the top had Nahki Wells, now on 20 goals for the season, on the chase but goalkeeper Adam Davies just had the beating of the Bermuda striker in the race.
The Robins enjoyed more of the ball in the initial exchanges with Stoke’s plan to press and they had to grow into the game before building possession of their own.
The Potters faced a resilient City back line with the likes of Tomas Kalas and Benković seemingly unbeatable in the air yet again as they dealt with Stoke’s pressure before looking to springboard another counter-attack. Korey Smith’s through ball from his own half set Famara Diédhiou off and the City attacker took one too many touches before Davies smothered the ball at his feet.
Stoke missed a similar opportunity – not before Zak Vyner replaced Nathan Baker in Holden’s first change of the day - when Lee Gregory latched on to Sam Vokes’ pass. This time Dan Bentley was the man to deny his opponent when one-on-one, while at the other end, Wells would head the ball in the back of the net shortly after only for a soft foul to go against him.
But up stepped a confident Benković with composure and a finish any striker would be proud of, when he nestled the ball into the corner to give City the lead at the break. Stoke failed to clear a corner and Smith kept the ball alive when he found Andreas Weimann to his left. The Austrian, who grabbed all three assists last time out, would grab his fourth in two games when he looked for the unmarked Benković on the edge of the area, and the loanee from Leicester took one touch before bending the ball into the far corner.
But with Championship status to play for, O’Neill’s men came out from the tunnel with a point to prove and they would go close to an equaliser with just the frame of the goal denying them. Batth’s long punt was cushioned down to Nick Powell by Gregory and Powell managed a left-footed shot which had the beating of Bentley but grazed off the far post.
However, Stoke had shown more bite and eventually found their way back into the game just after the hour-mark when Batth met McClean’s cross with a close-range header.
Stoke were now setup to frustrate their hosts with a back-four changing to a back five and City were finding it difficult to break through the Potters shape.
But Dasilva managed to get past two in black when he danced and darted his way into the box via the left-hand side. The young left-back managed to find Paterson with a cutback ball but City’s number 20, with two goals in as many games, could only drag his shot wide against the stanchion.
On came Niclas Eliasson for Jack Hunt but soon City were under pressure and it looked as though Batth would grab his second of the day. However, Stoke didn’t bank on Bentley’s heroics as he showed strong fingertips to divert Batth’s header away from goal, after rising high from a Sam Clucas corner.
Holden made his final change with Callum O’Dowda replacing Weimann with a little over five minutes remaining as City pushed to get back in front.
Their pressure was telling but Stoke refused to be broken and survived a penalty appeal when O’Dowda found himself on the receiving end of a strong challenge.
No matter how hard they huffed and puffed, the draw would be confirmed leaving City 10th in the table ahead of their penultimate game of the season away to Swansea City.
- Benkovic (47')
- Nathan Baker, Jack Hunt, Andreas Weimann
- Batth (64')
- Nick Powell, Sam Clucas, Lee Gregory