Numbers game: Hull City (H)
Posted: Thursday, July 9th 2020
Saturday, December 17th 2016
Another goal with a slice of luck condemned Bristol City to back-to-back home defeats in the Sky Bet Championship for the first time in nine months.
Having been beaten by a deflected shot in midweek, City fell victims to an attempted Daniel Johnson cross that contrived to find the back of the net with just six minutes to go at Ashton Gate.
City had fallen behind to Simon Makienok’s 21st-minute opener that arrived at a time when the hosts were all over their Lancashire visitors.
Substitute Aaron Wilbraham powered home a brilliant header to seemingly rescue a point, but six minutes later Johnson struck the decisive blow.
Lee Johnson handed a first Sky Bet Championship start to Ivan Lucic, in for the injured Frank Fielding who departed 31 minutes into the home defeat to Brentford nursing a hip problem.
Elsewhere, more experienced duo Gary O’Neil and Lee Tomlin were back in the starting line-up, replacing Scott Golbourne and Korey Smith, with the latter suffering the same injury as Fielding.
Attacking the South Stand in the first half, City flew out of the blocks.
Tammy Abraham gave Johnson a heart-in-mouth moment, leaving the Preston man relieved when his header back had just enough purchase to reach goalkeeper Chris Maxwell.
Then Tomlin’s clever reverse pass threatened to release Luke Freeman, before the City number ten let fly with a 25-yard piledriver that forced Maxwell into the game’s first save.
The Lilywhites, all in yellow, were struggling to cope with the speed of City’s play.
Freeman surged menacingly towards the penalty area and nudged the ball in behind the defence for Abraham, who was only halted in his tracks by what appeared to be a trip by visiting skipper Tom Clarke. Nothing given.
Such was the confidence flowing through the home team, Hordur Magnusson eyed up the top corner from 35 yards and was not a million miles away from finding his target.
This was the best City had played for some time, but they were still to find the opening goal their dominance merited.
When Tomlin pulled out to the left touchline, full back Joe Bryan was on the underlap and brilliantly collected his square pass at full speed, bursting into the box only to be denied at his near post by the strong hands of Maxwell.
Bryan had another go from slightly further out, again hitting the target, but City were about to be hit by a sucker punch completely against the run of play.
After returning Irishman Greg Cunningham wriggled away from Adam Matthews, Preston kept the attack alive and fellow City old boy Callum Robinson picked up possession on the right corner of the penalty area.
Seeing the run of Makienok, Robinson delivered the perfect cross for the towering Dane to convert with a simple side-footed finish from six yards.
Robinson, only afforded one league start in his five-month loan spell at Ashton Gate last season, is a North End regular and man in form.
He had Lucic scrambling to his right grateful to see his skidding drive pass the post, before escaping the City backline from a quickly-taken throw-in and laying the ball off for Alan Browne, who skied a wonderful chance to double the lead.
From completely bossing the game, City were suddenly a goal down and on the back foot.
Abraham had the chance to level things up after 32 minutes when Tomlin’s diagonal was laid off by Bobby Reid, but the striker pulled his shot wide with time to pick his spot.
At the other end, Browne showed his energy to break forward from midfield again and this time force a save from Lucic, who then made an even better stop to deny Clarke’s close-range header.
There was nothing wrong with City’s attitude, as Marlon Pack and O’Neil went in hard but fair and the supporters responded, but defensively there were problems.
When Makienok peeled away to the far post and nodded the ball back across goal, Robinson should really have scored but instead struck the crossbar from eight yards and City survived.
Preston still had their sights set on a second goal after the interval. After Cunningham was fouled by Matthews, Aiden McGeady’s low free kick inadvertently found defender Paul Huntington with a free shot at goal, but Abraham was in the right place to clear in front of Lucic.
At the other end, O’Neil found Freeman, who turned on to his right foot and sent a low shot agonisingly past the post.
Then Reid combined with Abraham to send the Chelsea loanee bearing down on goal, but, opting for power, he saw his shot crash against the upright.
Such was the force with which it came back off the post, City’s top scorer was unable to adjust in time and sent the rebound wide with Maxwell committed.
Johnson introduced Wilbraham for Pack with 25 minutes to go as the hosts switched to 4-4-2.
By now Preston were penned in, but when Reid’s low cross was parried, no red shirt was in attendance to convert.
Jamie Paterson and Preston Academy graduate Josh Brownhill were brought on ten minutes after Wilbraham, with Freeman and Reid making way.
The goal City craved finally arrived with 12 minutes left, as Matthews crossed from deep on the right to the far post, where Wilbraham attacked it with typical conviction, powering the ball back across the rooted Maxwell for a fine headed equaliser.
But as Johnson’s men poured forward in search of a winner, they were undone by a goal with a huge element of fortune.
Johnson did brilliantly to begin with, racing away from Magnusson and O’Neil, but he was surely attempting to cut the ball back on his less favoured right foot.
Instead he unintentionally caught out Lucic as he sliced the ball inside the far post to deceive the young goalkeeper, who had anticipated a cross.
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