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Report: Bristol City 2-1 QPR

Bristol City kicked off a potentially pivotal Easter weekend with a third successive home victory – this time at the expense of a few familiar foes.

Marlon Pack and Jamie Paterson were both on target with clinical first-half finishes on a day in which City were good value for their three points against a QPR side still not statistically safe, but realistically playing for no more than professional pride, who only prevented a clean sheet with the last attack of the game.

Lee Johnson named an unchanged starting XI following the 3-1 victory over Wolves at Ashton Gate last time out, while pantomime villain Ian Holloway included ex-City duo Luke Freeman and Matt Smith in his line-up.

Paterson, who opened the scoring on his return to the team against Wolves, was involved again in the early exchanges.

First a clever reverse pass released Joe Bryan to win the game’s first corner, before a cross from Korey Smith got away from Matty Taylor but ran kindly for Paterson, whose driven left-footed shot flew just over from 20 yards.

But City would have to wait only 14 minutes to make the breakthrough. After a corner from the right was taken short, Taylor teed up Pack to dispatch the bouncing ball with a clean strike that zipped into the bottom corner of the net for the midfielder’s first goal since September.

With Holloway in the visiting dugout and Freeman the subject of the City boo boys, seeing their team edge in front only served to bump up the atmosphere inside an already noisy Ashton Gate.

Previously anonymous, Freeman had the chance to silence those who used to chant his name. When Pawel Wszolak carried the ball down the right and crossed low, the midfielder turned sharply in the box only to be thwarted by former team-mate Frank Fielding with a plunging save down to his left.

In fairness to the City supporters, Freeman was applauded by many when he trotted towards the Lansdown Stand before delivering a corner straight into the arms of Fielding.

When he went through the same routine shortly after, this time the ball ended up in the net – as did Fielding, who was rightly awarded a free kick for an overzealous aerial challenge.

In between times, another of City’s 2014/15 double-winning vintage was receiving a standing ovation as Mark Little powered over the halfway line, leaving two QPR players in his wake, before being taken down by a lunging tackle from Ryan Manning, who went straight into the book.

City had produced some good stuff and a 2-0 half-time lead was hardly undeserved. That’s exactly what they had when Taylor led a quick counter-attack, ignoring the offside Tammy Abraham in favour of the onside Paterson, who took the ball in his stride and stroked in his second goal in as many games with his left foot.

QPR’s frustration was plain to see when Abraham combined with Taylor on the touchline. When the Chelsea loanee carried the ball menacingly into visiting territory, Massimo Luongo made no attempt to play the ball in cynically taking down City’s leading scorer for an obvious yellow card.

Just as they did against Wolves, Johnson’s men set about killing the game straight from the restart. When Abraham laid the ball off for Paterson, you would have backed the winger to do better than produce a tame shot comfortably dealt with by Alex Smithies in the away goal.

At the other end, Fielding had a far more difficult save to make when half-time substitute Conor Washington pulled the ball back for Yeni Ngbakoto.

When the Congolese winger hit a first-time shot back across the City keeper from ten yards, Fielding seemingly had no chance only to stick out a right hand and claw the ball away for a miraculous stop.

Next Washington thundered a shot into the side-netting, fuelling the hope of more than 1,600 travelling fans, but City responded.

Pack spread the ball wide to Paterson, who again found the overlapping Bryan. The Bristolian connected powerfully on the run, but saw his shot sail just over.

Then Taylor released Abraham, who just delayed fractionally too long, allowing Jake Bidwell to recover and deflect the chance behind for a corner, from which Aden Flint’s header was cleared off the line.

With 14 minutes left Johnson withdrew his front two, as Callum O’Dowda and Aaron Wilbraham replaced Abraham and Taylor, who had combined to good effect all afternoon.

City were comfortable but it would only take one QPR goal for nerves to creep in, so it would have been a welcome relief had the tireless Josh Brownhill converted a golden chance to end the contest once and for all.

Racing on to Smith’s ball over the top, the midfielder composed himself but blazed the bouncing ball over the crossbar from an angle that was rapidly reducing, in his defence.

As it was, the visitors may well have already lost belief by that point. Freeman’s 25-yard free kick that drifted harmlessly over Fielding’s goal was greeted by loud cheers as City maintained their four-point lead over those in the bottom three ahead of a huge game at Blackburn Rovers on Easter Monday - but only after substitute Idrissa Sylla pulled one back in the fifth minute of added time.