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Report: Bristol City 2-1 Yeovil Town

There was to be no fairytale homecoming for Gary Johnson as Bristol City survived a late rally from Yeovil Town at a sodden Ashton Gate.

The popular former boss would have been fearing the worst as his old employers lay siege to his team’s goal in a first half which only had Matt Smith’s first City goal to show for the home side’s efforts.

Substitute Jay Emmanuel-Thomas casually rolled in a second from the penalty spot after Kieran Agard had seen an earlier spot-kick saved.

At this point City seemed home and dry in a torrential downpour, only for Ben Nugent to drill in a low shot from distance two minutes from time to set up a nervy finale.

But the league leaders held on to preserve their single-point advantage at the Sky Bet League One summit.

Steve Cotterill made three enforced changes to his side, starting an incredibly young team with an average age of under 24.

The experienced duo of Wade Elliott and Aaron Wilbraham were both missing through injury, while Derrick Williams served his one-match ban following his dismissal at Crewe Alexandra last time out.

Cotterill’s response was to field Greg Cunningham at left centre-back, with Joe Bryan returning from a thigh strain at left wing-back.

Elsewhere, Todd Kane was preferred to Marlon Pack in midfield and Matt Smith partnered Agard up front.

City’s youthful exuberance was evident from the start as the hosts flew out of the traps.

Agard did not work Jed Steer hard enough from Luke Freeman’s enticing free kick, while Freeman shot wide from distance before Joe Bryan forced Steer into another save when he drifted in off the left flank.

Yeovil, who included familiar faces Brendan Moloney and Simon Gillett in their starting line-up, had hardly seen the ball in the opening ten minutes, but soon sprung into life.

There seemed little danger until Tom Eaves nutmegged Greg Cunningham and spread the ball wide to Sam Foley, who looked set to exploit a classic two-on-one situation only for Aden Flint to intercept the midfielder’s low cross towards evergreen predator James Hayter.

City, seemingly shocked by the unsuspecting foray, responded with the best chance of the game by some distance.

Kane played a beautiful low pass just beyond the reach of sliding defender Stephen Arthurworrey, leaving Matt Smith in a foot race with goalkeeper Steer.

It was a gallop won by the striker, who had seemingly completed the trickiest part of his assignment in rounding the Yeovil stopper.

But instead of rolling the ball into the unguarded net on his right foot, the Fulham loanee opted to turn his back on the goal and instead swivelled to shoot on his left, dragging the chance wide of the near post as he fell.

It was the first in a sequence of bad misses, with the second coming from the penalty spot on 25 minutes.

It seemed Agard had taken the wrong option in opting against sliding the ball through for Joe Bryan, instead running into a blind alley down the left side of the penalty area.

With his options limited, Agard gleefully accepted a touch on his back from Moloney, who appeared to be feeling where his man was more than shoving him from behind, but referee Kevin Johnson deemed the contact heavy enough to warrant a spot-kick.

Perhaps justice was done when Agard’s shot was repelled by Steer, diving to his right to make a fairly routine stop.

Then Mark Little’s burst to the byeline went unrewarded when his low cross was spooned over the top by striker Smith from six yards.

But the big man’s moment would finally come on 31 minutes, as Bryan ran down the left, checked inside and hung up a cross towards the far post gleefully dispatched by Smith, proving his head to be the most potent asset in his armoury.

The goal did nothing to halt City’s dominance, as Freeman drove another low effort wide before Agard was kept out by Steer again either side of the interval.

But as the second half began to settle amidst driving rain, Yeovil’s threat increased.

Cotterill’s problems continued to mount as he lost Agard to injury just shy of the hour, prompting the introduction of Emmanuel-Thomas in his place.

Five minutes later Emmanuel-Thomas would succeed where Agard had failed, as Nathan Smith’s clear trip on Cunningham was punished by the award of a City penalty.

In typically nonchalant style, the substitute’s run-up resembled more of a Sunday stroll before sending Steer the wrong way to double the lead.

City’s second-half display had not lived up to the first, and the Glovers kept the hosts on their toes with a series of crosses into the box.

Eaves headed one delivery wide of Frank Fielding’s left-hand post, before the largely untroubled City keeper needed his wits about him to keep out Flint’s inadvertently goalbound touch on the stretch.

Just as Cotterill’s team looked destined to hold out relatively unscathed, defender Nugent chanced his arm from long range and saw his 30-yard daisy-cutter clip the post on its way beyond the unsighted Fielding.

Yeovil threw caution to the wind as five added minutes were signalled, but Fielding raced from his line to deny substitute Alex Smith as City escaped with maximum points from a game they should have sewn up long before.