Johnson Buoyed By Return Of Key Men
Posted: Friday, March 17th 2017
Friday, March 17th 2017
Bristol City picked the perfect moment to record their biggest home victory of the season, defeating Huddersfield Town 4-0 at Ashton Gate.
City’s two T’s – Tomlin and Tammy – were on target to add weight to Lee Johnson’s belief that his best players are coming back to form and fitness at just the right time.
In a 59-minute first half extended by an injury to Huddersfield’s Jonathan Hogg, Lee Tomlin rounded Danny Ward to open the scoring before Tammy Abraham pounced in the dying seconds.
Try as they might, a visiting team with their sights set on automatic promotion could not reduce the deficit and Aden Flint added his second goal in two games with a cheeky backheel 11 minutes from time.
In a repeat result of Town’s last trip to Ashton Gate, David Cotterill rounded off a night to remember in front of the Sky TV cameras with City’s fourth from the penalty spot.
"It was a performance that, on another day, could’ve warranted a couple more goals. It was convincing. Our energy, our attitude to press and our desire to stay high as a back four was very good."
Head coach Johnson made only one change to his starting line-up following a priceless away victory at Wigan Athletic last time out, recalling winger Callum O’Dowda at the expense of Matty Taylor.
As a result, City switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation with Tomlin occupying the number ten role behind Abraham, flanked by Cotterill and O’Dowda.
It was a high-octane start for the viewing audience to enjoy until a serious injury to Hogg disrupted the flow of things.
An innocuous-looking collision saw the midfielder suffer damage to his neck when he ran into his own skipper, Mark Hudson, eventually leaving the field in a neck brace on a stretcher.
Before that, Tomlin tried his luck with a very ambitious volley that sailed high and wide, while O’Dowda ran half the length of the pitch and delivered a cross just nodded away before it reached the incoming Cotterill.
At the other end, a first glimpse of Town’s threat was visible when Elias Kachunga threaded a pass through the legs of Joe Bryan collected by right-back Tommy Smith, whose low ball along the six-yard line went unconverted.
With Hogg down for a total of 13 minutes, City’s players restarted their warm-up routine to keep their legs moving in what were highly unusual circumstances.
By the midpoint in the half there had barely been ten minutes of action, and once play restarted the game took time to rediscover its previous tempo.
But City did the better job of finding their rhythm and were sharper again in taking the lead after 31 minutes.
When Gary O’Neil received the ball down by his own corner flag, he sent an inch-perfect pass straight to Tomlin on the halfway line, who tried to hook it over his shoulder towards Abraham.
The Chelsea loanee then appeared to be blocked off by last man Hudson, but as time stood still Tomlin was quickest to react, racing on to the loose ball and rounding goalkeeper Danny Ward before composing himself to beat the covering defender on the line.
Now full of confidence, Tomlin’s backheel to Korey Smith initiated an attack from which Ward collected O’Neil’s cross, before Cotterill surged down the right and crossed low but fractionally beyond the run of O’Dowda, who was steaming in at the far post.
City had recently kept clean sheets against Burton Albion and Wigan, but third-placed Huddersfield represented a step up in opposition.
Having said that, the Terriers were causing no greater threat than those fighting for survival. Rajiv Van La Parra sent a tame curler past the post, while Chris Lowe struck a 25-yard free kick with plenty of conviction that Frank Fielding was happy to see float a couple of yards over.
When the 45 minutes were up, City still had another 14 to negotiate before they could trot down the tunnel holding a lead.
In that time Huddersfield improved. Kachunga’s lay-off was struck hard and low by Van La Parra to force a first notable save from Fielding, who dived to his right to repel the shot before Flint cleared the danger.
But Town’s increased possession and territory left them more susceptible to counter-attacks, and it was from one of those that City doubled their advantage in the very last of those added minutes.
Cotterill was the architect, driving into the Huddersfield half and producing another low cross – this time from further out.
It was a delivery that married up perfectly with the run of Abraham, who got himself in front of his man and clinically dispatched a first-time finish that flashed past Ward’s left hand just inside the near post.
Having replaced the injured Hogg with Philip Billing, Huddersfield boss David Wagner made his second substitution at the interval – introducing Joe Lolley for Kachunga.
Straightaway there was more intent about the visitors. Wells drilled a low one that may have been a cross but still had to be repelled by Fielding, before City threatened to extend their lead.
Abraham showed another side to his game, receiving possession on the right touchline and turning Lowe before producing a stunning cross met by O’Dowda.
It seemed the Irishman had done everything right to break his City duck, but his downward header bounced up against the crossbar and somehow stayed out – possibly with the help of Ward’s fingertips.
As the game reached its three-quarter mark Wagner made his final alteration while City remained unchanged.
Huddersfield have now been dispatched 4-0 in their past two visits to BS3.
Another flurry followed, as Wells saw a shot blocked before the loose ball fell kindly to Lolley on the penalty spot, but again a red shirt was in the way.
Immediately City broke away through O’Dowda, who ignored Cotterill in acres of space to his right and instead found Tomlin to his left, who was only inches away from picking out the top corner from 20 yards.
Meanwhile City’s Smith, starting his second consecutive game at right-back, defended diligently to get his head to a teasing cross in front of the lurking Van La Parra as Town kept plugging away in search of a route back into the contest.
It was not to be for Wagner’s men, whose suffering was not yet over. Bryan reached the byeline and saw his low cross cleared only to O’Neil, whose shot was brilliantly redirected by Flint, adding to previous backheels against Walsall and Leeds United in seasons gone by to wrongfoot the stranded Ward.
Bryan was at it again seven minutes from the end – only stopped in full flight by a foul in the box. With Abraham desperate to chalk up 20 league goals for the campaign following Tomlin’s substitution, Cotterill stood his ground and dispatched the spot-kick into the top corner to round off a perfect night for City, who do not play again for 15 days.
O'Neil (Hegeler 86)
Tomlin (Brownhill 81)
Abraham (Wilbraham 86)
Subs not used:
Hogg (Billing 22)
Kachunga (Lolley 46)
Brown (Quaner 67)
van La Parra
Subs not used:
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