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Report: Bristol City 4 - 0 Notts County

City cruised to victory at the expense of Steve Cotterill’s former club Notts County to reclaim top spot in Sky Bet League One.

An inspired Jay Emmanuel-Thomas led from the front, providing the opening goal for Joe Bryan and scoring the third with a low shot which crept just inside the far post.

Matt Smith continued his remarkable recent form with an important poacher’s effort just before half-time to leave County facing a mountain they never looked like conquering.

Derrick Williams added a late fourth and City’s eighth in two games with a neat finish from a Bryan cutback to round off the most convincing of the Robins’ 15 league wins this term.

Boss Cotterill made three changes to his side victorious over Gillingham in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in midweek, with recalls for wing-back pair Mark Little and Bryan, as well as skipper Wade Elliott.

Opposite number Shaun Derry fielded one of the more experienced Ashton Gate line-ups in recent memory, with no less than six players aged 34 and over, including former Premier League trio Roy Carroll, Hayden Mullins and Alan Smith.

City were typically quick out of the blocks and raced into an early lead.

Bryan had highlighted the need to make the most of the hosts’ youthful exuberance in the lead-up to the contest and it was he who profited from the first meaningful attack to smuggle the ball over the line for the opener.

Emmanuel-Thomas, described by his manager as “just as good” as four-goal hero Smith at Priestfield, looked in the mood again right from the off against the team he converted a dramatic stoppage-time winner back in August.

Having supplied both of Smith’s first-half strikes in Kent, the maverick forward was it again on home turf, skipping beyond two challenges down the right side of the County penalty area before crossing low for Bryan to force the ball home from close range.

It was not quite the traditional 100mph start but City were firmly in control and threatened to double their lead on 22 minutes.

Luke Freeman’s corner was played short to Emmanuel-Thomas, whose clever disguised pass offered Luke Ayling the chance to sting the gloves of former Manchester United keeper Carroll from an acute angle, before Freeman’s cross was just too high for Smith from the same phase of play.

County were causing the odd minor scare from set-pieces but there was little to concern a City side who you sensed were only a second goal away from putting the game to bed.

Emmanuel-Thomas was enjoying himself, showing remarkable footwork to maintain possession in a particularly crowded section of penalty area and temporarily looking like manufacturing a chance before Carroll dived at his feet to concede a disputed corner.

An isolated counter-attack for the visitors ended in leading scorer Garry Thompson shooting into the sidenetting, before Emmanuel-Thomas was at his creative best again.

Receiving the ball in space just inside the County half, he lifted his head and threaded a perfectly weighted pass inside the left wing-back to release Mark Little.

Little may not be used to finding himself one on one, but composure was not the issue as he elected to chip the advancing Carroll, who got fingertips to a ball which bobbled slowly towards the net before substitute Taylor McKenzie dived in to clear the danger in front of Smith.

Smith had been relatively quiet following his night of a lifetime on Tuesday, but did get his by now customary goal two minutes before the interval.

Elliott’s chipped ball looked too far beyond the willing Freeman, who did wonderfully well to keep the ball in play and showed admirable foresight to pick out Smith for an easy tap in.

An unimpressed Derry had made all three substitutions before a ball was kicked in the second period thanks to a half-time double change in a bid to turn the tide.

To their credit the Magpies improved after the break, but remained unable to trouble Frank Fielding in the City goal.

Emmanuel-Thomas got the goal his brilliant individual display deserved just after the hour. Having temporarily lost possession in trying to jink between opponents, the ball dropped invitingly at the right foot of the striker, who found the bottom corner with a slightly scuffed shot still perfectly placed inside the far post.

At this point the game had the makings of a rout. Bryan was denied by Carroll before his cross clipped the crossbar, while Little embarked on a marauding 50-yard burst only lacking a final ball.

But the damage had already been done and City, faced with a barrage of fixtures over the coming weeks, perhaps sensibly opted to see out the remaining minutes with minimal fuss to return to the third tier summit.

There was still time for central defender Williams to add his third goal of the season with a clinical finish more befitting a forward player to complete a job resoundingly well done.