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Report: Bristol City U23s 3-3 Cardiff City U23s

Diego De Girolamo struck a brilliant hat-trick at a rain-stricken Stoke Gifford Stadium as City Under-23s left it late to secure a 3-3 draw in a thrilling Severnside derby.

The 21-year-old, recruited from Sheffield United in the summer, opened the scoring after 27 minutes when he latched on to Connor Lemoneigh-Evans’ pinpoint pass before beating Connor O’Reilly with a low driven shot that nestled into the far corner. 

Cardiff responded brightly to falling behind, and as half-time approached, the unmarked Jamie Bird should have levelled the scores when he uncharacteristically sliced Macauley Southam’s teasing cross wide of Richard O’Donnell’s goal from six yards. 

After the break, the Bluebirds had their keeper to thank for keeping them in the game when he pushed away De Girolamo’s ferocious 20-yard strike, which looked to be heading for the top corner, with an acrobatic save. 

With City in control, Joe Morrell could have doubled the hosts’ lead when George Dowling expertly advanced down the right flank before picking out the Academy product on the edge of the box, only for the youngster to drag his first-time shot agonisingly wide of the target. 

As the weather continued to decline, the visitors grew into the game, and the young Robins were penned inside their own half for a large portion of the second period, absorbing considerable pressure. 

Cardiff’s relentless attacks would be rewarded in the 63rd minute when Declan John produced a mazy run before floating in a cross to the unmarked Peter Skapetis, who found the corner of the net with a sweetly struck left-footed volley. 

With momentum in their stride, the visitors turned the game on its head when substitute Jake Andrews was questionably penalised for his challenge on Bird, and skipper Tommy O’Sullivan made no mistake in striking a confident spot-kick past a wrong-footed O’Donnell. 

In what would prove to be a hectic final five minutes, De Girolamo was hauled down inside the area after a piece of individual brilliance, and the Chesterfield-born attacker dusted himself down before calmly dispatching his penalty to level the scores once more. 

Skapetis then restored Cardiff’s lead in the final minute when he rose above his marker and nodded in O’Sullivan’s right-wing cross with a looping header, which Cardiff thought to be the winning goal. 

Instead, City demonstrated their unbeatable spirit and attitude as De Girolamo found himself a pocket of space inside a crowded area and struck a snap-shot beneath the outstretched O’Reilly to dramatically salvage a point for McAllister’s side. 

The last-gasp equaliser means the young Robins are unbeaten in their final three homes games of 2016 – a platform they will hope to build upon in the New Year when their competitive fixtures resume. 

City Under-23s: O'Donnell, Harris, Pring, McNulty (Andrews 63), Lyons-Foster, Kelly, Dowling, Morrell, Lemoneigh-Evans, De Girolamo, Bascome (McCoulsky 63). Subs not used: Wollacott, Baldwin, Moseley.

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