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Report: Cheltenham Town 1-2 Bristol City

Lee Johnson reclaimed family bragging rights to lift the Johnson Cup with a 2-1 win at father Gary’s expense.

Hosts Cheltenham Town came close to an equaliser in the second half, but Bristol City never looked like letting their boss down from the moment Jonathan Kodjia lobbed them in front inside nine minutes.

Lee Tomlin, a whisker away with an earlier wonder strike, scored the second just after the hour for a strong-looking visiting team who passed the ball fluently and attacked with purpose throughout.

Striker Danny Wright spoiled City’s hopes of a clean sheet with a late consolation goal, but victory was already assured.

Johnson named all five of his summer signings in his starting line-up in a 4-3-3 formation, with Callum O’Dowda and Tomlin supporting Kodjia from wide areas.

Right from the start City were sharp despite the quick pressing of the Vanarama National League champions. Marlon Pack, captaining the side on his return to Whaddon Road, split the defence to find Joe Bryan, whose low shot was saved by Ivan Lucic.

The hosts looked susceptible to City’s pace in behind and Kodjia could not be caught when he latched on to Tomlin’s cute ball over the top, dispatching the bouncing ball with a clever lob to give Johnson Jnr a ninth-minute lead.

Midway through the half the visitors were awarded a free kick in Tomlin territory that also tempted Hordur Magnusson, but it was the City number nine who stepped up and sent his shot inches past the post via the faintest Cheltenham touch.

Richard O’Donnell was called into action for the first time to make a routine stop from Dan Holman, before the same player forced the keeper into a more challenging save down to his right to parry a 20-yard drive.

But City remained the slicker outfit. O’Dowda was sharp down the right, dropping his shoulder and gliding away from defenders before crossing for Kodjia to head wide, before a piece of magic from Tomlin looked to have doubled City’s lead.

Receiving the ball in the left channel, the maverick frontman played the ball into the feet of Josh Brownhill and followed his pass, connecting sweetly with a pinpoint first-time shot from Brownhill’s lay-off that struck angle of post and bar before somehow bouncing back into play.

Such was City’s superiority in possession it was easy to forget the lead was only a single goal, and the visitors would have been pegged back if not for Brownhill’s goal-line clearance 12 minutes into the second half.

Fortunately the midfielder was in the right place to nod Wright’s header to safety from his starting position next to O’Donnell’s right-hand post as a Cheltenham corner caused uncertainty in the City box.

But if anything the near miss gave City a second wind. O’Dowda stung the palms of Lucic and Tomlin rather scuffed a half-chance on the volley before finding the net on 63 minutes.

Bryan performed admirably to keep alive a long kick from O’Donnell and feed Tomlin on the edge of the penalty area. His quick feet bought him a yard of space to hit a shot saved by Lucic, but the follow-up fell back into his path, allowing Tomlin to have another go and score via a slight deflection.

Johnson would wait until the final 13 minutes to make any changes, giving a rest to his two goalscorers and chances to impress for youngsters Jonny Smith, Shawn McCoulsky and George Dowling.

City’s hopes of a clean sheet were extinguished three minutes from time when O’Donnell saved from Holman, only for Wright to stoop and head home a late consolation for the beaten hosts.

Bristol City: O’Donnell, Ayling, Flint, Magnusson, Bryan, O’Neil (Dowling 87), Pack, Brownhill, O’Dowda, Kodjia (McCoulsky 84), Tomlin (J.Smith 77).

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