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Report: Doncaster Rovers 1-1 Bristol City

Matt Smith scored his fourth goal in three games to extend Bristol City’s stay in this season’s FA Cup.

The visitors were far from their best in a fragmented display in South Yorkshire, but stuck to their task to force a replay thanks to Smith’s brilliant 75th minute header.

Defender Luke McCullough had edged the hosts in front, pouncing from a corner five minutes after half-time before Smith continued his good recent form with a fine equaliser.

Steve Cotterill made four changes to his starting line-up who finished a spectacular 2014 on a high with victory at Gillingham.

Skipper Wade Elliott returned to starting duty for the first time in a fortnight alongside Korey Smith and the recalled Todd Kane in midfield, while wing-backs Scott Wagstaff and Greg Cunningham made way for Mark Little and Joe Bryan.

Having started so quickly in the recent wins over Yeovil Town and Gillingham in league action, City struggled to replicate the same tempo early on.

Instead it was the home team who were on the front foot, as all of the visiting back three were forced into important defensive headers inside the first four minutes before Theo Robinson escaped down the inside-left channel.

As the striker bore down on goal, Aden Flint stepped across to make a vital block before the ball looped up into the air and was headed over the top by Dean Furman as it dropped.

Furman made another late dash from midfield soon after as Frank Fielding needed to be alert to dive at the feet of the South African to make a brave stop.

Moments later the early pattern of play was encapsulated by Harry Forrester nutmegging Little on the touchline before being cynically pulled back by the defender for the game’s first yellow card.

City finally sprung into life on the quarter-hour mark, as Bryan escaped down the left and produced a low cross which just saw Matt Smith caught on his heels when a near-post run may have been rewarded.

Former Doncaster man Jay Emmanuel-Thomas then displayed trademark footwork outside the box before blasting a shot goalwards uncomfortably handled by Sam Johnstone in the Rovers goal.

City were undoubtedly enjoying their best spell of the game, with Johnstone soon forced into action to keep out Elliott with his feet and Luke Ayling, whose 20-yard left-foot drive was tipped around the post.

But the early trend of home pressure resumed as the opening period neared a conclusion. Flint was again called upon to make an important clearance before blocking a shot from James Coppinger as the winger latched on to a slide rule pass from impressive playmaker Richie Wellens.

The hosts were made to wait for City to return after the interval, with Cotterill perhaps opting for a few choice words at the break.

But the visitors were powerless to prevent Doncaster edging in front five minutes after the restart, as Forrester’s deep corner was headed down and hooked in by McCullough from six yards via the inside of the post.

Coppinger and Emmanuel-Thomas traded blows from distance as both goalkeepers were called into action before Fielding punched a high ball only as far as Forrester, whose header back towards the target beat the grounded City stopper but not the covering Flint.

From that point on Cotterill’s side were much brighter. Emmanuel-Thomas spurned the visitors’ first glaring chance on 64 minutes, robbing the off-balance McCullough to go clean through on goal before electing to shoot early and seeing his low drive kept out by the trailing leg of Johnstone.

Slowly but surely City began to get a grip on proceedings, and levelled things up 15 minutes from time through the in-form Smith.

There seemed no danger when Ayling picked up possession 40 yards from goal, but the defender was accurate with his cross from deep on to the head of the towering Smith, who expertly guided the ball back across goal and just inside the far post.

A frantic finale ensued with neither team happy to settle for a replay. Substitute Kyle Bennett had the best of the chances, forcing Fielding to make a decent save down by his near post before fluffing his lines in stoppage time with an age to compose himself in the box.

City threatened to snatch it with the very last attack when Bryan cut inside his man but saw his shot blocked behind for a corner ultimately deemed too late to be taken by referee Scott Duncan.

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