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Report: Ipswich Town 2-1 Bristol City

Bristol City were defeated by a late goal for the third successive game as former team-mate Brett Pitman came back to haunt Lee Johnson with an 86th-minute winner in East Anglia.

Having trailed at the interval to a Kevin Bru strike, Johnson’s men responded soon after the restart as Tammy Abraham equalised with a typical poacher’s effort.

But an injury to Hordur Magnusson left City with an inexperienced and unfamiliar defensive line heading into the closing stages, and Ipswich pressure eventually told when Pitman turned in a Freddie Sears cross with a fine overhead kick.

Head coach Johnson made three changes to his side following the Boxing Day defeat at Wolves.

Adam Matthews, who came off injured at Molineux, was unable to recover in time for the long trip to Suffolk, while Joe Bryan and Bobby Reid dropped to the bench.

Mark Little, Scott Golbourne and Aaron Wilbraham were all restored to the starting XI as Johnson matched up Ipswich’s 4-4-2 formation – just as he did in City’s 2-0 victory over the same opponents four weeks ago at Ashton Gate.

City were able to deal with a couple of early crosses without too many problems in a subdued start to the contest, before Lee Tomlin produced the first piece of real class to wriggle out of a tight spot and win a free kick just about within shooting range.

Up stepped Josh Brownhill to try his luck from at least 30 yards, but goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski was able to hold on after the ball bounced up awkwardly in front of him.

At the other end, former City striker Brett Pitman optimistically claimed a penalty under the challenge of Golbourne before David McGoldrick curled the loose ball wide.

It was starting to open up. Abraham looked favourite to score when he raced through on goal shortly after, but the covering Luke Chambers did enough to put him off as the pair went shoulder to shoulder, forcing the teenager to skew his shot.

Abraham was involved again when some good hold up play presented a snapshot chance for Luke Freeman, but he rushed the opening and hardly made contact from 15 yards.

City were beginning to look the superior outfit in an unusually cagey game with neither team prepared to take too many risks.

But Ipswich, still yet to test Frank Fielding in the City goal, suddenly took the lead after 39 minutes.

After a couple of corners were dealt with but not properly cleared by the visiting defence, the ball was played back out to corner taker Tom Lawrence on the left flank.

Afforded far too much time, the winger was able to deliver a telling cross touched in by the onrushing Bru from six yards.

At the interval, Johnson opted for a change in both full back positions; Golbourne and Little off, Bryan and Taylor Moore on.

Straightaway there was more urgency about his team, who were determined to strike back quickly.

Freeman, who had two goals and two assists to his name in three previous appearances against Ipswich in City red, stole the ball from youngster Myles Kenlock and turned inside on to his left foot before his shot deflected into the side-netting.

Then Bryan made an immediate impact. Charging down the left, his eventual cross was not one of his best, but Bialkowski could not keep hold of it in a crowded six-yard box and Abraham was typically sharp to dispatch the loose ball in the blink of an eye.

It was goal number 15 for the striker before the end of the calendar year.

But no sooner had City restored parity than they were suffering a heart-in-mouth moment, as a deep cross was nodded back across goal before it looped against the crossbar via the head of Marlon Pack.

Within 20 minutes of the restart, Johnson had only Aden Flint still standing from his back four who had started the game as Magnusson was forced off through injury.

On came Callum O’Dowda to play at left wing-back, with Bryan and Moore operating either side of Flint in a three-man defence.

Abraham had a half-chance to put City in front from a Flint knockdown but blazed over, before Ipswich enjoyed their best spell of the game.

First Lawrence charged menacingly towards goal and hit a fierce shot gathered by Fielding at the second attempt, before Bryan cleared one off the line and Fielding kept out Pitman at his near post from successive corners.

Then substitute Sears got the wrong side of Flint and stumbled his way past the diving Fielding, only to see Bryan stick out a vital left leg to block his shot and keep City on level terms.

But just as it seemed City had weathered the storm and were on course for a much-needed point, Pitman popped up to score the winner with a brilliant piece of improvisation to leave Johnson feeling an unwelcome sense of deja-vu.