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Report: Leyton Orient 1-3 Bristol City

The result may have been the same, but Bristol City’s latest 3-1 victory on a Tuesday night in Leyton could prove significant in very different circumstances 12 months on.

This time last year, a much less likely win was secured at the Matchroom Stadium to help propel City clear of relegation trouble.

Nowadays, ambitions are rather loftier, as Steve Cotterill’s league leaders came from behind to go ten points clear at Sky Bet League One summit.

Goals from Luke Freeman, Aden Flint and Aaron Wilbraham propelled the league leaders further clear of the chasing pack after Chris Dagnall had prodded the hosts in front early on.

Cotterill made one change to his side after the same XI came through back-to-back games against Doncaster Rovers and Rochdale with maximum points, as Joe Bryan reverted to left-wing back at the expense of Greg Cunningham.

The manager had been wary of a repeat of City’s last visit to the Matchroom Stadium in which the team fighting against the drop upset opponents gunning for promotion.

On that occasion the shoe was on the opposite foot, as Cotterill’s City struck twice in the first 12 minutes to stun the title-chasing O’s.

This time around City were caught napping as Dagnall profited from a moment of hesitation from Mark Little, latching on to a pass from strike partner David Mooney to slide the ball into the bottom corner for a neatly-taken opener.

But City continued their happy habit of breaching the O’s in minute 12 with a quick-fire leveller, created by the industry of the recalled Bryan.

There seemed no danger as the Bristolian chased a lost cause down towards the corner flag, but he showed admirable persistence to slide in and hook the ball away from right-back Luke O’Neill, who was attempting to shepherd it out of play.

Instead the ball rolled invitingly into the penalty area for Kieran Agard to collect with his back to goal and lay it off for Freeman, who struck a first-time shot from eight yards already destined for the bottom corner before it beat goalkeeper Alex Cisak via a late deflection.

There had been little to report by way of non-goalscoring chances, a trend that continued until after Flint registered his seventh goal of the season with a bullet header nine minutes later.

When Freeman was bundled over near the left touchline, the midfielder picked himself up to swing in a teasing cross powered high into the net by the towering City defender.

The league leaders’ slack start was already a distant memory, but it was hard to see that being the end of the scoring in a wide open contest.

Dagnall was close to celebrating his second of the night when his shot on the turn deflected down into the ground to deceive Fielding only to loop up and over his crossbar from close range as City breathed a collective sigh of relief.

At the other end Orient looked susceptible to further damage. Having already forced ex-Liverpool left-back Andrea Dossena into a cynical foul on the halfway line, Little burst to the byeline and stood the ball up to the back post, only for Bryan and Freeman to get in each other’s way as the latter headed wide when perhaps the former would have presented the greater aerial threat.

To their credit, the O’s were not afraid to commit bodies forward, dispensing with the stereotype often associated with teams managed by Italians.

Veteran winger Jobi McAnuff forced Fielding to shovel a left-footed shot wide of goal before Swansea loanee Ryan Hedges volleyed a presentable loose ball into the stand behind the City goal.

But Orient’s best chance to go in at the break on level terms would arrive in the third and final minute of added time when Dossena’s left-wing corner was headed over by Roman Vincelot when left unmarked only six yards from goal.

If City’s second-half remit was to kill the game quickly, Cotterill’s players seemed hell-bent on carrying out the plan to the letter as they flew out of the blocks.

First Marlon Pack sent Cisak stooping to his right to keep out a 25-yard daisy-cutter, before the resulting corner flashed across the face of goal with Agard just unable to react in time to convert from point-blank range.

Freeman tried his luck from distance with a thunderous drive only a couple of yards wide, whilst at the other end Fielding had to be at his best to help Dossena’s brilliantly-struck shot on its way over.

It was an isolated scare for the visitors following the restart, and City’s increasing superiority was rewarded on the hour mark by Wilbraham’s 16th goal of an individual season well on track to be a season’s best at the ripe old age of 35.

As for the early equaliser, Bryan and Agard would share assisting duty, as the striker did well to bring a high ball under control and wait for the impending arrival of Bryan, who sent a glorious low ball across goal which tempted Cisak but proved just out of reach for the keeper before Wilbraham slid in to convert at the far post.

Fielding would have to be alert to keep out substitutes Gianvito Plasmati and Jay Simpson in the closing stages, but City’s third goal had already knocked the stuffing out of a home team nervously looking over their shoulders.

What a difference a year makes.

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