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Posted: Thursday, July 9th 2020
Saturday, December 21st 2013
City were denied maximum points in the dying moments of an eventful clash at Meadow Lane.
A tale of two penalties, Sam Baldock buried the first four minutes before the interval after Dean Leacock was adjudged to have hauled down Aden Flint at a corner kick.
County threw everything at the visitors from that point on, but City looked like holding firm only for an identical decision to cost them a minute from time, allowing Alan Sheehan to stroke in the equaliser.
If that was not enough, the occasion was made all the more memorable for one Louis Carey, who drew level with John Atyeo atop his local club’s all-time appearance list.
Steve Cotterill made three changes to his side beaten by Rotherham United last time out, most notably handing Carey his first start of the season and outing number 645 in the process.
The 36-year-old took his place alongside Aden Flint and Derrick Williams in a City back three, while Brendan Moloney dropped to the bench.
The added alterations were to a five-man midfield, with Marlon Pack and Bobby Reid recalled at the expense of Marvin Elliott and Joe Bryan.
It was a surprisingly open start to a game of such importance, with a typical burst from Jay Emmanuel-Thomas setting up Reid for the first attempt at goal, but Bartosz Bialkowski was well positioned to tip his placed effort over the crossbar.
At the other end, Ashton Gate old boy Jamal Campbell-Ryce was causing problems with his pace and directness down the right flank, with a couple of teasing crosses threatening to hurt his former club.
An upbeat atmosphere inside Meadow Lane would take a turn when Greg Cunningham lunged in to dispossess Gary Liddle on the byeline, prompting howls of derision from the natives when a free kick was not given and Liddle remained grounded.
The incident prompted a lengthy stoppage as the midfielder received treatment, eventually having to be substituted.
When the game resumed, City spurned a glaring opportunity to snatch the lead. Emmanuel-Thomas was clever in holding on to possession just long enough before splitting the County defence to set Baldock clean through.
But the skipper seemed to stutter in trying to get the ball out of his feet, allowing Bialkowski to race from his line and make a smart save as Baldock pulled the trigger.
It was the first in a series of City chances. Emmanuel-Thomas beat the offside trap to bear down on goal moments later only for the County shot-stopper to spread himself and make another crucial save.
Then Baldock made the most of a deep corner with an instinctive hooked shot over his shoulder which had to be tipped over by the in-form Polish keeper.
However, City were not to be denied. From the resulting corner, referee Charles Breakspear spotted home captain Dean Leacock manhandling Aden Flint in the box, paving the way for Baldock to smash the spot-kick straight down the middle.
By this point the locals were beyond incensed by the officiating, not helped by only two additional minutes being signalled at the first half’s conclusion, although it would be nearly 4pm by the time the teams left the field after County striker Callum Ball suffered a serious head injury.
The hostile nature of the contest, on and off the field, continued after the break.
Six players were in the book before the hour mark – three for each side – many of which for cynical offences when the opposing team attempted to break.
But there was some football being played too, with County’s Callum McGregor trying his luck on several occasions on his trusty left foot.
First a placed shot from 20 yards eluded the bottom corner only via a deflection, before he cleared the crossbar with another effort which just dipped too late.
At the other end, Reid’s raking pass found Emmanuel-Thomas on the left corner of the penalty area, who reached the byeline before firing a low cross which Bialkowski could only parry into the middle of the box as his defence came to his rescue.
It was a performance a little different to anything City had produced for a long time. Whilst the fluency in possession at times eluded them on a pitch noticeably also used for rugby, the battling qualities were never in question.
Derrick Williams even threatened to make the final ten minutes even more comfortable with an eye-catching run out of defence, as the Irishman jinked his way past a couple of black and white shirts only for Bialkowski to dive at his feet and prevent a memorable goal.
The talented McGregor remained at forefront of County’s race against time, whistling another long ranger just past the post.
Ultimately it would take a puzzling decision to level things up, as Breakspear pointed to the spot in almost identical circumstances to the first half, presumably for holding inside the penalty area, although the offender and victim were virtually impossible to identify.
When Sheehan sent Elliot Parish the wrong way, that looked like being the end of the drama.
But there was still time for ex-City forward Enoch Showunmi to strike the base of the post with almost the last kick of the game having arrived off the bench.
The final act of a breathless afternoon.
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