Live: Bristol City v Middlesbrough
Posted: Tuesday, October 20th 2020
Tuesday, April 21st 2020
A wonderful season draws to a close with the double in City's sights.
City had not lost since February 21st at Colchester and they weren't about to be halted now as they charged towards the title and promotion with seven games remaining.
They kicked off March with a 1-1 away draw to Oldham Athletic on Good Friday, followed by a return to BS3 for a South West derby with Swindon Town where revenge was on the cards.
It was a poignant 3-0 win under the lights which dealt a blow in Town's automatic promotion bid. Kieran Agard, Joe Bryan and Aaron Wilbraham did the damage with three expertly taken goals in a fine team performance in which City also defended manfully for long periods.
They went from one promotion challenger to another with a trip to Deepdale at the weekend, where the Robins drew 1-1 with Preston North End. Wilbraham’s 20th goal of the season ensured City left the home of their nearest challengers and keep their eight-point lead still intact at the Sky Bet League One summit.
The hosts had their noses in front when Jermaine Beckford tapped in on 59 minutes but could only maintain their slim advantage for four minutes, as Wilbraham headed his way to the striker’s milestone for the first time in his career.
Tuesday night rolled around for what would be an emphatic display as City sealed promotion to the Championship in style.
Bradford were brushed away here, as City ran out 6-0 winners. James Tavernier struck a brace with Bryan, Luke Ayling, Aden Flint and Wilbraham also getting in on the act as City ran riot to seal promotion in style at Valley Parade.
City would strike the first blow on 17 minutes as Tavernier set them on their way to an historic victory. The pitch would play a part again as MacKenzie was deceived by a bobble midway inside his own half, allowing Luke Freeman to nip in and take it off his toes. Carrying the ball menacingly towards the Bradford penalty area, City’s supplier-in-chief slipped it to his right for Tavernier, who was initially denied by a covering defender on the goal-line before lapping up the rebound to stab home the opener.
Freeman would go on to grab his 20th assist of the campaign when carrying the ball to the byeline, he checked back on to his favoured left foot and lofted the ball up invitingly for Bryan to attack at the far post. For any other player of 5ft 7in it would hardly have constituted a chance, but such is the Bristolian’s capacity to leap, the outcome seemed inevitable, and Bryan duly rose above Darby to nod City’s second of the night in off the base of the upright.
Bradford boss Phil Parkinson was quick to act at half-time, introducing former City favourite Jon Stead to form a three-pronged attack. Stead was soon in the thick of the action, swivelling sharply only to slice his shot well wide from a Hanson knockdown.
To their credit the home fans remained boisterously behind their team even after Ayling effectively ended the contest ten minutes into the second period. Allowed to drift infield unchallenged, space opened up for the defender to try his luck from 30 yards with a token pot-shot that somehow squirmed beyond the grip of helpless goalkeeper Ben Williams and apologetically into the net.
Still City were far from finished, as Flint towered in typically dominant fashion to power home Pack’s free kick with an unstoppable downward header.
Then Bryan raced to the byeline and showed terrific composure to keep the ball in play and pick out Agard, albeit with a firmly-struck pass forcing the striker to completely miscue his shot high into the air. But if ever a night was City’s night, this was it, as the ball still contrived to arrive at the feet of Tavernier with his back to goal, who was allowed to turn and rifle home goal number five from six yards.
Amazingly City’s strikers were yet to score before Wilbraham put that right with 11 minutes still to play, capitalising on some comically hesitant defending to slot his 21st goal of the campaign with the utmost ease.
If ever one night summed up a season, this was it.
It was a result which left City needing just one point to be crowned League One champions, a feat they achieved days later with 0-0 draw at home to Coventry City.
Unsurprisingly, manager Steve Cotterill saw no need to make any changes to his team who were promoted in such style at Bradford City in midweek.
This would be City's first league title for 60 years and complete the double off the back of their Johnstone's Paint Trophy triumph just weeks before.
Two matches remained before the party could really start, the first of those a champions performance away to Chesterfield with a 2-0 win at the home of the Spireites.
They themselves would secure League One status with results elsewhere going their way, despite goals from Agard and Flint,
And City would wrap up the season in some style as they cruised to an 8-2 victory on the final day against Walsall at Ashton Gate.
The visitors played their part in an entertaining season finale, taking a 13th minute lead through the impressive Jordy Hiwula.
But City were not behind for long as Flint volleyed the home team level en route to a defender's hat-trick, before Jay Emmanuel-Thomas scored from the penalty spot in traditionally casual fashion.
Hiwula sent the visitors in at the break with parity restored, but four goals in 11 second-half minutes blew them away.
Agard put City back in front, while Pack got in on the act before Emmanuel-Thomas and Flint each scored their second of the day before the midway point in the second period.
But that was far from the end of the fun, as Flint got the party started early with his first career hat-trick, tapping in from close range before Agard added City's eighth to round off a remarkable afternoon and campaign.
City were the League One champions with 99 points across the season, while MK Dons ultimately pipped Preston to the second automatic spot eight points behind City on 91.
Cotterril's men won 29 matches, drew 12 and lost only five league games in a season which will live long in the memory.
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