Bristol City continued their unbeaten start to their 2014/15 league campaign with a 3-1 win at the Ricoh Arena yesterday, with Coventry slumping to their fifth defeat in six.
First half goals from Marlon Pack and Kieran Agard, as well as a late strike from Scott Wagstaff were enough to breeze past the Sky Blues, despite the hosts pulling a goal back mid-way into the second half through Shaun Miller.
After a relatively calm opening 10 minutes, Bristol City took the lead through Pack, who replaced the injured Korey Smith. Aaron Wilbraham controlled a long ball and used his strength to hold off the defender, before the ball fell to Pack who was urged to shoot. His excellent shot from 25 yards was placed right into the far bottom corner, giving no chance to Coventry’s ‘keeper, Ryan Allsop.
The visitor’s goalkeeper, Frankie Fielding, denied a speculative effort from Jim O’Brien after a quarter of an hour before punching clear after a cross from a short free-kick. At the other end, Luke Freeman’s tame effort from distance was easily dealt with by Allsop, before the Robins almost doubled their advantage – the impressive Joe Bryan crossed from the left for Wade Elliot, whose well-struck volley seemed destined for the back of the net, only for a combination of Elliot’s team-mate Mark Little and the Coventry defence to block the ball away.
The Coventry player Danny Pugh was replaced by youngster Ryan Haynes five minutes before the interval due to an injury to the Englishman, and their side almost fell two down as Elliot found Freeman with a short corner, the latter standing the ball up to Luke Ayling, but his header was blocked on the line by Agard. However, Agard was forgiven deep into stoppage time at the end of the first half as Fielding’s long ball was flicked on well by Aaron Wilbraham and his strike partner raced onto the ball, beating Allsop in the race, and cleverly clipped it over the onrushing goalkeeper, trickling over the line as the large visiting crowd erupted once more.
The uninfluential Mohamed Coulibaly was replaced by James Maddison at half-time as Steven Pressley searched for a change in his side’s fortunes but despite their good possession and with both sides pressing well in defence, there seemed to be no threat for Steve Cotterill’s Reds. The visitors looked more dangerous in attack with Bryan delivering two inviting crosses with his favoured left foot in quick succession.
There was very little action in the second half until the substitution of Shaun Miller who replaced Josh McQuoid just after the hour mark. Coventry had a few decent chances which went begging as Ryan Haynes, who was under pressure from Little, headed into the ground and over and then Fielding made an excellent save, denying Aaron Phillips his first league goal for the club in exactly two years. Phillips met the cross from the left well and redirected it back across goal, but Fielding dived well and gathered at the second attempt.
Four minutes later, though, and the hosts were back in the game. After rarely threatening their opposition, a fluid passing move was capped off expertly as substitute Maddison threaded the ball through to Miller, who fired emphatically past Fielding. The goal gave the home side a fresh belief and the Robins’ fans were clearly nervous, after seeing recent leads conceded against Fleetwood and Walsall dropped.
Despite having much of the ball, the Sky Blues rarely posed any serious threat at all and after eventually making a substitution in the 87th minute, with Jay Emmanuel-Thomas replacing Kieran Agard and then moments later Scott Wagstaff came on for the hard-working Freeman, Cotterill’s team made the points certain. Wilbraham closed down the Coventry defence, with the ball falling to Elliot. Bristol City’s captain offloaded to Emmanuel-Thomas who ran at the defence before passing to his fellow substitute Wagstaff, who checked back and fired in for his first goal of the season.
Wesley Burns replaced Aaron Wilbraham in the dying moments as Bristol City clinched their ninth win of the season, to the delight of the 4,000 travelling fans, who were in full voice at full-time, having enjoyed their trip to the Ricoh Arena, a happy hunting ground for the West Country club. Even though their levels dropped through the second half, the visitors were always in charge of this encounter and the 3-1 score-line was a fair result for the side who sit comfortably at the top of the table.
After the game, Bristol City’s manager said, “We’re pleased with our performance and goals. We relaxed too much and it gave us a shake.” He added, about Marlon Pack, “I didn’t realise it was his first goal for the club! He’s got a lovely strike on him and he did very, very well against a good team.” He appreciated the support and thought the win was down to them.