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Report: Bristol City 1-1 Norwich City

Bailey Wright’s first Bristol City goal salvaged a crucial point for Lee Johnson’s side in their bid to stay in the Sky Bet Championship.

A cagey opening against play-off hopefuls Norwich City was not a sign of things to come in a game that opened up more and more the longer time ticked on.

Yanic Wildschut fired the visitors in front in ruthless fashion six minutes before the break, but Wright’s 78th-minute leveller set up a grandstand finish in which City threatened to snatch victory.

Lee Johnson made four changes to his side, two of which were enforced.

Goalkeeper Fabian Giefer, sidelined by an eye problem, was missing for the first time since his arrival on loan from Schalke 04 in January.

That meant a first start in two months for Frank Fielding, with Zak Vyner, Marlon Pack and Callum O’Dowda also earning recalls.

Hordur Magnusson and Lee Tomlin dropped to the bench, while Gary O’Neil’s thigh injury prevented the midfielder from facing his former club.

Norwich arrived in BS3 on the back of a chastening 5-1 defeat at play-off rivals Sheffield Wednesday, leaving their top six hopes hanging by a thread.

But it was the Canaries who launched the first notable attack after nine minutes, as Josh Murphy rolled the ball down the line for Cameron Jerome to chase before the striker crossed just fractionally over the head of the onrushing Wildschut.

A very similar move soon after saw Ivo Pinto find Murphy in behind the City defence, but the winger’s low ball across goal needed a precise finish from Wildschut at the far post and the Dutchman was unable to provide it from a tricky angle.

Tactically, it was noticeable how advanced Korey Smith was, with the traditionally defensive-minded midfielder acting as the closest support to lone striker Aaron Wilbraham.

It had been a largely uneventful first half, but City offered a patient home crowd something to get excited about when Bobby Reid’s shot struck O’Dowda, before Wilbraham seized on the loose ball with a daisy-cutter comfortably held by Michael McGovern.

The hosts were given a let-off when Steven Naismith escaped the offside trap to control a ball over the top and had all the time in the world to pick his spot, only to send the chance wide of Fielding’s left-hand post.

What followed was City’s best move of the game so far, with Vyner, Smith and Wilbraham all involved before Reid scuffed his shot and McGovern gathered.

Then Naismith’s effort from Jerome’s cutback was crucially blocked by Wright, before Aden Flint headed over from a Cotterill free kick having beaten McGovern to the punch.

City had their moments but Norwich were the slicker operators on the break. Jerome picked out Murphy but again a red shirt got in the way, before Wildschut made the home team pay for some hesitant defending.

Controlling a long kick from McGovern unchallenged, the winger drove infield from the left flank and planted a well-placed shot into the corner of the net from 20 yards to leave Fielding no chance.

City had six minutes to find a reply before the interval and looked set to do so when Flint’s towering knockdown was brilliantly collected on his chest by O’Dowda, but the Irishman sent his right-footed shot crashing against the top of the crossbar.

Second Half - City Switch To 4-4-2

Johnson’s half-time response was to introduce Matty Taylor for Reid as City switched to an orthodox 4-4-2 formation.

When Vyner won a free kick down by the corner flag, Cotterill’s delivery was met by Flint, who thought he’d scored only to be thwarted by the stooping McGovern down by his right-hand upright, before Pack volleyed over from 20 yards.

After Milan Djuric had replaced Wilbraham in a like-for-like swap, Tomlin came on for Vyner as City switched system again with Smith moving to right-back.

Tomlin’s mere presence was enough to lift the City supporters, who were on their feet again when Bryan crossed from the bye-line and Djuric headed straight at McGovern from eight yards.

Try as they might, Johnson’s men were struggling to penetrate the visiting resistance. As time ticked by, Norwich looked capable of killing the game on the counter-attack and only a slightly overhit pass from Mitchell Dijks blocked Naismith’s clean route to goal.

But City kept coming. Taylor’s persistence set up O’Dowda, who tried his luck from 25 yards with a rising drive that needed a full length dive from McGovern to help it on its way.

From the resulting corner, Cotterill’s low delivery caused confusion and Wright swivelled to turn home the loose ball from six yards.

899 Days - The time since Bailey Wright's last goal in domestic football, when Preston beat Crawley 2-0 on Saturday, September 20th 2014.

Suddenly Ashton Gate was alive and there were still 12 minutes to play. Tomlin found Taylor, whose cross was laid off by Djuric for O’Dowda to strike first time and force another important stop from the Northern Ireland international keeper.

Then Bryan attacked with menace and drilled a low shot towards the bottom corner well parried by McGovern with no City attacker able to profit from the loose ball.

Johnson’s men, again, had given everything, and must do so again in a huge clash at Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

Line Ups

Bristol City:
Vyner (Tomlin 68)
Reid (Taylor 46)
Wilbraham (Djuric 56)

Subs not used:

Norwich City:
Ivo Pinto
Murphy (Bassong 83)

Subs not used: