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Report: Bristol City 2-3 Cardiff City

City were left with a horrible sense of deja-vu as two late goals snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in a topsy-turvy Severnside derby at Ashton Gate.

Twelve days ago, City led 2-0 with 18 minutes to go against Reading, only to lose 3-2.

This time around, Lee Johnson’s men led twice – through goals from Joe Bryan and Tammy Abraham – but saw their 2-1 advantage turned on its head in the final eight minutes.

Anthony Pilkington initially equalised from the penalty spot, while substitute Kadeem Harris made it 2-2 before Pilkington’s stunning long-range winner with five minutes left.

Johnson made two changes to his side following last weekend’s Emirates FA Cup stalemate with Fleetwood Town.

Callum O’Dowda and Marlon Pack both earned recalls, the latter as captain, with Korey Smith joining Adam Matthews on the treatment table.

New recruits Jens Hegeler, Bailey Wright and Milan Djuric all kept their places, with Lee Tomlin dropping to the bench.

Johnson predicted a hectic start on derby day and got exactly that, with both sides backed by noisy support and pumping with adrenaline.

It did not take long for Djuric to get to know giant Cardiff defender Sol Bamba as the pair wrestled under a couple of early high balls.

But Djuric certainly won the battle when he powered an O’Dowda corner goalwards with a header that was helped over the top by strike partner Abraham from point-blank range.

At the other end, Aron Gunnarsson’s telescopic throw-in came out to play inside the first seven minutes, causing confusion in the City box as the ball dropped to Peter Whittingham, who rifled a first-time shot into a crowded penalty area that fortunately deflected over and not into the net.

Then some excellent hold-up play from Djuric invited Bryan to charge into the box from left wing-back, aiming for the bottom corner on his right foot only to be thwarted by the sliding Bamba.

The Bristolian vacated his touchline in similar fashion on 25 minutes, this time having to try his luck from further out and forcing a first meaningful save as Brian Murphy stooped to his right.

City were certainly edging it on points in boxing terms, particularly when Abraham left Bamba in his wake and forced another corner, but the hosts were struggling to make serious inroads from a number of set-pieces since the early Abraham chance.

Meanwhile, Hegeler was looking the part again, frequently stepping into midfield from his starting position on the right side of a back three.

After seeing one sweet left-footed strike deflected wide, the German produced a fine cross from deep with his right foot attacked by Djuric, who could not make a true connection on the stretch.

The initial wave of optimism inside Ashton Gate had rather petered out by the time the half-time whistle sounded as the game assumed a more traditional tempo, but it did not take much longer for City to give the vast majority of the near-20,000 crowd something to really shout about.

Cardiff would not have been unduly concerned to see another high ball sent towards Djuric, nor when the towering Bosnian won yet another header.

But as soon as Bryan connected on the volley, Welsh hearts were rightly in mouths.

It was hardly a good enough sight of goal to be labelled ‘a chance’ in reality, but it flew off the trusty left boot of the City man from 22 yards and immediately Murphy was worried.

To his credit, the keeper actually made a miraculous save to tip the ball on to the crossbar, but was helpless to prevent it bouncing into the net off his back as it dropped.

To place it in the ‘own goal’ category would be harsh on Bryan, who won’t have hit many sweeter, particularly given the original strike was on target.

Whittingham joined Bamba in the book after a crunching tackle on O’Dowda, who was enjoying himself in the number ten role, as Cardiff frustration grew.

Meanwhile, Wright fancied a piece of the volley action, blasting a shot only a couple of yards over as City eyed a spectacular second.

Fielding still had not needed to make a save by the time he was picking an unlikely equaliser out of his net 16 minutes from time.

A rare spell of visiting pressure saw Joe Ralls get a toe to the ball on the corner of the area, sending it out to the left wing.

It was innocuous enough, but as he did so the midfielder was caught by Little – not in a dangerous part of the pitch, but it was just about a foul and just about inside the box.

Up stepped Pilkington to drill the spot-kick straight down the middle as Fielding dived to his right, hauling Cardiff back on level terms.

But parity would last only four minutes. Undeterred by the setback, City soon were soon on the attack.

Bryan dashed to the byeline and stood up a delightful cross to the back post, which was nodded back across goal by Djuric and turned in with his back to goal by Abraham, as an overhead kick from six yards chalked up goal number 18 of the season for the Chelsea loanee.

But just as City looked set to finally end their seven-match winless streak, Cardiff responded again as two of Neil Warnock’s substitutes combined to deadly effect.

Collecting the ball on the left flank, Junior Hoilett cut back on to his right foot and swung in a cross that was headed home at the far post by Harris – once a loan signing of Johnson at Barnsley.

Worse was to follow. Warnock would surely have been happy enough with a point, but three minutes later he was celebrating a bolt from the blue from Pilkington, who took aim from 25 yards with a stunning strike that flew past Fielding’s right hand to leave City feeling a bitter sense of deja-vu.

Still 12 minutes remained, including an additional five, but the hosts could not find an equaliser despite throwing on Aaron Wilbraham, Jamie Paterson and Tomlin in the closing stages.