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Bristol City verdict: The Robins are back after latest Severnside Derby win at Cardiff City


It wasn’t that it was another victory complete by 3pm down Leckwith Road accompanied by “Everywhere we go…”. It wasn’t the South Wales police instructions and crammed trains back over the bridge but filled by happy City fans.

It wasn’t the sight of Nigel Pearson following the final whistle pointing to the away fans in the corner by the Ninian Stand that once saw Scotty Murray running down the length of the touchline cupping his ear, now matched by Andi Weimann, who Murray himself had suggested to the Austrian earlier in the day that he should repeat the celebration if he scored.

It wasn’t either the sights and sounds of the Bristol City players lining up outside Block 12 at full-time saluting the visiting fans, nor the Gavin and Stacey tweets whipped out once again by the Robins official club media team online in the evening.

Nor the strewn cider cans, boxes and bottles outside by Sloper Road and the police horses trotting around the near vicinity.

It was the simple view of Antoine Semenyo going nose-to-nose with Bluebirds captain Sean Morrison and willfully refusing to back down with plenty of minutes to play, as the versatile forward evaded getting a yellow card for simulation from referee David Webb.

That was the moment that the fight in Bristol City was fully evident, if restored slowly across the summer by the manager and his coaching team, a trip to Loughborough University helping to feed the fervour and growing spirit in the group, on display again there at the CCS.

Standing his ground, Semenyo was toe-to-toe with the 6ft4′ former Plymouth and Swindon Town centre-back, Chris Martin running in to back up the 21-year-old substitute whose excellently deep cross led to City’s winner.

And so Bristol City stride forward. Pride restored, away days back in full vigour, the explosion of sound that erupted from the away end as the ball rocketed into the back of the net from Andi Weimann’s right foot as he netted inside the near post for the second time in the afternoon will stay with this writer for some time.

It was gloriously sadistic for Bristol City fans: the hosts were back in the game through a fortunate own goal that Nathan Baker had almost kept out on the goal line, with his clearance almost doing the business after Tomas Kalas had deflected the lively Kieffer Moore’s cross in at the near post.

The home side’s Welsh tails were up but Weimann and Bristol City retook the lead to dash their hopes just 11 minutes after Cardiff had got back on equal terms. A stunning goal, a thing of beauty, volleyed exquisitely past Dillon Phillips.

Defensive drive

It’s still no clean sheets for Bristol City this season yet – you have to go back to the 0-0 with Nottingham Forest last March 17 – but for spells the West Country men have proved obstinate, hewn from the very intransigence emanating from their manager.

This was Nigel Pearson football. Finally we get to view it. Slugging it out in the middle and standing firm when the opposition do get the better of it.

And now the corner is turned for real. Even if the win at Reading and the good display against Swansea City marked brighter times, this was a deserved win against a side unbeaten in the league to that point. It may be early days but Mick McCarthy had only lost three times before, on par with Norwich and Barnsley in the time since he had been appointed. No bad record at all.

Indeed Cardiff would have gone top of the pile if they had grabbed the three points from this encounter themselves.

The Bluebirds had their own moments, not least when the impish Ryan Giles skipped in on goal only for makeshift left-back Baker to sweep in on the cover and unbalance the on-loan Wolves man at the last. City and Bentley stood strong and the Welsh side were repelled further.

Bristol City at the Cardiff City Stadium
Bristol City at the Cardiff City Stadium

They got some fortune with their goal but as a Bluebird-supporting friend messaged me afterwards: ‘Nullify our aerial threat we don’t have much more.’ .

City did indeed neutralise the set-pieces, stood firm and counter-punched through the slick Weimann, aided by forward partner Chris Martin. (Whose long throws were the more dangerous in the end? Possibly Kalas’, as the second goal came from one.) The blue side did look devoid of ideas by the end, too, a measure of how well the Robins had defended on the day.

Opposed to the one-sided nature of a year ago, when Martin prodded in early and Bristol City sank back, there was more of an even keel to this contest. Tom Sang, Leandro Bacuna and Joe Ralls went close but nothing ever truly troubled Bentley and most of it was from distance.

Andy King did flick off the goal-line too as Cardiff pressed, but Bristol City had chances too as Han-Noah Massengo fizzed just over the bar, Semenyo drilled at goal from range and Weimann was thwarted as he ran across the goal mouth to try and turn and fire in for the hat-trick. It finished five shots on target apiece.

But this game felt like a return. The dark days of downward spiral towards the end of Dean Holden’s reign and the nonsensical continuation thereafter under Pearson finally abated. Bristol City finally on the ascent and approaching recent times under Lee Johnson: we’ll give as good as we get, and more.

What comes next

There is work to do. Cardiff might have won this and every game so far has been settled by just one goal, but it sure feels much better after shooting into the top half of the Championship and having won back-to-back games on the road.

Defensive improvement needs to keep coming but the two former Rams in attack, Martin and Weimann, look to be striking up a good partnership.

Meanwhile Cam Pring’s darts from wide look every bit as useful as Alex Scott’s diligence in attacking midfield, while Semenyo could really blossom this year.

If Bristol City can now finally start winning at Ashton Gate then who knows where this team from the South West will head next.

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