Bristol City’s quest for promotion continued with a late winner against 10-man Sheffield United last night in a top four Championship clash.
Defender Aden Flint scored in injury time as The Robins registered their third successive victory, to cement their position in third place as they look to break into the top two over the Christmas period.
It has been a remarkable transformation for City, who finished 17th in the Championship last season, and 18th the season before, having been promoted from League One in 2015. Manager Lee Johnson continues to impress when leading a side who have benefitted from the riches of Stephen Lansdown.
Bournemouth are an example of a side who Bristol will be striving to emulate, having reached the Premier League from League One within the space of three years. With a capacity of 27,000, Bristol’s Ashton Gate home is suitable as a top-flight venue, especially given that Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium is less than half of that capacity.
Last night, these top-flight aspirations were bolstered further as City snatched the win at Bramall Lane in front of the Sky cameras. Flint’ winner was his sixth of the season and it moved City within three points of the automatic position places before today’s 3pm kick-offs.
The three points go the way of @bcfctweets.
— EFL (@EFL) December 8, 2017
City certainly rode their luck at times as Sheffield United struck the woodwork four times. The Robins’ goalkeeper, Frank Fielding, produced an outstanding point-blank save to tip Billy Sharp’s header onto the bar following a Blades corner.
Mark Duffy hit the post with an in-swinging free-kick in the first-half. The same man struck the woodwork again with a curling strike from the edge of the City box not long before the hour mark of the game.
Lee Johnson admitted the home side were causing his side plenty of problems, especially in the first 45 minutes.
‘‘I thought Sheffield United were outstanding in the first-half and we had to do something to change it quickly,’’ Johnson told Sky Sports after the game.
However, City did go into half-time with a single goal advantage after Jamie Paterson fired a spectacular opener past United keeper Simon Moore. The 43rd minute goal came completely out of the blue, and was one of only four shots the away side managed on target over the course of the 90 minutes.
Leon Clarke continued his rich vein of goalscoring as the division’s leading scorer with an equaliser after 48 minutes after being given too much time to approach the City goal. Clarke capitalised on the space to emphatically fire the ball across goal into the far corner of the net.
Just over ten minutes later, a pivotal moment occurred when Sheffield midfielder John Fleck received a straight red card for a nasty two-footed tackle on Korey Smith, in which Fleck lunged into Smith with his studs up.
Chris Wilder told Sky he thought it didn’t deserve a red card, yet if he saw a replay, this opinion would surely have changed.
‘‘The game has gone if you can’t tackle like that now. That was just a proper tackle,’’ said Wilder.
Bristol capitalised on this man advantage as they enjoyed much more of the ball in the closing stages of the match, particularly in an attacking sense. Their efforts were rewarded when Flint found himself unmarked at the back-post to side-foot a volley into the net following Bobby Reid’s cross.
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) December 8, 2017
United defenders appealed for offside, but Flint was level with the Blades defensive line as he ensured all three points headed back down South.
The win is a massive boost for City’s promotion aspirations, yet in contrast, The Blades are on a slump having now gone four games without a win, the first time they have done this in the league since August 2016.
Chris Wilder’s side are now three points behind Bristol having both played 21 games.