Johnson hails his super subs for rescuing the Robins
Maenpaa; Hunt, Webster, Kalas, Dasilva (Watkins 62nd) Kelly; Pack, Eliassonn (O’Dowda 62nd), Brownhill; Weimann, Diedhiou (Taylor 78th)
Henderson; Freeman, O’Connell, Egan; Stevens, Basham, Lundstram (Clarke 83rd), Norwood; Duffy (Washington 68th); Sharp (Johnson 68th), McGoldrick
LEE JOHNSON produced an inspired double substitution to fire Bristol City to a fourth straight victory – and into the thick of the promotion race.
When the City boss threw on Marley Watkins and Callum O’Dowda with half an hour left, it seemed more in hope than genuine belief it would unhinge fellow promotion contenders Sheffield United.
But in the 81st minute the decision proved a masterstroke as the pair combined to provide the only goal of a dogged, often desperate scrap between the Championship’s two in-form sides.
Watkins, who had just missed a sitter, made no mistake second time round, guiding in O’Dowda’s cross with an angled header to send the Ashton Gate masses wild.
The win propelled them four places to third in the table and
Johnson (right) said:
“I know it was a bit boring for an hour and I didn’t envisage it being like that.
“But fitness is a key element of our game and we brought that on with Marley and Callum.
“I’m proud of my players and pass on all the credit to them for the victory. Anyone can come up with a game plan but it’s the players who execute it.
“It’s early days and we’ve been in this position before but three clean sheets in four games is giving us a solid backbone to push on.”
The contrast in mood of Blades counterpart Chris Wilder could not have been more stark after their four-match winning streak came to an abrupt end.
He moaned: “I never felt we’d lose this because for the majority of it we played well. To lose like that is the worst feeling in the world.
“We needed to put the game to bed when we were playing well and show more composure when trying to get back into it.
“If we’d scored first, I’m convinced we’d have won but City are a good team. Marley Watkins J Brook I have to congratulate them.” The Robins certainly began in an upbeat frame of mind and nearly enjoyed the perfect start after three minutes.
Swedish midfielder Niclas Eliasson showed he is more than just a creator when cutting inside and unleashing a vicious 20-yard drive that Sheffield United keeper Dean Henderson parried.
The rebound fell to Jay Dasilva, but at pace, and the on-loan Chelsea defender could not keep his effort on target.
United, who fall from third to fifth, took a while to get going but dominated the half once they had.
Their Republic of Ireland hitman David McGoldrick snatched at a golden opportunity in the 15th minute, slicing a free shot horribly wide.
Then midway through the period, they went closer through a whipped-in free-kick from Ollie Norwood. How the ball missed everyone in a packed six-yard box defied logic.
That 45 minutes was a far cry from last season’s corresponding fixture when the Blades were 3-1 up at the break. Wilder’s men eventually went on to win that 3-2 but finding a way past City yesterday was a very different proposition.
Maybe if John Lundstram’s 53rd minute curler had not been turned away by Niki Maenpaa the floodgates would have opened.
But it did not and for long periods after half-time it appeared to be destined for a goalless bore.
On 62 minutes, though, Johnson shuffled his pack – and that changed everything in City’s favour.
BRISTOL CITY: SHEFF UNITED: STAR MAN: REF: