LOVABLE LUKE IS CITY’S HERO
LUKE Ayling was already among the most popular players in City’s dressing room before this game, according to boss Steve Cotterill.
And the defender will be an even bigger hero with his teammates after netting the 87th minute winner that kept the Robins on top of League One and riding the crest of a wave.
Brave Crawley defended for their lives for most of the game, but paid dearly for failing to clear Luke Freeman’s late corner from the left.
Ayling was left in space at the far post and coolly chested the ball down before sending an unstoppable volley past Lewis Price from ten yards.
Manager Cotterill punched the air with delight and relief.
Afterwards he had nothing but praise for his table-topping team.
“I have never been more proud of them,” he said.
“In the space of a week we have won two cup ties and a league game without conceding a goal.
“The way the lads started the game and then kept going right to the end, after such a hectic schedule, was fantastic.
“It was a great finish by Luke for the goal.
“If you asked who was the most popular player among a lot of great lads in our dressing room he would be in the top three.
“He is a fantastic footballer with great technique.
“Crawley made it tough for us, but I know my players will keep giving their all for 90 minutes-plus and again our fitness and team spirit shone through.”
Visiting boss John Gregory took some heart from his team’s resolute effort, but was in no mood to congratulate them.
He said:“We have done a lot of things well, but we have lost the game and that’s all that matters.
“I don’t like hard luck stories. We made some poor decisions when in good positions going forward and paid for one mistake at the back.
“The players needed no motivation coming to a ground like Ashton Gate and taking on a very good side.
“Already I have challenged them to play with the same resolution against Port Vale in our next game.
“We have to do better if we are to stay in League One.
“I have never settled for coming second and, while there was a lot to praise in what we did, the final outcome was a defeat.”
Price was Crawley’s first half hero, producing a stunning fourth minute save from Kieran Agard’s close range shot.
The keeper also did well to palm over a swerving effort from Joe Bryan and just before the break got his fingertips to an Agard cross, deflecting it past Matt Smith, who looked set to score.
Crawley were restricted to long range efforts from Shaun Miller and Lanre Oyebanjo, but threatened on the break and worked hard in all areas of the pitch despite little reward. For City it was a fourth successive win in League and cup without conceding a goal.