COTTERILL STILL FULL OF PRAISE
STEVE COTTERILL had a pleasant surprise for any City players who might have expected a roasting over the loss of two points.
“I’ve never been more proud of them,” enthused the manager. “They never stopped trying to win the game and their energy level after so many games this season is unbelievable.
“We battered Gillingham in the second half and I can’t believe we haven’t won the game.You have to give them credit for the way they defended, but the ball just would not drop right for us today.
“I have said many times this season that we have something special at our club.
“Sometimes, you don’t know what to feel after a home draw, but this time I feel nothing but pride.
“Gillingham’s aim was to avoid defeat. I don’t blame them for that and I am sure they are delighted with their efforts.
“We got some great balls into their box and just couldn’t apply the finishing touch. In all other ways, it was a really good performance.”
A brave goal-saving block by centre-back John Egan, to keep out a shot from substitute Jay Emmanuel-Thomas as injury-time approached, summed up Gillingham’s heroic defending.
The runaway League One leaders bombarded them as the game went on. But, when City did create clear openings, Aaron Wilbraham glanced a header just wide, while Luke Ayling and Luke Freeman fired over.
The introduction of Emmanuel-Thomas with 15 minutes left gave Cotterill’s men more penetration, but Stuart Nelson denied him with a smart save – and there was always a body in the way in a crowded box.
The best first-half chance fell to Gillingham’s Bradley Dack as early as the fourth minute when he shot wide at the far post from a Joe Martin corner.
Joe Bryan offered the main threat for City but couldn’t summon up the end product to match some promising approach play.
In a frantic finish, referee David Webb had to stay strong in the face of loud penalty appeals from home fans, who could take consolation from their team reaching the 80-point mark for the season with nine games still to go.
Gills boss Justin Edinburgh said: “We came here believing we could get something and every player contributed. It was a tremendous team effort.
“We were playing the champions-elect. Bristol City are not where they are by accident and they made life very difficult for us in the second half.
“But we kept getting bodies in the way and actually had a few opportunities to hit them on the counter-attack.
“I am really enjoying working with this group of players, and a display like this shows what we are about.
“It required a lot of effort from every individual, but whatever the game took out of them will have been restored by the performance and result.”
ROBIN IN FLIGHT: Bristol City’s Aaron Wilbraham rises highest to win a header UNDER PRESSURE: Joe Bryan of Bristol City beats challenge of Oliver Muldoon STAR MAN JOHN EGAN Gillingh
BRISTOL CITY (3-5-2): Fielding 6, Ayling 7, Flint 7, Williams 6 (Cunningham 30, 7), Little 6, Pack 8, Smith 6, Freeman 6, Bryan 7 (Tavernier 74, 6), Wilbraham 6, Agard 6 (Emmanuel-Thomas 74, 7) Subs not used: Richards, Elliott, Wagstaff, Saville
GILLINGHAM (4-4-2): Nelson 6; Hoyte 8, Egan 8, Ehmer 8, Martin 8, Muldoon 6 (McGlashan 66, 6), Morris 7, Dack 7, Loft 6, Marquis 6 (Norris 77, 6), McDonald 6 Subs not used: Morris, Legge, Galbraith, Dickenson, Romeo