7th most memorable Bristol City game: Robins play out thriller at Premier League-bound Wolves

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Recalling the best and worst of times at Ashton Gate over the last five years - we take a look at a six-goal thriller at Molineux in which City held Premier League bound Wolves - who dominated th Championship that year

In 2017 Donald Trump was elected as the US President, the UK triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, starting Brexit negotiations, and Liverpool signed Mo Salah.

That year also included the arrival of former Porto goalkeeper turned head coach Nuno Espirito Santo at Wolves, with the West Midlands club surely embarking on one of their greatest league seasons (yep, their First Division wins in the 1950s aside) of the modern era.

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The money continued to flow as Chinese investment group Fosun had completed a £45m takeover the previous summer, and with Paul Lambert dispensed with, former Porto goalkeeper Espirito Santo came in along with several high-profile signings.

Of course, the 2017/18 season was a memorable one for Bristol City too, and despite being unable to convince star striker from the previous season Tammy Abraham to stay on for another year, the Robins were cooking with then Bobby Reid and Joe Bryan flourishing.

The two academy graduates were key parts of a Lee Johnson side that having dallied with the drop the year before, would now surge up the table.

There was also the small matter of a memorable Carabao Cup campaign, but we’ll leave that for another time.

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In September 2017, Bristol City went to Molineux for a daunting test against one of the sides most fancied for promotion.

(Steve Bruce’s Aston Villa, with John Terry joining up at Villa Park, were 2-1 favourites with Garry Monk’s Middlesbrough, with Sheffield Wednesday most fancied after that, with one leading bookmaker. Given that Norwich City, Fulham, Leeds United and Neil Warnock’s Cardiff were in the division too, was this a vintage edition of the English second tier? And Derby County were spending a bit back then too.)

Wolves had smashed their club record transfer fee to recruit Ruben Neves for £15m in the summer and wingback Barry Douglas arrived from Turkish side Konyaspor for £1m. Britt Assombalonga had gone to Middlesbrough for around £15m that summer too, incidentally, as a signpost for some spectacular second tier spending.

Loans included utility forward Diogo Jota (now at Liverpool, of course), powerful centre back Willy Boly (now at Nottingham Forest), wingback Ruben Vinagre (now at Monaco) and front man Benik Afobe, who would join up with Bristol City two years later.

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The side in gold already had star wingers Ivan Cavaleiro and Diego Costa on the books at this time too, with Moroccan defender Romain Saiss, now England international Conor Coady and Spurs’ Matt Doherty on the roster as well.

And on a wet Tuesday night on Waterloo Road, Wolverhampton, Bristol City matched this all-star cast, and were just eight minutes from a shock win.

Brazilian striker Leo Bonatini had tapped in to give Wolves a first-half lead in the 28th minute, with the home side confident after four wins in their first six Championship matches before Johnson took his side to Molineux. Cavaleiro had released another summer signing in Alfred N’Diaye down their right before Bonatini poked in Vinagre’s low shot.

But City equalised through an Aden Flint deft touch just before half-time as Bailey Wright’s drive at goal was deflected past John Ruddy, with Wolves conceding for the first time after three consecutive clean sheets.

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Flint had just come back into the side, scoring the winner in a 0-1 victory at Reading three days prior, following a summer transfer to Birmingham breaking down. Johnson had described the defender’s “head being turned” but Harry Redknapp’s side were unable to agree a deal with the Robins.

Thankfully there was no lasting damage and the goal-scoring central defender was back heavily influencing the play in both boxes here, partnered at the heart of defence with City summer signing Nathan Baker.

After Jota then nudged Wolves ahead after the break following a corner flicked on at the near post, a Famara Diedhiou penalty – after a handball following a threatening Callum O’Dowda run – made it all square again. (And yes, another strange time when Bristol City were given penalties.)

O’Dowda would play a very good game for the Robins that night, although Jonathan Leko was unable to do likewise on the opposite flank. Matty Taylor came on for the loanee for the final half an hour.

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DeCordova-Reid then netted his fifth goal of the season with eight minutes to go, on his way to a fine 19-goal league haul for the season, stabbing in after Wright and Flint had both caused chaos from another corner and the ball came back off the post.

Only for Danny Batth to head a late equaliser just three minutes later, unmarked centrally in the area. It appeared that Flint had lost his man.

The match boiled over on the sidelines at one point towards the end, with both dugouts clashing following Wright going down in the penalty area with a suspected injury.

Assistant head coach Jamie McAllister didn’t hold back on his views following the game:

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“You can see on the video that Bailey won the header. We were concerned about our player who was down injured and they’re looking for a penalty which was poor,” he said.

“Then at the end, we get the ball, their player’s down and they don’t give it us back which I think is shocking, bad sportsmanship.

“Was I pushed? Yes, I kept calm and pushed his arm away. He was in my face, there was no punch, it never happened. The ref just came over to calm things down,” explained the former City left back.

Espirito Santo played down the dramatics on the touchline though, and explained that himself and Johnson had known each other a long time: indeed they had, the two coaches completing their coaching badges together on the same FA coaching licence course up in Scotland. “I’d hit the diags [diagonal long passes] to him on the pitch during the course,” Johnson said of his opposite number back then.

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Wolves would knock Bristol Rovers out of the Carabao Cup just seven days later during that season, before another fiery encounter against City at the turn of the year in a memorbale campaign for both clubs for very different reasons.

Note: The chosen games are not from a fan point of view, and just great wins, but chosen from the press box with the accompanying access and behind-the-scenes knowledge that goes with that.

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