Most memorable Bristol City games: The highs and lows of recent derbies against Cardiff City

Recalling the best and worst of times at Ashton Gate over the last five years - here, at number 6 we look back on a recent series of Severnside derbies when Bristol City didn’t always come out on top

The next Severnside derby will be the 100th. After 89 meetings in the league, seven in the FA Cup and a further three in the League Cup, we’ll reach a century of Anglo-Welsh meetings when the Robins visit the Welsh capital next March.

Bristol City lead the way on wins: 42 to 36, with 21 draws. And a run of four victories in the last five meetings has managed to keep the status quo.

While the Tommy Conway and Rob Atkinson vintage 2-0 on Nigel Pearson’s birthday in August is fresh in the memory, the taming of the neighbours just over the bridge has become fairly routine in the last years.

Aden Flint soared and scored for the side in red at Ashton Gate in a 2-1 home victory in late 2017 before Kenneth Zohore replied later in the season for the Bluebirds on their way to promotion.

That meant a year without a game against Cardiff until two belters in 2019/20. Both matches would precipitate seismic changes at either club too.

First, Josh Brownhill’s rocket had Ashley Williams and co dancing their way back to the visitor’s dressing room at the Cardiff City Stadium (CCS), following the Robins snatching the three points in a televised game in November 2019. The match had repercussions as Neil Warnock then left his job mere hours later, bringing an end to the veteran manager’s three years in charge in South Wales.

He had not been his usual self in the post-match media conferences tellingly. “It is a shared belief that this is the right time for a new voice as we believe this squad of players is more than capable of getting success,” explained the then 70-year-old in a club statement.

Over on the eastern side of the Severn Bridge fans may have been happy at the result and what happened next. But it wouldn’t be long for the other side to chirp up.

This was to be an eventful season, with the game grinding to a halt as the Covid pandemic affected life as we know it.

When play resumed in June during the longest football season yet played out in the UK, Bristol City were hopeful of a late burst of form to make the play-offs for the first time under head coach Lee Johnson.

It didn’t happen, with defeats to Blackburn Rovers, Sheffield Wednesday and then Nottingham Forest putting Johnson under real pressure. Neil Harris’ Cardiff came to Ashton Gate and this time the side in blue took the honours. The narrative was thick as former City playmaker, sold by Johnson, Lee Tomlin played a well-measured through-ball for Danny Ward to net an 85th minute winner.

Danny Ward scores for Cardiff City at Ashton Gate in July 2020 - set up by Lee Tomlin
Danny Ward scores for Cardiff City at Ashton Gate in July 2020 - set up by Lee Tomlin
Danny Ward scores for Cardiff City at Ashton Gate in July 2020 - set up by Lee Tomlin

Centre back Filip Benkovic missed a glorious late opportunity in the game as well, and with that it meant four defeats on the trot and seven in the last nine. The West Country outfit slipped to 12th in the table but crucially they were out of the play-off race. Johnson was fired minutes after the game.

Both Severnside rivals seeing off their opposition boss following narrow 0-1 wins in the same season: call it a draw?

Dean Holden picked up the reins at Ashton Gate and immediately sparked four good results in the five final matches of the year. And ‘Deano’ oversaw an excellent start to the 2020/21 season with four league wins to begin the next Championship assault.

In fact, seven wins in the first 12 matches had Robins supporters dreaming of finally making the jump to finish in the top six in the league. And one of those sweet victories came at the CCS again, as Chris Martin’s goal just seconds from the start, converting Antoine Semenyo’s low cross, was enough to seal a Friday night win in the Welsh capital.

There were no fans there to see it sadly, due to the then Covid regulations, but no doubt the result was gratefully received still.

Holden would never get to manage in front of the City supporters and was not afforded the luxury of time that predecessor Johnson was given to right the Robins (with Cardiff winning in BS3 in February 0-2 to inflict one of the last defeats that would see Holden fired).

Tempers flare during Cardiff City’s win at Ashton Gate in February, 2021
Tempers flare during Cardiff City’s win at Ashton Gate in February, 2021
Tempers flare during Cardiff City’s win at Ashton Gate in February, 2021

But Martin would go on to again affect the derby: a match-winning performance at Ashton Gate following a brace in January 2022, coming after Andi Weimann had done likewise in Cardiff in the August before.

The super Austrian took kit man Scott Murray’s advise on how to celebrate those goals, and added to the folklore surrounding Murray’s legendary strikes at Ninian Park back in 2001.

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.