8th most memorable Bristol City game: Famara Diedhiou’s late winner against QPR fires play-off dream
Recalling the best and worst of times at Ashton Gate over the last five years - here, at number 8, we look back at a controversial late goal back when Bristol City were given penalties... yes, you read that right.
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Famara Diedhiou loves Bristol, that is for sure. The 6ft3’ powerhouse centre forward has since moved to the Super Lig in Turkey following the expiration of his contract, but he has kept his house outside Bristol, his family still reside there and the Senegal striker returns to the South West from time to time. And no, it’s not in Knowle.
Arguably ‘Fam’s best ever goal for Bristol City was one that was ruled out for a Marley Watkins offside, although if it had occurred in the Premier League, with VAR, then the volley from 30 yards out at Wigan during January 2020’s 1-2 win at the DW Stadium would have been given.
Diedhiou still managed to score that day against Wigan, as did Jamie Paterson to help Lee Johnson’s side to a win, with Paterson returning from a mysterious six-month loan spell at Derby County to help inspire the West Country side to a win in the north west.
Diedhiou, the former club record signing from Angers, went on to amass 51 goals from 169 games, scoring on his debut against Barnsley in a 3-1 win, and becoming the club’s joint 25th all-time record goal-scorer.
Against QPR on a cold, dark night on February 19, 2019 the now Alanyaspor no.14 netted one of those goals from the penalty spot in front of the South Stand. Yes, the penalty spot. This was a time many moons ago when EFL referees – Tony Harrington in this case – awarded penalties to Bristol City.
When Steve McClaren’s bottom-half QPR came to Ashton Gate, it looked like a good opportunity for three points, with City old boys Matt Smith and Luke Freeman in attack, and soon-to-be City new boy Nahki Wells leading the line.
The visitors took the lead just before half-time through those three ex- and current Robins players combining, with Smith tapping in.
Lee Johnson’s Bristol City equalised in the second half through a delicious Niclas Eliasson goal, as the winger cut across the box and curled in, before Darnell Furlong fouled Diedhiou in injury time, for a winning goal recorded as 90+3 minutes.
It meant that City had won a seventh league game in a row, sitting fifth in the table after 31 games played.
“Their penalty was ridiculous, and when the referee sees it again he will realise what a big mistake he has made,” said McClaren after the game. “The foul was on Furlong, not the other way around. The fact that he took five seconds to give the penalty showed the doubt in his mind.” In all honesty, the former England manager may have had a point.
Confession: this game won’t be that memorable to many supporters, especially given some of the other exhilarating wins in recent years.
In fact, the Ipswich Town 2-3 victory at Portman Road in the previous November was arguably the more memorable for several reasons: firstly, Johnson was under big pressure and many supporters had begun to turn against him. While City had just lost five of the last seven games and there were murmurings that changes may be needed.
But the context after this QPR result was that with just a third of the season to play, and on a straight of seven league victories in a row, unbeaten in 13 Championship games, nine of those wins, the momentum was really building for the Robins.
And a late winner to grab another three points was a welcome portent of what might happen down the line.
Don’t forget that this was with Adam Webster and Tomas Kalas in full effect in central defence, with Josh Brownhill, Eliasson and Andi Weimann (10 league goals this year but from often played wide) added to Diedhiou (12 league goals) in attack.
Six losses in the next 13 games, despite good wins at Middlesbrough (standard) and Sheffield United (we’ll return to this later) kept City in the hunt for the top six, but defeats to among others Dean Smith’s Aston Villa, Frank Lampard’s Derby County at Ashton Gate – as Antoine Semenyo collected a straight red card for a second half studs-up challenge – and a Barry Bannan-inspired Sheffield Wednesday, were City’s undoing.
Johnson never got closer to the top six, and matching dad Gary’s play-off run, as his Bristol City side drew at Hull on the last day to finish eighth in 201. He was to be fired in the July of the next Covid-affected season, as his team slipped backwards to 12th in the Championship.
When Bristol City beat QPR back in February 2019, anything and everything felt possible, with Diedhiou sending City soaring with his late, late match-winner from the spot.
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.