Bristol City 2 Southampton 1: Sproule strike fells Saints

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The Independent Football

Second place is Bristol City's once more despite one of the least convincing performances since their arrival in the Championship. Two goals in the first 17 minutes, one a wonderful first for the club by the Northern Ireland international Ivan Sproule, proved just enough to recover the ground lost on Tuesday.

But this third successive victory was achieved in the face of incessant second-half Southampton pressure which would have brought an equaliser but for the acrobatics of Adriano Basso in goal. The tide completely turned with the half-time introduction of Inigo Idiakez and abated only when visiting captain Youssef Safri was sent off in stoppage time for striking the back of Lee Johnson's head and prompting from the Bristol manager's son what Southampton manager George Burley called a "shocking" over-reaction. "The second half was total domination by us and we were unfortunate to get nothing," said Burley, who hopes the FA look at Johnson's actions.

Bristol were ahead inside four minutes, Marvin Elliott's header from a Michael McIndoe corner being blocked near the line and Darren Byfield forcing the loose ball in. Southampton cracked again when Sproule took off at speed from in front and left Safri and Christian Dailly floundering in the area before gloriously driving left-footed beyond Kelvin Davis.

The game changed when Idiakez's cross-shot fell for Bradley Wright-Phillips to pull one back after 53 minutes, Basso then saving well from Wright-Phillips and Nathan Dyer while Idiakez fired just wide.

Bristol's manager Gary Johnson said: "You have to defend for your lives sometimes and that's what we have done."

Bristol City (4-4-1-1): Basso; Orr, Carey (McCombe, 27), Fontaine, McAllister; Sproule (Skuse, 73), Elliott, Johnson, McIndoe; Noble (Murray, 46); Byfield. Substitutes not used: Henderson (gk), Trundle.

Southampton (4-3-2-1): Davis; Ifil, Viafara, Dailly, Vignal; Euell (Skacel, 87), Safri, Surman (Idiakez, h-t); Dyer, Wright-Phillips; John (Rasiak, 72). Substitutes not used: Bialkowski (gk), Bennett.

Referee: M Russell (Hertfordshire).