Fans' panel verdicts
JOHN ROPER:A result that I think is actually better than the scoreline suggests.
Many reasons for that, not least of which North End had a day’s less rest after a tough game at Nottingham on Wednesday evening. Add to this the fact that we had several first-teamers out through injury and suspension and the fact that when the home side equalised the momentum was very much with them. However North End, once again, summoned up the energy to mount some late attacks, one of which proved conclusive when Daniel Johnson beat the goalkeeper at his near post to give North End the points and to send the travelling 579 home with a very welcome early Christmas present. Bristol had plenty of possession in the game but the defending in that critical first 20 minutes was outstanding by North End and although the home side scored a good goal and hit the post you never really felt that North End were in trouble at any stage in the game. A crowd of 18,619 inside the very smart, redeveloped, Ashton Gate saw the home side take the initiative right from the start and North End had to defend manfully for the first few minutes of the game. The visitors were just playing Simon Makienok up front and the big Dane was holding up play whenever he could. Having said all that when we got to the 20-minute mark we started to get the ball down and looked slightly quicker in our play than the Robins particularly in the middle of the field. Once North End got a decent foothold in the game it didn’t take us long to take the lead, when Callum Robinson put a peach of a ball into the box from the right hand side and there was Big Mak to knock it home and send the travelling fans into raptures. The game started much more evenly after the break with North End now adopting a 4-1-4-1 formation and looking comfortable on the ball. But Bristol finally got some reward for their efforts when Wilbraham scored with a well placed header with just 10 minutes to go. It would have been easy for North End to shut the shop and settle for a point but with the game stretched Johnson forged his way through midfield and cut in to beat Lucic with a shot inside the post. This time it was game over and although we once again had to endure four minutes of added time, North End saw it out well to claim an excellent West Country victory in the final game before Christmas.
The Whites are on the march again! A win down in Bristol gives North End the perfect Christmas present going into two home games over the festive season. We had to work hard for it though, they caused us problems, especially early on and in the 10 minutes around their equaliser, but we got the business done in the end. We started the game slowly, Bristol all over us for the first 20 minutes or so and could, probably should have been ahead, but then out of nothing, Big Mak struck. A wonderful delivery into the box from Robinson over on the right fell perfectly at Makienok’s feet and he volleyed it home from six yards. After taking the lead, we were much improved, and started to take a grip on the game. We had very good chances to extend the lead, firstly through Browne who sliced an effort inside the area. Then Robinson had an even better chance, a ball in from the right by Baptiste was headed back across goal by Makienok right in to the path of Robinson, who somehow managed to scoop it on to the bar. North End continued to have a good grip on the game but it looked as though we may throw away another two points when Wilbraham equalised for the hosts with 12 minutes left to play, a cross into the box found the big striker who headed back across Maxwell to level things. But Grayson’s side rallied again, the introduction of Hugill was a good one, then with just five minutes left to play, DJ struck. A good ball through by Makienok found Johnson who cut inside and somehow found the net.