Norwich head coach David Wagner was happy to take a point after seeing his play-off chasing side held to a 1-1 draw by Bristol City at Carrow Road.

The Canaries went into the match with eight successive home victories behind them but failed to hit the heights of recent months against in-form opposition and had to come from behind to secure a hard-fought draw.

The draw took Norwich level with fifth-placed West Brom and kept them six points clear of the chasing pack with games running out.

“I am satisfied with the point – if you can’t win a game it is important you take something from it and that is what we have done today,” said Wagner.

“It is another small step closer to our target and the gap between ourselves and the teams chasing us is the same, so that is good.

“We were up against a good side and our performance and energy levels were not as high as they have been recently. We know we can play a lot better than that – but players are only human.

“I can’t complain about their effort and attitude but we were not at our best level today.

“There were a lot of turnovers, giving them opportunities and we were fortunate we had a top level keeper like Gunny (Angus Gunn) out there.

“He was outstanding today – and has shown why I feel he is the best keeper in this league.”

Both goals came in a three-minute spell early in the second half, with a shock Bristol City opener being quickly cancelled out.

The Robins, who went close on several occasions in the opening period, got their noses in front on 56 minutes when defender Haydon Roberts got on the end of a Tommy Conway cutback to score his first league goal for the club.

But the visitors were quickly brought down to earth when they were short at the back as a quick ball forward found Josh Sargent and Norwich’s top scorer squared for Borja Sainz to complete the easiest of finishes.

Bristol City boss Liam Manning was delighted with the performance of his side.

“There were a lot of positives from the game,” he said. “In the first half especially we took the game to them and created a lot of good chances and I suppose the only disappointment was that we failed to take them.

“This is really tough place to come but we went out and played really well against a very good side.

“I guess it says something that we have come away from here with a point and are still a little bit disappointed.

“I thought the players were excellent – they showed a lot of quality on the ball and the work-rate and commitment was there too.

“We are on a good run now, I think that’s six unbeaten and we want to maintain these levels in the next two games, to finish the season in the best way possible.”

Bristol City’s post-match plans were blown off course as their flight home was cancelled in the wake of their goalless draw with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

Having claimed a creditable draw on Wearside thanks mainly to the excellence of their goalkeeper Max O’Leary, who made a string of important saves, City’s players and staff had been due to fly home from Newcastle Airport.

However, high winds resulted in their flight being cancelled, meaning they had to hastily draw up new plans that now involves a 300-mile coach trip back to the south west.

Bristol City boss Liam Manning said: “Our flight home has been cancelled. It’s the wind apparently – it’s bad up here and apparently it’s quite bad in Bristol as well. We found out, as a club, at half-time, but I only found out after the final whistle.

“We’ll have to go by coach now so that’ll add about five hours to the journey home. I guess I’ll spend the time watching the game back. That’s how sad I am. I’ll stick it on the laptop, watch it back, and then use some of that in training next week.”

Manning was pleased with his side’s defensive resilience as they repelled a series of Sunderland attacks to claim a third successive clean sheet, although he admitted he was less satisfied with other aspects of his team’s display.

He said: “The result was more pleasing than the performance. It’s about getting the balance right. In the last two games, the performance and the result were exactly as we would have wanted them. Today, in terms of the performance, we know we can play a lot better.

“I thought there were little mistakes and little things not quite right. We showed a different side to ourselves though. We showed a resilience, a grit and a togetherness. People stepped up, like Max who was outstanding.

“Max made some excellent saves, especially in the first half. He was excellent, but then he has been so often for us. He’s made so many big saves for us.”

Sunderland were thrashed 5-1 by Blackburn on Bank Holiday Monday, so while he was frustrated that his side failed to take all three points, with Adil Aouchiche and Bradley Dack both hitting the crossbar, Mike Dodds was nevertheless delighted with his players’ response to their home humiliation at the start of the week.

Sunderland’s interim head coach said: “I think we had 20 shots on goal. If their goalkeeper isn’t man of the match I’ll be amazed. It was a positive reaction to the previous game, which psychologically is big for the players.

“The last performance was completely unacceptable. I’m disappointed we haven’t won because that should have been three points, and I think their goalkeeper has earned a point for them today.

“I was hoping to see a significant reaction from the players. I thought we got that and it could have been out of sight in the first half. It should have been a lot more comfortable.”

Boss Enzo Maresca was in bullish mood after Anis Mehmeti’s superb strike earned Bristol City a 1-0 win to put another dent in Leicester’s bid for automatic promotion from the Championship.

The winger found the roof of the net with a stunning left-footed strike from the edge of the box in the 73rd minute to inflict a fourth defeat in six league games on the stuttering Foxes.

Leicester paid for missed chances, with Jamie Vardy the leading culprit as he was twice denied by fine Max O’Leary saves when one-on-one with the Robins goalkeeper.

Vardy was substituted after Mehmeti’s goal and along with his team-mates had to endure boos at the final whistle from the massed ranks of travelling fans.

But Maresca declined to join in any sense of panic and said: “There would be cause for concern if the performances weren’t there.

“But we are creating so much and our recent defeats have all been down to not finishing our chances.

“The reaction of our fans at the end was understandable. All I can say to them is if they get nervous now it can transmit to the players over our remaining games. They have been brilliant up to now.

“Jamie Vardy doesn’t need to apologise to anyone after all he has contributed over the years.

“Even the best strikers miss chances. That’s football. He will continue to be a very important player to us over the remaining games.

“We have another game in 72 hours so there is no time to dwell on this defeat. We have to recover quickly and be ready to face Norwich.”

Bristol City head coach Liam Manning paid glowing tribute to his players after their best win since he took charge.

He said: “I have to admit I expected our net to bulge with the Vardy chances but Max O’Leary did an outstanding job.

“He has international ambitions with Ireland and they are looking increasingly realistic.

“We might have had a couple of penalties and the lads were terrific in carrying out our game plan. In the end, we deserved the result.

“Results have not always gone our way recently but the dividing line between success and failure in the Championship is so slim.

“I see the lads in training every day and I know how keen they are to learn and improve.

“Players like Anis Mehmeti are still at the beginnings of their careers. He can frustrate at times but his goal showed what he is capable of producing.

“You always need to ride your luck at times against quality opposition but I couldn’t be happier with the overall team performance.”

Bristol City boss Liam Manning chose ‘not to waste his energy’ talking about the officiating after he watched his side suffer their fifth defeat in six Sky Bet Championship matches as they lost 2-0 at play-off chasing West Brom.

Tom Fellows opened the scoring for the Baggies in the 45th minute, before captain Jed Wallace doubled the hosts’ advantage within five minutes of the second half commencing.

City’s players – including goalkeeper Max O’Leary – took exception to the manner of the opening goal, claiming Albion forward Grady Diangana had blocked O’Leary’s view from an offside position. The goal stood and left Robins players and Manning himself bemused.

“You waste your breath on him [referee Tom Nield] to be honest,” he said. “I thought the ref was really poor all game, so I don’t want to waste my energy talking about him.

“I thought the lads all left it out there. We kept trying to play but we just lacked quality in the final third. We need to keep working and improving on that.

“The big thing today was belief. When you’ve had a tough time, believing in the work you do…too often when we go behind we don’t respond well enough. That’s for us to look at but you can see the work that has been done.”

City are 14th, having fallen away in the play-off race, and away supporters at The Hawthorns voiced their frustrations at the full-time whistle having seen their side win just twice on the road since October.

“I can only control what I can,” Manning replied, when asked about his job security.

“You need to have an element of realism. We’ve recruited, made a change mid-season. We have shown we can make progression despite having sold two players to the Premier League last season.

“We want the fans with us, it helps us and it brings us energy at times.

“I turn up, do my best every single day. You can see what the plan is on the pitch, but we need players to step up at key times.”

West Brom, meanwhile, tightened their grasp on fifth position and strengthened their pursuit of the play-offs with this victory.

Manning’s counterpart Carlos Corberan, who has transformed the club’s fortunes since his appointment in October 2022, was only left to rue the margin of victory, which he believed ought to have been greater because of the chances his side created following Wallace’s finish.

“I think that we should have scored the third one, if we were to say it was comfortable. In these types of games, a goal in the last moments can change the feeling,” he said.

“We needed to be constant more than patient, to insist on the things that we needed to do.

“When the opponent is defending and being well organised, you need to disorganise them to create the chance. When you start to do that, positive things can happen – but so can mistakes that give opportunities to them.

“In general we managed some moments in attack well, in some moments no. The same in defence.

“There are things that (we) need to do better to be more dominant in the game.”

Erol Bulut hailed the impact of Liverpool loanee Nat Phillips after Cardiff completed a Severnside derby double over Bristol City.

Perry Ng’s second-half header gave Cardiff a 1-0 success at Ashton Gate and back-to-back wins for the first time since October.

The Robins’ best moments were snuffed out by centre-back Phillips, who has proved a key player since arriving from Anfield in January.

“Nat is a big add to us, he gives confidence in the defence and organises the defence,” said Cardiff manager Bulut after his side had leapfrogged their opponents in the Championship standings.

“Other players next to him are acting on it and that’s important.

“He has played for Liverpool and Celtic, big teams, and he knows when you get pressure how to stay calm.

“He gives this to the other players too and with (goalkeeper) Ethan (Horvath) there now we can also play better from the back.”

Cardiff’s 66th-minute winner was their 17th goal from a set-piece this season – a Championship high.

Ng rose highest from a David Turnbull corner for his sixth goal of the season and second against Bristol City after scoring in Cardiff’s 2-0 home win over the Robins in October.

Bulut said: “I think the game was 50-50 over the 90 minutes, but congratulations to my players because they worked really hard and the luck was on our side.

“We are one of the best teams in the league from set-pieces.

“We always work on it and, if you analyse my previous clubs, it’s something we did there too.

“We kept our concentration and closing down the spaces, so I am happy.

“We are getting a little confidence back, which is good, and we have to stay together.”

Bristol City have now lost three in a row since winning at Middlesbrough and beating promotion-chasing Southampton at home.

A chorus of boos from home fans greeted the final whistle and boss Liam Manning said he would “take it on the chin”.

Manning said: “I’ve got thick skin. Of course I don’t want to hear it.

“I want the team to perform and succeed, I’ve had to fight and scrap in my career to get where I am.

“I’ll take it on the chin, be calm and get ready to go again on Tuesday.”

Asked what the Robins were short on in defeat, Manning replied: “Quality in the final third.

“We need people to step up and take responsibility in high-pressure moments and deliver.

“On the goal, set-pieces are probably Cardiff’s biggest threat – and most of their goals come from first contacts as well – and it’s hugely annoying.

“I didn’t think there was a huge amount of quality from both sides, so you’ve got to make sure you don’t lose and it finishes 0-0.”

Liam Manning praised an exhilarating display by his Bristol City team after they demolished promotion-chasing Southampton 3-1.

The head coach was understandably elated after second-half goals from Sam Bell, Rob Dickie and substitute Harry Cornick had rewarded a scintillating display.

Bell converted a low Anis Mehmeti cross to break the deadlock after 52 minutes. Dickie headed the second from a Joe Williams corner 20 minutes later and Cornick fired home from a pass by fellow substitute Ross McCrorie eight minutes from time.

Southampton replied in added time when Adam Armstrong netted from the spot after a foul on Kyle Walker-Peters, but Russell Martin’s men could have no complaints.

Manning said: “It was the most complete performance since I took the job. Our levels have been good and consistent, but not always showing the ruthlessness we need.

“That was still the case in the first half tonight and Southampton got on top of us for 20 minutes or so.

“Apart from that, I couldn’t have asked for more. I’m really pleased for Sam Bell that he scored.

“I had a chat with him the day after he missed his shoot-out penalty at Nottingham Forest last week and his response to that disappointment in the FA Cup has been fantastic.

“It says a lot for the spirit in our camp that we have bounced back to win two tough Championship games.

“The players are buying into what I want and there is a real togetherness with them and the staff.

“Each individual knows his job and we are making progress.”

Southampton head coach Martin said: “I’m disappointed tonight, but immensely proud of the players for the run we have been on. To go 25 games unbeaten is phenomenal.

“Bristol City were really good and we lacked that energy and quality that has been winning us games during our good run.

“I’m annoyed at the goals we conceded and we need to work on that. They ran their socks off, worked so hard and caused us problems.

“But we had chances at 0-0 and 1-0 down, which could have changed things. We weren’t clean enough with the ball tonight, but still had periods of control.

“Our fans were brilliant and I’m disappointed for them. But the overall feeling is still one of immense pride at what we have achieved recently.

“The amazing run was always going to come to an end and now it is all about how we respond.”

Southampton now sit third in the table with a game in hand over second-placed Leeds two points above them.

Leeds moved into the Championship automatic promotion places as Wilfried Gnonto’s 48th-minute goal earned a 1-0 victory over Bristol City at Ashton Gate.

The Italy winger beat goalkeeper Max O’Leary with a clinical left-footed finish from 10 yards after running on to a deflected long ball forward from Junior Firpo.

It was no more than Leeds deserved for a hugely impressive display in a largely one-sided contest, with their hosts out of sorts and only able to create a few openings.

City head coach Liam Manning made three changes from the 2-2 draw at Coventry, with Ross McCrorie, Matty James and Tommy Conway named in the starting line-up.

Leeds boss Daniel Farke made one team change, bringing in Gnonto for the injured Dan James.

Leeds made a bright start and had the first effort on goal in the ninth minute when Joe Rodon fired over from a Glen Kamara pass.

At the other end Nahki Wells had a low shot blocked after running on to a Cam Pring header.

Leeds had a great chance to take the lead after 13 minutes when Crysencio Summerville caught George Tanner in possession and raced clear down the middle only to shoot too close to O’Leary, who saved with a hand above his head.

O’Leary was in action again five minutes later parrying a Patrick Bamford shot from inside the box. Then Summerville cleared the crossbar from another good shooting position.

Leeds began to dominate and O’Leary denied them again after 34 minutes, blocking a close-range shot from Georginio Rutter for a corner after Bamford had outstripped Zak Vyner to cross from the right.

City were relieved to reach the interval on level terms, taking their time over throw-ins and set-pieces.

Leeds only needed to find an end product to their slick approach play, and they put that right immediately after the break with Gnonto’s clinical finish.

It should have been 2-0 three minutes later as Summerville robbed Pring and raced through to feed Kamara, whose shot was deflected for a corner with only O’Leary to beat.

O’Leary saved a low drive from the dangerous Summerville, but Leeds almost paid for not putting the game to bed in the 66th minute when Tommy Conway’s pass found Bristol City substitute Anis Mehmeti and his shot almost squeezed under advancing goalkeeper Illan Meslier.

Still Leeds squandered chances, the elusive Summerville firing wide after another penetrating break.

But there was little threat at the other end from a tired-looking Bristol City outfit and the final whistle brought scenes of celebration as the Leeds players saluted their large band of travelling fans.

Nuno Espirito Santo believes Nottingham Forest have taken a “big step” after a goalless FA Cup draw at Bristol City produced the first clean sheet of his City Ground reign.

Forest must fit a fourth-round replay into their busy schedule after drawing 0-0 with the mid-table Sky Bet Championship side at Ashton Gate.

But boss Nuno focused on the positives after a first clean sheet in his seven games at Forest, saying: “It was a good performance with two different parts.

“The first half was not so good, the second half much better. First half we did not control our pressure, we allowed too many balls inside and they created some problems for us.

“Second half we controlled the game, we dominated and did not allow chances.

“So that’s a big step for us to have a clean sheet. Something we are constantly looking for.

“We created chances in the second half but could not finish. So let’s now go for the second leg because Bristol City is a good team.”

Forest return to Premier League action at home to Arsenal on Tuesday, in 16th place and just four points above the relegation zone.

In what had been a hectic start since replacing Steve Cooper last month, Nuno had seen his Forest side score 14 goals and concede 11 in six games.

“This will definitely help us,” said the Portuguese. “Since we arrived we have not been able to keep a clean sheet.

“Conceding goals is something that has caused too many problems for us. Every game we score two or three goals, but we are conceding too much.

“I told the boys this is our first objective in the game, defend well and keep clean sheets because we have quality and talent to solve the game.

“As a team we must always look to defend well, be compact and not allow chances.”

Bristol City had beaten West Ham in a third-round replay and Ashton Gate was packed to the rafters again in the hope of witnessing another upset.

Forest had the only two attempts on target but there was no lack of endeavour from the Robins – who are 13th in the Championship – and they did cause moments of danger.

City head coach Liam Manning said: “The lads are actually quite frustrated in the changing room, a little bit disappointed.

“I get that and I quite like that, because the intensity, the competitiveness and the bravery we showed – especially in the first half – I thought was excellent.

“We missed a bit of composure around the box, that bit of conviction and cool head you need.

“But it’s another experience ticked off with a lot of positives.

“We’ve got another game now, but it’s a great opportunity and great experience to go up there and test ourselves again.”

Liam Manning was not in the least surprised by an impressive debut from on-loan midfielder Scott Twine as his first-half goal earned Bristol City a point from a 1-1 Championship draw with Watford.

But the head coach did admit astonishment at the manner of the 25th-minute equaliser. Twine climbed above a defender to head into an unguarded net after goalkeeper Ben Hamer had blocked Tommy Conway’s close-range drive into his path.

“I reckon it’s the first time Scott has ever scored with a header,” said Manning. “He probably closed his eyes and it went in off his nose.”

The goal cancelled out Tom Dele-Bashiru’s 13th-minute well-struck penalty for Watford – after Rob Dickie had handled the ball inside the box – and ensured a fair outcome to a competitive English second-tier clash.

Manning and Twine have worked effectively together before as the player scored 20 goals in a season for MK Dons with the same boss in charge during the 2021-22 season.

Signed last Monday from Burnley on loan until the end of the season, the 24-year-old caught the eye with his accurate delivery from free-kicks and corners.

Manning added: “Scott showed what he is all about and will only improve as he gets to know the other players.

“He had a chance to score before his goal and is great at getting forward into threatening positions.

“His dead-ball delivery is one of the reasons I wanted to sign him and it was clear to see, I felt we had the better chances in the game.

“Two or three outstanding ones went begging. We had 15 shots from inside their box, which is a very high number.

“They had more control in the first half, but we had a chat during the break and came out firing.

“We were much more on the front foot and played in the areas we wanted to play in.

Both sides had chances to claim all three points from a stirring battle with no quarter asked or given.

Dickie had a late header brilliantly saved by Hamer, while Robins goalkeeper Max O’Leary produced a brave first-half save at the feet of Yaser Asprilla.

Watford boss Valerian Ismael said: “It was another solid away performance from us. We were strong, pressed well and were tactically very sound.

“We just needed to be more mature in our decision-making at times. That is the next step if we are to win games consistently. We have to be more ruthless.

“It was a clear penalty and we had another good opportunity to be ahead at half-time.

“Our attacking intent was very good in the first 45 minutes. In the second half, we got into more promising situations only to fail with the right final pass or cross.

“We have to be better at controlling the ball in our opponents’ half. Sometimes we take too many touches and lose possession.

“We need to be more calm on the ball, but that is OK, it will come.

“We are working with a lot of young players and I am pleased with the progress they are making.

“We have the possibility of entering the transfer market before the deadline and I am hopeful of doing some business.”

Manning does not anticipate any more signings before the deadline and said there were no deals imminent that would see players leaving.

Liam Manning promised that his Bristol City side will get even better after their 4-1 victory at Watford.

The Robins thoroughly deserved their triumph, their third straight win under former Oxford boss Manning, who arrived at Ashton Gate last month.

It was also their first on the road under Manning, and City’s first back-to-back triple since November 2020.

Manning said: “We’re going in the right direction but I told the players afterwards that we can play better than that.

“That’s what excites me about the group. The challenge is to strive every day to improve, but there were so many positives today.

“Three or four weeks ago, I was giving interviews saying how it would come together for us, and it would happen.

“I’m delighted for the players. They’ve stayed level and grounded, they haven’t got too flat when we’ve lost or super high when we’ve won, and that’s the most important bit – head down and work hard.

“The game plan worked, I’m very fortunate to have a staff who are as obsessive and intense as me.

“They put a lot of hours in to create what we want to do. And huge credit goes to the players in the way they implement it.”

That game plan saw City go ahead in the 28th minute. Watford midfielder Edo Kayembe’s attempt to head clear from Taylor Gardner-Hickman’s free-kick fell straight to Cameron Pring, who hammered home.

Then, two minutes into first-half added time, Watford skipper Wesley Hoedt put Tommy Conway’s cross into his own goal – without a City player anywhere near.

Substitute Giorgi Chakvetadze narrowed the lead four minutes into the second half, only for Mark Sykes to make it 3-1 almost from the restart.

City replacement Andreas Weimann killed off the game with City’s fourth in the 83rd minute against his former side as Watford stood vainly waiting for the offside flag after the Austrian had been set free by Joe Williams’ pass.

Watford boss Valerien Ismael had been hoping to see his side break into the top six, but he said: “It’s a big disappointment.

“We gave the game away from the first minute. We made too many mistakes, which made it difficult to give a fluid display.

“What summed up the match was when he came back into it at 2-1 and then conceded. That was sloppy. We beat ourselves. We have to take control of the ball more.

“We have to always stay on a level where we can win the game. But against City we beat ourselves – it’s as simple as that.

“We never had control. Fatigue is no excuse – it’s the same for every team. We know we have the solution, but on the other hand we must make sure that everyone can perform at the correct level.”

Bristol City head coach Liam Manning reflected on winning a Christmas cracker against Hull and admitted: “We like to do things the hard way.”

His side led through Tommy Conway’s 24th-minute penalty, awarded for handball against Jacob Greaves, only to fall behind by half-time to Aaron Connolly’s solo strike and an Ozan Tufan spot-kick after referee Ben Toner spotted a dubious foul on Greaves in a crowded box.

Anis Mehmeti matched the brilliance of Connolly’s goal with a similar effort to equalise on 77 minutes and after Hull lost goalkeeper Ryan Allsop to an injury sustained trying to prevent that goal, Knight beat his replacement Matt Ingram with a deflected effort to settle the outcome.

Manning joked that he had aged 10 years during the previous home win over Sunderland and again had his emotions put through the wringer.

He said: “Up to our goal, we were excellent and caused them real problems. Then we got a bit emotional and they took advantage as a very good side who are well coached and on a good run of form.

“The less said about Hull’s penalty the better. There was so little contact on their player and I’m just glad the result wasn’t influenced by a poor refereeing decision.

“But we responded to the setback well, even in the final minutes of the first half, and the second-half performance was excellent.

“We got on the front foot and showed some moments of real quality. We spoke at half-time and there was so much good in the first half that I didn’t want to derail it.

“The message to the players was that we faced a terrific challenge and could either step up and build on our good first-half play or let the penalty decision have an adverse effect.”

Hull head coach Liam Rosenior, a former player for both clubs, was serving a one-match touchline ban and admitted: “Watching from the stand was horrendous. I have learned my lesson and never want to let it happen again.

“Credit to Bristol for playing well, but for us it was three points dropped. I sound like a broken record when I say that we didn’t get the result we deserved.

“Our level of performance was again good, but we have to manage games better because the end product is all-important. It’s so frustrating because we should have more points on the board than we have.

“The defeat was self-inflicted. There was so much good in the way we played.

“Ryan Allsop hurt his back diving for their second goal and that is just bad luck.

“I believe that if you perform consistently over the course of a season you will end up where you deserve to be. We were by far the better team, but key moments in the game have cost us.”

Liam Manning joked that he had aged ten years watching his City team defend for their lives to beat impressive Sunderland in the Sky Bet Championship.

Tommy Conway’s 20th-minute penalty, after Taylor Gardner-Hickman was tripped by Sunderland goalkeeper Anthony Patterson, proved enough to settle a hugely competitive game at Ashton Gate.

Play-off hopefuls Sunderland dominated for long periods of the second half but could find no way past inspired City keeper Max O’Leary, who made brilliant saves to keep out two Luke O’Nien headers and one from substitute Jobe Bellingham.

Head coach Manning said: “Max was outstanding, not just with his saves but the composure he showed under pressure.

“I’ve aged 10 years watching the game but I’m delighted for the lads because of the togetherness and spirit they showed.

“We have played better, but despite defending for long periods we were always a threat and had chances to extend the lead.

“I have a terrific group of players and, while there is room for them to develop, they lack nothing in effort.

“In a tough league like the Championship, you cannot afford to get too high when you win or too down when you lose.

“What the fans want to see above all is a team putting bodies on the line and giving 100 per cent. There could be no complaints on that score today.

“The commitment to block shots and stop crosses was fantastic. It had to be because Sunderland played well, particularly in the second half.

“Still, I felt we were always capable of catching them on the break. Anis Mehmeti has hit a post and Harry Cornick was through on goal after going on as a substitute.”

Sunderland were caught playing out from the back for the penalty, having survived a previous scare doing the same, and interim coach Mike Dodds was understandably frustrated.

“My anger is mainly directed at a mad 15 minutes in the first half when we invited Bristol City to take the lead,” he said.

“Apart from the penalty incident, there were three or four other lapses that went unpunished and it gave them impetus.

“If I had seen that sort of sloppiness in training, the players concerned wouldn’t have been in the team.

“I haven’t seen it from the team before and don’t want to again. There were words spoken about it at half-time.

“We completely controlled the second half and created chances without taking them. I can live with that, but what happened in the first half was unacceptable.

“Their keeper has made some good saves, but at times our finishing could have been better.”

Of his own situation, Dodds added: “The club have been great in communicating with me and the ball is firmly in their court over what happens next.

“Whoever becomes the next head coach will inherit a fantastic dressing room at a club definitely on the up.”

The hosts hit a post in the first half through Mehmeti’s curling shot but had to survive several Sunderland penalty appeals during a backs-to-the-wall second half.

Playing towards their 2,600 travelling fans, the visitors applied constant pressure, only to be denied by O’Leary and some committed last-ditch defending.

Cornick had a great chance to settle the outcome when breaking clear, but the hosts were hanging on at the end before celebrating three hard-earned points.

Liam Manning admitted a cool exterior belied a racing heartbeat after his first home game as Bristol City head coach produced a 3-2 Championship victory from a five-goal thriller.

The Robins looked on course for a comfortable win when Taylor Gardner-Hickman curled a superb first goal for the club after 37 minutes and Tommy Conway doubled the advantage with a penalty just before the break after Matty James had been fouled.

But Boro roared back to level by the 52nd minute through Zak Vyner’s headed own goal and a Matt Crooks shot before Mark Sykes volleyed home a 67th-minute winner from an acute angle.

Manning punched the air at the final whistle, having taken four points from his first two games as successor to Nigel Pearson.

“That was nice and relaxing,” he joked after being asked to evaluate his first game in charge at Ashton Gate.

“There are less stressful ways to spend a Saturday afternoon and my heart is still racing. But I consider myself in a privileged position as head coach of a great club.

“Overall I’m delighted. The second half didn’t start as we had planned, but we will learn from that and the way the players defended the lead after going 3-2 up was fantastic.

“We worked in training on four of the lads defending against eight attackers and it was a bit like that in the closing stages when every player had to show great commitment.

“The most positive sign was the number of quality chances we created against a very good side. The crowd played their part and I felt very proud to be on the touchline at Ashton Gate in charge of a Bristol City team.

“You never stop learning in this game and if you think you know it all, you shouldn’t be involved.

“I have great faith in the squad I have inherited and we have a lot of young players who will improve with age and experience.”

Boro boss Michael Carrick sent his side out early for the second half, but made it clear there were no teacups thrown during the interval.

He said: “I just told the players to believe in what they are good at. Do what they do best. In the second half we were more like our usual selves.

“We controlled the game for long periods so I’m very disappointed to be going home with nothing.

“I didn’t think it was a penalty because our player got a touch on the ball, but that’s football.

“We paid for a messy five minutes in the first half and one in the second. Other than that, we played some good stuff.

“When those little moments catch you out, you can find yourselves with too much to do.

“The boys were good chasing the game in the second half and then one lapse has cost us.

“All their goals came from isolated incidents. First a shot into the top corner no goalkeeper would have saved, then a penalty and then a corner.

“We didn’t manage the minutes leading up to half-time well enough. But the players responded really well after the break and we looked the only team likely to win.

“Bristol City were well organised and asked questions of us. I wish Liam all the best in his new job.”

Craig Short experienced a wave of emotion as he witnessed his Oxford side record a 3-2 away win at Leyton Orient.

Appointed on an interim basis after boss Liam Manning resigned earlier in the week before joining Bristol City, he saw the U’s take a three-goal lead with a double from Ruben Rodrigues and a goal by Billy Bodin before a Fin Stevens own goal and a strike by leading scorer Ruel Sotiriou gave Orient a lifeline.

“It was a fantastic game for the neutral but awful emotionally for us in the dugout,” Short admitted. “You always feel like that but for them to score so soon after we got the third goal put them on the front foot.

“I said to the lads after the game if you’re playing against a football-playing side it can be more predictable but because they were so for direct and overloaded the box it created problems and that’s the way it happens sometime.

“But we managed it fairly well and the subs made a difference for us.

“Just because we started well the first then minutes you can’t expect to come away from home and win the game. They came back and we weathered the storm in the first half and then got the two goals and the third in the second half which we needed.

“It wasn’t pretty but Orient have had one defeat in nine so it’s a scalp for us away from home.”

Asked about his prospects of keeping the job on a permanent basis, he responded: “Personally I’m just getting on with it. I’ve enjoyed the responsibility and am lucky to have great people around me who care about the club.”

O’s boss Richie Wellens said: “For the first 50 minutes it was very reminiscent of the Portsmouth league game where we played well in parts but conceded just before half-time.

“We just didn’t affect the game and looked like we were a team feeling sorry for ourselves. I am proud we responded when we were 3-0 down. We got a response straight away but I am disappointed we didn’t stick to the game plan so it was frustrating.

“We thought they had certain weaknesses where we could play forward and dominate them physically and when we had patches where we stuck to that it caused problems.

“We found ourselves 2-0 down but it was only because of our own mistakes and they could have had a couple more but I never felt like they would cause us problems or cut us open on the counter-attack.

“We showed a little bit of lack of experience but I was proud of the players and we have still got a lot of improvement in us.”

QPR and Bristol City played out a 0-0 draw at Loftus Road, highlighting that their new managers both have work to do.

City defended well in their first match under Liam Manning in a solid but unspectacular start to his reign following his recent arrival from Oxford as successor to Nigel Pearson.

QPR boss Marti Cifuentes will take some encouragement from his team’s display in his first home game at the helm.

But the west London side have now gone 11 matches without a win, continue to struggle to create clear-cut chances and remain one off the bottom of the Championship table, having won only once at home in more than a year.

Draws in his first two games represents a reasonable start for Cifuentes given that he inherited a team which had suffered six consecutive defeats, leading to the sacking of Gareth Ainsworth, but Rangers need to pick up wins soon.

They at least look less prone to defensive errors – a problem which constantly plagued them during Ainsworth’s troubled spell in charge.

QPR striker Lyndon Dykes had a couple of sights of goal in the first half, heading Kenneth Paal’s right-wing corner well over and seeing a shot blocked by Matty James following Paal’s free-kick.

The home side also appealed in vain for a penalty when Paul Smyth’s cross struck Zak Vyner’s arm.

City themselves had appeals for a penalty waved away after the interval when Paal appeared to handle the ball as he challenged Anis Mehmeti.

City then absorbed a period of QPR pressure in which Andre Dozzell shot over and Smyth fired wide of the near post after being found by Dykes.

Cifuentes sent on Sinclair Armstrong in place of Dykes in an attempt to break the deadlock – and the young striker caused City some problems with his pace and power, unsuccessfully appealing for a penalty after going down in the box under a challenge from Vyner.

But the Robins were largely comfortable as QPR, without suspended playmaker Ilias Chair, ran out of ideas in the final stages, with Elijah Dixon-Bonner slicing a shot wide after being teed up by fellow substitute Taylor Richards.

City threatened late on, with Mark Sykes causing problems for QPR on the right flank, but they lacked a cutting edge up front and the draw was very much a fair result.

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