City staged a second-half comeback to shock promotion contenders West Brom at Ashton Gate this afternoon.
Inspired by the pacy wing play of Danny Haynes down the right, City scored twice in five second-half minutes to claim the scalp of the high-flying Baggies.
Unusually Johnson resisted the temptation to tinker with the side that were lucky to draw with Leicester in midweek, meaning the same XI were retained for the first time since October.
That meant there was no place for the inspirational Paul Hartley in midfield as the manager kept faith with his boy.
Haynes set the tone for his afternoon in the first minute, as he skipped past Joe Mattock with ease before finding the side netting. It was a sign of things to come!
A long Gabriel Tamas punt from the back sent Roman Bednar away before Louis Carey produced a timely challenge with the striker poised.
Bradley Orr then sent a screaming shot with his swinger from 25-yards that just flashed past Scott Carson’s upright.
On 22 minutes, Iwelumo met Orr’s deep centre from the right which worked former England hopeful Carson.
The Baggies upped it a notch thereafter, Chris Brunt finding space on the left wing to bend an inch-perfect cross for Bednar six yards out. The big Czech striker could only fire at Gerken’s feet, not that the City keeper looked to have known much about it.
With City still reeling from that narrow escape, Gianni Zuiverloon intercepted a poor pass from Marvin Elliott to slip in Graeme Dorrans who angled his drive across Gerken and in off the far post on 24.
Bednar should have doubled the Albion’s lead after twisting away from Nyatanga but shot straight at Gerken from 10 yards, whilst Haynes missed City’s best chance to level before the break.
Haynes was proving to be a real tricky customer on the right-wing and went full throttle after the interval, winning a corner that led to the equaliser on 55.
Lee Johnson’s floated corner was rescued and recycled by Carey, whose glancing header landed at the feet of Iwelumo to draw level with his first goal for the club.
Haynes was at it again moments later, as he produced a dazzling run and cross to the unmarked Johnson who simply couldn’t miss from six yards out.
Liam Fontaine connected with one that flashed wide at the near post before Haynes had the beating of Mattock again but his shot was easy for Carson to deal with.
Iwelumo headed a decent chance over the top from another right-wing centre, whilst Clarkson saw his curled effort deflected wide for a corner.
A visibly knackered looking Haynes was hauled off to a standing ovation on 83 before the board went up for five minutes of stoppage time.
Iwelumo looked to have been tripped in the box for a blatant penalty but the ref waved away our protests before Bednar was twice denied an equaliser by Gerken as City held on for a MASSIVE three points.
CITY (4-3-3): Gerken, Orr, Carey, Nyatanga, Fontaine, Skuse, Johnson (Hartley ’94), Elliott, Haynes (Haynes ’83), Iwelumo, Clarkson (Maynard ’79).
ALBION (4-3-3): Carson, Zuiverloon (Wood ’79), Tamas, Olsson, Mattock, Koren (Cox ’61), Dorrans, Brunt, Mulumbu, Bednar, Nouble (Slory ’56).
REFEREE: Neil Swarbrick (Preston)
Dean Gerken 7
No chance with the goal and a few stray kicks but otherwise sound. Made a smart save to deny Bednar late on.
Bradley Orr 7
Had a better game down the right. Defensively resolute and occasionally broke forward to good effect too.
Liam Fontiane 7
Asked to play left-back again, did his defensive duties well, provided the only width down the left but distribution was understandably lacking for a centre-half.
Lewin Nyatanga 6
Quiet game, which means he was solid, and produced one outstanding block to deny Bednar.
Louis Carey 7
Back to his usual standards again today. Lead from the front, battled hard and even popped up in attack as the game opened up.
Marvin Elliott 7
Looked to be culpable for the goal in a dodgy first-half but turned it around with a swashbuckling second-half performance in the engine room.
Cole Skuse 8
Excellent, all-action performance. Broke up play when he could and pushed himself to the limit going up and down through the middle.
Lee Johnson 6
Was a passenger in the first-half but got amongst it more in the second. Couldn’t miss with his goal.
David Clarkson 7
Full of industry down the left side in attack. Competed well and getting fitter by the game.
Chris Iwelumo 8
Real hustle and bustle performance up front. Often isolated on his own in attack early on but set the cat amongst the pigeon’s and got the goal his play deserved.
Danny Haynes 9
Best performance for us yet. Today’s MOTM.
Nicky Maynard 5
Again was asked to man the left flank when coming up and struggled to make an impact as a result. Needs to be in the centre.
Ivan Sproule 7
Another good little cameo from Sproule, whose pace and direct play on the wing gave no respite for the beleagured Albion left-back.
Should’ve started but was only brough on with seconds to go so the manager could let his boy milk the applause!
GARY JOHNSON – 5/10
Don’t think he can take any of the credit today as inspirational performances from Haynes and Skuse saw us through. We were dire in the first-half, getting overrun in midfield and exploited on the flanks. Credit where credit’s due if he said something at half-time to fire a rocket up Haynes’ arse but I doubt it.
ROBERTO DI MATTEO – 5/10
Set his stall out to attack with the wealth of talent he has in his squad but ultimately had no answer to the threat that was Danny Haynes and consequently got blown away.
Massive win is an even bigger relief
Phew! That was a LONG time coming!
The writing appeared to be on the wall after another abject performance in the first-half, where we were lucky to go in only 1-0 down.
But, the midfield took control and the unplayable urgency of Haynes galvanised City in the second-half, inspiring us to come from behind to win for the first time this season.
With results at the bottom going our way yesterday, we now have a little bit of breathing space ahead of the six-pointers that lie ahead.
Fans were magnificent!
Credit to all of us in the East End today, what a racket we made!
I hope the true atmosphere inside the ground was represented on the television because we really made the difference today. Well done to one and all.