A last-gasp winner means Blues will contest this year's PDL final.BCFC
Joe Redmond’s instinctive volley capped a gutsy performance that was two minutes away from ending in a penalty shootout.
In a frantic first-half that saw several opportunities for both sides, Owura Edwards gave Alex Bell’s Bristol City the side the lead with a fine strike from the edge of the box after 26 minutes.
Blues bounced back early on in the second half through Adan George’s well-taken penalty, before the game went into extra-time with both sides unable to dispatch a winner.
But captain Joe Redmond had the last say, firing home late on to scenes of delight on the touchline.
Playing at Ashton Gate, Steve Spooner elected to make four changes from the side that had so devastatingly beaten Wigan Athletic 11-1 earlier in the week. Brooks, Thompson-Sommers, Soldevila and Reid made way for French, Boyd-Munce, Simmonds and George.
Despite a positive Blues start, it was the hosts who had the first real sight on goal after just five minutes. Oruwa Edwards broke down the left-hand side, driving into the box before unleashing a shot across the goalkeeper which looked destined for the bottom corner. But in trying to see it over the line, Louis Britton invertedly stopped the strike from trickling in and Blues were able to quickly clear.
Blues’ first opportunity came after 17 minutes when the forward thinking Bajrami strode through the City defence, before Alfie Chang found space on the right - his effort eventually being well-blocked by a Reds defender.
But the Robins rallied and only a good save from the foot of Sam French kept the score level after good work from Saikou Janneh.
The fast-paced action continued - Kyle Hurst scrambled an effort at Wiles-Richards after a goalmouth scramble, shortly before the home side eventually found their opener after 26 minutes.
There was little chance the scores would stay level with the number of chances being created and when Vince Harper did well to win the ball back in Blues’ half, Edwards took it upon himself to open the scoring. He teed himself up as the ball broke, lashing it past French from 20 yards.
French had to be alert once again five minutes before half-time when a Bristol free-kick was nodded towards the near post by Callum Wood – the Blues stopper twice denying the imposing centre-back from five yards out.
Half time: Bristol City 1 Blues 0
Steve Spooner elected to make a change at the break, Keke Simmonds was replaced by Josh Andrews as Blues sought an equaliser – which they didn’t have to wait long for.
Just four minutes after the restart, Ryan Burke’s corner was driven towards Redmond at the back post and the Blues skipper was bowled over by a Robins defender, leaving Alex Blake with little choice but to point to the spot.
Adan George stepped up and slotted the penalty home to bring the scores level.
Andrew’s influence on the game was quickly growing as he became the focal point in Blues’ front three - the burly forward giving the Robins backline a different challenge as the second half progressed.
Chances were in far shorter supply than in the first forty-five but Blues controlled the play for large spells, supressing Bristol City’s forwards of any major opportunities.
Bajrami had a chance 12 minutes from time when he nodded Ryan Burke’s corner towards goal but Wiles-Richards was equal to it, clawing it away with Adan George waiting to pounce.
Blues needed a goal-saving block from Burke deep in added time to keep them in the game but on the full-time whistle there was nothing between the two and extra-time was needed.
Kane Thompson-Sommers was introduced in the 95th minute and replaced Remi Walker as Blues looked to keep the home side at bay, who were growing in confidence.
Not for the first time throughout, Blues rallied and a lovely passing move between Andrews, Hurst and Thompson-Sommers looked destined to see the ball tapped home two minutes before City eventually scrambled it away for a corner.
There was still nothing separating the two as the first 15 minutes of extra-time came and went; Steve Spooner and Danny Barham tried to rally their troops for one last 15-minute spell at the final interval.
And their soldiers responded. In the 118th minute, Bajrami found himself on the edge of the 18 yard-box and clipped a ball to the back post. His fellow centre-half Redmond peeled off his marker, chested it down and volleyed the ball across goal – a strikers finish that any seasoned forward would’ve been proud of.
Blues will play the winners of the Sheffield United v Ipswich Town encounter, which is being contested on Monday.
Full-time: Bristol City 1 Blues 2 (AET)
Blues: French, Williams, Redmond ©, Bajrami, Burke (Roberts 107), Walker (Thomspon-Sommers 95), Boyd-Munce, Chang, Simmonds (Andrews 45), Hurst, George.
Substitutes not used: Brookes, Dos Reis, Reid, Soldevila
Bristol City: Wiles-Richards, Taylor, Harper, Morton ©, Wood, Towler, Janneh (Smith, 83), Owers (Benarous 90), Britton, Edwards, Pring
Substitutes not used: Robertson, Soady. Kadji,
Goals: Edwards, 26. George, 48. Redmond, 118.
Report: Sheffield United Under-23s 0 Blues Under-23s 2
Report: Wigan Athletic Under-23s 1 Blues Under-23s 11