REDS boss Keith Hill remained steadfastly positive despite his side slipping to more away-day woe on Saturday.
The Reds were impressive yet not lethal in the first half, but after the break Bristol dominated and deservedly went on to secure their Championship status for a sixth season.
After watching the hosts prevail thanks to a goal in either half, Hill said: “In the first half I thought we were excellent. We should have at least been all square.
“We created more opportunities, although there was that sense of nervousness on the part of the opposition.
“We quashed that by not doing our job, though, I suppose. You have to track back as defenders and get challenges in when there’s danger.
“I was pleased overall, but once they got the penalty in the second half we knew we were in a contest.
“It wasn’t our day, while at the same time you’ve got to congratulate the opposition on retaining their Championship status.”
Some may have anticipated Reds boss Hill bringing in a few youngsters for Saturday’s trip to Ashton Gate, with Championship safety being secured during the week.
However, that proved to be the total opposite of the manager’s thinking as he made just two changes to his starting line-up following Tuesday’s defeat at Hull.
Surprisingly, perhaps, left-back Lee Collins was dropped to the bench, with David Perkins being given a largely unfamiliar role.
Perkins’ normal midfield job went to Stephen Dawson, who was drafted in after coming on as a second-half substitute at the KC Stadium.
Wide man David Cotterill was also relegated to the bench, with Kallum Higginbotham the other player to step up from the midweek replacements.
There was still no spare goalkeeper on the bench, with David Button at least now being given the all-clear to continue from Tottenham for the two remaining Reds games.
The visitors were desperate to try to finish the season on a high, but no wins in their previous five games and none in their last nine on the road meant their prospects didn’t look promising against a City side still battling to secure their second-tier status.
The game opened bizarrely for the Reds with Perkins being on the wrong end of a strange second-minute caution from referee Darren Deadman.
As Perkins moved over to the right flank to take a free-kick instead of presumably initial choice Higginbotham, Deadman flashed a yellow card at the little wide man, apparently for time-wasting.
The decision certainly didn’t impress the Reds’ bench, but at least the visitors threatened when the free-kick was taken.
Perkins curled the ball into the danger zone, and as the ball wasn’t cleared, Nathan Doyle pounced and smashed a shot from the edge of the box inches over the crossbar.
Higginbotham wriggled free of City defender Andre Amougou before blasting a shot straight at Dean Gerken, while next to threaten was Dawson, who watched on as his powerful 30-yard drive fizzed inches past the post.
That was all inside the opening 10 minutes, but City were to take the lead against the run of play in the 11th.
And it was a disappointing goal as Cole Skuse was allowed to play a neat one-two with Jon Stead before burying a comfortable shot past Button.
It was a blow for the Reds, but they battled back into contention and Dawson found space in the box but could only shoot over.
The victory was pretty much made safe by the hosts just five minutes into the second half when Mr Deadman again angered the Reds’ bench by awarding a rather soft penalty.
Jim McNulty was harshly punished for a push on fellow defender Ryan McGivern, and Stead made no mistake when he made it 2-0 from the spot.
That second goal knocked the stuffing out of Hill’s men and from that point City were the only team to seriously threaten again.
Albert Adomah had been a thorn in the Reds’ side all afternoon and he brought a fine save out of Button, while Stead did likewise with a fierce drive from an acute angle.
At the other end, Jim O’Brien disappointed when he wastefully headed Higginbotham’s corner over the top from close range, and a wild shot which flew high and wide from the Scot in the closing minutes summed up another miserable day on the Road for the Reds.
Stead again tested Button from just inside the box, but in the end City hung on comfortably for three points that secured their survival and led to the obligatory pitch invasion at the final whistle from supporters.