Football: ‘One eye on the pitch and one on relegation’

Dave Skinner, March 16, 2017

When Bristol City returned to the Championship in 2015, the board and management team promised there would be excitement at the Gate. Surviving a relegation battle and being in the mire of another is perhaps not quite what the marketing men had in mind as they unveiled the hashtag “Making Bristol proud”, with one manager and first team coach consigned to the history books and another surely teetering on the edge.

But, excitement was felt in the red half of the city last weekend as Aden Flint ensured we returned from visiting fellow strugglers Wigan with three vital points. Excitement too, as Blackburn were held at Norwich, and this, my fellow fans, is how the rest of the season will pan out. With one eye on the pitch and one eye on relegation rivals results as we (hopefully) battle for survival.

Both eyes were on the midweek games involving Wolves and Blackburn, and with fifteen minutes to go things were looking rosy as both teams seemed on course for defeat, but, as the Championship has a tendency to do, the situation changed dramatically in the last few minutes.

Wolves managed to muster two late goals and claim all three points, while Blackburn scored a late equaliser, moving City back into the dreaded bottom three.

One reputation we have gained in the last week or two, and not a great one, is that if you, as a manager, fail to beat us, you’ll be sacked. Sadly, for them at least, both Warren Joyce and Alex Neil have succumbed to this fate in recent weeks. One would imagine David Wagner would not see the same fate for himself, should his Huddersfield side fail to beat us this Friday night.

Johnson’s team selection at Wigan gave those of us hoping to see two upfront something to cheer, but I take issue with the formation he selected. For those of you who don’t like geeky tactic chat, please skip the next paragraph or two…

Johnston picked Abraham and Taylor to lead our line – no issue with that. He also picked Tomlin in a wide position. Tomlin is a figure who has split opinions of City fans all season. Without doubt, he is one of our most gifted players, but others accuse him of not possessing the right work ethic, especially in a relegation battle.

For me, Tomlin should start either behind a single striker or as an attacking midfielder as part of a wing-back formation. Both these formations give you sufficient defensive cover and don’t require Tomlin to track back too much, something it’s fair to say he can struggle with at times.

I was pleased, however, to see some imaginative thinking, with Korey Smith started at right back, a position that has caused us issues ever since the departure of the much-missed Luke Ayling. We do also have a history of turning central midfield players into right backs if you think back to Bradley Orr.

So, the rest of the country will be able to rate us this coming Friday evening too, as the Sky cameras arrive in town for the evening kick off. Let’s hope we can make Bristol Proud on this occasion and for the rest of the season.

 

Read more: ‘Are we staring relegation in the face?’

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