Mid-Season Report: Bristol City
By Sam Hardwell
Bristol City find themselves joint top of League One with a game in hand at this midway point of the season and with a FA Cup tie against West Ham on the arisen, but how did they get there?
City carried on their productive pre-season into the league with a 2-1 victory away at a very good and resilient Sheffield United side.
Other than a shock exit to Oxford United in round one of the League Cup, the Robins went the remainder of the month unbeaten picking up 11 points from a possible 15.
If Bristol City fans thought August was a good month, September seemed almost a dream. With three clean-sheets and fourteen goals scored, it looked almost impossible to find a weakness in those wearing red.
The first three matches of the month saw Steve Cotterill’s side turn over Scunthorpe, Doncaster and Port Vale more than convincingly with Frank Fielding not glancing at the ball in the back of his net once in over 270 minutes of football.
The final two games of the month saw City picking up points away to Fleetwood at Highbury Stadium with a gut-wrenching late equaliser from former Swansea City midfielder Stephen Dobbie. The month was to end on a high with an emphatic 3-2 home win against promotion challengers MK Dons.
With the modern system of 3-5-2 used by Lois Van Gaal’s Holland squad in the 2014 World Cup, some managers seemed inspired to embrace the formation. Steve Cotterill has done exactly that with his Bristol City side seemingly suiting the system better than any other side in the country with what was yet another successful month for the club.
The opening match of October experienced yet another heart-breaking late goal at Walsall with City fans asking the question of why the ever tenacious Jet (Jay Emmanuel Thomas) was not seeing any game time.
Jet started their following match in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in a 3-1 away win at League Two outfit Cheltenham Town. Although, it wasn’t the performance of the former Arsenal man Jet that caught the eye as he often does, but the Fulham loanee Matt Smith who grabbed two second half goals to ensure the Robins into the next round of the competition.
City remained unbeaten through the rest of October with wins against Chesterfield and Coventry, also picking up singular points to both Bradford and Barnsley.
November saw what seemed to be City’s most disappointing month so far this season, despite picking up 6 points from 12 with an emphatic 3-0 win away at Peterborough.
City found their 19 game unbeaten league record since the start of the season halted with consecutive losses to both Swindon Town and Preston.
Turning away from the league ladder, City saw themselves progress to the next round of both the FA Cup and the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy after knocking out Gillingham and Wimbledon, both being 2-1 narrow victories.
A visit from out of form Conference side Telford in the FA Cup brought the opening sequence of victories to come for the Robins in what proved to be a more than brilliant month.
City were looking to end 2014 on a high in order to retain their lead at the top of League One and they seemed to be ticking all the boxes to do so. Strong going forward, resilient at the back and looked more than comfortable in keeping possession.
Despite a one-nil defeat away at Crewe Alexandra, City won five out of six in all competitions through the month of December, picking up maximum points to Crawley Town, Gillingham and former Robins manager, Gary Johnsons’ Yeovil Town.
City currently find themselves level on top of the league with local rivals Swindon, but do, however, obtain a game in hand on the other promotion chasers. They have 22 games remaining in their season and the City faithful seem more than confidant of their return to the Championship next season.
City are showing no signs of slowing down going into the second-half of their season by already bringing in two players on loan in former Chelsea product George Saville (93 days) from Wolves and Wigan right-back James Tavernier until the end of the season.
“We were looking at James last year,” said Cotterill. “We’re pleased to be able to bring him on board, especially after losing Todd Kane, who was able to play that wing-back role as well.”
“He’ll give us extra legs and quality during our run in.”
Star man: Mark Little
Must do better: Frank Fielding
Current position: 2nd
Mid-season grade: A