I can’t see many bookies backing us to beat the league leaders on Saturday, especially as a win for them would ensure they lift the League One trophy. As you’ll recall we’ve already made a visit to Ashton Gate this season in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy where we were defeated 2-0, and at the Ricoh we were on the end of a footballing lesson.
We travel South West still looking to pick up points to ensure safety in this division. The clock is ticking down now and many Sky Blue supporters feel that one win would be sufficient and I agree, but I just can’t see it coming against the Robins. They’ll be in extremely confident mood and putting on a show for the supporters will be a priority, after all, if they got another 6-0 win like at Bradford they would lift the trophy in style.
Despite the obvious threat that the already promoted side possess, the Sky Blues will be looking to cause an upset. Chris Stokes and Tony Mowbray both said we will be going there to get a result, and that it is a chance to see how far we are off being competitive. If we can go there and limit the home side we’ll be very pleased, but if we can nick a point then that would go down as a superb result. Despite the fact I can’t see us winning, I do feel a lot more confident under Mowbray. As I’ve stated before, I believe his game management is much better than Pressley’s and this could stand us in good stead in the fixture.
Bristol City come in to the game with an extra incentive – to win the league title. Providing Port Vale don’t beat Preston tonight (Friday), Bristol will be named as champions with a win after an extremely impressive campaign. Looking back at their last six fixtures would be a good indicator of recent form and they’ve enjoyed 3 wins, 3 draws and 0 losses – a healthy return of 12 points from a possible 18.
The Sky Blues will be looking to make it five games without defeat on the road after picking up 10 points from their last four away fixtures. The last six games in the league for City have cooked up 2 wins, 2 draws and 2 losses which equates to 8 points from the 18 on offer. This of course is fairly reasonable form but another point against Bristol will edge Coventry closer to survival.
Bristol City have no fresh absentees and Steve Cotterill is likely to name the same starting lineup that thumped Bradford 6-0 at Valley Parade. Mark Little continues to be sidelined with a shoulder injury but otherwise the Robins have a fully fit squad at their disposal.
Coventry City are in a similar situation as they also have no changes on the injury/suspension front. Marcus Tudgay and Danny Pugh remain sidelined but every other member of the squad is match-fit and available for selection. Mowbray has admitted he may change his lineup for the tie as he may wish to set out to be slightly more defensive in order to thwart Bristol’s potent attack.
One to watch…
In all honesty I could’ve named anyone from the squad, but I’ve elected to go for Aden Flint. He’s a player that, in my opinion, has a very bright future. The 25 year old is the highest scoring defender in English football during the 2014/15 campaign, notching an impressive 10 goals from 43 appearances. He has a very similar impact going forward to that of Reda Johnson, so the Sky Blues will have to find a way to deal with him. I watched him when Bristol played Swindon the other week and he was magnificent. He’s yet another gem that’s been picked from non-league, he was playing for the likes of Alfreton Town and Matlock Town a few years ago.
Of course his main priority is keeping the ball out of the net as a defender, and that Is something he’s contributed to significantly. His physical attributes coupled with his technical ability have made him a force to be reckoned with and he’s helped his side keep 18 clean sheets this term. They also have the meanest defence in the division in terms of goals conceded, with only 36 goals being scored against them. Of course his other defensive partners have contributed too but he is my man to watch. He offers so much defensively and going forward that I can’t help but think he’ll cause us major problems in the fixture.
After a good but dissapointing point considering our dominance versus Oldham on Tuesday, we will be looking to prove a point against the leaders. Mowbray has said it’s a good chance to “test our credentials, see how far we have come and how far we have to improve to be at the other end of the table.” It will provide us with motivation and I can only imagine that confidence is fairly high in the camp after our turn around of fortunes at the Ricoh. The players will want to prove themselves and they know a point or three would perhaps see us safe, they have nothing to lose.
I hope we go there with no fear and a want to express ourselves. Mowbray has given the players a bit more freedom and our defence has strengthened under his guidance so I’m fairly confident that if (and it’s a big if) all the players are on top of their game we can travel home with a point in the bag. Make no mistakes it will be extremely tough but hopefully we can spoil their party for the meantime. It will be a full house and the home fans will be in jubilant mood but we will be backed by a healthy following too so it will be a great atmosphere. Hopefully our players use this to spur them on.
Clearly we will have to be clinical going forward as opposed to being wasteful as we have been for the majority of the campaign. I can’t imagine that we’ll have many chances. Mowbray has spoke about Nick Proschwitz this week and said he is clinical in training, he just needs to transform that to a matchday. I’ve been impressed with the strikers work rate and hold-up play, but he’s got to add goals to his game. Nouble has been fairly poor recently and I’d be very tempted to throw James Maddison in to the firing line. His last three substitute appearances must have given the gaffer food for thought as he’s influenced positively in all the games he’s been involved in. He’s a tricky player with bags of confidence and he possesses oodles of quality.
Defensively we’ll have to be on guard to prevent conceding too many goals as I fear if the home side get an early goal it could be an onslaught. Reda Johnson’s return has undoubtedly improved our defensive line and put extra confidence back in to the side and he could be the man to stop Aden Flint’s aerial threat. If we are to get anything from the game Lee Burge will likely be a saviour as the Robins accumulation of efforts per game is the one of the highest in the division, and they’re pretty clinical too. People have said we are in a false position in the league and a result tomorrow would strengthen this statement, let’s hope we can grab something.
My score prediction:
Bristol City 2-1 Coventry City
I think we have improved under Mowbray, but i think we’ll fall just short against the best team in the division. It would be a mammoth effort if we get a result!