Preview: Bristol City

sixfields

 

Where We Are

The moment that we were all fearing is finally upon us. It’s the first ‘home’ game of the season, yet few are looking forward to it. Not only do we remain 10 points 23rd place Carlisle but there is now the very real prospect that the away supporters could exceed the ‘home’ fans. It’s a nightmare scenario and at the moment there’s no sign of the reality changing. It’s only now that it’s starting to dawn how depressing and embarrassing this situation is, come Sunday evening and Monday morning the media will be flooded with images and stifled sniggers of Coventry’s near empty stadium with only a few grizzled faces trying to coax an atmosphere. Some of it will manifest itself as sympathy, but I think every Coventry fan would prefer their stadium and 10 points back in all honesty rather than the empty words of rival fans who are secretly thankful that it isn’t their team.

On the football side  of things it’s been an interesting week for the club. Two signings have been made in the form of ex-trialist Mathieu Manset and Steven Pressley’s former team-mate Andy Webster. Both come as much-needed additions to a squad that was perhaps on the verge of losing its confidence. Webster, should he start, provides experience and nous into our defensive ranks. Manset is a strong, physical centre-foward who is more a provider than goal-scorer.

On the pitch it’s been consecutive 3-2 defeats, first to Crawley, after fighting back from 2-0 down, and then at Leyton Orient where we were cruelly denied passage to the second round of the League cup due to a some questionable refereeing decisions. On the plus side the attacking play has been good to watch and effective, Franck Moussa in particular has been on fire in the first two games. On the down side has been our defending, individually Clarke and Willis have clearly shown the signs of two players learning to play in central defence in league football. As a team though the midfield have offered little protection for the defence and thus have invited unneccessary pressure upon our defence.

With Carl Baker suspended for the next 3 matches after a somewhat quesionable sending off and failed appeal (which I find hard to swallow after Inigo Calderon got his wiped out despite causing a serious injury), we find ourselves with a midfield conundrum. With no natural replacement in the squad at the moment, it seems a choice between Callum Wilson moving out to the right or testing out Leon Lobjoit’s potential and keeping our strike-partnership as it is. Furthermore with the midfield offering little protection for the defence, Pressley may be tempted to bring in Adam Barton as an extra midfielder and changing shape from 4-4-2 to a variation of 4-5-1.

Last Time We Played Them

For those who don’t remember it was one of the most miserable defeats in Coventry’s recent history, and that’s up against some competition. At the start of the Easter weekend in 2012 Coventry were clear of the relegation zone and faced Peterborough at home. After taking the lead, we eventually ended up taking a point. This was made all the worse by Bristol City’s surprise win at Forest which put them level on points with us going into a crucial fixture at Ashton Gate.

Come the day, Coventry took the lead and in typical Andy Thorn fashion decided not to try and build upon, instead decamping to our penalty area and waiting for the opposition to score. When they eventually did it felt like we’d missed another opportunity to strike a blow against our Championship relegation rivals. When Yannick Bolasie danced through our defence and put Bristol City ahead, in a similar manner to Garath McLeary for Forest 2 months earlier, it suddenly dawned on us that we had run out of chances to survive.

What’s worse was that from that day the fight was lost in the rest of the team and we ended up relegated with a a whimper, confirmed by a home defeat to already-relegated Doncaster.

How Are They Doing?

Since claiming survival back in 11-12, Bristol City tried to build a new team whilst cutting costs and eventually were relegated with a similar whimper to us in last season’s Championship. They appointed manager Sean O’Driscoll back in January and he has gone about transforming the team from Championship no-hopers to League One promotion candidates. The Robins started their league season with a 2-2 draw with Bradford and have since gone on to win their League Cup match against Gillingham 2-0. Bristol City will probably be relishing the prospect of facing a demoralised side with their fans potentially outnumbering the home fans, they go into the match as strong favourites.

Their squad looks a useful blend of players in a range of trajectories in their career. From experienced pros in Marlon Harewood and Marvin Elliott, to players in mid-career in Frank Fielding and Sam Baldock, to unproven youngsters with potential in Jordan Wynter and Derrick Williams. They are strong for a League One side in all areas of the pitch and are already showing signs of clicking into a well-oiled team unit.

In goal they have Frank Fielding who was once called up to the England squad as back-up. Despite showing talent at Derby County over the past few years he was allowed to move on largely due to a lengthy injury he picked up last season.

In defence they have Greg Cunningham and Aden Flint to look out for. Cunningham is an ex-Man City youth teamer who has been a strong left-back during various loan spells at Championship sides over the past few years and is a threat in attack. Flint has made his career from non-league football into league football, a vital part of Di Canio’s Swindon side he was sold on in order to raise much needed funds for the Wiltshire side. Flint is a commanding centre-back and could give Manset a strong battle should the Frenchman be selected for his debut.

In midfield they have Marlon Pack and Marvin Elliott. Elliott has been a main-stay of the Bristol City side from the Gary Johnson era, a strong central midfielder whose good on the ball and can on ocassion pop up and nick goals. Marlon Pack signed for the Robins on a free in the summer after impressing for several seasons in League Two for Cheltenham. Pack is a fairly robust midfielder who is a strong passer and effective in attack, Swindon’s failure to sign him contributed to Paolo Di Canio’s departure.

In attack they have Sam Baldock, once of MK Dons and West Ham. A player who has scored regularly at this level before and had a useful stint in the Championship with West Ham. Last season Bristol City pinned their hopes in Baldock replicating his MK Dons scoring record but failed to live up to a strong start. Perhaps a victim of a poor all-round performance last season for Bristol City, Baldock is a classic goal-poacher who under different circumstances would be playing Premier League football.

The main threat though is Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, who can is a deep-lying forward of undoubted ability. After failing to make the grade at Arsenal, Ipswich brough him hoping that he would sparkle enough to lead them into the Championsip play-offs. However he failed to produce regular talent and was accused of poor levels of work-rate by current manager Mick McCarthy. JET was traded for former Forest winger Paul Anderson in the summer and has started the season showing that he’s learning his lesson from his failure at Ipswich. Strong, powerful and skillfull, JET provides numerous threats both on the ground and in the air and is an obvious threat for our inexperienced defence. This season Emmanuel-Thomas has either scored or set-up every single one of Bristol City’s goals, 1 goal, 3 assists.

Prediction

Bristol City are a side with undoubted talent in all areas. The addition of Emmanuel-Thomas frightens the life out of me and it would be tough enough facing them without the whole Sixfields fiasco. I could be optimistic and suggests that we’ll form a siege mentality in adversity. My mind is telling me though that Bristol City have far too much talent in their squad to be losing to this Coventry side and I anticipate a really tough game that could make or break a number of our younger players for this season. I predict a 3-1 defeat with Bristol City rushing into a lead.

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