Ipswich Will Be No Easy Task - Notes for Bristol City
Friday, 2nd Dec 2016 11:30 by HarryFromBath
HarryfromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday’s game at Ashton Gate by delving into their forums.
“It has not been much fun lately”, “For the first time this season I’m starting to feel a bit concerned. Consistently poor performances for well over a month now, four points collected out of 21 and five goals in seven games. If we don’t turn this around soon, we will start looking over our shoulders.”
City go into Saturday’s game level with Town on points and solidly mid-table. Robins are happy with a campaign which has seen their side flirt with the play-off places but a run of three defeats and just one win in eight games have left fans now anxious to arrest their slide down the league table.
“We are a mid-table side that had a good start to the season. We have improved against last year but we’re not quite top-six quality. We lack the ability to produce results when things don’t go so well”, “We are stuck in a bit of a rut over the last few games which inevitably raises a few concerns.”
“We are heading in the right direction. Remember where we were this time last season”, “Fans are slightly disappointed because of the great start we had. If it had been in reverse and we had climbed up to mid-table, we would all be ecstatic”, “Unlike others, I feel a mid-table finish is good progress.”
“I want to see what Johnson is made of now. We are struggling to score. His tactics clearly aren’t working and we are conceding in every game. I want to see our ‘young’ talented manager show what he can do. His after-game ‘we deserved more and we will start winning’ is getting tiresome.”
“The Johnsons do like a long losing run, don’t they?” The 35-year-old, the son of former Robins boss Gary, took the reins last February on vacating the same role at Barnsley. This slump in form, with defeat at home to Brighton followed by losses at Birmingham and Reading, is seen as the greatest challenge he has faced since his arrival.
“I am worried that Johnson is starting to sound like [former City manager] Steve Cotterill these days. After every defeat, he trots out the hard luck story and says we deserved more. As a result, there are no plans to change anything”, “He should not be so set in his ways at this early stage of his career.”
“Barnsley fans said Johnson was stubborn and lacking in ideas”, “I am getting a feeling that he is a little stubborn with certain things, and playing one up-top with Tammy Abraham on his own is one of them”, “I just hope he doesn’t become a Cotterill, persevering with formations that don’t work.”
A Lack of Width and Pace
“We have no shape and no real style of play other than giving it to our widemen to cut inside. It has been the same in the last half-dozen games. We quickly need a formation change”, “With just one up front it’s too easy for defences”, “Will Johnson change things to add width and pace to our play?”
The starting XI (above) for the last two games has retained the narrow 4-2-3-1 shape which Robins have often seen this season. Wide attacking players operate on the ‘wrong’ flank and cut inside, but fans have complained about the shape being too narrow with full-backs reluctant to bomb forward.
“Keep tight to Tammy Abraham and get a bit physical with him. Keep Lee Tomlin dropping deep and hey presto we struggle.” Robins have complained about their lone striker becoming isolated as their most creative player has regularly been forced back towards halfway trying to find operating space.
“We are screaming out for some width and pace in our play. We are too predictable, too square and too slow”, “Too often we were sloppy in passing and not finding each other. This was not down to Reading being quick to intercept. We gifted them the ball too often rather than them working hard.”
“How many times have we been punished for not taking chances?” Fans have criticised the side for being profligate with the ball and for wasting chances. They are also weary of a newly-found habit of having to rescue poor starts. “Our inability to get going from the start of a game is our undoing.”
One small feature to note (above) is Johnson’s habit of withdrawing a full-back for a second striker late on in games when chasing a goal. Veteran target man Aaron Wilbraham usually comes on but fans have criticised the defence’s habit of playing the ball long to him and bypassing the midfield.
Confidence is also a concern with this poor run. “I don’t know what has happened to us. No one looks interested”, “We are a soft touch. We need a bit of steel and someone streetwise who can take the kids and shake them up. We don’t believe in ourselves enough and we end up in a tailspin.”
Reading 2 – 1 Bristol City
“I feel really down today, Reading were really average”, “We gave them too much respect. Look what happened when we had a go late on. We had them on the ropes”, “They got a soft penalty and scored a cracking goal but we still had enough chances to get something out of the game.”
City were not the first team to leave the Madejski Stadium this season frustrated over the award of a contentious spot-kick, given this time for a disputed foul on Dominic Samuel by Hordur Magnusson. Garath McCleary saw his 13th minute penalty saved by Frank Fielding but fired the rebound into the net.
“Game over”, “And that’s that.” There was less argument and familiar grumbling about City’s slow starts to games when Roy Beerens volleyed home Chris Gunter’s cross six minutes later. Gary O’Neil pulled a goal back for City on 87 minutes but it proved to be nothing more than a consolation.
“Reading are passing us to death. We can’t get the ball off them, it could be a very long afternoon”, “The first half was like a training session for Reading. The lads seemed to lack conviction”, “We were really poor. There was no cohesion in our play whatsoever”, “Sad to say, we were not good enough.”
Birmingham 1 – 0 Bristol City
“How many times have we been punished for not taking chances?”, “Promising play but no end product”, “How we didn’t win I will never know. The chances and performances are coming but we just haven’t been clinical enough”, “We had 11 corners, they had two and they scored from one.”
“A corner well delivered from them and 1-0, a sickener.” Blues’ substitute Che Adams scored from close range on 81 minutes to secure a home win when the Robins failed to deal with a flag-kick. Jonathan Spector was sent off late on for the hosts after a late ugly challenge on Lee Tomlin.
“A game which highlighted our deficiencies, we were excellent and played some of our best football this season. It was free-flowing, slick stuff, chance after chance but we still couldn’t score. We create and squander so many chances”, “Our play seemed pretty good. We just have to take our chances.”
“Disappointing, on balance a draw would have been a fair result”, “We need some steel in the team. We are too soft, too nice, pushovers”, “We are a young team, very much a work-in-progress and we need at least a couple of transfer windows”, “Heartbreaking, our season is turning a little negative.”
Bristol City 0 – 2 Brighton
“Sometimes you get beaten by a better team”, “Brighton look a very good side. They are passing us all over the pitch and forcing us to play long. We aren’t moving enough off the ball in the centre and are incredibly narrow”, “No shame in losing to them, just the manner in which we lost was a pity.”
“We started well and then that goal…” Going into the international break, City were well beaten by a confident Albion who seven days earlier had thrashed Norwich 5-0. Steve Sidwell put Brighton ahead on 13 minutes with a stunning 50-yard chip and Jamie Murphy added a second seven minutes later.
“Brighton look like they have it all”, “They looked a good team and everyone seemed to know their jobs.” Having secured a two-goal cushion, the visitors comfortably kept City at bay. “Brighton were content to sit in and say to us “can you break us down?’”, “It was a training game for them at times.”
“We lacked width, penetration and subtlety”, “It was all far too central”, “Our lack of movement is in contrast to the top teams. Everyone is static and this makes passing impossible”, “Games like this are the exception now. Last year they were the norm”, “At least we are 3-0 better than Norwich.”
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Frank Fielding frightens me.” The 28-year-old former Ram “is a good old-fashioned keeper”, “He isn’t a bomb scare but isn’t top drawer either”, “A good shot stopper but he doesn’t command his box, his distribution is poor and he punches far too often”, “He regularly finds touch with goal-kicks.”
“There have been plenty of games where Fielding has kept us in it”, “He’s small and permanently a liability when crosses come into our box”, “He’s a decent bloke you cannot fail to like but decision-making, such rolling the ball to a marked defender is suspect, and doesn’t match his overall keeping.”
“Mark Little is dreadful. His positioning and effort for Brighton’s second goal were embarrassing. He needs replacing.” The 28-year-old ex-Peterborough right-back “looks lost at this level”, “He was immense in League One and there’s no faulting his effort, but he looks out of his depth this year.”
“Well, God loves a trier and I applaud Little for doing so but we really need a right-back in January”, “He’s a wing-back and is having to learn his new role as a full-back”, “He’s a joke with the ball at his feet going forward. He gives it away and won’t go past his man”, “Works hard but is very limited.”
“Adam Matthews appears to have Yaya Touré-itis.” Many believe that Little is really a back-up for the 24-year-old Sunderland loan signing. “It looks like Matthews is going to waste what could be a promising career. It’s not his ability but his application which is at issue”, “A perpetual sick note.”
“I have seen nothing of Joe Bryan to suggest that he’s anywhere near a Premier League left-back. At the moment, he’s barely a Championship one.” Just as with Mark Little, youth product Bryan, who is suspended for Saturday’s game, is being converted from a role further upfield. “It’s obvious he is struggling defensively in that new position.”
“Bryan looks like a rabbit in headlights going forward now. He wants to push on but stops and goes back or plays the ball safely because his job is more defensive. Give him freedom to attack more”, “He loses position and shape because he wants to get forward. He’s still learning the left-back role.”
“Scott Golbourne has been top quality all season.” The 28-year-old ex-Wolves left-back “is raring to play for the club he supported as a boy but is being kept out by a natural winger in Bryan who is out of position”, “He should start at left-back. He can get forward and he has a solid all-round game.”
“Nobody disputes the fact that Golbourne is better defensively than Bryan but he offers no overlap threat at all”, “No attacking threat? He puts in some excellent crosses and is certainly our best full-back on either flank at the moment”, “He was excellent against Brighton and had a decent game.”
“Taylor Moore has all the makings of a good defender and can play, but he just isn’t strong enough for us to be relying on him. Yet.” The 19-year-old West Ham youth product arrived from French club Lens this summer. “He reads the game well, is very composed, technically very good and has pace.”
“Aden Flint’s lack of ability on the ball was exposed by Brighton but he brings enough else to make up for this.” The 27-year-old ex-Swindon centre-back “is a warrior who deserves our unflinching support”, “Our defensive record last season would have been the worst in the league without him.”
“Flint can struggle when defending one-on-one against quick players. His goals endear him to fans. He is very good man-marking and in the air. When the ball is played on the floor and in behind with runners he gets caught out a lot. There are plenty better than Flint but there are plenty worse.”
“Magnusson wins headers, tackles and generally reads the game superbly. His passing is generally good but sometimes the odd pass goes astray. He will get better and better”, “His partnership with Flint is a massive plus”, “He’s neither spectacular nor bad and he doesn’t make mistakes.”
“Definitely the most talented of our defenders.” The 23-year-old arrived this summer from Juventus having failed to break into the Italian side. He was a member of Iceland’s successful squad in this summer’s European Championships, although he did not play in any of their games in France.
“Defensively Hordor is sound, but where is the calmness and distribution we saw at the start of the season. Going long certainly isn’t going to work when the one forward we do play is so isolated”, “He is solid aside from the hoofing he has started doing lately. He has just been booting it up lately.”
“Marlon Pack has been extremely unlucky not to have had more game time this season. He’s strong and powerful and works very hard for the team, carrying out his duties quietly and efficiently.” The 25-year-old ex-Cheltenham man “lacks mobility. He is slow at turning around and down a player”.
“Pack is similar to Gary O’Neil but lacks the experience. Both take too many touches and slow down play. Neither offer much going forward or get as many goals as you would like”, “Pack stays back and does the simple things because he’s a holding midfielder. Much of what he does isn’t appreciated.”
“Korey Smith allowed Brighton’s midfield to run through the middle with freedom”, “Completely and utterly anonymous in that game and looked a quarter of the player he did before.” The 25-year-old ex-Oldham man has been building fitness coming back from an ankle injury he sustained last April.
“Smith hasn’t been good enough since coming back. He is too similar to O’Neil who is clearly above him both in quality and the pecking order”, “Playing both diminishes our attacking threat and leaves us either pumping high balls up to Abraham or asking Tomlin to produce an unlikely piece of magic.”
“Gary O’Neil is good at the simple backwards and sideways 10-yard passes.” The 33-year-old former Canary “is surely our best central midfielder”, “I’m getting really frustrated with him. I find he slows the game down too much”, “He doesn’t want to go forward but prefers to sit playing defensively.”
“We can’t use O’Neil like a 25-year-old because he isn’t one. He needs a bit more time off than the average player”, “Because of his experience and ability, he plays ahead of Pack and Smith as an old hand in midfield. Unfortunately, he has regularly mixed poor and average performances lately.”
“When Tomlin is on form, he is really on form”, “We all watch him, hoping for that Tomlin moment when it just clicks in his head. Then we have a moment of pure beauty and when that happens it is worth the admission price alone”, “He brings creativity and vision, essential to an effective side.”
The 27-year-old former Middlesbrough, Peterborough and Bournemouth man “is so natural and has so much talent”, “I love him to bits but he goes missing for large parts of the game and with it goes any decent outlet we have”, “He looks far fitter than any time last season and we are benefitting.”
“Abraham looks even more isolated when Tomlin drops deep”, “He has to take on three players each time. He looks up to see our lone striker swamped. There never seems to be a killer pass or pinpoint cross”, “It’s always a sign we’re not playing well when Tomlin ends up getting the ball far too deep.”
“We have not seen the best of Callum O’Dowda in any way.” The 21-year-old summer addition from Oxford “has pace and ability to carry the ball from his own half and support Abraham”, “He’s too raw and seems to have little but pace. He’s our only true winger but has just moved up two leagues.”
“Luke Freeman can run at defences but when he beats a defender, he has to go back and beat him again which results in him losing the ball and pressurising the midfield and defence.” The 24-year-old ex-Stevenage man “gives us movement and that is one thing we need. He makes space for others”.
“Freeman may not always make the best final decision but he always makes things happen and his presence creates space”, “He doesn’t score or create enough but he spreads play wide and stretches defences and we are too narrow”, “One thing for certain is that he is a better option than Paterson.”
“Jamie Paterson is so frustrating, he slows moves down continuously. Occasional neat footwork but no end product”, “Forest fans were quick to say he goes missing when the going gets tough.” The 24-year-old arrived from the City Ground in August. “He might as well not bother being on the pitch.”
“I have become steadily more irritated by Paterson”, “A lightweight and doesn’t look like he wants to score a goal. He feels entitled to take five touches before considering passing to a team-mate”, “He isn’t as good centrally as Tomlin so we put him on the wing, where he just isn’t dangerous.”
“At least Reid is making runs and getting into position to have a go at Reading, more than can be said for any of our supporting players including Tomlin”, “One of our better players with his quick, slick passing and finding pockets of space. The Reading backline were worried when he came at them.”
“Reid missed at sitter at Reading.” The 23-year-old youth product “has been good except he has lost the ability to hit the target”, “His finishing is pathetic but he always has 90 minutes in him, nipping in and harassing players on the ball”, “A positive risk-taker, he’s not afraid to try a deadly through ball.”
“I’m baffled by the Gustav Engvall scenario. On rare occasions when we have seen him he has looked bright, yet just when you think we might see a bit more he disappears.” The 20-year-old former IFK Göteborg man “is an exciting prospect, very quick and very raw but not scared to get to the byline”.
“Engvall is an exciting prospect. He is quite direct and makes interesting runs. He gets into pockets of space that other City players don’t see. He definitely has shown that he can play behind the striker”, “I am impressed by his ability to get into space although his team-mates are not spotting his runs”
“Father time is of course catching up with Aaron Wilbraham but his contributions this season overall have been pretty good.” The 37-year-old former Palace striker “occupies defenders when they prove tough to break down”, “He gets his nut on the high balls and is a positive influence off the bench.”
“I’m tired of Wilbraham coming on only for us to play hoofball.” Robins do not like the change in style when he appears late in games. “He is not the answer to any question involving needing a goal. He has his uses at certain times but doesn’t give me any confidence that something will happen.”
“How many games do we have to start with just Tammy up front before Lee Johnson realises he is so isolated and marked out of the game?”, “I feel so sorry for Tammy battling away on his own”, “Stop the long balls up to Tammy who is marked by two Brighton brutes”, “He needs a rest and support.”
The 19-year-old is on a season-long loan from Chelsea. “Thank goodness his goals early in the season have given us more points than we probably deserved. We may yet be glad of them”, “I noticed how good his hold-up play is. For a teenager, he has a lot of strength and can keep the ball really well.”
“The division’s best striker is obviously getting fed up”, “He needs help now, He works his socks off but can’t do it all alone. You can tell he’s getting frustrated, missing chances he would have scored a few weeks back”, “He’s going to suffer from burn-out at some stage. He’s not getting a break at all.”
Robins’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“How difficult is the Ipswich game?”, “Two fairly matched sides, on paper it's a close call but anything can happen in a game, a sending off, a penalty, an individual error. You can't plan for those. Anyone can beat anyone”, “We are due the change of luck our football deserves, so watch out Ipswich.”
“We have to beat Ipswich at home and I’m sure we will.” Robins don’t run prediction leagues but are cautiously optimistic. Having lost three games in a row to top-six sides, Saturday’s game against mid-table opposition is seen as an opportunity, a winnable match to get their campaign back on the rails.
“Home advantage should prove decisive”, “We're quite good at home, they are not so good away. We beat them pretty soundly at home last season”, “We have one of the best home records in the division having won five and lost two, with those defeats coming against Newcastle and Brighton.”
“I expect us to win. It will not be a walk in the park but we are creating chances, the defence is sound and the law of averages means that we should get something out of this game”, “Something nags that is going to be a frustrating match and Ipswich could grab the odd goal to sneak a tough game.”
“I certainly hope Cole Skuse gets a good reception”, “Skuse will get a warm reception from me. City should never have let him go, a very versatile player and solid defensive midfielder”, “He’s a Bristol City boy. If he scores fair play to him. It may shut up a few haters as he always gave his best for us.”
They had many kind words to say about our defensive midfielder. “The bloke is a bona fide City fan”, “I have often spoken to Cole when he was knocking about in Yate and at games. He's got nothing but good things to say about City”, “He would relish scoring only because he doesn’t score very often.”
“Skuse was also a decent right-back”, “I always remember when he had Craig Bellamy in his back pocket when we beat Malaysia [Cardiff City] 3-0. Good day that”, “I always hope when we come up against a former Bristol City boy that he fires in a sneaky own goal (or two). Go on Skuse!”
They have had nothing to say so far about the absence of former Robin Brett Pitman on Saturday, although one other detail perplexed a few of them ahead of the game: “Is it just me? But do teams really announce their final team line-ups on a Thursday before an important game two days later?”
The busiest Bristol City message board is the polite and knowledgeable One Team in Bristol.
Photo: Action Images
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