|Ipswich Town 1 v 3 Bristol City|
Saturday, 30th September 2017 Kick-off 15:00
I Wouldn’t Like to Be the Team That Has to Go to Ipswich – Notes for Bristol City
Friday, 29th Sep 2017 11:00 by HarryFromBath
HarryFromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday’s game at Portman Road by delving into their forums.
“What the hell is going on at Ashton Gate right now? Whatever it is, it’s brilliant and long may it continue”, “Our current form has made us giddy”, “We all know that momentum and confidence on the football pitch are difficult beasts to stop. This season is already shaping up to be a classic.”
“Good times at the moment, let’s enjoy them.” The Robins visit Suffolk on Saturday in good spirits. A run of 10 unbeaten games and three clean sheets in all competitions has propelled the side up to seventh in the table, with a winnable Carabao Cup last-16 home tie against Crystal Palace also to come.
“Ashton Gate is a good place to be at the moment”, “Sitting just outside the play-offs, happy with that”, “Still early days, but we’re in a fantastic position”, “We have shown we can hold our own against the supposedly stronger teams in the league and the squad is capable and working well.”
“If we are still playing like this in March, fair enough, but it has been a handful of games.” Many fans have their feet firmly on the ground after last season, when an identical start was followed by a loss of form which saw the Robins lose 13 out of their next 16 games and plummet down the table.
“There is no point jumping to conclusions about what this season might hold, not least because after 10 games we are on exactly the same points as last season, and we all know what happened next”, “Our problem period started about now last season. Let’s just see how we cope this time around.”
“My sincere apologies to Lee Johnson. I have never felt so happy to have egg on my face and to be proven wrong”, “We have a far better squad and much to look forward to. The past is gone”, “Lee loves the club and has got the team playing brilliantly this season”, “Credit where credit is due.”
The 36-year-old former City player and Barnsley boss has been praised for learning from last year’s rollercoaster campaign. Fans have praised his game-planning, tactics and substitutions this season. They have also praised him making fuller use of his squad and the blossoming of individual players.
“Last season we relied too much on a small group of players, we have depth to the squad this year”, “Lee talked this summer about keeping things simple. The players are now following what he wants, they see it producing good form and results. This boosts confidence and becomes a virtuous circle.”
A minority are waiting to see if this season’s bright start can be maintained. “Let’s see if we are still doing the business in January. The jury is out until then”, “Most owners would have sacked him last season but fair play to all concerned. Our performances have been an absolute pleasure to watch.”
Playing With A High Tempo and Clever Movement
“We play fearlessly and it’s a testament to how well drilled we are these days”, “Make no mistake, we are a different proposition this season. We are stronger mentally and physically, our football is quick and we won’t capitulate when we concede”, “I am simply delighted with our current forum.”
“We have such a high-energy team who are working exceptionally hard.” Robins have embraced the team’s fast-paced play and the new-found resilience. “We are not a team that picks passes through the defence. We need energy in the game, otherwise we get a bit stifled when it’s all a bit static.”
“Clever one-touch football.” Many Robins expect the City line-up to closely resemble the starting XI (above) for last Saturday’s scoreless draw at Norwich. Johnson has stuck with a four-man defence and a midfield two in recent games and playing with either two strikers or one frontman in behind.
“We look tighter and more dangerous”, “We look tight, disciplined and hard to break down”, “Three clean sheets in a row”, “We seem to be much more resilient this season”, “We have been solid at the back”, “We are blessed with centre-halves, and each player has their own strengths and attributes.”
The foundation for the side’s progress is a solid back four growing in experience. Bailey Wright and Nathan Baker are seen as the strongest central partnership, but Wright has played at right-back to cover for the highly-rated Eros Pisano, who has missed the last six games with a knee injury.
Josh Brownhill is seen as a more natural midfield partner for holding midfielder Korey Smith in away games when the team are on the back foot. Marlon Pack is suspended for Saturday and his incisive passing is a weapon which will be missed. Former Canary Gary O’Neil is also out with a knee injury.
The loss of the overlapping Pisano has blunted the Robins’ right-wing threat although Jonathan Leko, who was rested for City’s midweek Bolton game, has impressed many fans. Jamie Paterson normally starts on the left, with the pacy Callum O’Dowda or Niclas Eliasson often covering as bench options.
“We need to convert these scoring chances we are missing, I’m not saying we’re not scoring enough, but we miss a lot of opportunities too”, “Although Bobby Reid and Famara Diedhiou have scored a decent number of goals, I’m not convinced by their link-up play, if they’re on the same wavelength.”
City have Matty Taylor and Cauley Woodrow making up their striker quartet in addition to Diedhiou and the deeper-lying Reid. Most discussion revolves around the best pairing to use. A majority think that Diedhiou would benefit from having Taylor’s proximity, movement and finishing alongside him.
“Options all over the pitch.” The starting line-up (above) which both outplayed and beat a strong Stoke side in the third round of the Carabao Cup highlighted the squad’s strength in depth. The City squad has solid replacements in all departments, the one possible exception being on the right wing.
“We have added strength in depth and with more quality than last season”, “I can’t remember a City squad with so much flair, talent and potential in every part of it. I honestly believe we have a squad that can push for promotion this year”, “You can make a case for so many being in the first team.”
Bristol City 2 – 0 Bolton
“A game that definitely won’t live long in the memory”, “Some good individual performances but not functioning as well as we have recently. We played at quite a slow tempo”, “Bolton made it difficult for us and we had to be patient”, “A largely frustrating game, I only relaxed after our second goal.”
The Robins took the lead on 39 minutes when Diedhiou forced Paterson’s low ball across the box. The Trotters set out to frustrate their hosts but lost Filipe Morais to a red card in first-half stoppage time. Aden Flint confirmed what was a routine victory adding a second City goal on 77 minutes.
“Comfortable really, not great or sublime but it was never going to be that kind of game”, “We were quite poor and laboured in our play at times”, “It may have been a game too many for some players in a short space of time as we looked leggy and we didn’t seem to press as much as we normally do.”
“A scrappy game, lots of fouls interrupting the flow.” The starting XI (above) had two changes from the Carrow Road stalemate, with the Pack in midfield and left-winger O’Dowda starting on the right flank. O’Dowda frustrated fans with his habit of constantly cutting inside on to his favoured foot.
Norwich 0 – 0 Bristol City
“That will do”, “A scrappy 0-0 is a good sign when you are not at your best”, “Not a good display but a point is better than nothing. If we can grind out a clean sheet when we’re not at the races when that bodes well”, “A mixture of poor final balls and out forwards not as good as in previous games.”
“That was horrible watching but a great point.” Midfielder Mario Vrancic came closest to scoring for the Canaries in a disappointing game which saw the hosts land just one of their 15 shots on target. In contrast, Robins were quick to praise the team’s self-belief and tenacity despite being below par.
“That game was there to be won. Norwich weren’t great and it was a pretty poor game”. “On a side note the atmosphere is terrible. Bristol City fans are making some noise but Norwich are virtually silent, awful support”, “We’re certainly hard to beat. We absolutely would have lost that last season.”
Bristol City 2 – 0 Stoke (Carabao Cup)
“Well, who would have thunk it”, “What a result, superb and well deserved”, “Stoke were slow and we ran them ragged”, “Nothing to say but congratulations from a Stoke fan. Proper old school I am, but it’s obvious that the best team won”, “Stoke obviously can’t do it at Bristol on a Tuesday night.”
“Not bad for a second string.” Having beaten Watford in the previous round, City picked up their second Premier League scalp in the competition with two second half goals. Diedhiou opened the scoring five minutes after the break and Taylor wrapped up the win with a powerful low shot.
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Frank Fielding’s shot-stopping is excellent.” The 29-year-old former Derby man “is the best keeper in the division on his day. He is always involved, pointing here and there and he focuses for every second of a game”, “He is quickly off his line to close down the angles and is having a good season.”
“If Fielding’s distribution was better he would potentially be in the Premier League”, “I just wish he was taller and got the ball going a bit quicker”, “His decision making is usually excellent and he’s well protected by defenders at set-pieces”, “He has been here long enough to have earned our respect.”
“Joe Bryan is some player.” The 24-year-old youth product “looks commanding. His composure on the ball has improved massively, night and day compared to last season”, “He is so quick at left-back. His pace, sprinting and acceleration get him out of trouble. He wins headers he has no right to win.”
Luke Varney mounts Joe Bryan
“Jens Hegeler is our best centre-back technically.” The 29-year-old ex-Hertha Berlin man “isn’t what you would call a physical player but is so comfortable on the ball”, “He loses headers he should win and is dodgy at set pieces”, “He brings the ball out well, but is less likely to dominate a target-man.”
“Hordur Magnusson is one for the future”, “Really? He’s 24 and being a bit-part player at that age isn’t great.” The Iceland international, who was recruited from Juventus in the summer of 2016, “is a hugely overrated player. He hits more aimless, panicky balls than any centre-back I know”, “Unsure, hesitant and lightweight.”
“Bailey Wright just gets on with the business. He wears down the opposition, niggles, breaks up play and keeps it simple.” The 25-year-old Australia international and former Preston man “is a good no-nonsense defender who has that element of aggression we sometimes have lacked in the past.”
“We lack movement on our right flank with Wright at full-back”, “Any right winger is unlikely to have him on the overlap”, “He has that nastiness about him we have missed, he never gives opponents an inch and has all the dark arts”, “He is not quick but I don’t fret that we will get done in behind him.”
“Nathan Baker is absolute class and a fantastic signing.” The 26-year-old left-sided centre-half joined from Aston Villa permanently this summer having been on loan at Ashton Gate two seasons ago. “He isn’t reckless but has that bit of bite and is street-smart”, “Quite frankly he is such a quality signing.”
Tom Lawrence v Nathan Baker - Aston Villa
“Baker is unflustered, he knows when to just knock it out for a throw-in and when to play”, “He loves a tackle and is a no-nonsense defender with great physicality”, “The combination of enthusiasm and determination to win the ball sees him carded so often, He does a lot of ‘taking one for the team’.”
“You have got to love Flint.” The 28-year-old ex-Swindon man “is poor with the ball at his feet, but is a menace in the air at corners in both boxes”, “Strikers are happy with the ball at their feet facing Flint. In the air it’s a different story”, “It’s too easy for faster forwards to turn and manipulate him.”
“I love how Flint stations himself on halfway by the touchline for our goal-kicks, creating an angle to win the header for both our forwards. It has been used in a few games now”, “His abiding strength is his ability in the air but he’s a clinical finisher”, “He has been an immense player for us, no doubt.”
“Josh Brownhill has got to play centrally, he’s not a right-sided midfielder.” The 21-year-old former Preston man “has a decent shot on him and has the energy to both get in the opposition box and do the defensive side of the role”, “He has a great engine, links up play and reads the game very well.”
“Brownhill is one of our most promising players and is often the catalyst in our successful attacks. He links play brilliantly and has the energy and movement that sits well with our style of play”, “He gets through a lot of the unspectacular work without flamboyance and adds a lot of energy to the side.”
“Marlon Pack strength is ball-winning, but he could not possibly have slowed things down more against Bolton if he tried and, once more, please keep him away from freekicks.” The 26-year-old ex-Cheltenham Town man “is the best midfield passer of the ball but doesn’t have a great turn of pace”.
Pack picked up a fifth caution this season against the Trotters and will be missed. “He is better when we are on top as he can get his foot on the ball and dictate our play”, “He is similar to Cole Skuse as some rate him and others don’t know what he does. When they leave fans beg for a player like him.”
“Smith’s ability to break up play is key in central midfield.” The 26-year-old former Oldham player “can be average on the ball but he is sharp at closing down, tracking back and is so much harder to beat”, “He breaks up play with great last-ditch tackles and covers a lot of ground to hassle people.”
Aron Gunnarsson v Korey Smith
“Smith is not a natural finisher and is not the passer Pack is”, “He is at his best covering for full-backs when they are caught further up field”, “He doesn’t have pace and power in possession and he gives the ball away”, “When he has the ball, I want him to drive forward and offload, or pass it simply.”
“Niclas Eliasson looks good. He’s two-footed so can take the ball either way with dealing with a full-back and offers the option of a cross or shot.” The 21-year-old August addition from IFK Norrkoping “looks potentially very exciting but a wee bit naïve. He great going forward with the ball at his feet.”
“It’s so refreshing to see crosses hit at pace”, “Eliasson is possibly the best crosser at the club”, “He doesn’t look out of place and is strong with both feet. Some of his crosses caused real problems against Bolton even when not perfectly struck and he is learning the positional side of the game.”
“Jonathan Leko is fast, agile and skilful and will win plenty of penalties. He also has good vision and supports the runs of his team-mates”, “For an 18-year-old he looks so strong, good at taking people on and intelligent”, “He is difficult to stop. His feet are so quick and he runs rings around defenders.”
WBA's Jonathan Leko
Many Robins felt that the Norwich game was one too far for the August deadline-day loan signing from West Brom. “Leko was never in the Norwich game and he was rightly subbed at half-time”, “He regularly gave the ball away and never showed his skill. He’s a good player and just had an off-day.”
“Thank God for Callum O’Dowda actually trying to make something happen against Bolton.” The 22-year-old ex-Oxford winger “is getting stronger and has talent, pace and strength, but he lacks a final pass or shot. If he could improve his decision-making then there would be a hell of a player there.”
“O’Dowda looked a fish out of water on the right wing”, “He is all left foot. He was always cutting in and going across the pitch against Bolton rather than dashing forward outside his marker to cross”, “He was enfeebled on the right but helped set up a goal and drew a red card switching to the left.”
“Paterson is one of the most important players in our high-press attacking system”, “His work-rate is unbelievable and he is all over the pitch. He has created so many chances this season and so many of our attacks goes through him. His movement and availability make him invaluable to the team.”
Jamie Paterson for former club Forest
“Jamie appeared to be in poser mode against Bolton.” The 25-year-old ex-Forest man had a quiet game on Tuesday. “He achieved very little, was caught offside too many times and floated nothing crosses and corners”, “He does have a languid style but he is not lazy. His work-rate is phenomenal.”
“Cauley Woodrow is used to the pace and physicality of the Championship.” The 22-year-old Fulham loan signing has been returning to actions following a thigh problem and made an appearance from the bench against Bolton. “He’s a real nuisance for centre-backs, backing in and winning freekicks.”
Kenlock v Cauley Woodrow whilst on loan at Burton Albion
“Woodrow has greater mobility and the ability to find space better than Diedhiou. This contributed to some scintillating passing moves against Derby [in an emphatic 4-1 home win earlier this month]”, “I like the look of what I have seen. He looks sharp and more suited to our link-up style of football.”
“Bobby Reid was a stop-gap up front because Taylor was injured in pre-season.” The 24-year-old youth product “is one of the first names on the teamsheet. His hold-up play, bringing others into the game, ability to run at people and work tirelessly for the team are absolutely key at present.”
“Reid seems to exude more confidence and self-belief this season and that rubs off on others”, “He has always had it technically but he has worked on his composure, decision-making and strength”, “He sometimes overcomplicates things and is wasteful but he is giving teams the run-around now.”
“Matty Taylor causes teams problems with his movement.” The 27-year-old controversially joined the Robins from Bristol Rovers in January. “A natural fit for our style of play, his movement, passing and vision are all there”, “He prevents opposition the back four having the time to launch attacks.”
Matty Taylor at former club Rovers
“Taylor isn’t necessarily stronger or doesn’t put more pressure on defenders. It’s more the fact that his movement opens up space”, “He increases our ability to run in behind opponents to spread their defences”, “He and Diedhiou have an instant connection, this is a partnership that could blossom.”
“Diedhiou seems to be settling in. He is linking-up play better in every game.” The 24-year-old arrival this summer from Angers “is a great finisher, but his general hold-up play is poor. Worst of all, for a big powerful guy he seems to be incredibly easy to knock off the ball”, “He is not strong enough.”
“Famara benefits from having a strike partner much closer to him than Reid usually is”, “He works hard and is getting there on the ball, but he needs to be stronger and more aware. He could do with finding an aggressive streak”, “He is winning a lot in the air and getting the hang of leading the line.”
Robins’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“Ipswich get five against Sunderland, tough game on Saturday”, “Any points and we will have done well from this game”, “We need to be respectful of a clinical Ipswich team that will be well organised and full of confidence. Then again, we too have started well and seem quite durable this year.”
“A draw would be one heck of a result. Let’s not get too carried away with ourselves and expect to beat every team we face. We should fear no one but we have a terrible record at Ipswich and regardless of who they have played, they are two points off second place with a game in hand.”
“I would definitely take a point if it was offered now.” While a small minority of Robins are confident of victory, most visiting fans are treating this game with the utmost caution. They are wary of our continuing good form and are also mindful of their poor historic track record at Portman Road - they have gone 12 games since their last win on Town turf back in September 1978.
“Ipswich are beatable but so are we”, “I am thinking draw on Saturday. I'd take a point right now if it was offered”, “We rarely do well at Ipswich and have won one away game out of five so far in the league, a narrow 1-0 at Reading. While we are improving, to say we will smash Ipswich is laughable.”
“I was encouraged by some of Ipswich’s defending against Sunderland and feel we will get chances to score on Saturday. Last time I visited Portman Road was for the 2-2 draw a couple of years ago and I wouldn't be surprised to see a repeat of that score line at the weekend.”
“I am not sure Ipswich can sustain a challenge all season but they are a decent side”, “Ipswich and McCarthy are no mugs. They have added a little bit of class in their team this season going forward”, “I honestly think that the Ipswich away game is the hardest this year alongside Leeds and Cardiff.”
“I'm watching the Ipswich situation with interest. Mick received absolute shocking abuse last season and you would have staked your house on his being sacked during the summer. Their turnaround so far is impressive but will it last? I see them dropping off and finishing about 12th in the table.”
“We need to keep a sharp eye on David McGoldrick's movement around and in to the box, he is their key attacking driving force”, “They are getting the best out of Waghorn”, “Ipswich are a better outfit than last season. Garner and Waghorn were shrewd signings for very little money this summer.”
“Mick McCarthy will have a plan for us”, “I must admit I thought Ipswich were one of the poorer sides I saw last season which makes their upturn this season all the more remarkable. Perhaps it underlines that McCarthy knows a little more about management than the majority of Town fans.”
The busiest Robins’ message board is the friendly and knowledgeable OTIB.
Photo: Action Images
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