Maths will tell you that one point is infinitely better than zero. The point we took against Oldham may have come about in disappointing circumstances, given the way we dominated the 90+ minutes, but it is another point closer to safety. It does look like though that one more win is still required to ensure safety. A loss in this promotion party for Bristol City could throw us back into the mire despite results going in our favour on Tuesday night.
In the season of our grand return to Coventry, it is somewhat galling to now find ourselves playing the role of Gillingham. Leaving that game back in early September, something felt special and different, like we were no longer the old Coventry City. Nope. This has been a season that has shown that some things take more than one fantastic evening to change, things have to be built on solid foundations rather than just thrown together and hoped to work out for the best.
To reconcile this feeling of missed opportunity, in the tiniest way possible, would be to spoil Bristol City’s party and give us something to look forward to next season. The past two performances have been impressive, even if they were lacking in killer touch in front of goal. Quietly, we could be building to a crescendo and a win over champions-elect Bristol City would be a real statement of intent.
Back on earth, it is likely that Bristol City will saunter to victory here in front of what looks to be a sell-out crowd at Ashton Gate. At the very least, we have to avoid a heavy defeat and emerge from this hiding to nothing with something resembling pride.
As far as team news goes, Reda Johnson will always be a doubt because he’s Reda Johnson. A pragmatist might be wary of throwing someone so injury-prone into a game where we are unlikely to win regardless of whether he plays or not. Tony Mowbray has shown since taking over that he is always goes into games looking to win. It seems like our ex-captain will be given his third start in the space of a week since recovering from injury.
Possible Line-Up: (4-4-2) Burge; Willis, Pennington, Johnson, Stokes; Barton, Ward, Fleck, O’Brien; Proschwitz, Nouble.
Last Time We Met
Bristol City have won our previous two encounters this season by two goals in each game. In both of those games, Steve Cotterill’s side have demonstrated their superior quality, organisation, physicality along with a killer touch in front of goal. That was on display both in a comfortable 3-1 win at the Ricoh Arena and then in a 2-0 win at Ashton Gate to extinguish our hopes of winning the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
To build a sense of narrative going into this game, I want to reflect on that 5-4 game back at Sixfields one more time. It seems poignant because back on that day, we were the superior side. The crazy scoreline was largely a result of some unlucky deflections that allowed Bristol City in behind and the classic mental brittleness that most Coventry City teams have always had. As the full-time whistle sounded, a team in sky blue was building towards something and a team in red was going nowhere.
How Are They Doing?
A brief six months of delirium aside, roles have reversed between Coventry City and Bristol City since then. We capitulated towards the end of last season, largely as a result of being a club in crisis. Bristol City turned their crisis into a concerted effort to reverse a decline that had began from the very moment that Dean Windass defeat Gary Johnson’s Bristol City in the Championship play-off final back in 2008.
The appointment of Steve Cotterill proved to be the catalyst behind Bristol City’s revival. A much-maligned manager, and with good reason after producing some awful footballing sides over the past decade. Cotterill has proven to be an adept tactician and man motivator who first slowly raised Bristol City up the table from the relegation position who took them over in. Then he made decisive changes last summer to the squad and they have not looked back since.
What is remarkable about the season that Bristol City are having is that they have done it without a strike pairing that combined for nearly 40 goals last season. Sam Baldock was sold to Brighton for a decent fee whilst Jay Emmanuel-Thomas has been relegated to 88th minute substitute this season.
Without two stand-out individuals, the collective has come together to make Bristol City a much higher sum of their parts. Luke Ayling has been a superlative ball-playing centre-back. Mark Little at right wing-back has been a force of nature. Korey Smith in midfield has been all-conquering. Luke Freeman has been a creative force, described as a ‘budget David Silva’ by Guardian journalist John Ashdown.
In attack, Bristol City have a new devastating duo in Kieran Agard and Aaron Wilbraham. Agard is a pure pace, he can be an erratic finisher but he’s scored 31 goals in two seasons which is pretty good if you ask me. If Luke Freeman is a ‘budget David Silva’, Aaron Wilbraham is a ‘budget Peter Crouch’. A tall, gangly striker who once obliterated a Spurs defence a few years ago whilst in Norwich City’s colours, Wilbraham is Bristol City’s top-scorer this season on 18 goals.
Finally, some words on Aden Flint who had an absolute nightmare back in August 2013 at Sixfields. I was cheering in that game every time he touched the ball because he would invariably panic and give it to Franck Moussa or Callum Wilson or Leon Clarke. Flint has been a man transformed this season and has led Bristol City’s defence immaculately. He has also been a threat at the other end of the pitch, scoring 10 goals, which would make him our top-scorer.
Possible Line-Up: (3-4-1-2) Fielding; Ayling, Flint, Williams; Tavernier, Pack, Smith, Bryan; Freeman; Wilbraham, Agard.
As you can guess, I don’t expect us to win this game. I think we will be lucky to escape with anything less than a heavy defeat. I predict a 3-1 loss.
At least our final home game isn’t against one of our bogey sides.