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Friday, 25 April 2014

Bookies Corner: Bristol City v Crewe

In this weekly article for The Exiled Robin, lifelong Bristol City fan and easyodds.com football tipster Ross Casey will preview Bristol City’s matches from a betting angle. After correctly tipping three matches in a row can he find the value again for Saturday’s match against Crewe??!

Who would have thought Steve Cotterill was capable of the revival we have had under his helm? After taking over the club in 23rd position he has guided us to 12th place and theoretically we could finish 8th – whoda thunk it? With a superior goal difference to those around us, two convincing wins could leave us two spots off the play-offs!

We now face a Crewe side in real relegation danger in our final home match of the season and the players will be committed to giving us fans a good send-off in front of the East End which will be closed as of next season for reconstruction.

BRISTOL CITY – 6/5 (BetVictor)
CREWE – 27/10 (MarathonBet)
DRAW – 13/5 (Bet365)

We have hit a purple patch of form recently and as Steve Cotterill has described we are in an upwards trajectory as of late. The run is now just one loss in 11 and we have averaged exactly two goals per game in that sequence. We can thank the signing of Wade Elliott as the turning point, with his experience and talent pushing the rest of the players along in midfield.

Our home form has been even better – we have lost just once in our last 12 matches at Ashton Gate. In fact we have only lost six matches all season at Ashton Gate – if we were able to have turned a few of our nine draws into wins perhaps we could have pushed even further up the table. We are available at a best price of 6/5 to win the game, with Bet365 offering the best price of 13/5 on the draw.

Interestingly, of our six losses at Ashton Gate we have lost 2-1 four times. With Crewe fighting for their lives and on a run of three away wins on the bounce, that is available at a best price of 23/2 with 188Bet.

Sam Baldock has scored four goals in his last three games, taking his season tally to 26 in all competitions and making him the current League One top goalscorer with 24. He is currently a best price of 4/1 to open the scoring.

Crewe have got everything to play for in this match. The Railwaymen are just one clear of the relegation zone with two games left to play – against us and a home tie against Preston. With Carlisle having a game in hand and their current away form far superior to that at Gresty Road, they could see this as a more than winnable game.

They have won three on the bounce away from home which is an amazing return for a team struggling at the wrong end of the League One table. Keeping clean sheets is an issue for them though – they have managed just one clean sheet away from home all season - that is a success rate of just 4%. Both teams to score is available at the best price of 8/13. The lack of clean sheets is not down to former City keeper Steve Phillips though – he has lost his place between the sticks to 20 year-old Ben Garratt. This could well mean that goals will be on the agenda and over 3.5 goals is available at 19/10.

Their very good away form is in stark contrast to their home form. Crewe have failed to win any of their last seven home matches but have lost just two of their last eight away games. If you fancy Crewe to take at least a point they are a best price of 8/11 in the double chance market (draw or Crewe win.

Believe it or not but according to the history books Crewe have NEVER won an away game at Ashton Gate. We have won six and drawn two against the Railwaymen in league matches at the Gate. Boy do they need to create history tomorrow! That is in stark contrast to our cup form against them. We have played four and failed to win any cup matches against Crewe – drawing once and losing three times.

The last time we met in at Ashton Gate was a League One game back in 2006 where we managed to pick up a 2-1 win against a Crewe side with a strike force of Ryan Lowe, Nicky Maynard and Luke Varney. The goals that day were scored by Scott Murray and Scott Brown. The 2-1 final score to Bristol City is available at 17/2.

Sam Baldock anytime scorer @ 11/10

Sam Baldock is in tremendous form and now has in-form attacking players setting him up at will. He is desperate to finish as top scorer in League One this season and with Crewe proving almost incapable of keeping an away clean sheet and with our captain on penalty duty, I think a decent bet here is Sam Baldock to score at 11/10.

*All prices supplied by easyodds.com and prices all correct as of Friday 25th April 2014*

The Exiled Robin

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Thursday, 24 April 2014

The Inside Line: Crewe Alexandra (26/04/2014)

A third successive win at Stevenage on Easter Monday has propelled City into the top half of the table and left even the most realistic and pessimistic of fans wondering what might have been.  I personally don’t think it’s as simple as that and will explain more in my end of season review, but no-one can deny that the last dozen games has been an enjoyable and productive run of results, the like of which we’ve not had in more than five years. 

With two games to go it would be great for the likes of Bobby Reid, Joe Bryan, Liam Kelly and Wes Burns to be given their chance to shine in a positive, confident team, ahead of perhaps the likes of Barnett for instance who I can’t imagine is a viable option in the summer, or even Wade Elliott who has surely done enough to prove himself worth a deal, whilst Stephen Pearson has already talked of the importance for his future of the next 180 minutes.

Yet another relegation contender (how huge would all these games had been without this run of results?!) arrive at Ashton Gate on Saturday desperate for at least a point to help their cause and with Crewe Alexandra, you can at least be assured you’re likely to get a decent game of football to watch.

Stu Radnedge caught up with journalism student Nat Holland, to get the low-down on the Railwaymen’s battle against the drop:

You’re just a single point above the bottom four with games to come away at City and home against Preston. How difficult could these final two games be?
The possible relegation is definitely looming close, but we have that one point to keep us above and you're right Bristol City and Preston are two very difficult games in this league, but I think every game is a tough one this year.

How difficult a challenge do you believe it will be obtaining a win in Bristol, bearing in mind we’ve only lost one in ten and it’s our final home game of the season?
Our away form recently has been quite good with wins at Gillingham, Crawley and Shrewsbury, as well as the Walsall draw, so it will put us in good preparation for the trip to Ashton Gate. However it will still be a tough game even although City have nothing to play for.  Three points will be priority but I believe the other teams around us will continue to slip up so maybe a draw will be alright on the day.

How would you describe Crewe’s season in three words, with an explanation for each answer?
Frustrating - With all the problems from pre-season seemingly settled in November, it’s frustrating that, with the players we have, we haven't put a run of good form together and secured safety earlier in the season. 

Transitional - We have lost some big players in recent years, (Ashley Westwood, Nick Powell, Luke Murphy) and Steve Davis signed a lot of players, who haven't learned their trade with the club. It was always going to take time for the signings to settle, but many of them haven’t settled at all. 

Lee Molyneux and Thierry Audel are big examples of this, going out on loan to Accrington and Lincoln respectively. Saying that, after a shaky start, Anthony Grant has turned into a contender for player of the season.

Tense - We have been blessed with two great seasons prior to this campaign but we never do anything the easy way, so a tense finish to the season keeps the fans interested (if not worried) at least.

If you beat the drop, can you see major changes to ensure survival next season? If so, what changes are required?
No, I don't think major changes are needed.  Steve Davis is still a top class manager and we do have a very competitive squad on their day, but maybe it’s time for a few players to move on.  If we can keep Matt Tootle and tempt Chuks Aneke to stay, then nurture the talents of Liam Nolan, Billy Waters, Jon Guthrie, Ben Garratt and Ryan Colclough, then I think we can aim to finish mid-table next year.

City's transformation has been somewhat miraculous since Cotterill took over – as an outsider, do you have any views on why this is?
I don't really know.  Some managers just work well with certain clubs. I have always liked Cotterill, he has managed some good sides at all levels and he knows and understands the lower leagues. If he can get City promoted back to the Championship next season, he will write himself into the history books.

A lot of City fans were clearly impressed by Luke Freeman's performance for Stevenage on Easter Monday – which opposition players have you seen whom you would like to see Crewe gaffer Steve Davis sign in the summer?
There are a lot of good players in League One this season. We have missed a goal scorer this year so Sam Baldock would have been great in South Cheshire this year! 

Rotherham's Kieran Agard and Freddie Sears have both caught my eye, Agard due to his tenacity and finishing, whilst Sears' was head and shoulders above the rest of the Colchester side on Monday. Orient's Moses Odubajo is a tricky winger as well and would look very at home at Gresty Road.

What do you predict the score will be on Saturday?
Ideally a win would be amazing so my heart is saying a 3-1 win with Grant, Ellis and Pogba all scoring. However, taking in form and league position, I suspect City may just pinch it 1-0.

My thanks to Stu and to Nat for taking time out of his revision for the answers.

The Exiled Robin

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Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Inside Line: Stevenage (Easter Monday 2014)

Following on from Good Friday’s slightly fortunate three points, City face another side deep in relegation trouble in Stevenage.  Fresh from his fantastic effort in being part of the team to cycle from Land’s End to Ashton Gate in aid of the Bristol City Community Trust (you can still donate here by the way!), Stu Radnedge caught up with another intrepid cyclist – Stevenage fan Steve Watkins – who wrote this preview for what ultimately turned into one of the few highlights of our season over Christmas.
In a shameless plug, Steve is taking part in the London to Amsterdam bike ride this June, raising funds and awareness for Prostate Cancer UK . Please help by making a donation  to this very worthy cause at  http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SteveWatkins1
So, with bike rides and sponsorship plugs out of the way, onto the questions for Easter Monday’s game in a slightly shortened Q&A in the style of old-fashioned holiday-time match-day programmes!
Your loss on Good Friday leaves you needing to win each of your last three matches to stand even a slim chance of survival. I assume there’s little confidence of staying up now?
Yes, we are all resigned to relegation now and can see no other scenario. Even if Stevenage were to win the last three games, which is a possibility with all the opposition having little left to play for, it would take too many other sides to basically win nothing in their remaining games. Stevenage are going down I'm afraid.
Playing a team fighting for survival in a league usually makes for an unpredictable fixture. Do you expect that to be the case or might your players have accepted their fate?
Watching them come off the pitch at Sheffield United, I think that it looked clear that they know they have thrown it away in the last few weeks. I would like to think that they will have the fight in them to get off the bottom, because I am sure they have not been the worst side in the league this season, but they did look down and it will be a case of whether they can pick themselves up off the floor.
What will happen next season with the team? Can you expect lots of comings and goings?
Without doubt there will be changes. There are several players that are currently out on loan and will not feature in Westley’s plans for sure, and one or two may even look to stay in League 1 or possibly higher. Luke Freeman for example has been linked with Championship clubs. Francois Zoko has been phenomenal and Stevenage would have been down a while back without his goals. Can they keep him?
Loanees such as Doughty, Obeng, Flanagan, and Henderson are unlikely to want to play League 2 if the opportunity arose as they are all clearly a better standard. Several players may well be suited more to League Two, though, if we are being brutally honest. The fact is, the budget will as always be very tight, and Graham Westley knows where to go for 'his' type of player, and it will more than likely come from below.
And finally, can I get a score prediction please?
Stevenage have been very difficult to predict this season, and have shown they are more than capable of mixing with the best. But they are equally capable of losing to the worst. I would suggest that this game will be competitive, and so long as we can keep Sam Baldock at bay, I will go for a share of the points. 2-2.
The Exiled Robin

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Friday, 18 April 2014

The Inside Line: Notts County (Good Friday, 2014)

City kick off their Easter weekend with a spring in their step after achieveing the almost-sacred 50-point mark with last weekend’s 1-0 win at Walsall.  The fact that the players were out that night singing “We are staying up” perhaps shows it means more to them than many often think it does?

However, there are still some hard-earned points to be won and the run-in starts with a home match against a side very much still in the need for points.

Stu Radnedge took time out of his marathon effort on two wheels (Stu is part of the team cycling from Land’s End to Ashton Gate for the Bristol City Community Trust this week) to catch up with his namesake https://twitter.com/blackwhitezine at www.theNottsBlog.co.uk to ask these questions.

What are your thoughts on last week's announcement with the fixture move?
As far as we’re aware, it was Steve Cotterill’s idea to shift the game – or maybe more specifically Sean O’Driscoll’s for not requesting the fixture be moved when it was first announced. Regardless, Notts didn’t have to accept did they?

It’s understandably put a lot of noses out of joint but you can see where the club are coming from. It doesn’t mean they don’t care about the fans, more that they know an extra day’s rest could be crucial given our precarious position right now.

Still, doesn’t make it any easier to swallow for those who had booked tickets, travel, hotels etc for the weekend. Notts offered free coach travel to those affected but the damage was already done for many.

Final score? Both parties want castrating, and governing bodies need to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

Back to the beautiful game, there has been a transformation as of late for County. Is this a late run for survival and does it hinge on Friday's result?
Survival very much happening irrespective of the game at yours if I’m honest. Just to be able to look at the table and see us not in the bottom four when we’ve had so many final nails hammered into our coffin is incredible. When we lost at Tranmere just over a month ago now, we all knew that was it. It was a do or die game anyway but seeing the players slump to their knees at the final whistle was the moment we knew they’d given up.

Shaun Derry and Greg Abbott have worked miracles to get us where we are today. Four games remain and we’ve earned a very real chance at staying up.

What are your hopes from the game? Is there more focus on seeing it through and not picking up injuries, as you have a crucial match at Crawley on Monday?
Absolutely not. We’re merely one of many clubs trying desperately to hit the 50 point barrier like yourselves did last weekend. We’ll be going into the game high on confidence given the nature of our comeback last weekend at home to Port Vale. 2-0 in auspicious circumstances, mere weeks ago it would have been a right hammering – but to win 4-2 was quite brilliant.

What has been the catalyst for the change in form?
The introduction of Josh Vela on loan from Bolton alongside Gary Liddle has been crucial for us. In seeing off Alan Judge, Neal Bishop and Jeff Hughes in the Summer we essentially signed our own death warrants and are only now righting those wrongs. Mark Fotheringham had a very good pre-season but despite possessing passion in droves failed to deliver regularly enough. And the less said about Joss Labadie the better if I’m honest – quite sad considering the hopes we had for him this time last season.

Then up front, Ronan Murray and Jimmy Spencer have formed our most dangerous double act in years. Spencer is a star, never seen anyone in our colours who a football sticks to like it does him. Whilst Murray’s goals have proven incredibly vital of late. There may be issues over his temperament but he’s a permanent fixture in the first XI now.

Should you beat the drop, what do you think the squad will look like for the following season?  Can you see players being snapped up from County and you bringing players in? Are there any particular positions that require strengthening?
As things stand I think we only have six or seven players actually contracted for next season. When we were rock bottom this only came as great news because we couldn’t wait to see the back of most of them! Recent form though has given a true glimpse of what these lads can do – might be an uncomfortable Summer if things continue to pan out like they are!

Bartosz Bialkowski is likely to be targeted by a few clubs in the Summer given he only has a year left on his contract. He’s had sticky moments this season, but far too often he makes League One look so easy, literally can take your breath away at times.

Alan Sheehan is out of contract and should attract interest. Had he left last Summer when his contract was up very few would have batted an eyelid but he’s been a revelation this season, many people’s clear winner for Player Of The Season. The club appears to be a happier place than it might have been just 12 months ago. We’re really hoping that he’s settled and wants to stick around another year or two.

With regard to incoming players – it’s vital we retain the aforementioned Murray and Spencer given that we’ve seen what they can do together.

Who do you fear on Friday and whom should we fear?
(Ex-City winger) Jamal Campbell-Ryce had possibly his best game in County colours last week against Port Vale. He grabbed two goals, and assisted the other two for Spencer. He’s a completely different player under Derry from that which we saw at the beginning of the season – given we actually have players like Haydn Hollis and Jimmy Spencer who will attack the ball now, he’ll be a huge threat I’m sure.

As for who we fear? Well, I certainly hope reinforced shin guards are being prepared as we speak if Greg Cunningham is in your starting lineup!

And finally, can I get a score prediction please?
Long gone are the days of hoping we can keep scores down and hope to scrap away for a point. I’m predicting a 1-0 Notts win courtesy of Jimmy Spencer!

My thanks to both Stuarts for their answers – you can sponsor Stu Radnedge and the Community Trust for their remarkable efforts, here: http://www.justgiving.com/StuRadnedge

The Exiled Robin

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Thursday, 17 April 2014

Bookies Corner: Bristol City v Notts County

In a new article for The Exiled Robin, lifelong Bristol City fan and easyodds.com football tipster Ross Casey will preview Bristol City’s matches from a betting angle. After finding a 13/8 winner last week against Walsall he is on for a hat-trick, so where does he think your money should be going on Friday against Notts County?

After picking up a scrappy win away from home last week thanks to a Sam Baldock penalty and a (Steve Cotterill assisted!) penalty save from Simon Moore, the table looks a lot more healthy for us Robins fans! Currently seven points clear from the drop zone, with 12 points still to play for another win here could see us mathematically safe and we can all breathe a huge sigh of relief.

The fixture list has handed us four back-to-back relegation strugglers for our run-in – we face Notts County, Crewe, Stevenage and Crawley – who will all be fighting for survival so all matches should prove competitive.

BRISTOL CITY – 5/4 (Various)
NOTTS COUNTY – 12/5 (Various)
DRAW – 13/5 (Various)

Bristol City have been made favourites with the bookies to win this match on Good Friday – with best odds available at 5/4. This is in large part to our prolonged form as we have lost just one match in our last nine with our home form even more impressive. At Ashton Gate we boast a record of one loss in our last 11 games!

Even more pleasingly after a season of defensive frailties, hiccups and downright cock-ups, we have now kept three clean sheets in our last six games. I actually tipped us to keep a clean sheet last week – but I shall not be doing that here. For those of you who fancy that bet though, we are a best price 23/10.

Sam Baldock was our goalscoring hero last week taking his league goal tally to 21 – making him joint top scorer in the whole of League One along with Britt Assombalonga and Callum Wilson. Our captain is 5/2 to finish top scorer.

Interestingly, Baldock netted penalties in both fixtures against Walsall and having already scored from the spot at Notts County – is it written in the stars he nets another here? He is 7/5 best price to score in this game and we are the big price of 13/2 to score a penalty.

Notts County’s short term form is very, very good. The Magpies have won four of their last five matches – a sequence that has lifted them out of the relegation zone – albeit by goal difference. Fortunately for us though, their away form is nothing short of pitiful. They have picked up just three wins from 25 and they were against fellow strugglers Colchester, Stevenage and Crewe.

They also picked up a draw at Anfield this season though. Funny old game isn’t it?! I think that thanks to their recent run they will manage to hit the net on Friday – they have only failed to score in eight of their 25 away games this season.

In terms of goalscorers they have a few threats. James Spencer is an old school number 9 who will hold the ball up well, be aggressive in his play and be an aerial threat throughout. He has scored three goals in his last two appearances and is 3/1 to score. In the words of the late Gorilla Monsoon, the battle between him and Nyron Nosworthy could well be the irresistible force against the immovable object.

Their two wingers Jack Grealish and former Robin Jamal Campbell-Ryce have terrorised defences in recent weeks and will be a constant threat. I think we will probably match their formation to have two wingers protecting our full-backs. JCR actually matched his league tally of two Bristol City goals in 52 appearances with his brace against Port Vale last week! The pint sized winger is 11/2 to score against his former team.

We drew the reverse fixture 1-1 back in December with both sides scoring penalties. That is the most likely score in the correct score market – it’s priced up at 7/1.

The last time we met at Ashton Gate was an FA Cup encounter back in 2005 where we suffered another early exit losing 2-0. We played a back four including Kelly Youga and David Partridge that day – not sure how we didn’t keep a clean sheet! For anyone playing ‘where’s Kelly Youga’, he actually lined up for AFC Wimbledon against Bristol Rovers last week!

Our home form against Notts in the league is far more impressive – we are currently unbeaten in our last six matches! Here’s hoping we take that run to seven on Friday and get closer to safety in the process.

Over 2.5 goals @ 3/4 – BET NOW

These teams both get involved in gluttony for goals. Nine of our last 12 matches have seen three or more goals scored and six of the last seven County games have followed suit. I fancy over 2.5 goals at an almost evens price of 3/4.

*All prices supplied by easyodds.com and prices all correct as of Fri 17th April 2014*

The Exiled Robin

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Friday, 11 April 2014

Bookies Corner: Walsall v Bristol City

In this new feature for The Exiled Robin, lifelong Bristol City fan and easyodds.com football tipster Ross Casey will preview Bristol City's matches from a betting angle. After correctly tipping a draw against Preston last week, where does he think your money should be going on Saturday??!

After picking up just one point from our last two games, these last five games of the season have become a nervy affair! Currently five points clear from the drop zone, another loss here will have Robins fans looking at the table in the coming weeks with beads of sweat on their heads and a calculator in hand.

The fixture list has handed us four back-to-back six pointers if we do fail to pick up the points in the Midlands - we face Notts County, Crewe, Stevenage and Crawley - who are all in a similar or worse predicament than ourselves. Can we get ourselves some way out of that mire by picking up three points on Saturday? For those of you who are interested - our best price for relegation is currently a surprisingly big 50/1. I'm sure a few Rovers fans will be putting a wager on that!

WALSALL - 11/10 (Various)
DRAW - 13/5 (Bet365)
BRISTOL CITY - 29/10 (Bet365)

Walsall are the clear favourites to win this match - but don't let the odds fool you. Walsall had gone seven matches without a win at home before their 1-0 victory over lowly Shrewsbury back in March. Considering we have lost just once in our last eight games I would suggest a better bet would be on us or if you are a more conservative gambler - I would take us in the draw no bet (13/8) or double chance market.

I must say though, that the ‘go to’ market in terms of probability has to be the both teams to score market. With three matches remaining of the season we are STILL YET TO KEEP A CLEAN SHEET AWAY FROM HOME in the league this season. The same old defensive frailties still haunt us game in and game out despite the introduction of new players and tactics - and with the statistic that we have only failed to score five times away from home also - odds of 4/5 look more than appealing.

Wade Elliott was our only goalscorer last weekend for the second match in a row and after joking that his career goals do come in patches many may be tempted to have a wager on him making it three from three. He is a tempting 13/2 to score on Saturday. It could have been oh so different last weekend against Preston if Tyrone Barnett had scored his excellent chance late on. However, it wasn't to be and he hit his shot over the bar. He is 3/1 to make amends here behind Sam Baldock (11/5), Jay Emmanuel-Thomas (11/4) and Martin Paterson (11/4).

As noted previously in this piece Walsall have been on a pretty poor run in recent weeks - they have picked up five wins in their last 18 games and that has almost put paid to their promotion push. They currently sit in tenth place and are eight points behind sixth placed Peterborough with 15 points still to play for. Whilst most fans will still dream, it seems now a play-off spot is probably beyond them.

Interestingly Walsall have scored just 20 home goals this season, the second lowest in the whole of League One - behind Crawley and Shrewsbury who are joint worst with just 19. Does this mean we have a decent chance of keeping our very first away clean sheet - especially with 13 goal top-scorer Craig Westcarr out of this match through suspension? We have actually kept three clean sheets in a row against Walsall and we're currently a 31/10 best price to make history and keep our first away clean sheet of the season.

Unlike many away grounds (apart from the Ricoh Arena - in which we will forever be undefeated!!) we have a decent record at the Banks' Stadium. We are unbeaten in our last four visits gaining two wins and two draws.

The last time we met in Walsall was back in 2006 and we came away with a 3-0 win thanks to goals from David Cotterill, Alex Russell and Richard Keogh. We did well to keep a clean sheet that day as Walsall fielded a 40 year-old Steve Claridge up front! A 3-0 victory on Saturday is available at the big price of 55/1 - and rightly so.

Bristol City Draw No Bet @ 13/8

Walsall are struggling for points at home and are missing their most dangerous player whilst we have been on a decent run as of late and are playing some decent stuff. I like odds of 13/8 in the draw no bet market - meaning you get a full pay out for a win or your stake returned for a draw.

*All prices supplied by easyodds.com and prices all correct as of Fri 11th April 2014*

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Thursday, 10 April 2014

The Inside Line: Walsall (12/04/2014)

One point from two games against promotion-chasing sides has caused a few fans to once again look over their shoulder into the mire of the bottom four, but the fight, spirit and closeness of those matches ought to be enough to soothe any concerns anyone has that City might once again be about to drop into the relegation dogfight.

A trip to Walsall on Saturday looks a tricky proposition on paper, with Dean Smith’s side (ably supported by one-time City assistant manager, Richard O’Kelly) playing some good football and well established in the top half of the table. However, results of late have been inconsistent and when Stu Radnedge spoke to Walsall fan site ‘Bescot Banter’ and his words offer some considerable comfort to the travelling fans…

We’re now at the business end of the season and, with 15 points available, 6th place (currently occupied by Peterborough) is theoretically reachable for Walsall, albeit eight points away. Is this achievable or was your season realistically over after Port Vale ended your five-match unbeaten run last Saturday?
In many ways it has been over for a while, even if not mathematically.  The emphasis has been on Peterborough United and the need to catch them and whilst we have edged closer on occasions, the recent ten-game winless run, coupled with the failure to capitalise on their recent loss to Wolves, has put us in a difficult position. Realistically Sheffield United are in a better position to capitalise given their recent run of form.

Remarkably given their current position, Walsall have failed to win more than two league games in a row this season.  Reflecting on the season, how has it been for Dean Smith and the fans at Banks's Stadium?
A season of ups and downs for the Saddlers, from the League victory over bitter rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers in September to the terrible run of form we're currently in, which includes two wins in the last three but just three in the last fourteen.

Whilst mid-table safety was many people’s target, supporters couldn't help but get swept up in the chase for the play-offs and are now understandably deflated at the recent flop that has seen those chances come to an end.

Last year you finished 9th, this year you’ll probably end up in roughly the same position.  Would it be fair to describe Walsall as an 'almost' club? What is needed to convert the team into a promotion chasing side?
I think Walsall could be seen as an 'almost' club given the recent season ending positions, however if you look back a little further, the side has come quite a long way in a short space of time.  From relegation battles to play-off chases, Dean Smith along with first-team coach Richard O'Kelly, Physio Jon Whitney and 'keeper coach Neil Cutler have set the club on a new path that, given the correct amount of financial backing from the board, could see the ambition of Championship football achieved in the near future.

The summer is always an interesting time for teams as players come and go from squads. Can you see your team having much action in the transfer/loan markets? Has the gaffer signalled any areas that he wishes to strengthen?
Much of the summer’s transfer activity will also depend on how many players Smith can tie down to new deals, there are several first-team players out-of-contract in the summer, including club captain Andy Butler, left-back Andy Taylor, Ben Purkiss and James Chambers.

If Smith can keep the core of the squad together then all that will be needed is a proven striker. The style of football we play creates many goal scoring opportunities, yet they often go to waste.

If not, then we can expect yet another busy summer at the Banks's Stadium, manager Dean Smith hasn't expressed a position on any new arrivals as of writing, however it is pretty clear to all that along with a goal scorer, the team is in need of defensive options, often players are playing through fatigue and errors are almost going unpunished as there are few replacements at hand.

What do you perceive to be Bristol City's strengths and weaknesses ahead of Saturday's match?
Form is a big plus for the side, and the desire to extend the gap over the relegation places could prove a big factor in Saturday's game.  It seems like manager Steve Cotterill has turned a corner as of late, 2014 started with a terrible January, a poor February and a fantastic March, it will be interesting to see how the side go next season, especially if he can secure more loan signings like those currently at the club.

And what about Walsall's strengths and weaknesses?
Without doubt our strength is the style of play we have adopted, which the fans have dubbed it 'sexy football', this has been a clear boost to the side, gone are the days of 'hoofball', in its place is a fluid style which has seen the side often dominate the midfield, sadly, as previously mentioned, were often not able to capitalize.

With those answers in mind, who do you think will come out on top?
Sadly, Walsall seem incapable of putting together any kind of form as of late, and with top-scorer Craig Westcarr being suspended and the Robins only being defeated once in their last eight league games, I'd have to begrudgingly go with Bristol City, especially since the Saddlers have lost the last three meetings between the two sides.

Thank you very much to Stu and to Bescot Banter, who you can follow here on Twitter if you wish. 

Wouldn’t it be nice to get that win and edge towards a top-half finish, as manager Steve Cotterill has indicated is the target, meaning a few ‘boring’ games between now and the end of the season?!


The Exiled Robin

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