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Friday, 22 August 2014

The Inside Line: Rochdale (23/08/2014)

City's winning start came to an end with a tough, but hard-earned point against likely promotion contenders, Leyton Orient.  Whether the lack of perceived options on the bench (it's my view, as stated previously, that Steve Cotterill doesn't fully trust Jay Emmanuel-Thomas in the tighter games) prompted the more immediate signing of Kieron Agard or not, the fact is we now have four striking options, three of whom scored more than 70 goals between them last season.

With this renewed burst of optimism, Stu Radnedge has taken a hugely positive view on Saturday's trip to Rochdale:

"The signing of Keiron Agard has clearly put most Bristol City fans in a buoyant mood ahead of Saturday’s fixture away against Rochdale – our first fixture versus one of the four teams promoted from League Two last season.

Finishing third, the Dale enjoyed what many fans recognise as one of the most memorable in the club’s history – securing only their third ever promotion, whilst dumping Championship side Leeds United out of the F.A Cup.

The season was one of many highs, not only due to claiming the scalp of a Championship outfit like Leeds, but crucial victories against (at the time) fourth placed Oxford United to further cement their place near the top – and for “stopping a rot” of four games without a goal, and consecutive 3-0 losses against our now non-league neighbours! The highlights from Rochdale’s promotion campaign last year do not summarise a team that “was in the wrong league” due to the results the club secured, but it does indicate the team is one that will battle it out amongst the best of the squads in the league.

On Tuesday the club secured its first points with a remarkable 5-2 victory at  Crewe Alexandra – so belief will be high and no more so than with Matt Done who scored his first hat-trick in Tuesday’s victory. After beginning this season with three defeats, manager Keith Hill picked an experimental side which clearly performed.

Dale have three players out for lengthy spells with injury, which partly forced Hill’s hand in the six changes on Tuesday night. City, at the time of writing, have no injury worries and are able to start Agard – should Cotterill see fit to do so.

Undefeated after beating title favourites Sheffield United and drawing with Orient on Tuesday night, City should not have trouble seeing off a depleted Dale side. Though undoubtedly pleased with Tuesday’s victory, the class on all areas of the pitch from the Robins must be too much for the newly promoted side to handle. The only thing, in my opinion, that can stop a hammering for the Dale is that City don’t perform to their full potential – or the line-up is changed from the standard 3-5-2 we have been playing to accommodate Agard.  I would like to see City keep the status-quo and retain the starting line-up we would have picked had Agard not been in our squad. That way we can bring him on, if needed.

But, due to the nature of the signing, it wouldn’t surprise me if he starts, with the expectation from him clear that we all expect to see the form displayed last year. It is hard to visualise anything but a victory with the talent we have in attack. What is key to our success this season is to have a solid mentality and belief that we are THAT good.

This season we have begun to show some shades of what we can do, albeit with some all-too-frequent reminders of the side we all struggled to love last year. A comprehensive victory on Saturday will be key, at a time where players will be blessed with a week between fixtures – what with the Notts County game being played next Sunday.

Rochdale, I would anticipate, being the home side, will fight for everything but anything less than a win will be surely seen as a disappointment for the visitors?"

My thanks to Stu for his thoughts, let's hope it all goes as swimmingly well as he expects!


The Exiled Robin

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