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Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Ipswich Town v Bristol City: The Tractor Boys' view

With memories of a 6-0 drubbing, amongst other Portman Road defeats, still relatively fresh in the memory, as well as Ipswich’s pedigree at this level, then Suffolk is probably one of the last places City would choose to head towards to right the wrongs of a difficult start to the season.

Saying that, a win at Middlesbrough earlier in the season should give them confidence that, on their day, they can go anywhere in this division and get a result.

A game that at the start of the season where many might have thought “ah, we’ve got ‘x’ points, it’s not been a bad start and we never do well there. A loss may not be too hard to take” has suddenly into another critical test of City’s credentials at this level.

Given the start to the season and our inexperience at this level, many managers of many sides would head into this match considering a 4-5-1 formation to bolster the hitherto porous defensive record.

Get ten men behind the ball, keep it tight and if we can snatch a breakaway then fantastic. That sort of approach doesn’t seem to be in the mind of boss Steve Cotterill right now however, and it appears as if the 3-5-2 – and attacking philosophy – is here to stay. For now at least.

Ahead of this game (and Ipswich’s trip to Manchester United for a high-profile league cup-tie), I caught up with Tractor Boys fan Jordan Mitchell, who offered this view on Saturday’s opponents.

How has your start to the season been, are you pleased with your progress?
“At the time of writing, our game against City is a million miles away. The glitz and glamour of a trip to Old Trafford in the Capital One Cup is all that’s on the fans mind. The bright lights of the Theatre of Dreams are certainly dazzling in the fan’s eyes, but all hopes are that this doesn’t distract from the bread and butter of the Championship come Saturday when the Robins roll into Suffolk.

Like many a season following Town, it started with so much hope and saw us top of the table as we approached the end of the first month. Wins over Sheffield Wednesday, Burnley, Preston along with cup wins over lower league opposition were somewhat soured with an eye opening defeat to Brighton at Portman Road. The 3-2 score line somewhat flattered us after an atrocious first half display where Brighton opened our defence at will. More alarmingly was the 5-1 humiliation at the hands of Reading, which again demonstrated our defensive frailties, live into the living rooms of all who wish to observe.

A typical Mick McCarthy response came at Leeds as we ground out a well-earned 1-0 win, and followed that up with a 1-1 draw at home to surprising high fliers Birmingham, a match we could and probably should have won.

All in all a successful start to the season which has left us sitting in a position which reflects our exciting start, and newly uncovered frailties defensively. Going forward, we need to win our home games, and pick up as many points of possible and ultimately reach the aim of the Premier League.”

Who have been your standout performers this season?
“Our success this season has really been down to the exciting additions to the strong side we had from last year on the wings. Ainsley Maitland Niles and possibly more so Ryan Fraser, coming in on loan from Arsenal and Bournemouth respectively adding some much needed width which top scorer Freddie Sears who has thrived on the service.

A lot will depend on the action in the north west on Wednesday, but City alike many others may struggle with last season’s top scorer Daryl Murphy and ever lively David McGoldrick should they start on Saturday. Ashton Gate hero (ER: That will provoke some debate!) Cole Skuse will run the game given the chance to and defensive duo Christophe Berra and Tommy Smith are always prone to a goal from a set piece.”

What are the views of the locals on the gaffer, Mick McCarthy?
“The Telegraph’s greatest ever Yorkshire-man (a vote possibly rigged by Town fans), Mick McCarthy has become one of the most loved men in Suffolk since taking over in November 2012. Taking us from the foot of the Championship to occasionally the summit on our now famous ‘shoestring budget’ just shows the skills and ability the man has. Ultimately last season was a disappointment, losing to ‘them lot’ in the play-offs, but one which saw us punch well above our weight and surprise many of the more spoken about sides.”

What are the strengths and weaknesses of this Town squad?
“With a million and one combinations of squad that we’ll play at United, it’s hard to say who will face City come Saturday, but our defence has come under severe scrutiny in recent weeks. Communication between ex City keeper Dean Gerken and our back line is a huge weakness and is often exploited. Portman Road is not an easy place to come, and with 4 excellent strikers at our disposal it’s likely to be another tough test for Cotterill and his side. Our usual 4-4-2 has been chopped and changed often becoming a 4-3-3 away from home, with the wide men often linking up well with our full backs to great effect.”

Jordan is also in a relatively unusual position of having watched nearly as many City games as Ipswich in the past year or so as his girlfriend is a huge City fan. She has persuaded him to follow us around the country, in exchange for her catching up on the progress of the likes of Cole Skuse, Paul Anderson and Dean Gerken in Suffolk.

It’s always interesting to hear a fairly neutral view on the club, so first of all I asked him what his views were on City’s surprisingly stuttering start to the season. (He’s a bit of a fan of ours, really!)

“Having seen a lot of City last season with my better half being a lifelong City fan, I was honoured to share an incredible season and witness some of the clubs finest hours throughout the season. From JET’s last minute penalty at Notts County, through to Wembley in March and promotion come May, I was impressed with the side from front to back time and time again.

So far this season, however, there are some clear differences in how things have gone. From the outside, talking about City with those Ipswich fans without the inside view that I have, they’ve been written off already by many and are expected to be an easy three points on Saturday. Having been at St. Andrews a week ago, it’s clear to me that City are in need of a real confidence boost along with a couple of additions in the loan market.

As much as I praised him last season, Luke Ayling is not a wing back, and cannot do the job that Mark Little did so well last season. This along with not being Championship savvy again when it comes to playing the referee and some basic errors mean that City are struggling before their trip to Suffolk.”

From what you’ve seen, who are you most worried about facing?
“Immediately what worries me watching City is the ever increasing threat of Johnathan Kodjia, and the fantastic talent of Luke Freeman. Both started the season slowly, but with each passing game seem to be more and more of a threat as they adapt to Championship football.

My main worry however is City’s own Joe Bryan who rightly has been attracting attention from the higher reaches of the game. He will cause often shaky right back Luke Chambers several problems if he plays at his best.

No discussion about City’s top players would be complete without discussing Aden Flint. His ability at set pieces is sure to test our struggling defence and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him latch onto a second ball in the box and add to his goals tally.”

And how do you think City’s season will pan out?
“Despite their tough start and poor results, City haven’t been outplayed in any of their games, bar the opener against Sheffield Wednesday. With a possible loan addition and a little bit of luck will see City achieve a good mid-table finish without the worry and stress of a relegation fight. Steve Cotterill has worked wonders since arriving in BS3 and I expect him to be given the time and support needed from the board and more importantly, the fans, as the season goes on.

Saturday will be a tough game, regardless of City’s start to the season. Tiredness and the excitement of the glamour tie will undoubtedly have an effect on Ipswich and may work in City’s favour.

Regardless of this, I can see a 2-1 home win on Saturday, because of our ability to grind out a result when needed and City’s current woes when it comes to converting chances."

Massive thanks to Jordan for his time and for answering the questions. I know he wishes us well for the season (after Saturday) but let’s hope we aren’t the ‘easy game’ some Ipswich fans clearly perceive us to be.


The Exiled Robin

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Thursday, 17 September 2015

We deserve better! - Bristol Post blog

My latest blog for the Bristol Post is here, focusing on our start to the season, whether or not we are in a false position and examining whether wholesale changes are required to reverse results in our favour


Thanks all for comments, shares, RTS etc - the reaction to these so far has been tremendous!

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Five games in - season review so far

Last week an email popped into my inbox from my Dad, who had decided to pick up the virtual pen and key some thoughts on the start to City's season.  Unfortunately I haven't had a chance to upload this until now, so some comments (especially those on the transfer window) are a touch out of date, albeit, ultimately prophetic! 

Over to Mr Binning Snr...

"Gary Johnson always used to say that you have to wait for ten games to assess how you are doing in a new season, and then reassess in ten game blocks. Well as we are fans we don't need to wait ten games, do we? 

We now have an international break after five games and I am off to the sun (hopefully!) for a week, so that I don't miss a City match.

Having seen every minute of every League game so far, I think that four points from five games is harsh, when set against our performances so far. I suppose it could be a bit of a reality check that in this much tougher Division than League 1, you have to do a bit more than just play good football. 

It has been very refreshing that Cotts has stuck to our attacking football philosophy, but in order for that to be successful we now need a stronger and better defensive base.

Against Sheffield Wednesday I thought we were very na├»ve at times and whilst I don't very often disagree with what Cotts says after a game, I really didn't think we deserved anything out of that game. 

They got the first goal from a set piece, which was a rarity for us to concede from last season. This may be an indication of different qualities needed at the higher level as it has already become a recurring theme so far. Whenever we started playing fast passing football they slowed the game down, either by wasting time or players going down feigning injuries. It completely disrupted our rhythm. We nearly scored from a corner and they immediately broke away and scored a second goal. End of game.

First home game against Brentford, and wasn't it exciting to see the brilliant new stadium taking shape? Thank you Mr. Lansdown! Our football for the first 35 mins was breathtaking, but unfortunately we didn't make enough of our opportunities, and then Luke Freeman got sent off. However even in those first 35 mins we were still a bit loose defensively. It was always going to be a bit of an uphill struggle from then on, and sure enough Brentford won, but we still made mistakes to contribute to some of their goals.

Next to the home match against Leeds in midweek. Things are starting to get a bit repetitive now. Started strongly, played some good football, got caught out and gave a goal away. We gave away a poor second goal in the 2nd half and we were up against it again. We managed to stage a grandstand finish for those fans that hadn't already given up and grabbed a draw at the death. As Cotts said, it was the least we deserved.

Why do so many people leave early? It might only be half an hour of your life but if you have taken the time and effort to get there in the first place why go before it finishes?

On to Boro with no great expectations. We were brilliant in the first half, deservedly took the lead and should have been more than one up at half time. It was obvious they were going to come at us hard in the second half and they certainly did that. We dug in and defended well, had a bit of luck for probably the first time this season, and hung on for the win. 

Boy, that was well worth the long drive home through some of the worst thunderstorms I have ever driven in.

Was that the springboard for us to kick on? Well yes, and no really! Again we were brilliant against Burnley for the first 30 mins and should have scored a goal or two. But we didn't and they scored from 2 corners. We certainly don't lack anything in effort and team spirit, but at the moment what we do lack is a bit of guile and experience at this level. 

Writing before the transfer window closes what do we need? On the player front, I have not been convinced so far by Hamer, and I think the defenders in front of him are a bit nervous of his decisions. Flint has been outstanding, probably our best player so far. I'm not sure about Williams mainly because he gives the ball away too easily, and it has cost us goals. Ayling is a good footballer and a bit of a free spirit, but maybe more suited to wing back if we can get another defender in, or right back if we play a back four. 

It's too early to judge Mark Little yet as he's obviously not up to match fitness yet. On the other side Joe Bryan has done most of what you could expect up to now, and I'm sure he will improve just as he did last season. Not much wrong with Smith and Pack in the centre of midfield, although I hear the moaners are starting to get on Pack's back. 

Bobby Reid has been a revelation since he came on against Leeds, although when he starts a game he seems less effective in the second half. With Luke Freeman coming back next game we should certainly have no problem in that area. Wilbraham has worked his socks off every game, but he can't keep doing that for another 41 games. Kodjia has looked better with every game, I do hope he is settling in ok as he could be a real prospect.

So what do we need? I would say two central defenders, one on each side of Flint, and another striker. Easy isn't it? Get on with it Cotts!

All joking aside, I like most City fans think that Cotts has done a great job for us so far, and I'm sure with Steve's backing we can establish ourselves in this League, even if some of the big names don't want to come down to Cider country. 

They don't know what they are missing!"

The Exiled Robin

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