"...this is the most articulate and accurate piece written about the club for years!" - Tales from the Front, http://www.otib.co.uk/

Monday, 23 February 2015

The Inside Line: Doncaster Rovers v Bristol City (24/02/2015)

Surely the worst moments of our season? Was it the first time we've been truly poor, truly outplayed by anyone? 

Defeats previously have been narrow (we still haven't lost by more than a single goal), not without reason (see Wade Elliott's early red card at Swindon) or a tad unlucky. Saturday's first half was a horrible flashback to the dark days of last season (and the season before that) with a slightly flapping goalkeeper behind a static, tentative defence who were giving far too much time to their opposition.

Ahead of this week's midweek tie against Doncaster, Stu Radnedge put himself the other side of the metaphorical microphone and takes a view on where the defeat leaves City's promotion hopes.

"A victim of our own success? Maybe – or at least that was my opinion after Saturday’s result against Colchester.

I, like many other fans, was somewhat surprised at the level of our demise in less than 30 minutes against the U’s. As we have experienced all season, we are there to be shot at. We’re the team that everyone wants to beat. No more so than those in the bottom four who are trying to stave off the threat of the drop (much like we were last year).

We can rest in the knowledge with the gap established between us and the Dons of Milton Keynes – but we must win tomorrow to re-open a lead with a buffer of more than one match, rather than be in the dreaded situation where our fate rests in the under-performance of another team to help us out.

Doncaster will be tough. We all know that. Maybe that will assist the preparation for the match as it’s clear we were shell-shocked from 30 minutes on Saturday. Manager Steve Cotterill blamed the pitch. That doesn’t wash with me. It’s not like Sunday league football where you get changed in a shed and walk out onto a pitch that has cows on!!! There’s surely time to draw up a game plan suitable for the playing conditions?

Rovers, chasing the playoffs, won’t be underestimated (if that was to blame for Saturday) and the players will likely want to put right Saturday’s defeat and get the promotion bus back on track. They also won’t want to see the Gaffer in that mood again!

When they visited BS3, their away form was better than home and the same still applies now – but with a finer margin between the wins and losses. City will need to be clinical and make this game in hand count.

A loss wouldn’t be the end of the world. Again, we were lucky that when it happened on Saturday, Swindon also lost. The winning mentality that we’ve all grown accustomed to this year makes it an even more bitter pill to swallow on the rare occasion we do leave without any points.

For me, it was the manner we lost in. 1-0 can be a fluke – 2-0 and you make sure it doesn’t happen again… but it did. And that’s hard to rectify with 45 minutes left to play.


With four more weeks of matches each Tuesday and Saturday, the pressure is really on now to gather some momentum, maintain the status quo at the top and be sure to re-establish the distance between us and the chasing pack."


The Exiled Robin

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Friday, 20 February 2015

The Inside Line: Colchester United v Bristol City (21/02/2015)

A sometimes tired-looking defeat, followed by a determined, highly professional bounce back three days later.

Whether this last week’s activities are to be replicated over the coming weeks remain to be seen, but the warning issued in last week’s blog about the number of games making it the most likely time our winning spell might end proved fateful against a well-organised and good quality Sheffield United side.

By all accounts (I was unfortunately unable to make the game), Marlon Pack came in and did what you’d hope by a hungry young player on the fringes, and those who watch home and away are starting to come to the conclusion that we perhaps look a better all-round side with Pack, rather than skipper Wade Elliott, in the side.

The base he provides alongside Korey Smith being potentially stronger allows the wing backs and Freeman to play with a touch more freedom than even they usually manage, and Tuesday night’s high quality team performance comes following the reverse fixture at London Road (where Elliott was suspended) and two encounters at Gillingham in particular which stand out as great all-round team performances.

Coincidence? Maybe. But it will be interesting to see how much Pack is used during this tough run of games which will surely test the captain’s aging legs more than any others.

Looking at the way the fixtures pan out, we have a number of teams in the bottom half still to come at home, and with a working assumption that we’ll do pretty well out of those, as we have all season, it perhaps eases the pressure slightly in this run of five away games in the next six. Notwithstanding the fact no-one will want to give up top spot again, a clutch of draws might not be the disaster some might envisage.

Ahead of the first game in that run, Matty Hudson https://twitter.com/mattyhudson from the Colchester United official media team spoke to Stu Radnedge to give us this insight into the U’s. A big thank you to them both for these words.

“It's now becoming a crunch time of the season for teams at both ends of the table as the games are beginning to run out.

Despite our position in the bottom four - where we've been since mid-November - the team have got off a decent enough start to 2015. Wins against Peterborough, Leyton Orient and Oldham have ensured that they've kept in touch with the teams above them and the match against the Robins brings the U's towards the end of a particularly tough set of fixtures.

The quest for survival will be based on the ability to turn around the home form that has hamstrung them so far in 2014/15. In their 15 home matches prior to the match against Bristol, they've lost 10. That said, there have been several games within those where they could rightly feel aggrieved not to have taken more.

The U's have put great faith in their homegrown products this season, with nearly 100 first team appearances having gone to players that have come through the ranks in north Essex. These players are supplemented by the experience of David Fox and Chris Porter, whilst even some of the younger players in the team have had plenty of League One football - Sam Walker, Gavin Massey and Tom Eastman are now in excess of 100 senior games for the club.

Tuesday night's game saw the U's run MK Dons close. A closely matched first half saw Dele Alli's goal separate the two teams and the Dons were then happy to protect what they had, with the U's bossing possession but not being able to find that crucial equaliser.

Historically, Colchester teams thrive on being the underdog and they will likely be considered as such by the bookies, with the two teams twenty places apart in the League One table.

The first goal will be crucial and the likes of Sammie Szmodics and Chris Porter have been finding the back of the net in recent weeks. Szmodics has been in fine fettle during the early games in 2015 and he'll be one player that City's scouts will have picked up on recent matches.

An interesting comment on Szmodics, especially given the manner City recruited last summer. It would be no surprise for Cotterill to follow a similar principle and again look at the best opposition players we have faced this time around, before assessing if they are good enough to make the (hoped-for!) step up.

The next six games could go an awful long way to deciding our ultimate finishing position. Doncaster in particular next Tuesday looks a tough proposition at the moment, but if we were to come out of this run with, say, a conservative-looking ten points, we’ll be especially well-placed to take advantage back at Ashton Gate and become the winners Cotterill has talked so much about this week.

COYR!


The Exiled Robin

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