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Saturday, 30 August 2014

Bookies Corner: Notts County v Bristol City

Last week easyodds.com tipster and lifelong Bristol City fan looked on course for a winning best bet but a second half fightback from Rochdale put paid to that. It could have been much, much worse though – a fantastic reaction save from Frank Fielding meant we left Spotland with at least a point.

Despite the disappointment of not getting the three points despite being in a winning position, the Robins remain unbeaten and are starting to show the consistency of a side that really can mount a promotion push. Can City remain unbeaten in the Super Sunday clash at Meadow Lane against Shaun Derry’s Notts County? Keep reading below for Ross’ full betting preview…

"The ever changing outright winner market for League One saw another market move following last weekend – and it was a negative one for City. They drifted from 11/2 to 6/1 and lost their favourites tag in the process. Preston North End are the new owners of that tag – and they are now a best price of 5/1.

Much like last week’s match at Rochdale we will be facing a side high in confidence. Rochdale were coming off the back of hitting Crewe for five and Notts County come into this match on the back of two wins on the bounce. This must come into consideration when placing your bets!”

BEST MATCH ODDS:
BRISTOL CITY – 29/20 (MarathonBet)
NOTTS COUNTY – 9/4 (Bet365)
DRAW – 12/5 (Multiple Bookies)

BRISTOL CITY:
Well what a week to be a Bristol City fan! We have started well after the excellent finish to last season, recruited well and brought back the purple and lime – but the exuberance that should be felt for the Robins fans was knocked out of us by the news that captain and top scorer Sam Baldock was sold to Brighton.

The jury is out on the sale and how it will affect the team, but it has to be said we have a more than suitable replacement in Kieran Agard. 24 goals in this league last season proves he is more than a handful at this level and after not getting a game last week, it is likely he will make his debut on Sunday. He is a best price of 7/1 to score first in this match.

In both away matches this season we have taken the lead and another quickfire start should settle any nerves again and mean we remain unbeaten. This seems to be a Cotterill tactic away from home to start strong and then settle into the game – and we are favourites to score first at 5/6.

The defence has certainly improved this season and this season we have conceded less than a goal a game – just three goals in four games have been shipped. A clean sheet would be unlikely in personal opinion because of the confidence in Notts County – but you can get 23/10 on a shut-out.
For those of you that like to bet with short odds, the best bet could be Bristol City in the double chance market at 4/11 – City have lost just once in 17 league matches!

NOTTS COUNTY:
Exactly like Bristol City Notts County have only conceded three goals in four games – proving that currently both defences have been on top. With this in mind it could pay well to back under 2.5 goals. That is available at 19/20.

Whilst the Notts County side is incredibly different in personnel to last season, it is worth bearing in mind that the Magpies are in great home form. They have won six of their last seven at home – so the bookies have taken a big risk at offering odds of 9/4 on a home win.

As mentioned in the excellent ‘Inside Line’ on this very blog – this could well be an ugly game and if that is the case, set pieces could be crucial in this match – and with Frankie Fielding still showing weakness in that area of his goalkeeping skillset take a look at Jake Cassidy being an anytime scorer at 14/5.

HEAD TO HEADS:
Bristol City were robbed of all three points at Meadow Lane last season thanks to a last minute penalty in a 1-1 draw. Our goal that day also came from the spot – and it was that man Sam Baldock – a penalty to be scored in this match is 4/1.

THE LONG SHOT:
As requested on otib.co.uk I have added a longshot feature to ‘Bookies Corner’ and this week I am going for Aden Flint to be an anytime scorer at 9/1. For those of you that like even bigger odds – he is available at 25/1 to net first!

As I mentioned above, this match probably won’t be a spectacle but you have to assume that Flint will be given at least one opportunity to bag a goal from a set-piece. He was in great goalsscoring form in pre-season but he is yet to score in a competitive game. This could well prove to be the match that he opens his account.

MY RECOMMENDED BET:
Kieran Agard anytime goalscorer @ 12/5 – BET NOW
With all the talk about Sam Baldock leaving and our perceived loss of goals in the team – I think that people have forgotten that we have a very accomplished League One goalscorer in our side as his replacement.

What a way to announce his arrival to Robins fans it would be for Agard to net on his debut. And you can more than double your money if he comes up with the goods here – just as he did in both home and away matches for Rotherham against County last season!

Back another Agard goal against the Magpies at 12/5.

*All prices supplied by www.easyodds.com and prices all correct as of Sat 30th August 2014*


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Friday, 29 August 2014

The Inside Line: Notts County (31/08/2014)

So that's that then? City's promotion dreams disappeared in one fell swoop with the sale of our captain, our leader from the front? All the hope generated from our good pre-season PR with new signings, good season-ticket sales, the purple and lime kit and a fantastic opening day away win live on Sky, dashed?

Well, not quite. As stated earlier in the week, no-one will now ever know if we would have gone up with Sam Baldock, or if whatever happens from now on in would have happened anyway, and we've still got our target man, the enigmatic Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, a big, expensive signing in Kieron Agard and young Wes Burns who might now be offered more chances to stretch the division's defences with his searing pace.

The new dawn, with Wade Elliott rightly installed as our new captain, begins on Sunday at Meadow Lane in what's sure to be a tough away test.  Our Stu Radnedge spoke to a County blogger also called Stu and he came up with this, brilliantly detailed review of the Magpies. Stu can be followed on Twitter, hereand you can check out his Notts Blog website here.


"This has been a summer of heavy transition for Notts County Football Club. The players who filled the side that performed so admirably at Ashton Gate towards last season’s conclusion have largely vanished. The unanswerable trickery of Jamal Campbell-Ryce and Jack Grealish, the midfield steel of Josh Vela and Gary Liddle, and the defensive roadblocks (Ashton Gate aside!) of Bartosz Bialkowski and Alan Sheehan – all moved on.

What does remain are the two men who assembled a team and a system that steered us away from a relegation that appeared a certainty for too much of last season. Whilst Shaun Derry and Greg Abbott I’m sure worked on retaining the services of some of those above, they’ve been given a clean slate free of a dressing room element who too often tried to derail any progress we were making. We’re told of rebels not buying into the new backroom’s ethos, we’ve all got our own opinions on who contributed to that.

With an absurd 16 new additions made over the summer months however, we were never going to hit the ground running. Instead we march on, knuckles scabbing over from dragging them towards seven points in four games. It took us ten last year to reach such a tally so it’s quite the upturn. But we right now are the footballing world’s equivalent to Neanderthal man – a unit as ruthlessly effective as it is disgusting on the eye.

The opening day at Preston North End was a joy. A shaky first half excepted, we had a Preston side - hotly tipped by many – chasing shadows for such long periods. On the face of things a draw was one we should have been delighted with, but such was the balance of play that I’ve still not quite come to terms with just getting a draw! A week later, and the visit of Fleetwood Town was somehow even more dire than some of the dross served up under Chris Kiwomya last season. We lost 1-0 having barely strung together a passing move all game. Comparisons were quickly drawn with a never ending list of sub-par Notts squads over the past two decades. We don’t do patience very well in Nottingham, you see.

Whilst an improvement at least in the effort department saw us through to a 2-1 victory at home to Colchester, things only got better with a win last weekend at Port Vale. Yes we rode our luck massively, and certainly we faced a barrage quite unlike anything we’ve seen in a long time – but victories are seldom more hard earned than this. 

There’s a cynicism in how we go about grinding out results that won’t make us many friends. In fact we’re likely to end this year making Graham Westley look like Santa Claus if things continue in the vein they are.

I’m at a point personally where time wasting doesn’t bother me – it’s a part of the game now and I wish more people would come round to my way of thinking. Every team does it, so why get precious about it? Should things start going Notts’ way on Sunday though, you’ll likely think that a line needs drawing somewhere!

It’s been a good start to the season really, particularly in comparison to last season. I thought it might take a lot longer for us to pick up points. We’ve done that though through blunt force, even if things aren’t quite gelling at a pace Derry and Abbott may prefer. But this is a squad with balls, with more character or spine than we became accustomed to for much of last season.

In goal, Roy Carroll has been inspired. Replacing Bialkowski (he who gifted Sam Baldock the winner at Ashton Gate) was supposed to be a daunting task but the Northern Ireland international is yet to put a foot wrong. In front of him it’s been great to see Hayden Mullins return over the Summer having been a key element of last year’s survival - Haydn Hollis will only continue to improve further with such experience around him.

We’ve been hit by a deluge of central midfielders – perhaps too many – but each is finding their feet nicely. Evergreen Gary Jones was a slow starter but ran the show last weekend at Vale. It’s fantastic to see a man like Alan Smith in the middle for us too, whilst Noble (top scorer with two) and Nicky Wroe were both great additions in my opinion this Summer.

We certainly appear to have gone for quantity over quality for yet another Summer, but things are coming together quite nicely. Up front we brought in Jake Cassidy and he has been a real threat in place of our new golden boy Jimmy Spencer, cruelly ruled out for the season after just 20 minutes of pre-season. It was Cass’ strike that gave us the lead at Preston on the opening day, and whilst he’s not found the scoresheet since, he’s been an absolute menace.

For all the positivity though, there are still those who doubt Shaun Derry. What more can he do to earn people’s trust? In signing on loan another midfielder – Reece Brown from Birmingham City – there are still questions regarding the recruitment. Brown himself was a standout performer against us in a pre-season hammering so I don’t particularly see the issue whilst we press on struggling to find creativity down the wings. Striker Shaun Harrad’s short term deal is certainly one that raises my considerable eyebrows however.

Derry has this week been linked with a move to the Premier League as Neil Warnock’s number two at Crystal Palace. I’m not buying it. Derry – one of our own – has spoke all Summer long about stability, integrity and making Meadow Lane a special place again. To walk away now would go against everything the man has preached to us since arriving last November. No one would blame him if he did make the switch, but I genuinely don’t see it happening.

For all the positive vibes around the club at the moment, of course we’re going to be cautious about the visit of City on Sunday. We may be delighted to see the back of Baldock who almost always managed to score against us, but that of course only tells half the story of the threats we’ll face.

We shan’t be a team perturbed though, intimidated by one of the greater challenges in League One. I don’t expect anything other than an ugly spectacle to be honest. If we take something though, even at this early stage in the season I think we just might be able to put together something special this season."

Many thanks to Stu for this fantastic piece. I particularly like the line about Neanderthal man and the reference to Graham Westley being Santa Claus! 

COYR!


The Exiled Robin

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Thursday, 28 August 2014

Sam Baldock - should we have let him go?

At 5pm last night, Bristol City fans had their last chance to buy a season card.  Precisely one hour later, they announced the sale of their captain, premier striker and last season’s league one golden boot winner, Sam Baldock, to Brighton & Hove Albion.  That’s a fact.

Whether the timing was deliberate – as some suspect – or entirely coincidental, unfortunate and poorly thought-through, is up for some debate.  However there’s little doubt that had this happened a month ago, or even a couple of weeks ago, there may have been some impact on sales.  Equally, Brighton haven’t just accepted a delay to his signing of days or weeks just to suit us, so the chances are it may have all been tied up earlier today some time and the announcement was put back by a few hours.

This timing issue is a huge red herring however. Of more pertinence is whether the right decision has been made to accept a bid and allow Baldock to go.

First of all, the fee. Six bids came and went before something approaching £1.5m (probably including add-ons based on promotion) was offered and, ultimately, accepted. Was this enough? Didn’t Steve Cotterill say he’d only go for £4m? Why is that all we got when Britt Assombalonga was sold for more than £5m?  

All things being equal, as an amount of money, it is hugely significant for a League One club, especially one with aspirations of balancing the books and living sustainably. Yes, for owner Steve Lansdown it’s a mere drop in the ocean, but didn’t we all buy in to the principle of becoming a better-run club, one which can’t refuse this sort of offer for a player, whoever he is, in the last nine months of his contract?

Assombalonga has much more as an all-round player than Baldock and I can see how, in theory, he has far more potential, however harsh that seems on our now-former captain. But critically he had a lengthy period of time on his contract left and that, in this modern world of football finance and player power, is absolutely key.

So was it the right decision to sell?  There will be a groundswell of opinion – wholly understandable – that says we’re mad to accept a relatively small amount of money and risk our promotion chances.  Of course we’d have more of a chance of getting up with him firing in the goals, but there was no guarantee we were going up and the accusations of losing out on serious cash for Nicky Maynard will still resonate around the boardroom.  Equally, there are no guarantees we now won’t go up at the end of the season. How savvy might the decision look if we’re celebrating promotion in May having banked £1.5m in fees and saved around £300,000 in wages?

The question nags though as to whether we could have done more? Could we have dug our heels in and simply refused any offer? Yes, we probably could have eked out a further few thousand pounds but clearly a level had been set that Brighton reached, by people who understand the finances of football far better than me. Also, aside from the points already made as to why we might have accepted, I still don’t believe many fans understand the true level of player power that exists at all levels of the football pyramid.

One major accusation has been that this “proves we have no ambition”. I venture Mr. Lansdown Snr would disagree. What it proves is that whatever clubs try and do, players rule the roost and you can be fairly sure that it played its part this time.  Ask Tottenham or Arsenal about Bale and van Persie. Ask Liverpool or Manchester United about Suarez and Ronaldo. If it happens to them, it can sure as hell happen to us.

Baldock was one of the only senior players to remain following relegation, but you can be sure that if he’d been offered the chance to make the same money at a Championship club 12 months ago, he’d have jumped at it. He needed last season as much as anyone did and his goals have given him this fresh opportunity at the higher level.  If you don’t think he wanted to go, or think this is all the clubs doing, then I’m afraid there’s too much naiveté involved.  He knew about the bids coming before the club did – this much we know for certain – and you can be sure he was asking what the ceiling was, how close Brighton were.

I don’t blame him at all. I’ve had this argument too many times with too many people but still find it bewildering why fans think the player should owe the club something and miss out personally. He’s been offered the chance of playing at a higher level, probably for more money and at a club which appears to be ambitious, well-run and has a great fan-base. Who wouldn’t want to go?

This doesn’t prove we have no ambition. It proves we are a football club trying to run itself as a business and that we understand the impact of keeping a player – a captain – who may have become disillusioned had he felt he was being held back from furthering his career.  The days of the likes of Cloughie clipping a young lad round the ear and telling him to get on with it are long gone.  Some fans won’t like this, some will only see life through blinkered red glasses, but it’s real life and that’s just how these things work.

One of the key questions raised when it was revealed so much money was being spent on Keiron Agard was whether he was going to be Sam’s replacement. The official and unofficial noises coming from the club indicated otherwise. We were told Cotterill wanted four strikers. However, it now seems likely that there must have been strong suspicions further bids were forthcoming and that the bids were getting closer to the level required. It now appears as if that expectation prompted the increased bid we knew was necessary to prise away a Championship striker back to League One, whilst Agard’s seemingly extravagant wage expectations – more than Leeds United could apparently afford – will be more than covered by the departure of Baldock’s still-significant figures from the salary roster.

Ultimately, we will never know how good or bad a decision this was, as no-one can now tell us what May would have brought had we not sold Baldock, perhaps had we not signed Agard. We can speculate and antagonise, but we’ll never really know.

All we can do is wish Sam well – I personally remain uncertain he can hold his own as a free-scoring Championship striker, but he undoubtedly developed last season and if he can continue his improvement then who knows where he can end up.  What he did do was play a major part in keeping us up in the end last year and his popularity with the young players in the squad are testament to the way he knuckled down and played his part as the captain of a squad, once realising he was to spend a season back in league one.

By the way, as a footnote the worst thing we could do right now, in my opinion, is make Aden Flint the new captain, as I’ve seen many fans call for. 

Yes, he perhaps seems ‘the type’ – a Tony Adams/John Terry/Steve Bruce-kinda almost old-school centre-half who’d spill blood, but that doesn’t make him a great leader on its own.

Yes, he’s had a fantastically strong start to the season, but to lumber him with the captaincy would be too much for a player who showed signs of mental fragility last year and is still learning his game.  He spent most of last season struggling and many wouldn’t have had him in the starting XI just three weeks ago. For me it’s got to be Wade Elliott or Korey Smith, I can’t see many other viable options.


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Friday, 22 August 2014

Bookies Corner: Rochdale v Bristol City

Last week easyodds.com tipster and lifelong Bristol City fan Ross Casey did not hit his best bet, but did point out the value in both teams to score when the Robins hosted Colchester. However, after starting the season with a 41/20 winner, the column is still in profit – here’s hoping he can pluck another winner from the trip to Rochdale.

The Robins remain unbeaten after securing a 0-0 draw on Tuesday night against promotion hopefuls Leyton Orient, but it could have been a maximum of nine points had it not been for a poor refereeing decision which ruled out a Sam Baldock goal. Can City remain unbeaten in what I like to call the Bamberdele Adebola derby? Or will Dale pull off the scalp by beating the favourites for the title? Keep reading below for Ross’ full betting preview…

"The controversially dropped points on Tuesday night have meant that City slipped from the top of the table to third – replaced by League One newcomers Fleetwood Town. City remain favourites to win the league though, their best price has actually shortened from 6/1 to 11/2 with the ever excellent value Marathonbet. This means that we are now the side to beat in League One and matches like this one, against newly promoted Rochdale in the humble surroundings of Spotland, will become even more difficult in my opinion.

Keith Hill’s Rochdale side started their season with three losses in a row – scoring just once in the process, but they sprung to life on Tuesday night hitting Crewe for five in a terrific 5-2 away win. That is sure to breed a lot of confidence going in to this game, and I am sure Steve Cotterill is aware of that! They are still third favourites for the drop however, with best odds of 9/4.

BEST MATCH ODDS:
BRISTOL CITY – 29/20 (Bet365)
ROCHDALE – 11/5 (Ladbrokes)
DRAW – 12/5 (Multiple Bookies)

BRISTOL CITY:
The big change to City this week has been the signing of Kieran Agard from Rotherham. The pacy forward – who can also operate and score from the wing was signed on Thursday after a high profile chase by the club. Landsdown and Cotterill have got their man and now it’s down to the management team to try and fit him in the starting line-up. After a hard fought midweek match, it’s possible that he may start as he will be fresher than some of those players that played two games in a week. He netted 26 goals last season and is a best price of 7/4 to score at Spotland.

Although there was a great deal of frustration about the result on Tuesday night because of the disallowed goal, the big positive in my eyes was the fact that City kept a clean sheet. That is the first of the season and something that the Robins need more of. With the attacking ability of the side at this level, they are more often than not going to net a goal. Therefore if the defence can keep a clean sheet that will guarantee points. A City clean sheet away at Rochdale is a best price of 9/4 with Bet365.

Despite last Tuesday’s 0-0 draw – in which Orient had a game plan and it worked, City usually are involved in ties where both teams score. Rochdale netted five last time out, so you would have to assume that both teams will net in this one. 8/11 is the best price on offer in this market with BetVictor.

ROCHDALE:
In preparation for this match I had all of the statistics ready about Rochdale being a side missing last season’s goal machine Scott Hogan losing games and scoring no goals. Then they went and beat Crewe 5-2 and blew all of that out of the water!

That was an incredible result and one that no one saw coming, but they do concede goals regularly and that is something City can take advantage of. They have conceded seven goals in their four matches this season – with their last two matches going over 2.5 goals. City have had three matches go over 2.5 goals this term – so that could well be a decent bet. Bet365 is the company offering the best odds there, with 19/20 on the table.

Matt Done was the surprising hat-trick hero on Tuesday night netting a trio of strikes. I say it was a surprise because those were his first goals in over two years of first-team football! Funny old game isn’t it, football? He is a best price of 6/1 to score against the Robins.

HEAD TO HEADS:
City have played Rochdale just four times! We are perfectly even too – both sides have scored a victory over another and twice they have drawn. Interestingly, goals have been at a premium between these teams – just four goals have been scored in all fixtures.

I believe that the bookies have been quite generous with our price – if Rochdale had not won on Tuesday night I think we would have been evens or odds on to win this match. Thanks to their big win, they have offered us City fans better odds and I think they offer good value. Going on that and history, City to win and under 2.5 goals looks a great shout!


MY RECOMMENDED BET:
Bristol City to win @ 29/20 – BET NOW
I think that with a healthy frustration in our bellies and the fact Rochdale hit five in midweek – the team will go into this match full of desire and respect for the opposition. This is the perfect combination to avoid the entitlement we have seen in the past for matches like these. I think the odds on a City win are generous and with Agard coming in too there is now competition for places and an eagerness to win the three points.

Back another Robins win at 29/20.

*All prices supplied by www.easyodds.com and prices all correct as of Fri 22nd August 2014*



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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!

COYR!


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Monday, 18 August 2014

The Inside Line: Leyton Orient (19/08/2014)

With two wins from two, Bristol City have made their best start to a campaign in years and will be looking to make it three wins in a row at home to potential promotion rivals Leyton Orient on Tuesday night.

Stu Radnedge caught up with James Mealing, @TotalOrient, for this fabulously detailed match preview.


"It has been a strange summer to be an Orient fan. We were still recovering from the disappointment of the play-offs when the chairman of nearly twenty years Barry Hearn sold the club to wealthy Italian businessman Francesco Becchetti.

Since then there have been a couple of changes to the hierarchy at the club. Becchetti has appointed a new chief executive (though former CEO Matt Porter is still involved as a board member). The new Chairman has also brought in former QPR defender Mauro Milanese as sporting director. This move was greeted with suspicion by Orient fans and it raised questions concerning Russell Slade's future, but there has been very little (if any) evidence of a negative impact so far.

Naturally the takeover created an air of uncertainty over the close-season. The promise of money to spend on transfers is not something O's fans have been accustomed to, nor are we used to being bookies' favourite to sign international superstars like Emile Heskey.

As it turned out, Russell Slade was sensible, using his increased budget to recruit players with Championship (and some Premier League) experience on free transfers, rather than splashing out on transfer fees. Former Millwall defender Shane Lowry and Charlton's Bradley Pritchard were recruited, along with Darius Henderson and Jobi McAnuff, who captain Reading in the top-flight as recently as 2012/13. Slade has also given Jay Simpson (who was once a bright prospect at Arsenal) the chance to reignite his career in England following a spell in Thailand.

These new signings have added depth to our squad and we will now be able to call on more experienced players from the bench rather than the loanees and young pros that often made up the squad last season. Orient have also held on to the majority of the players that were regulars last term, with only Jamie Jones and Moses Odubajo departing. There is a feeling that Jones had never truly returned to form following a couple of serious injuries and we now have two good goalkeepers in Adam Legzdins and Gary Woods who will compete for the number one shirt. Odubajo's transfer to Brentford was a bigger blow as he has great potential and he was a key part of our team, but hopefully McAnuff will fill the void.

Expectations were always likely to be high at Brisbane Road following a great 2013/14 campaign, but the increased funds, stronger squad and the change in ownership means there is even greater pressure.

A play-off place is probably the minimum requirement, while some fans believe we should claim an automatic promotion spot with the squad we have at our disposal. Barry Hearn was patient with Russell Slade when things didn't go to plan, but it remains to be seen whether the new chairman will afford him as much time if we under-perform.

Dean Cox is the man that Bristol City will need to keep quite on Tuesday night. The winger has produced high quality performances on a consistent basis during his four seasons at Brisbane Road. His goals and assists record has also been outstanding. Last season he scored 17 goals and provided 13 assists in 56 games, and he has been involved in all-but-one of Orient's seven goals so far this term. Tying him down to a new contract was probably our best business of the summer.

Darius Henderson has had an immediate impact and he could prove to be the pick of the new arrivals. The target man scored on his debut on the opening day and he contributed another goal and an assist against Oldham on Saturday. The physical presence he offers is something we have lacked in the past and should also be a handful for the Robins' defence on current form.

Romain Vincelot is another important figure at the heart of our midfield. His energetic break-up play and tireless running means he is capable of having a real influence.

Sam Baldock is Bristol City's obvious threat given his goalscoring ability. I would have also mentioned Jay Emmanuel-Thomas before the start of the season, but he's hardly featured in the league so far. In terms of form, I have to include Aaron Wilbraham, three goals in his first two league appearances is impressive.

I also like Korey Smith and Luke Freeman. Smith pretty much controlled the game for Oldham at Brisbane Road back in March and he scored a great goal to equalise in the last minute. I've also been impressed by Freeman when he has played against Orient for Stevenage.

It's difficult to predict how Orient will perform on Tuesday night. We've had some good spells (namely the first half against Plymouth and the second half against Oldham) but we haven't yet found the same level of performance that we managed last term.

We are likely to lineup with a 4-4-2 that, at its best is fluid in attack, with Cox, Mooney and McAnuff or Simpson all interchanging.

The main concern is the defence. We have looked shaky at the back so far, particularly when the opposition have been on the counter-attack, and given the attacking prowess in the Bristol City squad, we could struggle to keep the Robins out.

However, six goals in our last two games suggests we have the potential to cause problems going forward. Cox and Henderson are in form and Mooney opened his goalscoring account for the season at the weekend. If we can add McAnuff to the equation too, we should be a threat. Our striking options all have different qualities which allow us to adopt a different approach if necessary.

I expected Bristol City to do well last season and I think a full season under Steve Cotterill will see them challenge for promotion this year.

I rarely make predictions and when I do I'm usually wrong. I expect a close, entertaining game, with a couple of goals at either end. I'll go with another 2-2 at Ashton Gate."



The Exiled Robin

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