CHAMPIONSHIP GAME OF THE WEEKEND
Bristol City vs Hull City – Saturday 24th September 2011 – 3.00 pm kick-off
Last time the sides met
Bristol City 3-0 Hull City (Saturday 7th May 2011)
Stead (3), Pitman (14),
The two clubs that took to the Wembley turf for the 2008 play-off final meet again on Saturday afternoon at Ashton Gate. A wonderful volley from Hull City legend Dean Windass was enough to defeat Bristol City that afternoon. The Tigers experienced the typical highs and lows of a Premier League rollercoaster, before succumbing to relegation two years later. Whilst the Robins stagnated in the Championship and look set to be involved in a relegation battle this season. Given the contrasting fortunes of the two clubs this season, it would seem that the away side are the most likely to challenge for promotion.
Recent Results & Overall Attendances:
Leeds United 2-1 Bristol City (L) – 22,655
Bristol City 0-1 Brighton & Hove Albion (L) – 13,911
Doncaster Rovers 1-1 Bristol City (D) – 7,778
Bristol City 0-1 Swindon Town (L) – 7,708
Bristol City 0-0 Portsmouth (D) – 12,496
Leicester City 1-2 Bristol City (W) – 20,794
It appears that the Robins have failed to recover from that fateful day in 2008 as they finished 15th in the previous two seasons. Only Louis Carey, Liam Fontaine, Marvin Elliott and Jamie McAllister remain in the side that were so close to clinching Premier League football. Since that day, plenty of comings and goings have caused instability at Ashton Gate. Steve Coppell’s shock departure last season hurt the fans deeply, as he resigned after only four months in charge. Caretaker manager Keith Millen picked up the pieces and steered the Robins to safety, during a very difficult period in the club’s 114 year history.
Millen’s side have started this season very poorly, with only one win in their opening eight fixtures including a dreadful defeat at home to League Two side Swindon Town. Despite possessing former England goalkeeper David James in their ranks, the Robins have conceded 11 goals, whilst they haven’t looked particularly threatening at the other end, scoring only 5 in reply. City fans have sighted the inexperience of rookie manager Keith Millen as a major reason for their plight. They also recognise that the squad lacks quality as Millen has had very little to spend. Perhaps the board should have cashed in on top scorer Nicky Maynard as Leicester City were reportedly interested in the pacy striker during the summer.
Maynard has been deployed as the lone striker and has struggled to reach the goal-scoring form he showed of two seasons ago. He has missed two penalties already this season against Leicester City and Leeds United. However his match-winning performance against the Foxes demonstrated his ability to win games single-handedly for the Robins. If Maynard can put behind him a summer of transfer unrest and replicate previous goal-scoring form of the past, then Bristol City have a great chance of surviving in the Championship.
Expected Starting Line-Up
J.Spence (RB) L.Nyatanga (CB) J.Wilson (CB) R.McGiven (LB)
C.Skuse (CM) M.Elliott (CM)
A.Adomah (RM) J.Campbell-Ryce (LM)
Next 6 League Fixtures:
Reading (H) – Tuesday 27th September, 7.45pm
Blackpool (A) – Saturday 1st October, 3.00pm
Peterborough United (H) – Saturday 15th October, 3.00pm
Crystal Palace (A) – Tuesday 18th October, 8.00pm
Birmingham City (H) – Sunday 23rd October, 3.00pm
Barnsley (A) – Saturday 29th October, 3.00pm
Recent Results & Overall Attendances:
Hull City 1-0 Portsmouth (W) – 18,311
Peterborough United 0-1 Hull City (W) – 8,685
Hull City 1-0 Reading (W) – 17,295
Hull City 0-1 Crystal Palace (L) – 17,797
Leeds United 4-1 Hull City (L) – 22,363
Ipswich Town 0-1 Hull City (W) – 18,116
Being relegated from the Premier League was very tough for the Hull City fans to stomach. The Tigers had defeated the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur whilst holding Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool. There were serious concerns that the club was set to enter administration following their departure from the Premier League. However, Assem and Ehab Allam completed their takeover of Hull City in mid-November and issued a statement of intent by stating they would wipe out their debts. They signed promising strikers Matty Fryatt and Aaron McLean in January 2011, and the team went unbeaten for nine games, as a consequence of their goals.
Hull fans were quietly confident that their side could be dark horses for promotion at the start of the season. Given the finances at their disposal, they certainly have a better squad than most Championship sides. The question is whether they can sustain a level of consistency during a gruelling season. Nigel Pearson struggled at times in his first full season as manager, but in Robert Koren he has a playmaker capable of unlocking the tightest of Championship defences.
Pearson has put together a side that has a mixture of exuberant youth and steady experience. The defence is looking very solid with four clean sheets in their previous six fixtures. Jack Hobbs and James Chester have shown signs of a formidable partnership whilst other youngsters Joe Dudgeon, Tom Cairney and Robert Brady in particular have also impressed. Adriano Basso and Dele Adebola both had spells with the home side and both should feature on Saturday afternoon.
Expected Starting Line-Up
L.Rosenior (RB) J.Chester (CB) J.Hobbs (CB) J.Dudgeon (LB)
R.Brady (RM) P.McKenna (CM) T.Cairney (CM) R.Koren (LM)
A.McLean (ST) M.Waghorn (ST)
Next 6 League Fixtures:
Doncaster Rovers (A) – Tuesday 27th September, 7.45pm
Cardiff City (H) – Saturday 1st October, 3.00pm
Brighton & Hove Albion (A) – Saturday 15th October, 5.30pm
Watford (H) – Saturday 22nd October, 3.00pm
Nottingham Forest (A) – Saturday 29th October, 3.00pm
Barnsley (A) – Tuesday 1st November, 7.45pm
Tactical Battle – Where the game might be won and lost
A lot of the Tigers attacks have been created from the flanks as Liam Rosenior and Joe Dudgeon often overlap their wingers to provide crosses. Hull will look to soak up any pressure from the home side, in the same manner that Watford hoped to achieve at Barnsley last weekend. Bristol City full-backs Jordan Spence and Ryan McGiven will need protection from wingers Albert Abdomah and Jamal Campbell-Ryce. If they do not stay with their runners, then the young full-backs maybe left exposed as the Tigers will pounce on any mistakes via the counter-attack.
Whilst Abdomah and Campbell-Ryce have to help their full-backs, they also have to support lone-striker Nicky Maynard to ensure that he isn’t isolated. If the Tigers have possession, then the wingers will have to be disciplined in their shape to cover the full-backs. But equally when Bristol City retain possession, they have to provide options ensuring that the Robins keep the ball for as long as possible. Millen will hope that the wingers can strike the correct balance between defending and attacking.
Perhaps Millen has been too negative as he has neglected the potential partnership John Stead and Nicky Maynard. Maynard and Stead played together in the 3-0 defeat at home to Ipswich Town and have not started together since. He may turn to Stead if the Robins need a goal, but will he change the system? Brett Pitman is another attacking option that Millen has neglected for the want-away Maynard, despite scoring plenty of goals for Bournemouth in his short career.
Hull have been imperious away from home and the table certainly doesn’t lie. Both sides deserve to be where they are and I expect this game to be decided by recent form. The young Tigers continue to blossom with every game they play and should have too much for the Robins on Saturday.
Bristol City 0-2 Hull City.
Aaron McLean (6/1 first goal-scorer) – The former Peterborough striker took his goal against his former club in clinical style. His movement will cause Wilson and Nyatanga endless problems if they cannot deal with him. Slovenian playmaker Robert Koren will be looking to provide his team-mate with defence-splitting passes.
Robert Brady (11/1 last goal-scorer) – The winger recently won a player of the month award and has caused plenty of damage to the opposition from the right-wing. He is on loan from Manchester United and will be looking to progress in the same manner as former Wigan loanee Tom Cleverley.
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