Bristol City fans put Championship survival ahead of performances
Sean O’Driscoll likes to talk about processes rather than outcomes and, given the parlous situation he inherited when taking over as head coach in January, he is right to stress the importance of performances over results.
And there is no doubt Bristol City have made significant improvements in that respect since his arrival.
Soundly beaten 4-1 when last they played Wolves at the start of December, the Robins matched the gold and black on this occasion and came close to inflicting what would have been a potentially fatal blow to the Midland club’s hopes of staying in the npower Championship.
Although the players have clearly bought into the head coach’s ethos, the mood of City’s supporters continues to be dictated by results and the entirely natural desire to stave off the threat of relegation.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, June 30 2013
It remains to be seen whether City, with 24 points still to play for, can extricate themselves from a tricky position at the foot of the table and perform a remarkable escape.
Yet if that particular tale of the unexpected is to occur, then O’Driscoll must surely improve performances to the point where his team is able to win games on the road.
Virtually invincible at Ashton Gate since the change of manager, City have nevertheless failed to win any of their last nine away games, a record of under-achievement that, in large part, explains their inability to escape the bottom three so far.
Not only have the Robins not registered three points outside of Bristol since Sheffield Wednesday were beaten 3-2 at Hillsborough on December 8, they have scarcely mustered a goal on their travels. Of the four scored in seven games on the road since the turn of the year, three have been contributed by opposition players.
The latest of these, a quite startling own goal from the boot of Wanderers midfielder David Davis, gave travelling fans genuine hope that their team could at long last reverse that trend and exit the drop zone at the same time as plunging Wolves into crisis.
That they were unable to do so was down to those fine lines that O’Driscoll used to explain a defeat that was supremely hard to take.
From the moment hapless Wolves keeper Carl Ikeme allowed a poor back pass from Davis to squirm between his legs and over the line to gift City a lead their first-half performance warranted, there appeared to be only one winner.
Ragged in the extreme and obviously low on confidence after winning only one home game in five months, Wolves resembled a ramshackle collection of strangers for much of the game.
Frustrated by their team’s inability to pass the ball accurately and create clear-cut chances, home supporters resorted to baiting club owner Steve Morgan before giving vent to ironic cheers when substitute Bjorn Sigurdarson conjured their first on-target effort in the 65th minute.
In fact, so cowed were Wolves’ players by the pressure-cooker atmosphere inside Molineux, they appeared to be there for the taking.
Had City pressed a little higher up the pitch and tried to play off the front foot in the second half, the outcome might have been different. But they instead opted to protect what they already had and invited Wolves onto them.
So great was the gap between a midfield that dropped ever deeper and lone forward Steven Davies, that City were simply unable to establish a foothold in the opposition’s half, let alone threaten the second goal that would surely have signalled the end of the game as a meaningful contest.
To permit Wolves centre-backs Kaspars Gorkks and Roger Johnson to cut out a series of long passes at will and return the ball with interest was surely inviting calamity, and so it proved.
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake had already squandered a few half-chances when he was finally afforded a clear sight of goal, turning the hitherto excellent Lewin Nyatanga to fire an unstoppable shot past keeper Tom Heaton.
Having provided an assist for the equaliser, substitute Stephen Hunt then swung over another cross moments later for Republic of Ireland striker Kevin Doyle, who stooped to conquer from close range and turn the game on its head.
All of which presents O’Driscoll with a dilemma. As games and opportunities to escape the bottom three dwindle, so the need to gamble and take risks will increase correspondingly.
While City’s recent revival has been founded upon an organisation and discipline that has rendered them difficult to beat, there may come a time when they have to throw caution to the wind if they are to stay in the Championship.
Does O’Driscoll put at risk the defensive resilience that has under-pinned recent performances or continue to play the percentages in the hope that his team can summon further improvement quickly enough to make Championship survival possible?
With eight games still to play, that has time has not yet come. But defeat at Molineux has arguably brought it a step closer.