Bristol City head coach Sean O'Driscoll defends decision to keep flair players on bench
Bristol City head coach Sean O’Driscoll is refusing to throw caution to the wind as the Championship relegation battle enters its crucial final phase.
Although the Robins are rooted to the foot of the table with 10 games of the campaign to play, O’Driscoll insists his overriding priority is to make his improving side hard to beat.
Charged with the task of balancing the urgent need to win games against the necessity of being organised, he deployed a five-man midfield and left striker Jon Stead to play alone up front against Brighton on Tuesday.
His team selection and tactical approach helped City secure a 0-0 draw against Gus Poyet’s promotion hopefuls and earn another precious point in their quest for Championship survival.
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But some City supporters questioned the head coach’s decision to leave top-scorers Sam Baldock and Steven Davies and talismanic winger Albert Adomah on the bench, believing a more attacking approach could have yielded all three points.
City remain three points adrift of safety, but O’Driscoll insists his team is not yet ready to embrace a more progressive approach.
“I don’t think we are at a stage yet where we can throw attacking players on with 20 minutes to go,” claimed O’Driscoll, who sent on Adomah and Baldock in the 85th and 88th minutes respectively on Tuesday night.
He recalled: “We did it against Barnsley by putting Brian Howard, Albert Adomah and Neil Kilkenny on with 15 or 20 minutes to go and the wheels came off.
“That is no reflection on those players, but things went to pot because we lost our shape.
“I know Sam, Steven (Davies) and Albert are there and I’m wondering whether to bring them on knowing that, after the game, we might have won 1-0 and they have been great subs or lost 1-0 and contributed to our own downfall.
“I spoke to the players about it afterwards and told them they are getting closer to being in a team that can throw three attacking players on with 20 minutes to go.
“But the priority is still to be organised and disciplined and we are getting there.”
O’Driscoll may decide to deploy two strikers from the outset against Middlesbrough at Ashton Gate this Saturday.
Davies and Baldock are pushing for a recall and either one could play alongside Stead, but the head coach is unlikely to make sweeping changes.
He said: “In some senses it (leaving Adomah and Baldock on the bench) was an easy decision to make.
“Albert has been away at the African Cup of Nations and missed a lot of the work we have done, while Sam has been injured.
“We have to make sure we remain a functional unit when we throw attacking players on. If we don’t, then this division will eat us up.
“If you go down that road, then you are saying you will try and score more goals than the opposition and I think that is a bit dangerous.”