Bristol City keeper Tom Heaton claims settled defence is crucial
Tom Heaton believes the return to a settled defence has played a crucial part in Bristol City's recent revival.
Injuries to key defenders and the constant chopping and changing of personnel that characterised the final weeks of Derek McInnes' reign have been at the heart of City's problems this season.
But new head coach Sean O'Driscoll has sought to keep things simple, ordering a return to basics and, injuries notwithstanding, naming as settled a side as possible.
Goalkeeper Heaton has been ideally-placed to appreciate the improvements wrought by O'Driscoll during his first three games in charge, culminating in a 2-0 win against Watford in midweek and a first clean sheet in 32 attempts dating back to April last year.
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O'Driscoll has made just one change to City's back five in games against Leeds, Ipswich and Watford, replacing right-back Richard Foster with new signing Brendan Moloney.
Heaton said: "A settled defence is really important and we have not had that often enough this season. If you can get that solid base, it helps the rest of the team to build.
"Someone commented after the Leeds game that we had gone back to the back five that started the season and that was interesting.
"From the Leeds game to the Ipswich game to the Watford game with only one change in the back five was good.
"If we can keep that improvement and that progression going, then it will help us defend better as a team.
"We felt we were getting closer to a first clean sheet and a settled back five has definitely helped in that respect."
Heaton insist the return to first-team action of Louis Carey has also been a key factor in City's improved form.
Often overlooked by McInnes, the Bristolian has played in all three games since O'Driscoll arrived and his presence has helped revive the hitherto out-of-sorts Liam Fontaine.
Heaton said of Carey: "He has been excellent. Having Louis back in the team is great, because he has a good understanding with myself and Liam Fontaine.
"The three of us communicate a lot and there is an understanding there. It helps that we all get on well.
"Louis being in the team gets Liam back on his natural left side and that has helped a lot. It has helped him as an individual and the five of us as a unit.
"Louis has so much experience. He has been around the block, he understands the game and he is a real thinker. You can always use that kind of experience and it is good to have him there."