Cole Skuse insists new-look Bristol City are a match for anyone
Cole Skuse believes Bristol City, in their current form, are a match for anyone in the npower Championship.
Although the Robins are bottom of the table and three points adrift of safety, they have enjoyed a notable upturn in fortunes since Sean O’Driscoll was appointed head coach in January.
It remains to be seen if City can retain their second-tier status this season, but confidence is high following a three-match unbeaten run in which the team has beaten fellow strugglers Barnsley, taken a point at Blackpool and more than matched promotion-chasing Brighton in a goalless draw at Ashton Gate in midweek.
Play-off hopefuls Middlesbrough are next up at Ashton Gate tomorrow and Skuse, restored to the centre of midfield after recovering from a knee injury, issued an emphatic message to City’s rivals.
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He declared: “Given the run of form we are on at the minute, we feel we are a match for anyone.
“There is a feeling around the place that we can cope with everything that is thrown at us. There is a good spirit in the dressing room and we are buzzing.
“The manager has put a solid base in place and everybody is involved and knows what they are doing. If you come into the team, then you know what your position is and what your job is. Everyone knows their roles and it is good.
“It means that, when we play a team at the top end of the table, we feel confident of taking something from the game.
“While I was out injured, I watched a couple of games from the press box and, sat up there on high, you could see how assured the team looked.
“I could see that we were looking solid defensively and dangerous going forward. The manager has put his stamp on things and things have changed for the better.”
Skuse insists Tuesday’s performance against Brighton shows just how far City have progressed under O’Driscoll.
He explained: “When you tell people you are playing Brighton, they say “oh, they are a good side, they’ll get promoted.’
“To nullify a team like Brighton and restrict them to virtually no chances is a sign and a mark of what we are about now and what we are trying to do.
“Anyone can beat anyone in this league and you cannot go into games thinking ‘this is going to be three points or they’re a good team and they are going to beat us.’”
Contenders for automatic promotion earlier in the season, Middlesbrough have experienced a dip in fortunes since the turn of the year and are currently outside of the play-off places.
Although Tony Mowbray’s team bucked the recent trend by beating leaders Cardiff last Saturday, they shipped two late goals to surrender the lead and lost 2-1 at Huddersfield in midweek, a result that will further diminish confidence.
Skuse commented: “Boro have struck a bit of a sticky patch and we need to try and take advantage of that.
“For the last couple of seasons now, they have made a good start, had a good middle to the season and then slowed up and had a slippery patch.
“Our home form has been really good and I’m sure we can cause Middlesbrough problems.”
Regardless of City’s current league position, Skuse insists he and his team-mates must continue to adhere strictly to the principles imposed by O’Driscoll and not be deflected by events elsewhere.
He said: “There are still 10 games to go and this is no time to panic. It will come down to who holds their nerve the longest.
“I don’t think we about gambling and panicking and I don’t think the manager will allow us to change what we are doing.
“You cannot spend time looking at other teams and results, because we have to take care of ourselves.
“What happens elsewhere is neither here nor there to us.”