PREVIEW: Blackpool vs Bristol City
QUITE simply, If Bristol City are to replicate their home form on the road any time soon, they must discover a means of supplying in-form strikers Jon Stead and Steven Davies.
Since assuming the role of head coach in mid-January, Sean O’Driscoll has presided over four straight wins at Ashton Gate to raise the prospect of the Robins escaping the bottom three.
But before City can feel sanguine about retaining their Championship status, they must first put right an alarming record of under-achievement away from BS3.
Since the turn of the year, the Robins have lost six times on the road.
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Charged with the task of finding a balance between being defensively solid and enterprising in possession, O’Driscoll has yet to discover a method that enables strikers Stead and Davies to thrive away from Ashton Gate.
That said, the manner in which the pair terrorised Barnsley’s defence last time out suggests City’s barren run on the road might just end against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road tomorrow.
Virtual strangers during the first half of the campaign, Stead and Davies have been thrown together out of necessity in recent weeks, injuries to Ryan Taylor and Sam Baldock leaving O’Driscoll without a viable attacking alternative.
Stead, pictured, said: “We are working well together. There is not a lot of back-up, so it is just as well we are working well together.
On a more serious note, he added: “The way Davo plays really helps my game. He comes short and links the play, and that is something I have found myself doing this season when I’ve played with a striker that likes to run in behind. But I think I’m just as adept at running the channels, leading the line and stretching the opposition back four.
“I did that against Barnsley and it enabled Davo to get on the ball a little bit more. Every time we went forward, we looked as though we were going to create something.
“I’m sure the more times we play together, the better the partnership will become. He is a fantastic finisher and can score from anywhere around the box whenever the chance arises.
“More often than not, he puts his chances away and it is nice to have that in your team.”
Certainly, a meeting with Blackpool offers more chance of an upturn in fortunes on the road than recent trips to promotion-chasing Cardiff City and Crystal Palace.
Since Christmas, the Seasiders have won just twice in 14 games and Wolves, Cardiff, Hull, Barnsley and Leicester have all taken points at Bloomfield Road.
If Stead and Davies can maintain the form shown last weekend, there is every prospect of City generating meaningful momentum.
Although Stead scored in crucial games against Coventry, Birmingham and Barnsley towards the end of last season, he readily admits his goals-to-games ratio has room for improvement.
He acknowledged: “My form has been good of late, but a few more goals would be nice, because that is the part of my game that is most lacking.
“I’ve not scored a hat-trick since my Academy days at Huddersfield and I had a couple of half-chances to do that against Barnsley.
“But I was pleased with the two I got and, hopefully, there will be more to come.”