PREVIEW: Bristol City vs Leicester City
MATTHEW Bates has revealed the lengths to which Bristol City manager Derek McInnes has gone in pursuit of an elusive clean sheet.
It seems staggering that the Robins have failed to shut out an opposition since defeating Barnsley 2-0 at Ashton Gate on April 21 last year.
Since then, City have leaked goals at an alarming rate, conceding in every one of the 28 competitive games they have played.
Having shipped 50 goals in 25 Championship matches this season, it is hardly surprising the Robins again find themselves waging an increasingly desperate fight against relegation. Required to put right that particular record of under-achievement, McInnes has worked tirelessly on the training ground in a bid to render his porous team more difficult to play against.
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: Friday, May 31 2013
Having started the season with an orthodox man-marking strategy, McInnes has since adopted zonal marking and switched to a 3-5-2 formation in a bid to stem the flow of goals conceded.
Although the new system, which was introduced at Middlesbrough on November 24, has so far failed to prevent the Robins conceding at a rate of two goals-per-game, Bates believes it can lead to improved results during the second half of the campaign.
Centre-back Bates said: "Since I've been here, we've switched from man-marking to a zonal system, which is something we always used when I was at Middlesbrough.
"We were conceding too many goals, especially from set-pieces, and something had to be done.
"I think the players feel more comfortable with the new way of doing things and we have picked up more points since making the change.
"The number of goals we are conceding from set-pieces is still a problem, but I think zonal marking has helped us defend better against free kicks and corners.
"To be honest, the problem with man marking was that we were being dragged all over the place and it was too easy for opposition teams to get the ball into our box.
"With the changes we have made, both in terms of team shape and marking, we have become more solid and less open. Like anything new, it takes times to get used to it and it something we are working hard to try and perfect. But I think it better suits the players we have here."
City's points return (11 in eight games) may have improved since the dark days of October and early November, but skipper Cole Skuse recognises that Championship survival is dependent upon he and his team-mates addressing the issue of conceding soft goals.
Looking ahead to tomorrow's home game against promotion-chasing Leicester, he admitted: "The way we are conceding goals is criminal. We are shooting ourselves in the foot and giving ourselves no chance.
"It is something we need to eliminate from our game, because it is undermining everything we are trying to do.
"If we don't sort it out, then we are going to end up in League One and nobody wants that. As professionals, we want to play at the highest level possible and do the best we can for our families. We have a massive four months coming up, during which time all of our focus will be on staying up."