PREVIEW: Bristol City vs Watford
JON Stead readily admits he and his team-mates have a long way to go to convince long-suffering Bristol City fans they can avoid relegation to League One.
Ashton Gate regulars have endured more than their fair share of dire performances and depressing defeats in a season that has again seen the Robins struggle at the wrong end of the npower Championship.
Although Saturday's 2-1 home win over Ipswich represented a notable step in the right direction, it is not sufficient on its own to win over a support-base that has understandably become sceptical.
After all, City have been here before. Impressive victories over Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday and Peterborough United were all heralded as turning points, only to be followed by further debilitating defeats. A case of one step forward and two back.
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Once again, the Robins have an opportunity to post back-to-back wins for the first time since August and build the kind of momentum that will surely be needed if they are to finish outside of the bottom three.
While Stead's last-gasp winner against Ipswich sent the fans home happy at the weekend, few will be prepared to predict another three-point haul against in-form Watford at Ashton Gate tonight.
Stead, pictured, said: "We have more work to do to convince the crowd that we can do it and that is down to us and the way we have performed this season.
"Looking at the league table is pretty depressing for us and it is probably even worse for the fans.
"There were not so many poor performances or heavy defeats last season and the crowd always believed we could get out of trouble. This season, it is a case of getting everybody back on our side and that late goal will, hopefully, go some way towards that."
Ashton Gate has resembled a library on occasions this season, but there was a marked improvement in the atmosphere as City came from behind to finally give supporters something to cheer.
Stead added: "I don't think the fans have given up hope, but they can only react to what they see on the pitch. I've been playing in it, I've been watching it from the sidelines and I feel exactly the same as they do. Experiencing the lows is part and parcel of being a football fan, but you must have some highs as well and there have not been many of those during my time at the club."
Stead insists he and his team-mates must bottle up the feeling or euphoria engendered by Saturday's last-gasp success and use it to generate the kind of improved performance that will surely be needed against a Watford side that crushed Nottingham Forest on the banks of the river Trent last time out.
Stead said: "It was good to get that goal right at the end of the game, because everybody has left the ground on a high and is now looking forward to Tuesday night.
"We need to start the game brightly against Watford and take that confidence and that crowd atmosphere and make it work for us. Hopefully, the fans will now see us go from strength to strength.
"Beating Ipswich was a massive result for us. Had we lost the game, we would have been 13 points behind them and nine adrift of safety. A draw would probably have been a fair result. But the manner in which we won it is very pleasing and it could turn out to be a crucial three points."