We don't fear playing at home now, says Bristol City boss
BRISTOL City boss Derek McInnes insists his players have shed the Ashton Gate fear factor once and for all.
Playing at home has proved problematic for the Robins in the recent past and City failed to win any of their opening eight games in BS3 last season and suffered a depressing tally of 11 defeats on home soil.
But McInnes has overseen a gradual revival in fortunes since arriving last October and rival Championship teams can no longer take anything for granted when visiting Bristol.
Backed by near sell-out crowds, City registered crucial victories over fellow strugglers Coventry and Barnsley in April and remained unbeaten in their final four home games of last season to stave off the threat of relegation.
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That improvement has continued this term, City meting out a 4-1 drubbing to Crystal Palace and following that high-octane display with an equally scintillating performance to outgun Cardiff City 4-2 in front of their own fans.
The tension and anxiety of last year has at last given way to renewed confidence and self-belief and McInnes is adamant his players will not be fazed by the prospect of hosting big-spending promotion favourites Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.
McInnes, pictured, told The Post: "There is no fear or anxiety attached to playing at home now and Ashton Gate is a place we all enjoy on match-days.
"But it was not always like that and I picked up on the problem in my first game in charge at home to Birmingham. The players started well enough, but then went a goal behind and started doing the wrong things.
"There was a real tension and anxiety around the place and that got to the team and affected their performance.
"Because of the expectation on them, they would tighten up when things went wrong.
"It was something we talked about and tried to address and there is now a completely different atmosphere when we play at home. So much so, that I believe Blackburn at home is a game we can win.
"Blackburn have just come out of the Premier League and have some very good players, but we have played really well in our first two home games this season and ought to be confident in ourselves. If we reproduce that kind of form on Saturday, we will cause Blackburn problems."
Tickets are selling fast for the visit of Steve Kean's team and City expect their biggest crowd for a game at Ashton Gate this season.
City's loyal supporters have played an integral part in transforming their team's home form, rendering the Gate something of a fortress.
Mcinnes said: "The fans have definitely played a part and the backing they gave the boys towards the end of last season really helped us. It was no coincidence that when the crowd was passionate and got behind the team, we played better and got the results we needed."