Can Bristol City bounce back?

Bristol City lost 2-1 at Aston Villa last time out – and they were fortunate to still be in the game late on.

The Robins were under the cosh for much of that contest and they relied on young goalkeeper Max O’Leary to keep the score down.

O’Leary, loaned out to a National League relegation battle with Solihull Moors last season, is highly-rated within the club’s hierarchy and based on his stops from Conor Hourihane and others, one can see why.

Other than him and left winger Niclas Eliasson, who produced one or two reasonable left-footed deliveries early on, plus goalscorer Famara Diedhiou, this was not the strongest performance from the Robins, who struggled to get hold of the midfield.

It should be acknowledged though that this area has been their main strength in previous displays, notably the preceding 3-2 win over West Brom.

Stalwarts Marlon Pack and Korey Smith had kept their regular places for three years after the League One title-winning season, but Johnson has shaken things up slightly with Smith’s injury forcing him to play no more than 118 minutes of competitive action since August.

Before then, Johnson had at times used Josh Brownhill into a wide role but, because this year’s team uses width more and produces more crosses, the dynamic midfielder has been given a run of games centrally.

That has worked well recently with Brownhill showing energy, quality and willingness to influence different phases of play – perhaps we did not see his true capabilities when he was used out wide, at least not to the extent we are now.

It could be that against a high-quality opposition in Aston Villa, Bristol City lacked an element of solidity in those central areas when fielding one sitting midfielder in Pack rather than two, but at home to Reading, it is perhaps worth taking that kind of risk.

Although, that’s not to say that the visitors will by any means be pushovers…

 

Reading’s run

Reading continued their encouraging form on Saturday, when they defeated Brentford 2-1.

The Royals did not necessarily dominate in terms of general play, but they trumped the Londoners on clear cut chances and the attacking combination of Modou Barrow’s pace, Yakou Meite’s athleticism and Nelson Oliveira’s quality worked well for them in the final third.

The 4-3-3 Jose Gomes switched to might work well for them because, throughout the season, they have had a lot of midfielders who are not quite technically strong enough to be a number 10 in a 4-2-3-1, but would be limited if deployed in a double-pivot.

The current system allows the likes of Ovie Ejaria and Andy Rinomhota to support the press, with the two-footed Lewis Baker driving forward from a slightly deeper starting position.

The Royals have improved under Gomes – in terms of results, organisation and the general mood around the club – but will it be enough for them to match Bristol City?

The Berkshire outfit have accrued eight points from 16 road trips to teams above them and their only victory – September’s 3-2 triumph at Preston – actually came before the manager took over.

The shot data does not look great, with an Expected Goals Ratio (xGR) of 31.47f566ab7f58c50f0e39ac2a} from the eight games that preceded the win over Brentford being the worst in the division from that sample.

While Reading should have enough to stay up, therefore, Bristol City may be victorious here.

Tip: Bristol City to win

Read Gabriel’s Good Friday League One preview.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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