Match Preview - U's Vs Bristol City
Friday, 11th Jan 2008 16:28
Graeson previews the U's league game at Ashton Gate tomorrow.
Following the devastating defeat at home to Peterborough United in the FA Cup last weekend, the U's will get back to their battle to avoid the drop. They'll be boosted by the arrival of two new figures at the club in Phil Ifil and Chris Coyne, while the departure of Mickey Adams this week may see the U's play a more attractive brand of football than in the previous five months or so.
Geraint Williams and Robbie Cowling have done a tremendous job in getting players to Layer Road as it can't be easy. Every time our name gets linked with one player or another then pretty soon a big club - regardless of the division in which he played - seems to take an interest. It shows a lot about the ambitions of the two players involved that they believe this time next year the club will still be playing in The Championship.
Not that the quest to get much needed points becomes any easier this weekend with the trip to Bristol City. Following promotion from League One last season, I'm not sure that even the most ardent City fan would have expected them to be challenging for promotion as they currently sit in third place in the table but only on goal difference with leaders West Brom and Watford. Whether City has the strength in depth to continue at the right end of the table we'll have to wait and see.
City have won eight of their thirteen home League games this season, scoring twenty goals and conceding thirteen. They've also drawn five games but lost two - a number that the U's will be hoping to increase come 5pm on Saturday afternoon.
Like the U's, Bristol City also exited the FA Cup at the first time of asking but at least they can say they were beaten by a Premiership club in Middlesbrough. Liam Fontaine's second goal of the season did put City ahead after 18 minutes but Stuart Downing and David Wheater saved under-fire boss Gareth Southgate. I would say more about the goals but frankly, I still haven't mustered up the courage to watch last Saturday's Match of the Day for dear of seeing the U's game!
It’s been some time since we last played The Robins so a quick look at their squad will come in handy. Adriano Basso is currently the number one goalkeeper and must have improved greatly since his last visit to Layer when his mistake cost them a goal.
Liam Fontaine's recent goal in a League match saw Gary Johnson's throwaway remark about bearing his bum in a shop window if he ever scored become reality while Brian Wilson, Scotland International Jamie McAllister and Tamas Vasko (a Hungarian defender on loan from Ujpest Dozsa) make up the back four.
In midfield, tiny, tiny manager's son Lee Johnson partners Marvin Elliott in the central areas with Northern Ireland International Ivan Sproule and Bradley Orr make up the quartet though Michael McIndoe is always a handful whenever he plays too.
Up front, Johnson has some riches to choose from. The pace of Darren Byfield. The power of Enoch Showunmi. The trickery of Lee Trundle and the wing play of Scott Murray who has scored more than once against the U's. The most dangerous of these is probably former Swansea and Wrexham striker Lee Trundle who moved to the club in the close season. The key to playing him is to keep him off his left foot - but that's easier said than done.
This will be the club's first visit to Bristol since September 2005 when an injury ravaged squad somehow came away with a goalless draw. The U's were hit by injuries on the day too with Garry Richards coming in as a late replacement for Sam Stockley but the U's were the better side in the first half. However, the second half saw the sending off of Wayne Brown on the hour mark while with quarter of an hour remaining Pat Baldwin went off with an injury giving Robbie King his debut. A makeshift back four of John White, Greg Halford, Garry Richards and Kem Izzet somehow kept City at bay. Later in the season, the U's won the home encounter 3-2 with goals from Gareth Williams and a Neil Danns brace.
The U's do have a pretty decent record against City - well, when we play against sides who like to play nice football the U's normally do do well - having lost just twice in the last six visits, and winning in 2003 when, after Scott McGleish had put us ahead, we had to rely on a long-range Thomas Pinault effort to cancel out a goal from a young Craig Fagan.
United's first ever trip to Bristol City also ended in success - and how the U's would relish a repeat of the score line tomorrow - as Jimmy Allen's men recorded a two nil success thanks to goals from Vic Keeble and Trevor Rowlands. The U's side that day saw George Wright in goal, John Harrison, Trevor Rowlands, Harry Bearryman, Reg Stewart, Bill Layton, Len Jones, Johnny McKim, Vic Keeble, Jimmy Elder an John Church.
Could be an interesting team selection for Geraint Williams this week with two new bodies to include in the squad. Phil Ifil and Chris Coyne arrived on big money deals (the U's have now spent over a million pounds in players this season!) and will want to get into the swing of things straight away. There is some danger to throwing in two new players, especially when they are both defenders, but the U's have been performing so badly that I don't think its going to make much difference anyway!
So my side will see Dean Gerken in goal, Phil Ifil at right back with Pat Baldwin partnering Chris Coyne at the heart of the defence and George Elokobi at left-back (though John White might also get the nod there as well).
In midfield, I would have Yeates on the right, Guttridge and Izzet in the middle of the park where the game may well be won or lost with Johnnie Jackson - who signed a new extended contract on Friday - out on the left hand side. Up front I'd go with Clive Platt if he's recovered from the back problem that kept him out of the Posh tie, alongside Kevin Lisbie.
The U's normally do well at Ashton Gate, and boosted by their last win in the League at The Valley, and with new players in the side to give the whole club a lift, I think the U's will actually get something from the game.
The point they'll get from a one all draw might well be the difference by the end of May but Jackson's goal midway through the second half will at least secure that.
Photo: Action Images
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