Bristol City 3-0 Swindon Town: At least our next game isn’t on TV
This was the sort of game which promises much but doesn’t deliver and instead profligate Swindon Town handed Bristol City a comfortable home win. Writes Anna Tuersley…
In the wider context of the season, Town started the game 15 points, 18 goals in difference and three places behind the league leaders. Add to that a lack of goals, the recent home defeat to MK Dons and a shed load of players hovering on the brink of suspension and you have something of the mindset in which the game began. It wasn’t going to get better.
In the narrow context of this game, Town weren’t necessarily three goals worse than their hosts. On top for many periods in terms of possession and creating way more chances than City, Town could have put the game out of reach in the first half. If only it weren’t for that woeful finishing.
So the stats said twenty-one attempts at goal, no goals scored; more corners and more possession than City and nothing to show for it but a decent hiding.
The facts at Ashton Gate were that Town had so many chances, good chances at that, it could only mean one thing: that a single goal-scoring opportunity for Bristol City, would result in the inevitable. As it was, Town suffered this blow three times over, on each occasion in a way which laid open their defensive fragility.
The game as a whole was a good derby spectacle, both teams coming to attack, this underlined by Town starting with both Andy Williams and Michael Smith up front. Mark Cooper might argue that one striker with supporting midfield is attacking enough, but a dearth of goals recently has called that approach into question. There are perhaps other questions around how Town were set up on this evening with, bizarrely, Sam Ricketts featuring wide on the left, but as there may be more players literally caught out of position in the next couple of games, with Yaser Kasim and Raphael-Branco facing suspension after picking up bookings, let’s go back to the matter in hand.
The first half was a lively affair, with Town attacking toward the away fan contingent newly housed in the Atyeo Stand. It was below us that we saw Smith, Williams, Massimo Luongo and Ben Gladwin (three times) all miss chances, or have them saved or blocked by a resolute City defence. Williams chose to shoot from an angle with Smith arguably better positioned on the edge of the six-yard box, Gladwin had two attempts foiled and City ‘keeper Fielding made at least three other good saves to keep Town out.
So for all Town’s usual frustrating shilly-shallying on the edge of their opponent’s box, tossing the ball backwards and forwards without hardly putting a cross in, here were still enough great chances created to be two or even three goals clear by half time.
Instead it was City who ended the first 45 ahead. At times, Town’s defending bordered on the comical, with Branco lucky to escape without punishment for his overly-touchy-feely approach to corners, particularly directed at Aden Flint. But then, on 37 minutes, Wes Foderingham’s ball out once again found Town’s white shirts pinned down by the red of City and unable to clear their lines, the ball fell eventually to Kieran Agard who made no mistake with a fine shot. Will this Town team ever learn that sometimes the ball needs hitting long? Probably not. Even then, the first half could have finished level with the dangerous Gladwin’s shot somehow striking the bar.
There were similar patterns to the play through the second half, with Town dominating possession at times and coming close to an equaliser on a number of occasions. Gladwin, who had been Town’s main threat in the first half, faded in the second and was replaced with just over ten minutes left. Nathan Byrne on the right enjoyed a lot of possession and ran well with the ball without playing many threatening balls in, though he did hit the top of the net with a one shot and Smith’s touch seemed to have deserted him as he put two headed chances over.
At the other end, City were again in luck with some dire Town defensive play. Eventually Town’s patient attacking build up wore thin and on 80 minutes City extended their lead when Bryan was allowed the freedom of the edge of the Town penalty area to blast past Foderingham. Then three minutes from time, Branco was far too easily robbed on the touchline allowing City to break and eventually get the ball across to an unmarked Wilbraham for 3-0.
Finally, the lucky horse shoe sitting in the back of the City net was evident in the closing minutes as Obika’s shot across goal hit the inside of the post and back across the goal-line before being hacked clear.
As a sum total, Town were arguably not three goals worse than City and played well in some areas of the pitch. But not where it mattered most. You just cannot miss that many chances and expect to get anything out of a game against a team who are top of the league and unbeaten in 12 matches.
On top of the obvious disappointment of losing this local derby, having to jostle past thousands of cheerful Bristol faces on the way out, there’s the thought that around the country football supporters of all colours watched us throw away chance after chance and suffer defeat of a side we have to admit is way better than us. There is also something desolate about watching a football match in a stadium which has only three sides in use and as I stood there (there was only standing going on here, legalised or not) I could recall with nostalgia some good games viewed from the old away end. On this occasion, it was a good job that there were only 11 thousand crowing City supporters and not more.