BRISTOL CITY 1 BRENTFORD 1

Donald Kerr takes heart from a trip to Bristol where the Bees ‘got their mojo back’.

 

Were there any of the 500 plus fans travelling to the game at Ashton Gate not wondering whether the Bees had turned a corner with the win against Bolton, or was it, like the draw at the Hawthorns, just another false dawn? As they travelled home, the majority would have taken great heart from the intervening 93 minutes, as Brentford produced a much better performance than for several weeks. 

The final score does no justice to the story of the game, one in which the visitors may have deserved to take all three points, although ultimately surviving a rather hectic and nerve wracking final few minutes.

The formation was the same as for the previous game, with the same three at the back as finished that game. With Rico still recovering his match fitness, he was rested and was replaced by Dalsgaard. Perhaps the manager judged that Rico’s pace will be at a premium at St Andrews on Saturday, as many would have judged him man of the match against Bolton. Otherwise, the team was exactly the same as started against the Trotters. The new set up seemed to provide greater solidity throughout the game, giving assistance to both wing backs in defence, but also crucially allowing them to roam further up field without leaving us too exposed at the back. 

Ashton Gate was quiet before the start, and very subdued for the first 20 minutes as we dominated the ball and came close to breaking through on a couple of occasions. The overall pace of the game seemed slow but particularly from the home team, and it was strange to think this was the team that apparently should have taken 3 points from Derby at Pride Park last weekend. And then, just as we were congratulating ourselves that we had started well and seemed in control, Bristol won their first corner, and out of nowhere, and completely against the run of play, scored a soft goal. The ball seemed to travel too far across the box to the completely static and unmarked Pisano whose header took a slight deflection off Barbet and past Bentley into the net. Here we go again, we thought, run the game, dominate possession, squander the better chances and give goals away. 

And, apart from keeping Bristol at bay, that was the story for the remainder of the first half. Benrahma, Maupay, and Watkins spurned gilt edged opportunities to draw level, adding to the two  chances in the first quarter, when balls were flashed across the face of goal without that telling touch that would have opened the scoring. Watkins probably had the best two chances, one where he met a ball pulled back to the centre of the box, that he blazed over, and another, where he worked his way in from the left, created space for the shot and hit wide on the right. 

In terms of personal performances, Barbet stood out, with several stunning long diagonal passes, one of at least 50 yards, picking out the free winger or wing back down the opposite touch line. Jeanvier appears to be improving with each game, and Konsa, although starting rather nervously and favouring the back pass, also grew into the game. Kamo was very busy in midfield and he and Romaine constantly fed the ball to the much more effective Watkins and Benrahma, albeit without the decisive touch. Apart from the goal, the only nervous moment was when Bentley had to dash from goal and gather the ball from the feet of the on rushing forward. Any hesitation would have seen David Webb, the referee, point to the spot but Dan was decisive and the pulse rate of those behind the goal reduced to normal again. 

At half time, there.can have been few in the ground taking an objective view that didn’t feel we should have been comfortably ahead rather than narrowly behind. Unlike, recent away games, we had given a very good account of ourselves, and it was difficult to imagine what Thomas would have said at half time except “keep on doing the same thing, and it will come right”

The second half started slowly, with Bristol probably edging the first few minutes However, we soon settled into the same pattern, with Watkins and Benrahma seeing more of the ball, and finally the former flicking the ball to Maupay, whose finish was similar to that against Bolton but probably even better technically. Could we now capitalise on this and get that elusive away win?

Sadly no. If anything, the equaliser seemed to be the spark that inspired the opposition and they had their best period of the game following that goal. They used all three substitutes, including da Silva, the young Chelsea loanee, brother of our B Team player, who had made such a difference to City at Griffin Park in October, and were favouring a more direct style, getting the ball wide and firing crosses in high towards the imposing figure of Diedhiou. But until the very late stages, we still seemed in control, and likely to see it out, even snatch it with one of the less frequent bursts forward. Moses seemed to be tiring but it was Benrahma, on 70 minutes, and Watkins, on 82, that were replaced by Canos and Judge respectively. 

You could almost sense some tension on the pitch and in the away end as Brentford seemed to start conceding seemingly unnecessary  free kicks and corners in the final few minutes, presenting more opportunities for the crosses which have posed us so many problems in recent weeks. Even in the final minute of extra time we contrived to concede a free kick but, having looked the better team for much of the game, we saw off that threat and ultimately settled for a point – a point that most would have gladly taken before the game started. 

Two games unbeaten, we travel to Birmingham with renewed and growing confidence. There were periods today where we seemed to have our mojo back. Bristol were a better team than Bolton, and those who felt they were poor today, do our own team an injustice. This was a good away point and maybe that revival of early season form is genuinely happening.

 

Bristol City: Maenpaa;Pisano,Kalas, Webster, Kelly (sub Dasilva 73) Pack; Weimann, (Taylor 73), Brownhill,Paterson, O’Dowda (Eliasson 88) Diedhiou.

 

Brentford: Bentley; Konsa,Jeanvier, Barbet; Dalsgaard,Sawyers,Mokotjo,Odubajo;Watkins (Judge 82), Maupay,Benrahma (Canos 70).