Bristol City 2-1 Hull City

Last updated : 02 March 2008 By Rick Skelton
Today didn't ever really match the highs of last week at the Hawthorns but in a lot of areas, it was a better performance. There is nothing in this league at all. The better teams are slightly more consistent but in terms of quality, there is nothing between the top 12-15 teams. We were better than Bristol City today. In the first half in particular, we gave them a chasing and created a stack of good openings. We nicked all 3 points last week when we probably didn't deserve it and we got nothing today when we deserved much more. It's a funny old game.

We started quickly and created a brilliant chance in the first 2 minutes that Folan put wide with the goal gaping. From there, we dominated the first half. Marney, in for Okocha (presumably rested), gave us less quality on the ball, but more energy. Campbell was extremely lively and showed a different dimension to his game, dropping off and picking up the ball and finding Folan with great sweeping passes. We were brave on the ball and we looked to keep it whenever possible and rather than hitting it long, we played it down the side of the full backs to give Folan and Campbell a chance of winning it. When we did need to play the ball long, Folan won almost everything in the air.

After missing a great chance, we gifted Bristol the lead. They crossed harmlessly towards the edge of our area and Neil Clement, for reasons that I will never understand, left it, allowing Big Dele to run in behind and wallop it past Boaz. We recovered well form the goal. We found Adebola difficult to deal with, but we worked hard to stop Sproule and McIndoe getting the ball, which cut off his supply. We had more of the ball and we were creating chances and winning set pieces. We shot straight at Basso 3 times, Garcia lashed a good chance over and Marney delivered 2 great corners that caused panic in their area. Poor final passes cost us two other chances when we had men in space. They didn't threaten at all at the other end. We got a deserved equaliser when Ashbee gambled at the far post, tripped over the ball and recovered to score. I say he scored, it was probably an O.G., but Ash was so good today, he deserved the goal.

We started the second half by losing another soft goal. Brown committed a needless foul 10 yards inside our half. They packed the box, delivered the ball in and when we failed to clear it, Jamie McCombe scored with a bicycle kick. I don't think we'd have conceded either goal if Michael Turner was in the side. He would've dealt with the first cross and he would've headed the free-kick out, I'm sure. We never quite found the same flow as the first half, but we were still the team in control. Bristol played on the break, which they do well, but we were the team trying to open the door. JJ came on. Strangely, he replaced Garcia with Marney going wide and then 5 minutes later, France replaced Marney. Garcia had been below par for most of the first half but was growing into the game, Marney did nothing wide and France was poor for the most part too. Okocha had a rotten first few minutes but then he took a stranglehold on the game. Ricketts became a big part of our attack and we started to create good openings, but they never really became good chances. Okocha lashed a shot into the side netting and Campbell hit the post after great work from Folan. At the other end, Bo made a super save and they had a shot blocked when it looked like it must go in.

We weren't brave enough on the ball in the second half really. We hit poorer long balls. McCombe looked like a donkey in the first half as he struggled to get anywhere near Folan and Campbell, yet in the second half, he stood heading out long balls and we made him look like a world beater. Folan still won a decent amount but we stopped giving him passes he could work with. We kept up the pressure until the final minute but didn't find that little bit of quality to break through.

I thought our full backs were highly impressive again today. There aren't many players faster or trickier than Sproule and McIndoe, but neither were able to influence the game. Dawson's defending was first class and he distributed pretty well. His set piece delivery was abysmal, someone please stop him taking them. Ricketts defended equally well and used his pace and stamina to worry them in the second half. He's easily the most improved player in the squad. If he continues at this rate, I can't wait to see him next March. Neil Clement showed great character to recover from the error for the goal. He barely put a foot wrong for the next 80 minutes. In the second half, he started to spray the ball about and bring it out of defence. Brown made some great challenges and read the game well. He controlled a good defensive line. Myhill was immaculate behind them. He was quick off his line, made great decisions, distributed well and made a crucial save when required.

We didn't find the necessary threat down the right wing, which is unusual as of late. On the left, Pedersen put in a good shift but lacked quality. When he had the chance to put in a great cross, he failed. He cut inside and caused problems but couldn't ever get the ball out of his feet. I think perhaps his brain is quicker than his feet at the moment. I thought Ian Ashbee was magnificent. In the first minute, he made two near post clearances and that set the tone for his afternoon. Defensively, he broke up attacks, he tracked their runners, he won headers and he twice pushed Adebola away from goal when he'd escaped our centre backs' attention. Going forward, he used the ball intelligently, rarely giving it away. He was always available for a pass and he got into their box. He's had an incredible season and today was a new high.

Up front, the responsibility was on Campbell and Folan to deliver, because we had nothing on the bench. I thought they were even better than last week. Campbell's general play was much, much better and he worked with the rest of the team without losing the goal threat. Folan used his height and pace to cause problems with balls in the air and around the side of the defence. Unfortunately, we never really got either in behind as we'd have liked to do. You have to give Bristol credit for that, they are no mugs. They defended deeply and invited us to try and play through them. In the first half, we succeeded, but not after half time.

I thought it was a disappointing result, purely because we weren't beaten by a better team, we gave them the 3 points. Overall though, we'd definitely have taken 3 points from WBA and Bristol City. A few months ago, Bristol played us off the park at the KC but today, we were better than they were. We are constantly improving. I hope Phil Brown marched into the dressing room after the game and told the players that. I hope he told them "We are better than Bristol City. We've got better forwards, we've got a better midfield and when Turner is in, we're better at the back as well. Get your heads up and concentrate on Tuesday because we can beat anyone in the league. Not 'on our day' but on most days".

We've lost the unbeaten record, but we've maintained our momentum because we played well again. The guys should have a lot of self-confidence because we're a cracking team, playing some good stuff and causing problems for the opposition. I didn't like the decision to leave Okocha out, I thought it was frivolous. We should've kept as much of the team together as possible. If he's now as fresh as a daisy for Burnley though, I will understand. Turner must come back in for Tuesday. We're a better team with him in the side. I'd replace Marney with Okocha too but keep the rest as is. There is no need to change anything. Wherever this season takes us, today was another great display from the finest City side I've ever seen.

Ratings: Myhill 7, Ricketts 8, Dawson 7, Clement 6, Brown 6, Garcia 6 (Okocha), Pedersen 6, Ashbee 9, Marney 6 (France), Folan 8, Campbell 8.