Bristol City v West Bromwich Albion; Ashton Gate, Monday 26th December 2022, 3pm
Carlos Corberán takes his team to Ashton Gate on Boxing Day looking to start a new winning run after the last one was rudely interrupted by the defeat at Coventry on Wednesday evening. Albion will be backed by a second successive sell out following away from home and those making the short trip down the M5 will be hopeful of a better result.
While the Baggies were a little below par at the CBS Arena, Coventry were one of the best sides that we have faced this season based on that performance, and I would not expect Bristol City to offer the same test. Nevertheless, Albion will need to improve on Wednesday’s performance if they are to come away from Ashton Gate with all three points.
This match represents the first match of the second half of the season and, for once, Albion have played every other team once. Nigel Pearson’s side were victorious at the Hawthorns in October in what was one of Steve Bruce’s final games in charge. Since then, the Robins have only won once, a 3-1 at Rotherham United earlier this month, and their last home win was a 2-1 win over Preston North End in early October. That means it has been a six match winless run at Ashton Gate for City including an ignominious 3-1 defeat in the League Cup at the hands of Lincoln City and a 2-1 defeat to Stoke City last weekend.
When City won at Blackburn on 3rd September, they were third in the table but only three wins in the fifteen league games since then has seen them drop to 18th place, two places and two points below the Baggies.
It was a surprise when Corberán made just one change to the starting line up for Wednesday’s match and I would expect there to be one or two more for Monday’s match. The Spaniard will undoubtedly have one eye on the two home games that follow in the week after the trip to Bristol so he will want to ensure the players are kept as fresh as possible.
While he defended his decision to play both Rogić and Swift on Wednesday, I would expect at least one of them to drop out of the side this time around. Okay has been one of Albion’s strongest performers in recent games and, assuming his fitness is holding up (and there are no signs that it isn’t), I would expect him to start alongside Jayson Molumby. If he feels both Swift and Rogić need a rest, he may even play TGH as a ten as he finished the game on Wednesday, but that would be a surprise. I feel that Grady Diangana deserves a start, assuming he is fully over the illness that kept him sidelined, while I expect Dike to get his turn to start the game.
There could be more changes at the back. Semi Ajayi was a surprise name on the bench on Wednesday while Bartley, who was supposedly closer to full fitness, was a surprise omission. Both could be involved this time, but whether either will start is unclear. Pieters and O’Shea have done pretty well in recent games, the Dutchman’s rash challenge for the penalty on Wednseday aside, and if one of the regular centre backs does come in, I half expect Pieters to take Townsend’s place at left back.
Whatever the line up, I have faith in Corberán that the players will be given a plan to beat the opposition that will be achievable. I’m sure he will have learned a lot from Wednesday and while he is not infallible, I feel sure he will get it right far more often than he gets it wrong.
If Albion are to make the playoffs, they need to target six points from each group of three games – personally, I think that seven or nine is a realistic target for the next three, starting with a win on Monday.
Finally, can I take this opportunity to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2023!
Albion’s last victory at Ashton Gate was a few weeks before the COVID pandemic shut down football and was one of the best performances under Slaven Bilić. According to WhoScored.com, nine of the starting eleven were rated higher than 7/10 with three players, Hal Robson-Kanu, Conor Townsend and Jake Livermore rating higher than 8/10. Hal Robson-Kanu won man-of-the-match with his brace, the second of which, it should be remembered, came after Romaine Sawyers was sent off. Callum Robinson scored the opening goal on that occasion in a 3-0 victory that is Albion’s best result at Ashton Gate.
There have been a number of Boxing Day fixtures between the sides, two of which have been in Bristol. The most recent of those was in Division One in 1977 when Tony Brown gave the Baggies a third minute lead only for second half goals from Gerry Gow and Tom Ritchie (2) to earn the hosts a 3-1 victory.
The previous occasion was a Division Two fixture in 1928 – the sides had met on Christmas Day at the Hawthorns, with the game finishing 1-1, but the following day, Albion came out on top in what was an exciting encounter. Stan Wood gave Albion an early lead before Cecil Blakemore equalised for the hosts before the break. Wood grabbed his second early in the second half but the Robins drew level again five minutes later through Jimmy Dickie. The game was finally decided in the 78th minute when Jimmy Cookson fired home for Albion to make the final score 3-2.
The only other time that Albion have scored three at Ashton Gate was in September 1998 when a Lee Hughes double and another from James Quinn earned Denis Smith’s team a 3-1 win, City’s goal scored by Julian Watts.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
18 Oct 2022 – League Championship
West Brom 0
Bristol City 2 (Williams, Wells)
Last meeting at Bristol City
19 Mar 2022 – League Championship
Bristol City 2 (Wells, Weimann)
West Brom 2 (Grant (pen), Reach)
23 Oct 2021 – League Championship
West Brom 3 (Hugill, Bartley, Grant)
Bristol City 0
Last win at Bristol City
22 Feb 2020 – League Championship
Bristol City 0
West Brom 3 (Robinson, Robson-Kanu (2))
Albion’s Record against Bristol City
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