Albion’s deserved victory over Fulham on Tuesday night should give the team great confidence as they travel to the venue that witnessed one of their best performances of their last promotion season. The hope is that display will spark a late charge for the play-off places, although it remains a long shot.
The 3-0 victory at Ashton Gate in February 2020 was, in some ways, the zenith of the Slaven Bilić era coming just a couple of weeks before football shut down as a result of the pandemic. It was a complete performance in a similar manner to the one Steve Bruce’s side produced on Tuesday, albeit Bilić’s side were a little more free-scoring!
Callum Robinson, who opened the scoring at Ashton Gate last time, also got the all-important goal at the Hawthorns on Tuesday to take his total for the season to seven, his best tally since he scored 13 goals for Preston in the 2018/19 campaign. He and Karlan Grant have scored 20 of Albion’s 41 goals this season so it is no surprise that Bruce has decided they should be his front two. However, Darryl Dike is getting close to fitness and the Baggies boss has confirmed that he will play for the U23s on Monday and has not ruled out a place for him on the bench this weekend. It will be interesting to see whether the American can force himself into the front two after the international break.
For now, however, the starting eleven seems to be settled with Bruce sticking with the same line up for the last three games as the Baggies have earned seven points. Injuries aside, I cannot see that changing for Saturday as Albion take on another of their former managers.
Nigel Pearson took caretaker control of the Baggies for four matches after Bryan Robson was sacked in September 2006. He won three and drew one of those games with Albion scoring 14 goals including a 5-1 win at Portman Road in his last game in charge. He has found things a little more difficult since he took over at Bristol City following the sacking of Dean Holden in February last year.
After winning his first two games in charge, City then lost nine of the last thirteen games of the season to finish in 19th place, which is only one place lower than where they find themselves now. It look Pearson nine months to win a home game, the first one coming against Stoke City in November, but their away form then collapsed and they won on the road for the first time since then at Blackburn last weekend. In all, they have lost eleven of their last seventeen matches in all competitions including their last two at Ashton Gate to the other two Championship sides from the West Midlands, Coventry City and Birmingham City.
The 1-0 win at Ewood Park was just their fourth clean sheet of the season – no team has recorded fewer shut outs and only Reading and Peterborough United have conceded more than City’s 67 goals in the division this campaign. Having said that, they have scored 47 goals in the Championship, seven more than Albion and more than any other side in the bottom half of the table.
Only games involving Fulham and Reading have produced more goals than Bristol City matches this season, with games involving Pearson’s team averaging three goals in total. Conversely, Albion games have averaged just two, with only Millwall and Hull City games averaging fewer total goals.
If you look at the two squads and the last three games, it is a game that Albion should win comfortably. But if you look at the Baggies’ previous dozen games, it is a little harder to call. The hope is that Steve Bruce’s team have turned the corner and, for the rest of the campaign, we will see performances closer to the one against Fulham than the one against Swansea a couple of weeks previously.
That may not be enough to get into the top six, but it should be good enough to take three points at Ashton Gate.
Albion are on a decent run of form against the Robins having won three of the last four meetings, and seven of the last ten. City have won just two of the last thirteen meetings in a run dating back to September 1998 when a double from Lee Hughes and another goal from James Quinn earned Denis Smith’s side a 3-1 victory at Ashton Gate.
Albion’s last visit to that particular corner of Bristol two years ago saw Slaven Bilić’s team produce one of their best performances of the season winning 3-0 with the now TV pundit Hal Robson-Kanu scored two to add to Callum Robinson’s opener. Even Romaine Sawyers’ red card could not spoil the day with HRK killing any hopes of a comeback the hosts may have had by scoring the third goal just two minutes later.
That is the Baggies’ best ever result at Ashton Gate while City’s best home win over Albion is the 3-1 victory they achieved on Boxing Day 1977 thanks a goal from Gerry Gow and two from Tom Ritchie – Tony Brown netted Albion’s consolation.
The only time that the Baggies have played City away at any other venue was the first time the Robins hosted Albion in February 1902 in what was their first season in the Football League. That was a Division Two fixture that took place at City’s first ground, St John’s Lane, and the visitors were victorious thanks to goals from Tommy Worton and Chippy Simmons.
Bristol City haven’t played top flight football since 1980 when they “did a Wolves” before Wolves themselves by suffering three successive relegations. They came very close to a return in 2008 under Gary Johnson when they finished fourth in the Championship in the year that the Baggies won the title. They beat Palace in the semi-final but lost to Phil Brown’s Hull City in the Wembley final. That was the last time they finished in the play-offs and City even spent two seasons back in League One winning promotion with an impressive 99 points in 2015.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
23 Oct 2021 – League Championship
West Brom 3 (Hugill, Bartley, Grant)
Bristol City 0
Last meeting 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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