Bristol City have been consistently inconsistent this season.
They started the campaign with two draws and a defeat and followed that with four straight wins but are now on a run of five games without a victory.
They kicked off with a 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest, before sharing four goals with Bolton and then slipping to a 2-0 home defeat by Middlesbrough.
Their season then really got going with 12 points in four matches thanks to victories at QPR (3-0) and Swansea (1-0) and over Blackburn (4-1) and Sheffield United (1-0) to move them up to third in the table – behind second-placed Brentford on goal difference.
Strangely since that day neither the Robins nor the Bees have won a Championship match.
City suffered back-to-back away defeats at West Brom (4-2) and at Wigan (1-0), before they drew 1-1 with Aston Villa and 0-0 at Rotherham and then lost 2-1 at home to Sheffield Wednesday to drop to 13th.
Last season’s Carabao Cup semi-finalists went out with a whimper this time around – as so often happens the season after a magical cup run – as they lost 1-0 to Plymouth at Ashton Gate in round one.
The 2017/18 campaign was a really mixed one for Bristol City – the already mentioned semi-final run coinciding with some sparkling league form which left them second in the Championship table after the Boxing Day win over Reading.
However, having picked up 47 points from their first 24 games, they only collected another 20 from their remaining 22 to finish a disappointing 11th.
This is the club’s fourth consecutive season in the Championship and 10th in the last 12 years.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Lee Johnson took charge of Bristol City in February 2016, replacing Steve Cotterill, making him the second longest-serving manager in the Championship – behind Millwall’s Neil Harris – and the 19th in all four divisions.
Johnson, son of Torquay manager Gary, played 199 games for the Robins in a six-year spell – with Yeovil the other major club in his playing career, which also took him to Watford, Brighton, Hearts, Derby, Chesterfield and Kilmarnock.
When he moved into management with Oldham in March 2013, he was the Football League’s youngest boss at the age of 31.
Two years later, he moved to Barnsley and he guided them to the 2016 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final before immediately leaving for the Ashton Gate job.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Brentford have a superb record against Bristol City in the Championship and are unbeaten in our six meetings. We also won both games in League One in our 2013/14 promotion season, meaning our last league defeat against the Robins came at Ashton Gate in March 2007.
Last season we took four points off them – the same as in 2015/16 – while we did the double in 2016/17.
In last season’s home game on an August Tuesday night, we were denied our first win of the season by a 98th-minute equaliser from Bobby Reid, a goal which earned the Robins a 2-2 draw.
Josh Brownhill gave the visitors a fifth-minute lead, which they held until early in the second half when Ollie Watkins headed his first Bees goal to equalise. Neal Maupay fired us ahead with his first touch after coming on as a 73rd-minute substitute – his second goal in two games – but Reid pounced in a goalmouth scramble to rescue a point for City.
We had had 24 shots to City’s eight but it was not enough for victory, although it did us earn our first point of the campaign in our third match.
Brentford’s dominance was rewarded at Ashton Gate on Easter Monday with a 1-0 win which stopped City moving into the play-off places and kept alive our faint hopes of a top-six finish.
Once again, Neal Maupay came off the bench to hit the winner – coming on with Nico Yennaris in the 74th minute and collecting a pass from the midfielder six minutes later to wrap up the three points from a game in which we had 27 shots to the hosts’ two.
It was our fourth consecutive win at City and ended a four-game winless run in the Championship.
BBC Radio Bristol sports editor Richard Hoskin tells us how Bristol City are coping with their summer transfer upheaval, why the side’s form has been so inconsistent so far this season and how manager Lee Johnson is perceived by Robins fans.
Q – How would you assess Bristol City’s start to the season and is it better than expected, worse than expected or roughly as expected?
A – It’s hard to say. On one hand expectations were realistic at the start of the season, having lost Aden Flint, Bobby Reid AND Joe Bryan. But having won four games in a row, City were starting to show some promise. Now they head to Brentford looking for their first win in six games! It’s small margins, had they beaten Sheffield Wednesday they would have entered the top six. Instead a 2-1 home defeat left them 13th, which shows how close and competitive the Championship is this season.
Q – How much has the loss of Joe Bryan, Bobby Reid and Aden Flint affected the side – what replacements came in?
A – To lose one big player is bad enough, to lose three is always going to take its toll. Youngster Lloyd Kelly has taken Joe Bryan’s place in the team, and everybody at Ashton Gate is excited about his potential. Adam Webster came in from Ipswich to play in defence, and is a very good footballer… City also signed Tomas Kalas but unfortunately he’s injured. City signed forwards Andreas Wiemann and Mo Eisa in the summer. Wiemann scored five goals in August, but didn’t score in September. Eisa is a player for the future, but he’s another of City’s several injured players.
Q – Why has form fluctuated so much with four wins being followed by five winless matches?
A – To put it simply, City haven’t been at their best in recent games. They were poor at Wigan, against Rotherham they struggled before improving in the second half. They need to be more clinical in front of goal, missing several chances against Rotherham and Sheffield Wednesday.
Q – Lee Johnson seemed to have an up-and-down time with the fans last season – how is he perceived at the moment?
A – I personally think he’s in credit. Last season provided some truly memorable moments, in particular the League Cup. I think most fans see the long-term vision of the club, but of course when you go five games without victory it’s natural for frustration to set in too. Had City beaten Sheffield Wednesday, the stat would have been five wins in nine games – so it would have annoyed Lee Johnson to lose the match.
Q – Who have been the key men in the side this season?
A – Without putting pressure on his young shoulders, Lloyd Kelly is developing into a key player. Goalkeeper Niki Maenpaa has settled in since joining in the summer although he misses out on Saturday because of injury. Niclas Eliasson is a real threat out wide, and Andreas Weimann is the top goalscorer. I think there’s more to come from a number of players, which makes me believe the club will climb higher up the league.
Q – What style of play should we expect to see from City on Saturday?
A – Under Lee Johnson, a good footballing philosophy. They like to build from the back, and when on form they play neat one-touch football.
Q – Finally can you give me a possible Robins starting line-up and formation?
A – I’ll try! Goalkeeper Maenpaa is out for six weeks after being injured so Max O’Leary will make his league debut for the club. My guess for the line-up is O’Leary in goal, a back four of Hunt, Baker, Webster and Kelly; a midfield of O’Dowda, Brownhill, Pack and possibly Watkins (or Paterson, or Eliasson!); with Matty Taylor (or Diedhiou) likely to partner Weimann up front.
For Bristol City fans coming to the game, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be).
As you are probably well aware, Brentford is well known for its four pubs – one on each corner of the ground.
The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal and the Royal Oak are the other options.
Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other …. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’.
The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields. The ‘Northfields run’ makes a much better pub crawl route than South Ealing – getting off at Northfields station, turning left and stopping off at The Plough (2 min walk), The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before ending up at The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) by the away turnstiles.
There’s also a relatively new tiny microbrewery pub in Northfields called The Owl and The Pussycat (Northfields Ave)– right turn out of the station away from the ground as opposed to left.
There is a pub right by Brentford mainline station referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.
For real ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman (Ealing Road) can probably hold 15 of you at a push.
The Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super-adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit One Over the Ait (Kew Bridge Road) – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge, and across from the site of the Bees’ new stadium at Lionel Road, with a deck overlooking the river – and The Express Tavern (Kew Bridge Road) – an ale pub with a retro feel. There are a load more pubs in the river in Kew if that takes your fancy.
A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many, many more too if you have a look around.
Parking near the stadium is a no no but is pretty easy in the streets north of Griffin Park on the other side of the A4 Great West Rd via Ealing Road or Windmill Road. Make sure you look our for the parking signs which change from area to area.
Getting to Brentford from town – many fans get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) then take the Overground train to Brentford, although because of strike action there is only one train an hour this Saturday.
This is relatively straightforward but can actually take longer than if you get the tube because of waiting times (the journey from Vauxhall or Waterloo to Brentford is 30 minutes on the fast train – 51 mins on the slow train – so you could find it takes you over an hour including the journey from King’s Cross/Euston/Paddington).
Many fans choose the tube over the overground. It’s 35 minutes to South Ealing or Northfields stations from King’s Cross or Euston (less from Paddington) and then 15 minutes walk to Brentford from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford
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