Brentford’s game with Bristol City Is finally set to go ahead on Wednesday – the fourth different date the fixture has had this season.
It was initially due to be played on Saturday 2 January, but was called off after Covid symptoms in the Robins squad. It was then rearranged for Wednesday 13 January, but suspended again – this time because of positive Covid cases among the Bees.
The match was then rearranged for Tuesday night, exactly a month after its original date, before being put back another day to Wednesday for live coverage on Sky.
Bristol City will arrive in a much stronger state then they were in at the start of January.
At the time, they were beset by injuries and had lost four of their previous five games.
But since then, some of their players have returned and they have won four out of six matches – two of which were in the FA Cup.
The season started in sensational style for new manager Dean Holden, as they topped the table after winning four and drawing one of their first five games, but they then failed to win any of their next five to tumble out of the top six.
Three back-to-back wins followed, but victories have been harder to come by since then with only three in their next 10 games, along with six defeats, including four losses in their last five matches up to the end of 2020.
Their Carabao Cup run ended in the second round when they lost 3-0 to Aston Villa, after a 4-0 win over Northampton.
And in the FA Cup, they travel to Sheffield United in the fifth round next Wednesday after beating Portsmouth 2-1 and then winning 3-0 at Millwall.
This is City’s sixth consecutive season in the Championship and 12th in the last 14 years.
City and Brentford are two of seven Championship clubs who have never played in the Premier League, with Luton, Millwall, Preston, Rotherham and Wycombe being the others.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Dean Holden replaced the long-serving Lee Johnson in the hotseat, initially on an interim basis in July before being made permanent a month later.
Holden, previously Johnson’s assistant, has signed a rolling 12-month contract at Ashton Gate.
It is his second managerial job, following a short spell in charge of Oldham in 2015.
During a 17-year career as a right-back, Holden played for Bolton, Oldham, Peterborough, Falkirk. Shrewsbiry, Chesterfield, Rochdale and Walsall.
Johnson had been the Championship’s longest-serving boss, having been in charge for nearly four-and-a-half years when he was sacked.
WE’VE MET BEFORE
Brentford have a superb record against Bristol City in the Championship, with five wins, four draws and only one defeat in our 10 meetings.
After many meetings in League One, we first met in the second tier in 2015/16, with the Bees the season’s first visitors to Ashton Gate – and our 4-2 victory put us third in the fledgling Championship table.
Jonathan Kodjia put the Robins ahead after only two minutes but Alan Judge quickly equalised. Aaron Wilbraham restored City’s lead and they then had Luke Freeman sent off before Derrick Williams turned a Judge effort into his own net to level again.
Second half goals from Andre Gray and Philipp Hofmann sealed the points for us.
The return game was notable for Scott Hogan’s first goal in a Brentford shirt. He came on as a substitute in the 72nd minute and in the 85th minute had a great chance to open his account when he was fouled in the penalty area – however, goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell saved his spot-kick.
Hogan was not to be denied though and in the first minute of injury-time headed in a Jake Bidwell cross to cancel out Lee Tomlin’s first half goal for the visitors and earn the Bees a point as it finished 1-1.
We did the double in 2016/17, starting by winning 1-0 at Ashton Gate a couple of Tuesdays before Christmas with a goal midway through the second half by Maxime Colin.
We completed the double at the start of April with first half goals from Sergi Canos and Lasse Vibe.
The following season (2017/18), 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.
City’s visit in October 2018 was a miserable start at the helm for Thomas Frank as Niclas Eliasson’s 89th-minute goal gave City a 1-0 win.
Chris Mepham was sent off just before the hour mark for his second yellow card as the Bees’ winless Championship run increased to six games.
We stretched our unbeaten run at Ashton Gate to five games on Boxing Day as we picked up a 1-1 draw in the return match,
Eros Pisano headed City into a first-half lead from a corner, but Neal Maupay volleyed home his 15th goal of the season eight minutes into the second half to earn us a point.
We took four points off City last season.
They snatched a point with a late equaliser from Andreas Weimann to earn a 1-1 draw on a Wednesday night at the start of October after Josh Dasilva had put us ahead midway through the first half.
However, the return on New Year’s Day was one-way traffic and one of our best performances of the season as we romped to a 4-0 success.
Bryan Mbeumo gave us a sixth-minute lead before City’s experienced defender Ashley Williams was sent off seven minutes later. Said Benrahma doubled the lead midway through the first half, before Ollie Watkins scored twice in the last 10 minutes to seal the victory.
BBC Radio Bristol sports editor Richard Hoskin assesses Bristol City’s season, looks at the impact made by Dean Holden and reports on the form of ex-Bees goalkeeper Dan Bentley.
Q – Bristol City seem to have been very inconsistent in their results this season – what’s going on?
A – In a word – injuries. City’s crippling injury list is into double figures. Liam Walsh, Joe Williams and Nathan Baker are yet to feature this season. Andreas Wiemann and ex-Brentford defender Alfie Mawson both suffered long-term injuries, although Mawson recently made a welcome return to the side.
Callum O’Dowda, Jay Daslilva, Steven Sessegnon, Chris Brunt, Jamie Paterson and Cam Pring are also on the treatment table – while Chris Brunt recently left the club due to injury.
Dean Holden will be hoping things are starting to improve going into Wednesday’s game – with the likes of Jamie Paterson reportedly close to a welcome return.
Q – What changes has Dean Holden made since taking over from Lee Johnson as manager?
A – He started the season favouring a 3-5-2 formation, with Andreas Wiemann and Jamie Paterson playing in an attacking midfield. But with so many injuries, he’s had to switch to 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 in recent weeks.
I don’t think Dean Holden has been able to implement his true style on the team yet, due to all the injuries. But he’s very much his own man, despite working under the previous head coach Lee Johnson.
Q – How would you assess the season so far – as expected, better or worse?
A – I think under the circumstances, it’s been a level par season so far. City went into the season pushing for a top six finish, and while they’re still in contention for the play-offs heading into the new year, results have dipped in recent weeks because the starting 11 aren’t getting much of an opportunity to have a breather.
Q – How has Dan Bentley been doing this season?
A – He’s been in excellent form. By his own admission, he struggled temporarily during the Championship restart in June and July, but this season there has been very little to fault – with Bentley (who’s sporting an eye-catching multi-coloured goalkeeping strip this season) making a number of key saves.
Dean Holden was recently quoted as saying “I wouldn’t swap him for any keeper in the EFL or above.”
(Dan Bentley’s shirt will be familiar to Bees fans from the early 90s as Graham Benstead proves here!)
Q – What memories do you have of the sides’ Griffin Park encounters?
A – I always enjoyed visiting Griffin Park, and I feel sorry for those Brentford fans who were unable to say goodbye properly. In recent years City have had to handle a lot of pressure against Brentford in games at Griffin Park, but from memory have hung on and were unbeaten in their last three visits.
Q – Finally can you give me a possible line-up and formation for City please?
A – Dan Bentley in goal. A back four (injuries permitting!) of Jack Hunt, Alfie Mawson, Tomas Kalas and most likely somebody slotting in at left-back, after Tommy Rowe went off on Saturday in the 1-0 defeat against Derby.
Zak Vyner and Adam Nagy face competition in midfield, with the addition of new signing Henri Lansbury to the squad. Antoine Semenyo and Kasey Palmer completed the midfield on Saturday. Famara Diedhiou and Nahki Wells were City’s two starting strikers at Derby.
HOW TO FOLLOW THE GAME
The match is being played at the Brentford Community Stadium at 7.45pm on Wednesday, behind closed doors. The match is live on Sky Sports. Season ticket holders who froze their tickets have free access to watch the match on iFollow, and others can buy a match pass for £10.