An unrecognizable Bristol City
Pity Keith Millen. Having been perhaps unfairly overlooked for the Bristol City manager’s job after Springtime hints of promise, his dignified securing of the position after the retreat of Steve Coppell has led to a troubled campaign. The vast shadow of David James is currently towering behind him, even if the ex-England man currently refrains from sporting an afro.
I have gotten used to a very different Robins in recent seasons and yesterday’s Mad Stad vintage were unrecognizable.
First, the 4-5-1 that had become the blueprint of the Gary Johnson era has been jettisoned, with Brett Pitman and Jon Stead forming a highly conventional front two.
Second, mainstay Bradley Orr has been shipped off to QPR and yesterday’s squad was also missing Liam Fontaine, Nicky Maynard and Louis Carey – all vital cogs and all enduring enforced absences.
Third, the style of play little resembles the tick-tock tiki-taka favoured by Johnson, although the pragmatism was perhaps forced upon Millen by the dearth of first choice personnel.
Still, City started brightly enough at Reading. Cole Skuse, a midfielder of much elegance, briefly played conductor; and the ever talented Marvin Elliott exhibited versatility for a man who has spent much of his career in wider positions. On the flank, Chris Armstrong, brought in to counteract the pace of Albert Adomah, was experiencing a torrid time – the former Barnet man confirming his encouraging notices – while Christian Ribeiro was both compact and purposeful at right back.
Stead and Pitman scurried, dragging the Royals rearguard every which way and that – the former was rewarded with a brave header after Steven Caulker’s subtle chip was unfortunate to totter off the crossbar.
But the pace of Jimmy Kébé always threatened to be unleashed and Damion Stewart and Caulker were struggling aerially against the prodigious leaping of Shane Long and Noel Hunt. Despite an acrobatic stop from James, the Royals’ rapid raiding led to an equalizer and the unfortunate Adomah compounded the situation by dwelling on the ball in the 18 yard box – Long pouncing to set up Hunt.
Danny Rose was possibly the Robins’ most disappointing player on the day for me. Withdrawn into a left half role, possibly to aid Jamie McAllister and to combat the threat of Kébé, his neatness in possession is evident, but he struggled to cope with the helter skelter nature of events around him. After the break, McAllister was withdrawn but Lewin Nyatanga struggled out of position as his replacement. Only a late burst from Danny Haynes provided hope as the Berkshire men ran out easy victors.
One worries that the money that seemed to be there and ready in a brown envelope for Coppell (witness the signing of James) is being held back for a more high profile manager. Keith Millen deserves his first XI back before we can properly judge him.