Bottom club finding some form
5 March ~ Bristol City are currently bottom of the Championship but for many fans there is more optimism about escaping relegation than at any point since August. Then, a strong start – including home wins over Crystal Palace and Cardiff – was followed by a run of 14 games with only one win. Following the appointment of Sean O'Driscoll, replacing Derek McInnes as manager in January, the team have won four home games in succession and kept three clean sheets in seven games, their first three of the season.
O'Driscoll has not made wholesale changes and, like McInnes, there will be pressure on him to reduce the wage bill but he has so far managed to add some organisation and bite to a previously porous and unprotected defence. He also appears to have decided upon which players to base the core of the team around, consistency of selection matching the results. With a quarter of the season remaining the hope is that the team can sustain this new-found solidity at a time when other clubs near the bottom, such as Wolves and Huddersfield, continue with their own poor runs.
This is not overly optimistic, for City have beaten three of the current top four already this season. Whether this good run against the better teams can be continued against Brighton, who have an eye on the play-offs, makes tonight's clash an intriguing prospect. It is nearly nine years since the two clubs met in the League One play-off final at Cardiff and the infrequent subsequent meetings have helped to numb the pain of Brighton's success that afternoon. This game will not prove to be as immediately decisive but may point the way as to how this season will pan out for both teams.
Brighton could prove to be formidable opposition, no team having lost fewer games than them in the Championship this season, and they strolled to victory in the first meeting in November. On the other hand, they are also the division's draw specialists and have scored fewer goals than O'Driscoll's team in the league, albeit from one fewer game. Based on this evidence a draw seems a good bet and at this stage of the season both teams will arguably be happy to negotiate a tricky midweek fixture without experiencing defeat. Mo Davies