Cracks were only papered over
If there was any honeymoon period as it is so often referred to nowadays then it is well and truly over for Derek McInnes. His last four matches in the red and white colours of Bristol City have been fairly miserable; picking up just a point a home to fellow strugglers Nottingham Forest whilst losing to Middlesbrough and recording defeats away at the Ricoh Arena and at Pride Park.
McInnes had instilled this sudden belief and desire which hasn’t necessarily faded but it just isn’t enough now to see off sides. Morale was surging and appeared at an all-time high although an undeserved last minute defeat at home to Boro’ courtesy of a Malaury Martin thunderbolt has disrupted any rhythm or momentum building at Ashton Gate.
The boos were back post-match at home to Forest despite securing a hard-fought point against a side who probably shaded it on the day. Forty-one year old David James was immense in goal and made several point-blank saves to deny Marcus Tudgay and the lively Dexter Blackstock to keep a clean sheet. Unfortunately a few disrespectful laughs and jeers met the announcement of his man-of-the-match appraisal after the match despite another fine display from the ex-England stopper.
But the boo-boys have now turned on transfer-listed star-striker Nicky Maynard who has no interest in signing a contract extension with the Robins. The Cheshire-born forward has been earmarked by several Premier League sides and is likely to move on in January for a cut-price fee. His contract which ends in the summer appears irrelevant as now fans are keen for the former wonder-boy to depart BS3 immediately.
But the club must be blamed after making yet another mess of a situation regarding player contracts and important players as now Nicky Maynard holds all the power. A scenario that haunted the club in the past as Adriano Basso was swayed by bigger fish and paper talk whilst it could unravel all again this campaign with captain Liam Fontaine also out of contract in the summer.
Manager, McInnes made a business-like decision and thus elected to start the clubs’ top scorer at the Ricoh Arena however City still failed to put away any of the 26 chances that were passed up at a soulless Ricoh Arena. Albert Adomah was chopped down and ought to have won a spot-kick but nevertheless the energy and belief that was initially there amongst a now beleaguered squad went missing once more.
The Boxing Day clash was somewhat a six-pointer and now the pressure is piled upon the next home clash, when Millwall visit what is now a more inviting Ashton Gate rather than the fortress it was a few years back. McInnes took over and everything appeared rosy and fans became obsessed with this idea that City were surging towards the play-offs, me included. It is of course too easy to get carried away with a new manager and a win over the league leaders.
The Robins have faltered of late and the 4-5-1 formation adamantly adopted by McInnes from the start to halt leaking goals isn’t working as planned. A midfield full of bodies results in an isolated striker or an isolated Nicky Maynard as last season’s top-scorer Brett Pitman remains harshly benched. Although when City do go for the juggler, the vulnerability creeps in again and everyone begins to panic. The 4-4-2 is supposed to be old-fashioned but 4-5-1 is not the answer with this set of players, so hopefully there is a suitable and successful alternative somewhere.
However fortunately one man never carried that belief that City were instantly saved by the messiah McInnes and his equally important deputy Tony Doherty. That man is the man at the helm of the ship, Derek McInnes himself, who has made it publicly clear that his side face a relegation battle this season.
A worry that is now even more concerning as a trip to St Marys is next up on the calendar. 2011 has been a bad year for Bristol City but with a realistic and enthusiastic management team in charge, who have no doubt a busy transfer window ahead, things can only get better, can’t they?