Millwall contest their final Sky Bet Championship home match of the season on Tuesday night as Bristol City visit The Den (kick-off 7.45pm). Lee Johnson’s Play-Off-hunting side face The Lions who will be looking to finish the term on a high note, having secured safety last weekend with a point against Stoke City. Here we take a look at City’s 18/19 campaign…
Bristol City went into 2018/19 having again made a steady improvement under young and vibrant manager Lee Johnson. The previous campaign had managed an 11th-place finish, as well as a memorable Carabao Cup run which stretched to the last four, having beaten Manchester United en route. A Play-Off push was mooted among supporters at Ashton Gate, with a number of recruits brought in such as Andreas Weimann, Adam Webster and Marley Watkins. Various players were allowed to leave by the club, with big-money deals taking place to prise Bobby Reid and Joe Bryan to the Premier League. A tour of the south of Spain took place in pre-season, with the team facing Rayo Vallecano among others, and also taking on the likes of AFC Bournemouth and Shrewsbury Town back on British soil.
August was to be a mixed month for The Robins, but one which showed potential for the season ahead. A 1-1 home draw with Nottingham Forest began the campaign, before coming from two goals down to secure another point at Bolton. Middlesbrough’s 2-0 win at Ashton Gate inflicted a first League defeat on Johnson’s men, days after a shock 1-0 home loss in the Carabao Cup to Plymouth. Solid away wins at QPR and Swansea ended August with City in ninth position.
Two home fixtures began September for City, and the men in red took full advantage with victories over Blackburn (4-1) and Sheffield United (1-0) to rise to a season-high table position of third. Defeats at West Brom and Wigan proved a setback, before a 1-1 home draw with Aston Villa rounded off the month. Johnson’s side sat eighth after 10 matches.
For two months between mid-September and late-November, City only picked up two League wins in 11 matches. However, they were to come back-to-back in October, with two dramatic late triumphs against Brentford and Hull sandwiched between one point in three games – picked up in a goalless draw at Rotherham. City were also narrowly beaten by Stoke and Sheffield Wednesday in October, finishing the month in 11th.
The Robins were to struggle during the early weeks of November, hitting a frustrating spell which followed up October’s Stoke defeat with further one-goal defeats to Reading and Preston. A 2-0 loss at Leeds after the international break made it four straight games without a return for Johnson’s side, though a 3-2 win from behind at Ipswich began a run of 13 unbeaten in a swift upturn in form.
The first game of the festive month at Ashton Gate saw Millwall travel to the West Country on a drizzly Sunday afternoon. An unfortunate own goal from Jake Cooper gave Johnson’s team the lead shortly into the second half, but The Lions responded as Cooper’s combination with Steve Morison enabled Shaun Williams to rifle home an emphatic volley, securing a 1-1 scoreline and a point apiece. Another away win for The Robins came at Birmingham by a goal to nil, before three successive score draws with Norwich, Derby and Brentford. A 1-0 home win over Rotherham sent the red half of Bristol into 2019 on a high note, 11th in the table.
The turn of the year produced a fantastic run for Johnson’s side, who boasted a 100% record during the month in both League and Cup. The Rotherham win to end December sparked nine straight victories in all competitions, a 2-0 win at Stoke on New Year’s Day starting 2019. The Robins knocked Huddersfield Town out of the Emirates FA Cup at the Third Round stage, before the first of two 2-1 home wins over Bolton – this coming in the Championship. A 1-0 win at Nottingham Forest was followed by the second victory against Bolton, setting up a Fifth Round Cup tie with Wolves at Ashton Gate. The most significant piece of transfer business by the club in the winter window was the arrival on loan of Chelsea forward Kasey Palmer.
Three more wins carried on City’s tremendous streak as February began, as the team enjoyed a 2-0 win over Swansea and a 1-0 win at Blackburn. The side went one further against QPR, coming from behind to net a 93rd-minute winner at Ashton Gate. Up to fifth in the Championship and preparing for their last 16 clash in the FA Cup, The Robins were slenderly beaten by eventual Semi-Finalists Wolves and had the League campaign on which to solely focus. This had repercussions in the League, as the team lost their next two games to Norwich – where they led at Carrow Road – and to Birmingham. The team would slip in and out of the top six in the forthcoming weeks.
With just four games in the League for Bristol City following Millwall’s progress to the FA Cup Quarter-Finals postponing the League meeting until this week, and the side picked up five points from a possible 12. Score draws with Preston and Ipswich arrived either side of a narrow home defeat by Leeds, but a remarkable 3-2 win at now-promoted Sheffield United rounded off the month with some promise. City entered April in seventh.
Fixtures have mounted up for City across April, with a demanding month producing understandably fluctuating form. A crucial win against fellow Play-Off contenders Middlesbrough started the month strongly, before a 2-2 home draw with Wigan and a solid 3-2 win against West Brom after scoring three early strikes. A narrow defeat at in-form Aston Villa was followed by a 1-1 home draw with Reading. Two-nil defeats by Sheffield Wednesday and Derby have scuppered the previously strong chances of The Robins, with the contest at The Den providing a huge opportunity for Johnson’s eighth-placed side to make up ground for the top six race.