There’s a famous scene from The Simpsons where villain Sideshow Bob (voiced by Kelsey Grammer, husband of Alan Walsh’s daughter Kayte no less) constantly walks in to rakes, whacking himself in the face each time he stands on a separate gardening tool.
At times, this season must have felt similarly for Bristol City fans. Each fixture a new rake. The pain unrelenting as the club slipped to low after low from the new year, no matter what patch of grass they were playing on.
A club record run of home league defeats, the fewest goals netted at home ever and the most home defeats in a season all point to a problem at Ashton Gate. Maybe this was the best time for the fans to be absent.
But hopefully Nigel Pearson can be the man to steady the ship. With a sound summer behind him, solid recruitment and a fair wind next season could be the start of a relentless march forward.
Here’s our take on the highs and lows that were season 2020/21.
Has to be the away win at Stoke City. A fine 0-2 victory in the first away game, Dean Holden’s side in its pomp, with the Andi Weimann and Jamie Paterson double no.8 tactical system working well and the 3-5-2 formation causing the Potters numerous problems, with City pressing high.
Tyreeq Bakinson was thriving in front of the back three and Nahki Wells and Chris Martin were looking dangerous in attack. Taylor Moore was a contender for man of the match that day.
Following the home victory at Coventry the week before, it was a fine start to the campaign and all was well, before injuries began to strike and much of that initial side would be unable to play large roles for the remainder of the Championship slog, Alfie Mawson, Martin, Weimann and Paterson to all be absent for large parts of the season.
But a shout out for the 0-3 win at Millwall and even the (inevitable) 2-2 draw at Oakwell also, which looks much more palatable now given the Tykes later march into the playoffs; and City definitely deserved more that day as the West Country outfit were left to rue a late Callum O’Dowda penalty given away, converted 12 minutes past the 90 after an injury to defender Michael Sollbauer.
Plenty to choose from here. Has to be the Watford away thrashing however, which precipitated a chain of events – including the subsequent loss to Reading – that led to Dean Holden being relieved of duty.
By full-time at home to the Royals, the Robins had lost 10 of their previous 13 league fixtures and the pressure was truly on the senior hierarchy at the club.
That day in Vicarage Road was a harrowing experience: City were behind after just two minutes and looked unable to stop the runs of wide-men Ismaila Sarr and Ken Sema who both netted braces. Poor old Ryley Towler and Taylor Moore were hooked at the break, following four goals being shipped in the first half alone.
The Hornets were stinging freely, though at the time the Hertfordshire club were bumbling along in high-to-mid-table and didn’t yet look like the automatic promotion outfit that they then became. Kickstarted by the visit of City, they won for the first time in four games and went on to grab victory in 10 of their next 11 fixtures too.
It’s Tyreeq Bakinson’s curling effort at Wycombe for us. It came slightly against the run of play but was a wonderful strike from distance into the top corner, just days after a great hit from range to grab a draw at Sheffield Wednesday with just two minutes to go.
‘T’ finished the campaign with a healthy four strikes in the league, with a deflected goal at Barnsley and another at home against Bournemouth.
Honorable mentions to Antoine Semenyo’s goal at Millwall in the FA Cup and Chris Martin’s against Portsmouth too. Also to Louis Britton brilliantly netting on his debut.
Best/Most exciting game
There weren’t too many shootouts this season. And the ones that were – 3-2 to Brentford; 2-3 to Luton Town – were won by the opposition.
So we’ll go for the Millwall FA Cup win: a fine 0-3 victory away from home, a contender for the best display of the season, a coming of age for Antoine Semenyo, that goal celebration, Nahki Wells on form, a slow start but a fine win, cameos for Same Bell and Owura Edwards, and one of the few, great days of the season.
Equally the win by the same scoreline at Birmingham City that effectively meant that the Robins would be safe from relegation, with an inspired Kasey Palmer helping the side from Ashton Gate to victory that day. Those two were the only occasions where City won by three goals this season, the 4-0 League Cup victory over Northampton Town back in September apart.
Best player: Tomas Kalas
While we wholeheartedly agree with the supporters choice of Dan Bentley, who has been superb, we’ve gone for Tomas Kalas and written about why the skipper deserves a mention here.
Bentley was overworked for much of the season, with no team conceding more shots in the Championship than City.
The results so far under Nigel Pearson. Finally the club brings in that “breath of fresh air” Steve Lansdown mentioned last summer, and a manager with experience and pedigree comes in. But since then it’s been a meagre three wins in 15 games – and that’s being generous in giving the victory at Middlesbrough to the new ‘gaffer’.
We certainly hope for much better in 2021/22.
No.1 hope for next season
Beyond some better results, just some better football – as almost all Bristol City fans will testify. The Robins finished this season having taken fewer shots than any other side in the division and some 80 off the team in 23rd place (Sheffield Wednesday). Goals in BS3 were hard to come by and though things were better on the road, with fans due to be in attendance next season, things must get better at Ashton Gate.