Football Features

“It’s becoming a bit of a nuisance” – Five things learned as Bristol City beaten at home by Birmingham

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:00, 7 February 2020

Birmingham City put a dent in Bristol City’s promotion hopes with a 3-1 win at Ashton Gate.

Jamie Paterson gave Bristol City the lead after just 40 seconds, capitalising on a poor pass from Marc Roberts. But Birmingham regrouped and Scott Hogan equalised from close range.

Birmingham then look the lead on the half-hour mark when Andreas Weimann headed into his own net, with Lukas Jutkiewicz confirming the win in injury time.

So, what did we learn?

1. Bristol City’s home form hurts Premier League dream

A lot of the build up to this game was based on Bristol City’s promotion chase. The Robins went into the game sixth in the Championship, occupying the final play-off place but knew a win would move them third, just two points behind second-placed Leeds United.

Things looked to be on their way when Jamie Paterson gave Bristol City a lead inside the opening minute but the Robins eventually fell to a problem that is becoming a bit of a nuisance.

In 15 league games at Ashton Gate this season, Bristol City have won just six games, amassing 22 points – the 15th-best record in the Champions. Their 2-1 defeat to Birmingham was their fifth home loss of the campaign, but also continued a poor run against the Blues. Bristol City have now lost seven of their last nine home league game against Birmingham, winning one and drawing one of the other two.

But, perhaps more worryingly for Bristol City, they could end the weekend outside of the top six with Preston North End set to go ahead of them if they beatn Wigan Athletic who are currently in the relegation zone. If that were to happen, it wouldn’t mean Bristol City’s promotion push is over – not by a long shot – but they will be on the back foot.

2. Jake Clarke-Salter overcomes injury problems to star in defence

Despite only being 22, Jake Clarke-Salter is starting to be a seasoned veteran of the Football League. The English centre-back has already had spells with Bristol Rovers and Sunderland, on top of a period with Vitesse, and while things haven’t been perfect, Clarke-Salter has been learning valuable lessons.

These are valuable lessons he is currently put to good use with Birmingham, but again it wasn’t plain sailing. Joining from Chelsea on loan in the summer, Clarke-Salter has had to deal with injury problems and spells outside the team, making just 13 appearances prior to Friday night’s game.

Four of those came in the past four league games, however, as Birmingham have been building an unbeaten run. And although they have conceded one goal in each of those matches, it is a marked improvement on their form without Clarke-Salter in the team – conceding 17 goals in six Championship matches.

Birmingham extended that unbeaten run to five, continuing their move up the table, against Bristol City and once again Clarke-Salter played his part. The 22-year-old won five aerial duels and made four clearances, forming a solid wall alongside Roberts – after his early mistake.

And if Chelsea do not have a place for him next season, which isn’t a guarantee with their defensive problems, Clarke-Salter will be a solid centre-back for someone.

3. Jamie Paterson returns with a bang

Although it would ultimately be in vain, Paterson’s goal inside 43 seconds still brought positives. The 28-year-old spent the first half of the campaign on loan at Derby County and struggled in Phillip Cocu’s side, scoring just one goal in 10 Championship outings.

However, back at the club he has been with since 2016, Paterson has refound goalscoring form. In five Championship appearances since his return, Paterson has scored three goals helping the Robins move up the table. And his third was well-taken.

With the chance coming so early in the game, Paterson could have been forgiven for not being ready to capitalise on Marc Roberts’ mistake. But he was alert, chasing Roberts down from just inside the Birmingham half, almost anticipating Roberts pass. Even when he got the ball, there was still work to be done.

Paterson’s first touch had to be good enough to take him past Lee Camp but not too far away from goal and, although the angle was right, he managed to do so – slotting into the empty net without slowing down.

The form of Paterson from the midfield will be key for Bristol City’s promotion hopes.

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4. Scott Hogan finds happiness in Birmingham

It would be fair to say Scott Hogan has not had the best time in the West Midlands recently. Contracted to Aston Villa, the forward scored seven goals in 56 Championship games and was deemed not good enough for their Premier League campaign, being sent on a short trip to Stoke City.

But he didn’t fare much better there, scoring two goals in 13 Championship games, eventually returning to Aston Villa. There had been some minor suggestions that Hogan could be in contention to replace Wesley at Villa, with the Brazilian out for the rest of the season, but that was shut down when he moved to another Midlands club and his parent side’s biggest rivals.

The move saw Birmingham mocked by some Villa fans but, currently, the Blues are the club laughing. Hogan scored on his Birmingham debut in a 2-1 win against Nottingham Forest and added his second in as many games to equalise at Ashton Gate.

What makes the goal even more remarkable is that it was the first league effort Bristol City had conceded in five games, and started what would be a crucial comeback.

5. Lukas Jutkiewicz hits 100 in excellent fashion

Since breaking through the academy at Swindon Town, Lukas Jutkiewicz has been around Britain, testing himself in various teams with different levels of success.

But of all his teams, the Southampton-born striker has found himself most at home with Birmingham, playing 156 times for the Blues and scoring 43 goals. Jutkiewicz’s 156th game wasn’t an easy one, left on the periphery, failing to have a shot until injury time. But that’s all he needed.

Collecting a long ball up the pitch from Camp, Jutkiewicz eased Ashley Williams out of contention and did the same with Filip Benkovic, using his strength with the slightest of nudges. But combined with his battle against Benkovic was a lovely first touch, taking him away from the defenders and into space inside the box. He then proceeded to lift the ball delicately over the sliding defender and goalkeeper, capping off the win.

Not just that, Jutkiewicz grabbed his 100th club career goal, and what an effort to reach the milestone with.

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