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Friday, 18 April 2014

The Inside Line: Notts County (Good Friday, 2014)

City kick off their Easter weekend with a spring in their step after achieveing the almost-sacred 50-point mark with last weekend’s 1-0 win at Walsall.  The fact that the players were out that night singing “We are staying up” perhaps shows it means more to them than many often think it does?

However, there are still some hard-earned points to be won and the run-in starts with a home match against a side very much still in the need for points.

Stu Radnedge took time out of his marathon effort on two wheels (Stu is part of the team cycling from Land’s End to Ashton Gate for the Bristol City Community Trust this week) to catch up with his namesake https://twitter.com/blackwhitezine at www.theNottsBlog.co.uk to ask these questions.

What are your thoughts on last week's announcement with the fixture move?
As far as we’re aware, it was Steve Cotterill’s idea to shift the game – or maybe more specifically Sean O’Driscoll’s for not requesting the fixture be moved when it was first announced. Regardless, Notts didn’t have to accept did they?

It’s understandably put a lot of noses out of joint but you can see where the club are coming from. It doesn’t mean they don’t care about the fans, more that they know an extra day’s rest could be crucial given our precarious position right now.

Still, doesn’t make it any easier to swallow for those who had booked tickets, travel, hotels etc for the weekend. Notts offered free coach travel to those affected but the damage was already done for many.

Final score? Both parties want castrating, and governing bodies need to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

Back to the beautiful game, there has been a transformation as of late for County. Is this a late run for survival and does it hinge on Friday's result?
Survival very much happening irrespective of the game at yours if I’m honest. Just to be able to look at the table and see us not in the bottom four when we’ve had so many final nails hammered into our coffin is incredible. When we lost at Tranmere just over a month ago now, we all knew that was it. It was a do or die game anyway but seeing the players slump to their knees at the final whistle was the moment we knew they’d given up.

Shaun Derry and Greg Abbott have worked miracles to get us where we are today. Four games remain and we’ve earned a very real chance at staying up.

What are your hopes from the game? Is there more focus on seeing it through and not picking up injuries, as you have a crucial match at Crawley on Monday?
Absolutely not. We’re merely one of many clubs trying desperately to hit the 50 point barrier like yourselves did last weekend. We’ll be going into the game high on confidence given the nature of our comeback last weekend at home to Port Vale. 2-0 in auspicious circumstances, mere weeks ago it would have been a right hammering – but to win 4-2 was quite brilliant.

What has been the catalyst for the change in form?
The introduction of Josh Vela on loan from Bolton alongside Gary Liddle has been crucial for us. In seeing off Alan Judge, Neal Bishop and Jeff Hughes in the Summer we essentially signed our own death warrants and are only now righting those wrongs. Mark Fotheringham had a very good pre-season but despite possessing passion in droves failed to deliver regularly enough. And the less said about Joss Labadie the better if I’m honest – quite sad considering the hopes we had for him this time last season.

Then up front, Ronan Murray and Jimmy Spencer have formed our most dangerous double act in years. Spencer is a star, never seen anyone in our colours who a football sticks to like it does him. Whilst Murray’s goals have proven incredibly vital of late. There may be issues over his temperament but he’s a permanent fixture in the first XI now.

Should you beat the drop, what do you think the squad will look like for the following season?  Can you see players being snapped up from County and you bringing players in? Are there any particular positions that require strengthening?
As things stand I think we only have six or seven players actually contracted for next season. When we were rock bottom this only came as great news because we couldn’t wait to see the back of most of them! Recent form though has given a true glimpse of what these lads can do – might be an uncomfortable Summer if things continue to pan out like they are!

Bartosz Bialkowski is likely to be targeted by a few clubs in the Summer given he only has a year left on his contract. He’s had sticky moments this season, but far too often he makes League One look so easy, literally can take your breath away at times.

Alan Sheehan is out of contract and should attract interest. Had he left last Summer when his contract was up very few would have batted an eyelid but he’s been a revelation this season, many people’s clear winner for Player Of The Season. The club appears to be a happier place than it might have been just 12 months ago. We’re really hoping that he’s settled and wants to stick around another year or two.

With regard to incoming players – it’s vital we retain the aforementioned Murray and Spencer given that we’ve seen what they can do together.

Who do you fear on Friday and whom should we fear?
(Ex-City winger) Jamal Campbell-Ryce had possibly his best game in County colours last week against Port Vale. He grabbed two goals, and assisted the other two for Spencer. He’s a completely different player under Derry from that which we saw at the beginning of the season – given we actually have players like Haydn Hollis and Jimmy Spencer who will attack the ball now, he’ll be a huge threat I’m sure.

As for who we fear? Well, I certainly hope reinforced shin guards are being prepared as we speak if Greg Cunningham is in your starting lineup!

And finally, can I get a score prediction please?
Long gone are the days of hoping we can keep scores down and hope to scrap away for a point. I’m predicting a 1-0 Notts win courtesy of Jimmy Spencer!

My thanks to both Stuarts for their answers – you can sponsor Stu Radnedge and the Community Trust for their remarkable efforts, here: http://www.justgiving.com/StuRadnedge

The Exiled Robin

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Thursday, 17 April 2014

Bookies Corner: Bristol City v Notts County

In a new article for The Exiled Robin, lifelong Bristol City fan and easyodds.com football tipster Ross Casey will preview Bristol City’s matches from a betting angle. After finding a 13/8 winner last week against Walsall he is on for a hat-trick, so where does he think your money should be going on Friday against Notts County?

After picking up a scrappy win away from home last week thanks to a Sam Baldock penalty and a (Steve Cotterill assisted!) penalty save from Simon Moore, the table looks a lot more healthy for us Robins fans! Currently seven points clear from the drop zone, with 12 points still to play for another win here could see us mathematically safe and we can all breathe a huge sigh of relief.

The fixture list has handed us four back-to-back relegation strugglers for our run-in – we face Notts County, Crewe, Stevenage and Crawley – who will all be fighting for survival so all matches should prove competitive.

BRISTOL CITY – 5/4 (Various)
NOTTS COUNTY – 12/5 (Various)
DRAW – 13/5 (Various)

Bristol City have been made favourites with the bookies to win this match on Good Friday – with best odds available at 5/4. This is in large part to our prolonged form as we have lost just one match in our last nine with our home form even more impressive. At Ashton Gate we boast a record of one loss in our last 11 games!

Even more pleasingly after a season of defensive frailties, hiccups and downright cock-ups, we have now kept three clean sheets in our last six games. I actually tipped us to keep a clean sheet last week – but I shall not be doing that here. For those of you who fancy that bet though, we are a best price 23/10.

Sam Baldock was our goalscoring hero last week taking his league goal tally to 21 – making him joint top scorer in the whole of League One along with Britt Assombalonga and Callum Wilson. Our captain is 5/2 to finish top scorer.

Interestingly, Baldock netted penalties in both fixtures against Walsall and having already scored from the spot at Notts County – is it written in the stars he nets another here? He is 7/5 best price to score in this game and we are the big price of 13/2 to score a penalty.

Notts County’s short term form is very, very good. The Magpies have won four of their last five matches – a sequence that has lifted them out of the relegation zone – albeit by goal difference. Fortunately for us though, their away form is nothing short of pitiful. They have picked up just three wins from 25 and they were against fellow strugglers Colchester, Stevenage and Crewe.

They also picked up a draw at Anfield this season though. Funny old game isn’t it?! I think that thanks to their recent run they will manage to hit the net on Friday – they have only failed to score in eight of their 25 away games this season.

In terms of goalscorers they have a few threats. James Spencer is an old school number 9 who will hold the ball up well, be aggressive in his play and be an aerial threat throughout. He has scored three goals in his last two appearances and is 3/1 to score. In the words of the late Gorilla Monsoon, the battle between him and Nyron Nosworthy could well be the irresistible force against the immovable object.

Their two wingers Jack Grealish and former Robin Jamal Campbell-Ryce have terrorised defences in recent weeks and will be a constant threat. I think we will probably match their formation to have two wingers protecting our full-backs. JCR actually matched his league tally of two Bristol City goals in 52 appearances with his brace against Port Vale last week! The pint sized winger is 11/2 to score against his former team.

We drew the reverse fixture 1-1 back in December with both sides scoring penalties. That is the most likely score in the correct score market – it’s priced up at 7/1.

The last time we met at Ashton Gate was an FA Cup encounter back in 2005 where we suffered another early exit losing 2-0. We played a back four including Kelly Youga and David Partridge that day – not sure how we didn’t keep a clean sheet! For anyone playing ‘where’s Kelly Youga’, he actually lined up for AFC Wimbledon against Bristol Rovers last week!

Our home form against Notts in the league is far more impressive – we are currently unbeaten in our last six matches! Here’s hoping we take that run to seven on Friday and get closer to safety in the process.

Over 2.5 goals @ 3/4 – BET NOW

These teams both get involved in gluttony for goals. Nine of our last 12 matches have seen three or more goals scored and six of the last seven County games have followed suit. I fancy over 2.5 goals at an almost evens price of 3/4.

*All prices supplied by easyodds.com and prices all correct as of Fri 17th April 2014*

The Exiled Robin

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