BLACK­MAN NICKS IT FOR ROY­ALS

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Sam Mor­shead

STEVE Cot­ter­ill con­tin­ues to see signs of im­prove­ment from his Bris­tol City team de­spite watch­ing the Robins’ win­less run ex­tend to five matches fol­low­ing a last­gasp de­feat at Read­ing.

Nick Black­man scored in sec­ond­half stop­page-time to get the hosts off to a fly­ing start to 2016 and leave City stuck in the Cham­pi­onship rel­e­ga­tion zone, with Cot­ter­ill’s men hav­ing not picked up three points in a match since the trip to Hud­der­s­field Town on De­cem­ber 12.

How­ever, the Robins’ boss high­lighted a sec­ond-half dis­play in which his team had the bet­ter of ter­ri­tory and chances – prior to Black­man’s late win­ner – as ev­i­dence of pro­gres­sion within the City ranks since their pro­mo­tion last sea­son.

“You could see the im­prove­ment in us from when we played Read­ing ear­lier in the sea­son. The per­for­mance there, and the con­trol of the game, was definitely ap­par­ent whereas it wasn’t at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son,” said Cot­ter­ill.

“They’ve given their all. That’s what they do. They give their all ev­ery week. It’s very, very tough for them at the mo­ment – they’re a young group and they’re go­ing through ex­pe­ri­ences col­lec­tively that will only make them stronger in the end but while you’re go­ing through it it’s a dif­fi­cult phase.

“I’ll lift them again and then next week we’ll try to come out and play the foot­ball we played here. If you look be­yond our re­sults, our foot­ball has been ex­cel­lent. It really has.”

Cot­ter­ill must have wor­ried about the way the tie was go­ing early on, as Read­ing squan­dered a host of op­por­tu­ni­ties in the open­ing 45 min­utes.

The Roy­als had mus­tered just four goals in their seven pre­vi­ous matches and, in a first half lit­tered with in­di­vid­ual er­rors from both sides, that profli­gacy up front was again ev­i­dent.

Matej Vy­dra – re­stored to the start­ing line-up by home man­ager Brian McDer­mott af­ter im­press­ing as a sec­ond-half sub­sti­tute against Brent­ford on Bank Hol­i­day Mon­day – wasted three golden chances.

The Czech thrashed wide when put through one on one with vis­it­ing goal­keeper Frank Field­ing in the eighth minute, sliced his back-post half-vol­ley over from fewer than six yards out in the 16th minute and shot tamely at Field­ing two min­utes be­fore the break.

City didn’t threaten Ali Al Habsi in the Read­ing goal be­fore the in­ter­val, while Oliver Nor­wood came close to hand­ing the home side the lead at the break – but the mid­fielder’s 25yard free-kick drifted nar­rowly wide of Field­ing’s left-hand up­right.

Vy­dra’s 52nd-minute header was com­fort­ably saved by Field­ing, but the away side steadily im­posed them­selves on the clash dur­ing the sec­ond pe­riod. El­liott Ben­nett dragged a shot across goal and Jonathan Kod­jia had a strike dis­al­lowed for off­side be­fore Black­man snuck in be­hind the City de­fence in the first of three ad­di­tional min­utes, col­lected Garath McCleary’s pass and beat Field­ing to his right.

“You look at what hap­pened at Wolves, when we were the bet­ter side at Wolves and we didn’t get any­thing,” McDer­mott said.

“The Cham­pi­onship is about pick­ing up points, ac­cu­mu­lat­ing points, and we have done that. It doesn’t mat­ter when you score.You have just got to keep go­ing and go­ing. The crowd have seen that many times over the last decade.

“That gives us that ex­tra bit of con­fi­dence. It is a big, big win.”

Re­flect­ing on Vy­dra’s missed chances, McDer­mott added: “Matty Vy­dra was ex­cel­lent, he worked his socks off, he could have got three goals, he never hid.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

IT’S THERE: Nick Black­man scores Read­ing’s win­ner

STAR MAN JONATHAN KOD­JIA Bris­tol

City

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