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View From The Dolan: The ‘Magic’ Of Midweek

Ben talks us through the matchday experience as Bristol City run out 3-2 winners.

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Under the lights for the first time this season! I don’t mind midweek games, sort of splits up the week a bit. But I don’t think it’s as magical as people/the club’s social media accounts make it out to be. Not really. Especially when you lose…

I’d spent the day in London (ugh) so felt very fashionable and 2021-like as I’d basically “jetted in” to the game, ignoring the fact that I would have had to come back anyway because, well, I live here. A few lagers at lunch had me well-oiled (not drunk) for the game and I was in good voice (in my head) on the sparsely populated off-peak train from Paddington, ready for some proper action as I got off in the ‘Ding and made my way out towards The Three Guineas hoping to see an army of away fans.

To my annoyance, there wasn’t one red-shirted chap or lady in sight. No one I could shout “you are really bad at football” at, or “there’s only one team in Bristol and it isn’t City: it’s Rovers!”. That sort of witty football banter. To be fair, a few younglings were seated outside the station drinking what looked like cans of Kestrel, but I think they knew that, deep down, they were underage and posed no threat to anyone but the chocolate aisle of the nearby WH Smith’s.

As I trundled down towards the bus, I was delighted to see some fuzz wagons, no doubt anticipating a night of utter carnage that comes with the territory of an M4 mega-death match. I got to the bus at that annoying stage: not enough people on it to leave for the stadium and not enough queuing to get on. I sat in stationary limbo, watching the early-evening drinkers quaff golden ale and tip their hats to their fellow workers who no doubt had had a hard day working in the computer and/or advertising industry.

The driver, having seen enough to confirm to her that it was “go time”, slapped the doors closed (not literally), chucked the double-decked beast into first gear and rolled out of the lay-by towards the traffic lights, joining the IDR at a pace which was both safe but also purposeful. We were on our way to the Autodome!

The old greyhound track (which, interestingly, is now owned by the club) was filling up nicely. Upon exiting the bus, I made my way to the hotel to enjoy another beer and also meet my mate Milan. Our plans were destroyed by the closure of “upstairs” and the bar queue being at least the length of a large and deadly snake (like a python). Instead, we snuck into the concourse and enjoyed a golden lager (me - Amstel, Milan - also Amstel) as we digested the team news.

Reading v Bristol City - Sky Bet Championship - Select Car Leasing Stadium Photo by John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images

Big George Puscas was in in place of the injured Joao and this had us scrambling around for loose change digitally to chuck literally ones of pounds on him scoring a goal. I watched as the plethora of fans made their way through gate five like a group of lethargic toads leaving their leafy den for an early-morning paddle in an urban pond (side note: realised I used the phrase “snuck in” earlier in the paragraph. That was wrong- we didn’t “sneak in”. The season tickets are fully paid up, in full, so we haven’t stolen anything).

Upon entering the seated bowl, I was struck by the smell of the grass and the sheer whiff of purity. As I approached my seat, I looked across at the premium seats to see none other than Ron Grant, the legendary and genuinely lovely kit man during the 106 era (prior and after also). I waved to him and he waved back and my heart became warm. I’ve met him a few times (he doesn’t know me of course) but he is a wonderful man. Part of me felt he should be up in the directors’ box, but I suppose that’s where we are as a club these days.

That was to be highlight of the night because, shortly after waving to Ron, it all went to sh*t, basically. City scored via some Arsenal-esque defending and several flares were let off in the visiting end. It looked like an angry dragon had been sick, as the fiery red plumes filled the air of the Berkshire Arena like an ugly blanket covering a moth-eaten bed. Horrid. Also, where the hell were we, Serie A?!

Shortly after, a second was popped in by Coldplay frontman Chris Martin and at that point, I looked to the heavens for answers. We pulled one back through Femi which made the rest of the half mildly interesting. Azeez was himself pulled back around the 27th minute, which forced me to gesticulate aggressively, causing my watch strap to ping off my wrist and hit me straight in the face like a deleted scene from a Looney Tunes cartoon. All in all, an ugly first half that did nothing for the confidence/blood pressure combo.

The second half was mildly better. We looked like getting back into the game early on before another Weimann goal killed the vibe completely. Liam Moore struck late on but we ran out of time and the game ended in a big fat L for the home side.

Look, was there character shown in the game? Yeah. Did we look like getting a draw? Sort of. Does any of this matter if we can’t defend? Nope. That’s seven goals shipped in three games. Alright, we’ve scored six, but it’s quite clear where the problem is right now.

We could have any possible combination of attack and midfield players in the starting eleven, but we have to shut up shop and make it hard for teams to score against us, not turn games into an ugly pantomime with no redeeming characters. We’ve really got to go back to basics now and we need to do that quickly.

Until next time.