Under-pressure Bristol City welcome bitter Severnside rivals Cardiff City to Ashton Gate Saturday, in a huge fixture that could be era-defining for at least one of the two teams.
The home side face a mountain task to stop their torrid post-restart run, with three consecutive losses meaning they’re now six points off the play-off positions in 12th, as rivals Cardiff sit 6th on 61 points.
Both teams failed to find the net last time out as The Bluebirds drew 0-0 at home to relegation battlers Charlton, while The Robins faced high-flying Nottingham Forest and succumbed to a single-goal defeat on the road.
The Welsh side had managed two incredible results before that though, with convincing victories over promotion-elect Leeds and play-off chasers Preston North End signalling new gaffer Neil Harris’ intentions to take them all the way.
Meanwhile, it seems as though long-time Robins boss Lee Johnson could be on borrowed time, with reports of his impending departure circulating after a disastrous end to the season has seen them slip to unlikely promotion odds of 200/1.
City narrowly came out on top in November though, as now Premier League midfielder Josh Brownhill notched a stunner to give The Robins their first win in Cardiff since 2002, and the first ever at the relatively new Cardiff City Stadium.
Of the two sides 83 league meetings throughout history, dating all the way back to 1921, City have come out on top 34 times while Cardiff have had the edge in 30, with 19 of those fixtures finding no victor.
Previous 5 meetings
10/11/2019 – Cardiff 0-1 Bristol City (Brownhill)
25/02/2018 – Cardiff 1-0 Bristol City (Zohore)
04/11/2017 – Bristol City 2-1 Cardiff (O’Dowda, Flint; Bogle)
14/01/2017 – Bristol City 2-3 Cardiff (Murphy O.G, Abraham; Pilkington x 2, Harris)
14/10/2016 – Cardiff 2-1 Bristol City (Whittingham, Bamba; Tomlin)
Top Goalscorers (Championship)
Bristol City - Famara Diedhou (10)
Cardiff City - Lee Tomlin + Joe Ralls (7)
A chance to make history?
With the inter-country Derby holding so much weight between the clubs, players and fans alike, it was bound to have some magical moments enriching its 100-year-history. For players particularly, the game often represents an opportunity better than any other to be iconised amongst their respective fanbase. I took a look at two of the most iconic match-winning Severnside performances since the turn of the 21st century.
29/12/2001 - Bristol City 3-1 Cardiff City @ Ninian Park – Football League Second Division (League One)
Thanks to a number of promotions/relegations into different divisions throughout the ‘90s, a meeting between the two old rivals was something of a special occasion come the turn of the millennium. In front of over 16,000 fans, brand-new Cardiff signing Graham Kavanagh had opened the scoring just two minutes into the second half, following a goalless first 45’.
However, City legend Scott Murray, who would go on to table 426 appearances and become the much-loved kit-man in Bristol, latched onto a stunning lofted through ball from Tony Thorpe, rinsed his man with a nutmeg to cut inside – hilariously (for City fans, anyway) causing the Cardiff defender to lose his footing – before finishing into the bottom corner.
Just two minutes later, the Scot picked the ball up 40 yards from goal and travelled into close proximity enough to drive a shot beyond the ‘keeper and squeeze it in the near post, before wheeling away pointing to the sky, gesturing to his ear and ultimately canonising a gloating celebration in front of the devastated home supporters.
Incredibly, Lee Matthews then scored again just 120 seconds later, as City buried three goals in six minutes to complete the rout over The Bluebirds in their own back yard, and storm to the top of the old Second Division with a 3-1 comeback victory.
16/10/2010 – Cardiff City 3-2 Bristol City @ Cardiff City stadium – Championship
In March this year, the footballing world was forced to grieve the tragic loss of former midfield wizard Peter Whittingham, aged just 35. Nowhere was this loss felt harder than Cardiff, where the English-born set-piece specialist made 457 appearances, scoring 96 times.
Whittingham scored twice to sink City in tremendous fashion in 2010, as The Bluebirds found themselves 2-1 down at half-time in Cardiff. After being awarded a free-kick just a minute into the second-half, Whittingham flashed a long-range cross-turned-shot beyond David James and into the back of the net to equalise and silence the red fans.
Then, with under 15 minutes of time left to find a further breakthrough, he once again found the goal directly from a 25-yard free kick (there can be no doubts that this one was a shot), striking a left-footed dipping effort into the bottom corner and sending the stadium into raptures.
To add to that, he then opened the scoring when they routed City 6-0 later that season – the largest margin of victory ever in a Severnside derby – as he helped drive his team to an impressive 4th placed finish in the table.
Border-hoppers - is the grass greener on the other side?
Unlike the South Wales and Bristol derbies, it’s not massively frowned upon to swap players between these two rivals, with a handful of the current crop fitting this bill. Although he has since departed for Fulham, former Bristol City striker and bagsman Bobby Decordova-Reid even made the switch straight to Cardiff after his incredible 20-goal season in ‘17/18, in a deal worth up to £10m.
Aden Flint (Cardiff) – After a rocky first season at BS3, 6’6 centre-back Flint established himself as a City legend with a loveable passion, a Johnstone Paint Trophy winning goal and even a hat-trick topped off with a rabona finish before he eventually departed for Middlesbrough five years later. Oh, and by responding “no, no, no” when asked if he wished success for his former club, Swindon Town.
Lee Tomlin (Cardiff) – Tomlin had something of a rocky time at City, following a dynamite loan-spell in Bristol during the second half of the ‘16/17 season. Once the club made the move permanent, Tomlin had trouble keeping the fans on side with his low energy style of play and he moved to The Bluebirds, having netted 12 Championship goals in 56 games.
Marlon Pack (Cardiff) – A surprising piece of business in the last summer, City let their captain and experienced midfield stalwart move straight to Cardiff for an undisclosed fee, although likely spinning a profit in the process. Pack moved to Bristol way back in 2013, commanding a bargain £100,000 fee from minnows Cheltenham Town.
Greg Cunningham (Cardiff) – Part of Bristol City’s double-winning squad in League One, the Irish left-back has gone on to prove his worth as a top defender since he departed for Preston in 2015. He’s missed the majority of this season with a knee-ligament injury sustained out on loan at Blackburn though, and is yet to appear for Cardiff since returning in January.
Player to watch:
Lee Tomlin – This is mostly a tongue in cheek selection to be honest, as the 31-year-old baller hasn’t made the starting eleven for Cardiff since the season restarted. However, he was instrumental for The Bluebirds throughout the season scoring 7 times, as well as notching an assist against Preston when he came off the bench last week.
The former Robins number 10 also scored a stunning individual goal against Cardiff in 2016, although it counted for little in a 2-1 away loss. Considering a combination of Tomlin’s character and the rocky relationship between him and City fans, this is just the type of game where he produces something truly special.
Prediction: Bristol City 1-1 Cardiff City
Match Preview written by Alfie House.