Preview: Bristol City vs Chelsea

It’s been a tumultuous 2019 for us Bristol City Women fans apart from a thrilling 1-0 win over Birmingham City in Marc Skinners farewell match in January. The year has gone from bad to worse on and off the field starting with a torrid second half of last season, with the low point an abysmal 2-0 defeat to Durham in the FA cup. We only picked up one win in the last eight matches to taint what was a very good start to the season.

The now all too familiar summer exodus of players reared its head again with the hugely influential fans favourite Lucy Graham leaving after just one season amongst others. Although thankfully and rather surprisingly, our award winning Goalkeeper Sophie Baggaley chose to stay.

Then we move onto the ‘R’ word ..Robin ! The Bristol women’s team from when we were ‘Bristol Academy WFC’ and hugely successful under Mark Sampson have always been affectionately known as the ‘Vixens’ but in March the Bristol City FC umbrella announced it would rebrand itself completely with a nice shiny logo and every team in its organisation would now be known as the Robin’s. Many of us loyal Vixens fans became very angry at this because we felt the club were taking the women’s identity away from them and some of us who have no interest in the mens team thought about not supporting the team any longer. Thankfully over the course of the summer the mood has mellowed.

We formed our supporters group on the back of this eager to keep the Vixens tradition and identity alive, as well as having something more organised. That started with just a handful of us at games last season stood together has now grown to flourishing pages on Facebook and Twitter with over a 120 members combined and constantly growing. We have regular meet ups before matches and an ever growing song collection for the players and one of our members designed a superb logo for us with a great reference to the Vixen!
On to this season I was cautiously optimistic especially after the two exciting signings from Birmingham, Meaghan Sargeant and Charlie Wellings but still concerned that Tanya Oxtoby had still not added a proven striker to our anaemic forward line, with only the unproven Ebony Salmon signed from Manchester United.
 
It has been a case of I told you so as in our two WSL games we have failed to find the net and only picked up one point in our two games against the two teams favourite to finish in the bottom two. Against Brighton and Everton we were particularly poor but began to find some form in the Conti cup in a 3-0 win over Championship team, London Bees.
 
Usually a struggling team would not be relishing playing Chelsea at home this weekend, but not us, this fixture last season saw us have one the best performances I’ve seen from our Bristol City team under the lights. We held the then current Champions to a 0-0 draw with a remarkable backs to the wall effort against a team containing Fran Kirby and Ramona Bachman . In this game Baggaley came of age with her best ever performance in a season where she had many fine games.
 
Whilst we caught Chelsea at the right time I am hopeful that the memory of that game and not the one later in the season where we lost 6-0 at Boreham Wood with hatricks by both Kirby and Beth England will give the players an extra boost. Chelsea without a European distraction have had a better start this season with a win against Spurs at Stamford Bridge and a surprising draw against an improving Brighton and more recently a 2-0 victory against West Ham in the Conti Cup.
 
Salmon has looked sharp in her substitute appearances and I am confident that we can raise our game and prove that the result last September and our performance in the first half of last season wasn’t a fluke. If someone in a red shirt can score a winner passed Carly Telford in the Chelsea goal then any discontent we feel with the powers that be at Bristol City will almost be eradicated.
Richard Paish
harvpaish@yahoo.com