Bristol City’s season in a nutshell? How about, great start, mixed middle, rotten end. That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?
And while it did unquestionably end on something of a low, there were still a handful of highs, things to cling to in the hope that City can maybe mount a promotion challenge under the astute Nigel Pearson in 2021-22.
We look back at the highlights of a difficult campaign at Ashton Gate.
The Dream Start
Played four, won four, top of the Championship and a chance to dream. And after 40 years of life outside the top flight, who could blame City fans for getting ahead of themselves following the 2-1 win at Nottingham Forest on October 3.
Dean Holden’s men had already taken care of newly-promoted Coventry, Stoke and Sheffield Wednesday and they headed to Forest at a good time with Sabri Lamouchi’s men struggling.
Andi Weimann scored the first and Nakhi Wells the second, although the fact that keeper Dan Bentley was man of the match suggested it wasn’t all plain sailing – and maybe hinted at what was to come.
City were still in second place in early November thanks to an away win – and not just any old away win, but the away win that all Robins’ supporters crave.
The only disappointment, of course, was that the City masses weren’t anywhere near the Cardiff City Stadium to witness their team beating the Bluebirds 1-0.
The only goal of the game arrived after just 100 seconds courtesy of Chris Martin but Cardiff boss Neil Harris was somewhat begrudging about City taking Severnside bragging rights, claiming he’d had his pocket pinched. “He must have been watching a different game to me,” retorted Holden.
Teen Ace Shines Under Pearson
Not too many City players covered themselves in glory as 2020-21 progressed, but teenage midfielder Han-Noah Massengo had nothing to apologise for.
The French boy wonder didn’t get much of a look-in before Christmas but became a regular under Pearson, making 17 starts since the middle of December.
All hair and composure, the kid from Monaco is still only 19 but looks a star of the future.
Return to Fitness of Dasilva
There weren’t too many bright moments at the back end of the season but watching Jay Dasilva return to action was very definitely one of them.
The injury-plagued left-back had missed swathes of the previous season with injury, plus the start of the season just gone, and when he was diagnosed with a stress fracture of his leg in December, the general consensus was that the Robins’ favourite wouldn’t be seen again this term.
So it was more than heartening to see him return from four-and-a-half months on the sidelines with an appearance as a substitute at Millwall on May 1 and then sign off the season by playing the full 90 minutes at home to Brentford. City are praying Dasilva can stay injury-free next season.
Cup Magic Ruined by VAR
Bristol City’s dream of a first FA Cup quarter-final appearance for almost half a century was tantalisingly close – only to be nicked away by VAR.
Having come through tricky tests against Portsmouth and Millwall, City were quietly confident going to Premier League strugglers Sheffield United in round five.
And all was going well at 0-0 with over an hour gone and nothing between the two sides. But that was when VAR – something City hadn’t been exposed to in the Championship – intervened spotting a handball that referee Robert Jones hadn’t and the game changed.
Alfie Mawson was shown the red card, Billy Sharp converted the penalty and City were denied a place in round six that they had last achieved in 1973-74.