After seven games of the season City are sitting pretty atop the League 1 table, unbeaten and with the best goal difference in the division. On Saturday recently relegated Doncaster were swept aside 3-0 in what was one of the better performances since Steve Cotterill has taken charge. Donnie were much fancied at the start of the season but could not cope with City’s play, and mustered just one shot on target the entire game.
Cotterill was well backed by owner Steve Lansdown in the summer and bought in eight players, the majority of whom have played a massive part in the club’s rise to the summit. City will be well aware of the risks of bedding in a large amount of players – as evidenced by Spur’s struggles last year and Liverpool to an extent this year. However, seven of the eight new signings started the victory over Doncaster, and the signs are that they are beginning to click.
City conceded 67 times last season, far too often for a team that is looking for promotion. That has been rectified this season, with just four goals let in. This can be attributed to two factors – the formation change and the new defensive signings. Cotterill has been playing 3-5-2 this year (as he did towards the tail end of last season), a system which suits the three centre backs currently playing. Derrick Williams and new signing Luke Ayling have slotted in alongside Aden Flint seamlessly, and the latter’s performances this season have been a far cry from the shambolic centre back we saw at times last year. Right wing back Mark Little was signed from Peterborough, and has been a revelation, providing both attacking flair and defensive nous.
Big summer signing Luke Freeman is yet to hit top form, but looks like he will be a great player. Korey Smith is the signing that has impressed me the most. He’s slipped under the radar but his assured performances in midfield have played a key part in The Robins good start to the season.
The signing who has had the biggest impact is Aaron Wilbraham – almost bought in by chance when Cotterill bumped into him on holiday. He’s scored several vital goals this season already and is well on the way to forming a successful big man/little man partnership up top with Kieran Agard, who scored his first goal for the club on Saturday.
Cotterill was clever in that two of his summer signings were here on loan last season, in Karleigh Osbourne and Wade Elliott. Osbourne has been sidelined with an injury since arriving, but Wade Elliott has been the beating heart of the team. Taking over the captaincy after Sam Baldock departed for Brighton, he has displayed a maturity and calmness that our midfield has not seen since the days of Paul Hartley.
What Cotterill has done is add experience and know-how to the squad. Elliott and Osbourne have been there and done it, whilst the rest of his signings have played at a higher level, or have the ability to do so. Proven performers at League 1 have been bought in, and it looks to be paying off.