Bristol City verdict: Semenyo focused and penalty woes as Naismith impresses against Blackburn

A more in depth look at Bristol City’s 1-1 stalemate with Blackburn Rovers

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Bristol City came from a goal down to draw 1-1 against 10-man promotion-chasing Blackburn Rovers at Ashton Gate on Saturday. Bradley Dack opened the scoring early in the second half after some neat build-up play, before Antoine Semenyo was on hand to tap home Zak Vyner’s parried shot.

Daniel Ayala saw red for two fouls on Mark Sykes and Nahki Wells, as Sam Bell’s last-minute winner was ruled out for a tight offside. The Robins are now unbeaten in six but remain in 17th. Blackburn move up two places into fourth following their first league draw of the campaign.

The home side started the match on the front foot, as Semenyo threatened to get in behind Joe Rankin-Costello down the left flank. Despite the host’s positive start, it was Jon Dahl Tomasson’s side should’ve taken the lead. Ryan Hedges cut in from the right and chipped a cross to the back post, Ben Brereton-Diaz wandered in behind George Tanner and skied his half-volley from five yards out.

The visitors were almost made to rue the glaring miss, but a brilliant save from point-blank range from goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski denied Wells his 10th goal of the season before the half-hour mark. The lively Semenyo then saw his header loop onto the roof of the net as the Robins began to gain the upper hand.

The second period began in a slower fashion, but in the 54th minute, the deadlock was broken. Rankin-Costello’s smart through ball found Tyler Morton, who pulled the ball back to the penalty spot for Dack to stroke past the helpless Max O’Leary.

Almost straight from the kick-off, City looked to be level. Semenyo powered his way past the Rovers’ defence and blasted a shot at goal. The home crowd thought the Ghanaian had struck back, but his side had nestled into the side netting.

City’s long wait for a penalty has been well documented over recent weeks, following their complaint to the PGMOL, and they yet again had the right to feel aggrieved when Wells was brought down in the area. But Tim Robinson said no penalty.

With little over 20 minutes to play, the Robins were level. Zak Vyner’s speculative long-range effort was parried poorly by Kaminski, and Semenyo was on hand to net his fourth in five matches.

The Ashton Gate crowd could then be heard in full voice as City pushed for a late winner. Pearson’s side’s hopes were boosted when Daniel Ayala was dismissed for a second yellow with 15 minutes to play, but Blackburn held on for their first draw of the season.

Semenyo blocks out speculation

Following the news that Bournemouth had two bids of around £8million and £10million rejected from the Robins for frontman Semenyo last week, there was pre-match speculation about whether the Ghanaian would feature against Dahl Tomasson’s side.

Alex Scott and Antoine Semenyo Alex Scott and Antoine Semenyo
Alex Scott and Antoine Semenyo

But, the no. 11 played the full 90 and netted a vital goal for his side to extend their positive run of form. The forward was a thorn in the side of Blackburn’s backline all game, his raw pace is such a valuable asset and the recent switch of formation has allowed him to drift a little wider to properly expose his opponents when running at them.

His strike on Saturday was his fourth goal in five matches, as Semenyo showed little sign of his mind being elsewhere in a top-quality and at times, gritty display.

Penalty countdown clock continues

City were denied yet another penalty kick against on Saturday... Yes, another. When Wells was kicked down from behind by Scott Wharton, every pair of eyes in Ashton Gate were glued to referee Tim Robinson, in the expectation, or desperation, that the official would award the Robins a first penalty in 441 days, and a second penalty in 1,169 days (almost three years)...

But, perhaps unsurprisingly, the referee didn’t entertain the challenge, to the players’, fans’ and Pearson's dismay. It seems City’s PGMOL complaint hasn’t had the effect they’d have hoped. On review, it looked a clear spot kick.

Naismith thrives in new role

Kal Naismith has been a big part of the side since his arrival from Luton Town in the summer, with his excellent range of passing and strong tackling a couple of his top attributes. The defender had been at fault for several goals at the start of the season, where he more often than not occupied the central role in a back three. Following injury, his return to the side on the left of the three gave him more license to play forward and take more risks by not being the last man back, but his new role of holding midfield looks the perfect fit.

Naismith’s ability to see a pass, win challenges and his defensive knowhow to smell danger and cover for when the likes of Cam Pring travel forward have been evident in recent matches, and again on Saturday. He crafted several opportunities for the frontman on the cold afternoon, and if Bell had held his run by half a second, the Scotsman would’ve been the provider of the assist to snatch all three points.

I think we can expect to see Naismith in the middle of the park on a regular basis in the coming matches.