Bristol City verdict: Vocal Vyner leads by example and pulsating Pring performs exceptionally

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Some key talking points from the home draw

It could’ve been better, but a positive result, nonetheless. Bristol City took the lead in their 1-1 stalemate with Swansea City on Saturday afternoon, but despite the visitors’ late(ish) equaliser, it may not feel like two points dropped for the Robins.

Russell Martin’s side were on a run of seven wins in nine coming into the Anglo-Welsh derby, while the Robins’ prior form was more up and down, both in terms of performance and result.

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Tommy Conway netted just after the 20-minute mark to give his side the advantage, but a persistent performance from the Jacks saw them find a reward for all of their possession when Olivier Ntcham struck a sweet half-volley past Max O’Leary with 76 minutes on the clock.

The Robins were plagued with an array of injuries and illnesses in the days leading up to the game, and many affiliated with the club would’ve likely taken a point if it were offered to them before the game.

Here is a breakdown of the main talking points from the match.

No Rob? No worries…

The Robins’ makeshift defence wouldn’t have filled the Cider Army with a lot of confidence before kick-off, especially with the late news that Rob Atkinson would play no part due to an illness in the warm-up.

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The back three on the day of George Tanner, Zak Vyner and Cameron Pring didn’t prove enough to keep the Jacks out for 90 minutes, nevertheless, there were a lot of positive aspects to their performances against an opponent who had netted five times in their last two matches.

Up against a Swansea side who boast the highest average possession stat of anyone in the Championship, the match was just as much about mental sharpness as it was physical, and the game-shy pair Tanner and Pring were able to keep those levels high throughout.

It was only Tanner's third appearance of the season, and the first time he had started a league match in almost 10 months.

He occupied the right-hand side of the back three steadily and was brave travelling forward with the ball. A couple of lapses of concentration are forgiven due to his lack of minutes, but it was certainly a performance that showed what he is about, in a role where he has little experience.

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Pring was only made aware he would be playing some 45 minutes before kick-off, but it had no negative effect on his display. Progressive on the ball, aggressive in the air and in the tackle, the 24-year-old showed again that when given the chance he can be a valuable asset for the Robins – even when playing out of position.

An important recovery challenge in the first half stands out. When Michael Obafemi went through on O’Leary’s goal, it looked like the Irishman was the only man who could stop him, but Pring appeared on the scene just in time to put in a last-ditch slide tackle.

Both his intensity and energy levels for the 90 minutes exemplified the commitment that Nigel Pearson is looking for on a regular basis from his players, and with the club’s current selection troubles at the back, we might be seeing Pring fill in at the back again in the coming weeks.

Fast start

The Robins came out of the blocks like a team with a point to prove, which was likely a mixture of some under-par recent performances and the needle of derby day. In truth, Pearson’s side could’ve had the three points secured in the first 25 minutes.

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Conway played a big part in setting the intensity from the front, as the likes of Alex Scott and Matty James followed suit to give the Swans little time on the ball early on.

Steven Benda made a vital save from Nahki Wells when Scott slid the Bermudan through on goal, Wells’ left-footed effort looked set to nestle in the corner but the 6’3 shot-stopper stuck out his left boot to divert the ball away.

His best save, though, was from Antoine Semenyo. Wells and Conway linked up well before the latter laid the ball on a plate for Semenyo. The Ghanaian blasted the ball towards goal from six yards out and somehow Benda’s right arm stayed strong to push the ball over the crossbar.

It was a moment that rather summed up Semenyo’s form of late, as no goals in his last nine matches show his dip in form since returning from a shin injury. Pearson admitted after the match that the striker is not at his best but still has the ability to create chances out of nothing.

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Super Tommy Conway

It’s fair to say that not many people would’ve expected Conway to begin the season in the form that he did. Between City’s victory over Luton Town to their defeat to Burnley, the 20-year-old went on a run of 10 goals and assists in 10 matches in all competitions – including a memorable header in the Robins’ Severnside derby victory over Cardiff City in August.

Although, that rich vein of form has dried up of late. Conway had gone seven without a goal before Saturday’s match, after being in and out of the side over the last month. Peaks and troughs in form for a striker at any age are part of the game, let alone one still at the very start of his career and still developing into a professional footballer.

His performance against the Jacks typified what the young talent is about; intense pressing, aggressive runs in behind and clever link-up play with his fellow strikers. A neat low finish for his goal wasn’t all that he brought to the game; it was his cross that led to Semenyo’s missed chance from close range.

We’ve been used to seeing the Robins line up with two strikers and have one man just behind this season, but that didn’t appear to be the case on Saturday. At times it was evident that Semenyo slotted into what has usually been the ‘Andi Weimann role’ of linking the midfield and attack, but the front three appeared more flexible in their approach than normal, with each drifting out wide and slotting back in at different points in the match.

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Whether it was due to personnel or an attempt to be more unpredictable, the system allowed the frontmen to interchange and link up in different areas of the pitch, and it could be something to look out for in future.

Vyner’s voice

Having already touched on the impressive displays of Tanner and Pring, the one man who completed the defensive trio was the ever-present Vyner. Despite the 25-year-old having started every league match for Pearson’s side this season, Saturday provided him with a slightly different role than he is used to.

Typically, Vyner occupies the right-hand side of the back three, with either Kal Naismith or Timm Klose taking up the central role, which involves greater organisation and communication skills.

For Vyner, this level of responsibility was perhaps new territory, and he played a big part in the solid performances of both Tanner and Pring. Vyner spent much of the game dictating orders to his peers on either side of him, passing players on and making sure they all kept the same defensive line when out of possession.

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On more than one occasion he provided words of encouragement and reminded the pair of their duties, including in the first half when Tanner lost his man at the back post following a cross from the right-hand side.

Vyner, who came close to leaving the club in the summer, has cemented himself as an integral part of the Robins backline this term and on Saturday showcased another positive display with tough tackling and aggression in the air.

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