Nigel Pearson’s conundrum as Bristol City without key man for Coventry City clash
The 59-year-old has to decide who fills the gap left by Alex Scott - who will be suspended for Tuesday night’s fixture
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Scott picked up his fifth yellow card of the season in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Queens Park Rangers, which leaves the teenagers spot in the middle of the park up for grabs in midweek.
Han-Noah Massengo is the most likely candidate to replace Scott, the Frenchman is the closest in terms of a like-for-like swap and brings a bulk of energy into the midfield.
Massengo, 21, looked bright in a cameo appearance at the weekend and has already put in several strong performances this season.
Another man that Pearson could turn to is Mark Sykes, who has been one of the Robins’ most consistent performers of late.
Despite starting the season at wing-back, central midfield is a role he played there 10 times for Oxford United last term, and his versatility could stand him in good stead if Pearson decides to shift him infield.
Speaking after the QPR defeat, when asked whether Sykes might play in the middle against the Sky Blues, the manager said: “Possibly. But we’ve got other players who are available as well.
“I think for someone like Mark Sykes who is making a step up. I don’t want to pile too much responsibility on him. I think he’s done pretty well this season, in a role that he has adapted to very quickly.
“You’ll have to wait and see what selection looks like for Tuesday, but it might need freshening up.”
If Sykes is to move into the middle, fellow summer signing Kane Wilson would move into the wing-back role.
Wilson has struggled for minutes because of Sykes’ form this season; therefore, Tuesday could be a big opportunity for the ex-Forest Green Rovers wide man to make a statement.
Instead, Pearson could turn to experience in the form of 33-year-old Andy King. The veteran came on for the final 15 minutes of their clash with QPR and hasn’t played many minutes recently, so should be fresh enough to earn a first league start of the season.
Joe Williams played 73 minutes against the Hoops, and despite an underwhelming performance, could retain his place in the side.
However, Williams has an unwritten rule of ‘one game a week’ due to his weak hamstrings, and the Robins manager may not want to risk the scouser picking up an injury with a busy schedule coming up.
Matty James was left out of the squad last time out and will not be available for the next week or so as he recovers from a small procedure, while Ayman Benarous remains side-lined.
With several factors for Pearson to consider, it will be interesting to see whether Sykes is trusted to move into the middle and if Williams’ rule of one game a week is broken.
Regardless of how the experienced manager decides to play it, Robins fans can expect a new-look midfield at Ashton Gate in midweek.