After a somewhat sluggish start to the 2018/19 season, Bristol City eventually narrowly missed out on the play-offs as they recorded an eighth place finish in the Sky Bet Championship.
Back to back draws against Nottingham Forest and Bolton Wanderers to begin the campaign was followed by a Carabao Cup exit at the hands of League One Plymouth Argyle and a defeat against Middlesbrough at Ashton Gate.
However, the Robins bounced back from that slight wobble with four successive victories, conceding just one goal as they climbed to third in the table and looked to set a marker for the remainder of the season.
The potential was there to make a push for promotion – just as they had done in the 2007/08 campaign, when they were narrowly beaten by Hull City in the play-off final at Wembley.
But inconsistencies struck Lee Johnson’s side and a run of four wins in 17 games from mid-September to Boxing Day saw Bristol City drop to 11th in the Championship and seven points behind sixth place Derby County.
There were damaging defeats, notably at Wigan Athletic and Reading, while draws against relegation-threatened Rotherham United and Millwall all contributed to a steady slide down the table and out of promotion contention.
Goals were also hard to come by for City, who finished the campaign with 59 scored; in the top half, only Middlesbrough’s total of 49 was less.
The visit of Rotherham to Ashton Gate at the end of 2018 sparked a run of form that propelled the Robins into the play-off places. Seven consecutive league victories – and a run to the FA Cup fifth round, having disposed of Premier League strugglers Huddersfield Town – brought an air of optimism back to the club.
They were arguably the form team in the division but, upon exiting the FA Cup at the hands of eventual semi-finalists Wolverhampton Wanderers, City hit another spell of inconsistency that saw them win only four of their remaining 15 fixtures.
Home form, invariably, is imperative for a successful campaign, but the Robins managed just eight wins at Ashton Gate – a statistic that saw them sitting 18th in the form table. Away from home, Johnson’s side were a different machine: 11 victories and 38 points amassed on the road was bettered only by Norwich City and Sheffield United – both of whom secured automatic promotion in May.
Similar results on home soil would have been enough for City to secure a top six finish. They will perhaps look back to stalemates against Ipswich Town and Reading towards the end of the season, but, ultimately, the defining result was a 2-0 loss to Derby County at the back end of April that effectively extinguished any feint play-off aspirations.
Since returning to the Championship in 2013, the Robins have made marked improvements each season, finishing 18th, 17th, 11th and eighth, respectively. Everything appears to be in place for this club to be an established Premier League team: based in the 11th largest city in the UK and plying their trade at a recently redeveloped 27,000 capacity stadium – the appeal is there.
It’s worth noting that three key players departed City in the summer transfer window, with Aden Flint, Bobby Reid and Joe Bryan all securing moves to Middlesbrough, Cardiff City and Fulham, respectively.
Johnson will also be looking for a replacement for Lloyd Kelly after the dynamic full-back joined Premier League outfit Bournemouth last month.
Barnsley’s recent record against the Robins doesn’t make for particularly pleasant reading. Just one win in our last 10 meetings is hardly form to set the pulses racing, but in that run is no less than four 2-2 draws – three of which have been at Oakwell.
That was the result the last time we went head to head, with former Red Josh Brownhill scoring a dramatic late leveller for City in March 2018.