Mark Robins was full of compliments for Saturday’s promotion-hunting opponents Bristol City, but insists his side has what it takes to cause an upset.Speaking at his pre-match press conference, Robins gave a good detailed look at the style of play, but more specifically, the strength of the individuals the away side have at their disposal.
Robins said: “They are at the top of the league and the top of the league for a reason. The league table never lies, and they’ve got some of the best players in the division. They’ve spent money, and they are a big club, and Steve Cotterill has got them playing in a really good way.
"They cause teams problems all the time, you just look at the fact they’ve loaned Matt Smith from Fulham at 6ft 6in, and at the back they’ve got another player of similar height in Aden Flint.
"In between that you’ve got Joe Bryan on the left hand side, and Mark Little on the right side who are both wing-backs at the moment, so you look all around and you see they’ve got some really good players.
"We know what we’ve got to expect, we know that their midfield will break quickly, with Wade Elliott who has a lot of experience in the middle of the park, and also Luke Freeman, who is a really good player and a real handful.
"They look to break and they look to break quickly, but there are some weaknesses, and we are looking to exploit those weaknesses, and we’ll be all out to win the three points.”
The South West club have recently added two more players to their ranks in Wigan Athletic right-back James Tavernier, Wolves midfielder and ex-Chelsea academy graduate George Saville, but it’s the summer acquisition of centre forward Aaron Wilbraham who has caught the eye this season, with 13 league goals in 21 league appearances, and Robins admitted his admiration for the 35 year-old.
Robins told the press: “The lad has done brilliantly well.
"He’s had promotions with MK Dons and Crystal Palace, and even at Norwich at the level above, and he’ll be looking to do it again.
"He’s a good player, and wherever he goes they seem to get that impetus, it can be no coincidence that he’s been involved in a lot of promotions at the clubs he’s been at, so he’s another one to look out for.
"He’s been on the injury list this week so whether or not he’s available we'll have to see. They have Kieran Agard, who is a big threat too."
Off the back of the club's first defeat in all tournaments since October, manager Robins wanted to take the positives out of the game, rather than the negatives, and use them as the structure for the difficult games to come.
Robins added: “I think primarily the things we can take from that game are the fact we worked ever so hard, they are capable of putting a lot of work in, and they’ll fight for each other.
"In the first game here, I thought we were really good in the first half and taking our opportunities, and we managed to get two goals in front. However in the end we were disappointed because we got pegged back, and ultimately we weren’t capable of breaking them down at their place where the game really could have gone either way.
"I’m proud of them for that because they stuck at the task and they worked their socks off, and again this weekend we’ve got to make sure we do the same, because we need a ton of graft this week, and they’ll expect us to go cause problems for them.”
Although a lot of talk has been about Steve Cotterill’s pacesetters, who’ve only been displaced by fierce rivals Swindon on goal difference, Robins insists that Bristol City will also have something to fear when the two teams at the top of the form books clash at Glanford Park on Saturday.
Robins stated: “They should be wary of us. I hope they come here and switch off, but they aren’t going to do that.
"They’ve been in a position of strength for most of the season and they’re going to try and continue that. They’ve got something to hold on to, but I can bet that they’ll come and have a real go, but we’ll have a real go back, and we’ll try and make sure that they remember this game, certainly after we’ve played it, for the reasons that we’ve managed to contain them when they were attacking, but also create opportunities for ourselves.
"It’s about our performance and our performance levels, and if we can maintain those, we’ll certainly cause them problems on the day.”
The Iron may be 17th in the League One table, but they are only seven points off the play off positions, however Mark Robins has categorically denied looking any further up the table than the name of the side in 16th place.
Robins added: “I’m only looking at the team above us, directly above us, I’m trying to overtake them.
"What is the point in looking too high up the table? You can look at it and say we are seven points away, but realistically we are still a long way off.
"We have three or four games in hand over some of the teams, but those three games are against the top opposition. We’ve got to make sure we keep our foot on the gas, and we have to now try and finish the season off as strongly as possible, and I’m saying finish it off, we are still not half way through the league programme.
"There’s a long, long way to go yet, so we need to maintain that push and keep doing the things that are getting us the results at the moment.”
See much more from Mark Robins, Miguel Llera and Jordan Clarke on The Iron Player.