Bristol City remain in the mix for the Championship play-off as the clock ticks down on the 2019/20 season.
The Robins closed the gap on the top six to just one point with their 1-1 draw with third-place Fulham on the weekend and will be hoping to make further progress when they travel up to Ewood Park to face fellow play-off chasers Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.
Saturday was a good day for two of City’s January signings as Nahki Wells headed in the hosts’ only goal of the game and Filip Benkovic came off the bench in the first half to help keep Aleksander Mitrovic very quiet.
That duo and loanee Markus Henriksen look like they could have an important role to play over the next nine games as Lee Johnson’s men scrap it out for a play-off place but one man whose absence continues to look puzzling is playmaker Kasey Palmer.
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After impressing in glimpses last season while on loan from Chelsea, the 23-year-old joined the South West club permanently in the summer after months of will they, won’t they.
Palmer featured in the Robins’ first 15 games of the season but seemed to suddenly fall out of favour at the club and has now featured just twice since the turn of the year–coming on as a substitute in the last 20 minutes both times.
What is most puzzling about the situation is that Johnson’s side look as if they’re screaming out for some more creativity. The Robins’ have averaged an xG of 0.71 over their last five games (Wyscout) and have been outcreated and outscored by their opponents in all of those.
City seem to crave a player that can move between the lines and create opportunities in the final third for the likes of Nahki Wells and Famara Diedhiou, and in the past, Palmer has proven to be that man.
In his last start, an FA Cup game against Shrewsbury Town, the 23-year-old was excellent for City–hitting the target with two of his three shots, providing three shot assists, taking four touches in the opposition box, making five progressive runs and connecting with eight of his 12 passes to the final third (Wyscout).
City have been lucky over the past few weeks in that though they’ve failed to win in their last five, they’ve closed the gap on the top six to one point.
With nine games left they’re going to need to start winning games and that likely means creating more chances. Surely, it’s time to bring the 23-year-old in from the cold and give him a chance in the starting XI.