Bristol City boss Nigel Pearson handed a surprise start to Max O’Leary, ahead of first-choice goalkeeper Daniel Bentley.
Bentley has been the Robins’ first-choice shot-stopper for a number of seasons now, and has made 44 appearances in all competitions this term.
He has kept ten clean sheets in total for Bristol City as well, in what has been a frustrating league campaign for the club’s supporters, after a disappointing second-half of the 2020/21 season.
O’Leary is no stranger to first-team action though, with the 24-year-old making 25 appearances in total for Bristol City, but he didn’t endure the best of times on his return to the starting XI.
Bristol City were beaten 4-1 by Millwall at the weekend, as their poor run of form continued, which means they’re now sat 19th in the Championship table.
Speaking in a post-match press conference after the defeat to Millwall (quotes sourced from Bristol Live), Robins boss Nigel Pearson issued his reasoning behind starting O’Leary ahead of Bentley for the clash with Gary Rowett’s side.
“Absolutely, yes (just taking a chance to look at another player). Dan’s had a really good season, he’s been one of our best players this year. Max is a very good goalkeeper himself. I don’t think you could fault him for anything today. I thought his distribution was good as well, really good communicator.
“The goalkeeping position is no different to any other situation in terms of if I think I’m going to have a look at people to see how it bodes for the future, I’ll do it. It was a bit unfortunate for Max today to be on the receiving end of what happened but that’s part and parcel of it, I’m afraid.”
Bentley’s has been linked with a move away from Ashton Gate heading into the summer transfer window already, with Premier League side Southampton rumoured to be interested in a deal to land his signature.
Bentley has been with Bristol City since 2019, and is contracted to the Robins until the summer of 2023, and it remains to be seen as to whether the Championship club are willing to listen to any offers for his services.
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But with Pearson recently revealing his reasoning for selecting O’Leary over Bentley, and hinting that O’Leary could feature in the future for the Robins, that could drop a slight hint that Bentley could be heading for the exit door in the future.
Bristol City have got a relatively experienced option between the posts if Bentley was to depart, as O’Leary has shown in the past that he can perform to a good enough standard in the Championship for the Robins.
It’s good to see Pearson looking forwards to the future though, as he’ll be wanting to work with players that are wanting to stick around, and not having their eye on a move elsewhere.
Bentley hasn’t spoken out on Southampton’s rumoured interest in striking an agreement to sign him though, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens during the summer on his future at Bristol City.
The Robins are set to return to action this weekend, when they take on high-flying Brentford, in what is certain to be a tough test for Nigel Pearson’s side.