Nahki Wells scores but Bristol City blow two-goal lead
Manager Nigel Pearson said his Bristol City side looked “shell-shocked” after giving away a two-goal first-half lead en route to a morale-sapping 3-2 defeat at home to Luton Town in the Sky Bet Championship today.
Nahki Wells and Adam Nagy scored in the 31st and 38th minutes as City led comfortably at the break. But Pearson, who took over as manager in February, was left still waiting for his first win at Ashton Gate after Luton produced a stunning fightback in the second half.
When asked what happened to his team, Pearson told Robins TV: “What normally happens with this group at the moment — we lacked the authority on the pitch, character and charisma to do things out there that enable us to stay in front.
“I’ve seen all three goals back and they’re terrible goals to concede. Having worked so hard to get in front and play some decent football, we submitted too early and didn’t show the character traits you need to endure tough times in games.”
He added: “Our players looked totally shell-shocked but the problems run slightly deeper than the players not dealing with the situation today. We have organisational challenges in regard to how we shape the club moving forward, and today smacked of lacking shared accountability.”
Pearson and club owner Steve Lansdown met in person last Friday to discuss the future direction of the club.
The pair have been in frequent dialogue since Pearson joined the Robins, but because of Covid-19 restrictions that was the first time they have been able to meet face-to-face.
“It was great to meet Steve in person and something I was looking forward to,” Pearson said. “It was a very open and honest conversation and we discussed various aspects of the club which was beneficial to both of us.”
Yesterday he had praise for the younger players, notably starter Tommy Conway, Han-Noah Massengo and Alex Scott, who was handed his Robins debut after coming off the bench. But Pearson admitted he is concerned what impact the negative run of results will have on those players.
“That’s an extremely annoying state of affairs for us on a day where Tommy Conway was an exceptional youngster going in there,” the manager said.
“You can always rely on Han-Noah Massengo to run himself into the floor and Alex Scott got his debut as well. I don’t want this to be a damaging experience for them, but we have to stick with them at the moment.
“I’m worried what this will do to the youngsters who we are relying on constantly to perform for us. It shows where we are, what’s exactly required in terms of refreshing this group.
“What I will say is I will do everything to protect those players because they don’t get an awful lot of help on the field. We have a group of players who do not communicate on the pitch and that’s incredible, really.”
City had a promising start when Wells put them in front with his eleventh goal of the season, a low strike from the right side of the box into the far bottom corner.
Wells had a header saved moments before Nagy, who assisted in the Wells goals, doubled the City lead in the 38th minute with an effort from inside the box.
However, City could not hold on to their two-goal lead as Luton began their fightback in the second half. A James Collins header from the right side of the six-yard box after a corner cut the City lead in the 59th minute before Elijah Adebayo made it 2-2 in the 68th minute when he got on the end of a cross.
Wells was substituted in the 70th minute as City made four changes in the space of a minute. But it was the visiting side who would score again in the 74th minute when Harry Cornick found the net with a left-footed shot into the bottom corner.
“It frustrates me,” Pearson said. “I understand it, but I find it difficult to accept we don’t fight harder collectively to do something about setbacks.”
Bristol City, with three defeats and two draws in their past five matches, close out their season with matches away to Millwall on Saturday and then at home to third-placed Brentford on May 8.
“It feels at this moment like everybody here can’t wait for the end of the season, and that’s poor,” Pearson said of his team.
“In one sense we need to get to the end to start doing what needs to be done. In the short term, we need to fulfil the fixtures.
“It’s painful to experience and I’m sure it’s painful for people to watch after we promise so much and then not deliver.”