Bristol City interim boss Curtis Fleming says he is proud of his players after their 1-0 victory over 10-man Sheffield Wednesday at Ashton Gate.
Barry Bannan was dismissed for the visitors midway through the first half after a challenge on Jason Knight, as Rob Dickie’s second half effort proved enough to guide the Robins to the win.
The match was City’s first following the departure of Nigel Pearson on Sunday, and after a run of five defeats in seven, Fleming couldn’t hide how important the victory was.
“Hugely important,” he said. “The performance sometimes comes secondary, it’s been an emotional week for everybody, for me, for the players who have really close relationships with Nige, and some of the players and staff who have stepped up from the academy and been given their opportunities.”
Fleming admitted his relief at the final whistle and admitted that the last five minutes felt like a lifetime, as the Owls pushed hard for a last gasp equaliser.
Will Vaulks’ free kick was deflected off Ashley Fletcher and forced a brilliant stop from Max O’Leary in the dying moments, but the hosts should’ve had the game wrapped up by that point.
Conway’s effort soon afer the opening goal struck the post, before Sam Bell latched onto the rebound and scuffed his shot onto the opposite post in a painful few seconds for the City faithful.
Fleming continued: “I said to the lads after the game, ‘when we met today we said we wanted the three points – and we’ve got them,’ that’s what we worked for.
“Some made mistakes, some tried their best, some missed a chance, it doesn’t matter, it’s about the three points. I think for everybody at the club, we move up five positions in the league, that’s how close it is, so those three points are brilliant, I’m really proud of them to be fair.”
Fleming lined the team up slightly differently that seen under Pearson, with more of a box shape in midfield, which the interim boss said was to try and support Conway.
Andi Weimann enjoyed playing more centrally, while Conway was allowed to drift a little wider at times in what was a more fluid looking City.
“At times it worked, at times we didn’t move the ball quickly enough,” Fleming said. “We paint pictures all week and then you’ve got to walk out in front of 24 thousand people, sometimes the pictures don’t look the same, and sometimes you’ve got to be a little bit braver to play that ball. I thought we tried, it can be better, but those lads are trying.”
Wednesday, who remain bottom of the league after the defeat, naturally came with a game plan to sit back and hit on the counterattack - and that approach became even more evident after Bannan’s dismissal.
City found it difficult at times to combat the deep backline, with a few aimless crosses and ineffective passes sideways. But, Fleming was pleased with how his side dealt with their opponents.
“Teams give Bristol City a lot more respect now,” Fleming added. “As in, they’re afraid to step out against us because of the pace that we have, they sit in because we are a transitional team. A lot of teams that come here set up with five at the back to stifle us, and they broke on us a few times today which we could’ve been better at, but our patience on the ball was impressive.”