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We Couldn't Play Our Normal Game - Cotterill

Steve Cotterill admitted he was not surprised to see visitors Rochdale push his side all the way after Bristol City dug deep for a hard-fought 1-0 victory at Ashton Gate.

Aaron Wilbraham’s bullet header after 14 minutes proved to be the difference on a day when an adventurous away team took the game to the Sky Bet League One leaders.

But City held firm to secure a crucial clean sheet and open up an eight-point lead at the top with 13 league games to play.

“They’re a very young team full of energy and they’ve not had as many games as we’ve had this season, so I knew they would have a good bit of spark about them,” a relieved Cotterill told Bristol City Player.

“They really are a good team and I just thought we looked a bit tired on the turnover of the ball and our passing wasn’t as crisp as it is normally.

“They’re the highest scorers in the league away from home. They always score, so we couldn’t play our normal expansive game today.

“Towards the end they had four up front and one in the hole for a good ten minutes, which flattened our back three into a back five, so it was very difficult for us to get out.

“Sometimes you’re better off just accepting it, which we did, and just staying in there and defending it.

“That’s why we work hard on our set-pieces because that’s been the difference today in winning the game.

“That’s a very big three points today. To get 70 points by the end of February is a magnificent haul for the boys. That win could be quite significant.”

The nature of Rochdale’s heavy pressure meant the City boss was forced into defensive substitutions and unable to give Matt Smith a romantic send-off in the last game of his loan spell from Fulham.

“What I wanted to do was put him on and then take him off again so he would’ve got two rounds of applause!” Cotterill quipped.

“Because we didn’t do that, we made a little bit of a tunnel to send him through because he didn’t quite get the cheer he deserved and wanted today.

“He’s a fantastic boy and he’ll be sorely missed on the pitch and in the dressing room – just hopefully not too much on the pitch. He’s a brilliant lad, but all us boys from Cheltenham are brilliant!”

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