By Tony Leighton
Bristol City captain Sam Baldock has hailed the input of manager Steve Cotterill after a run of results that has taken the Robins to the 50-point mark and lifted the spectre of relegation that was all too real when Cotterill joined the club.
When the manager arrived at Ashton Gate in December, City were second bottom in the Sky Bet League 1 table and, after being relegated from the Championship at the end of the 2012/13 campaign, a further drop looked in prospect.
But four months later the Cotterill-inspired Robins are perched in mid-table and looking pretty safe, having opened up a seven-point gap between themselves and the relegation zone with just four games of the season remaining.
Baldock told football-league.co.uk: "We had a long spell in the bottom four and after going through the same thing last season it was demoralising. But the manager came in and immediately got us more focused on what our goal was.
"He stressed what deep trouble we were in and that we had to react positively straight away, playing with more tempo than we had been and cutting out the mistakes that had cost us a lot of points in the first few months of the season.
"Our primary objective was to secure League 1 survival, and although we've not absolutely achieved that yet we've certainly turned our fortunes around on the pitch and the manager deserves a lot of credit for our climb up the table."
Baldock deserves plenty of credit himself for his part in City's resurgence. In a difficult season the 25-year-old striker, signed from West Ham United in the summer of 2012, has hit 23 goals - eight of them in his last 12 League 1 outings.
His 21 league goals are a third of City's total for the campaign to date, but he is not finished yet and aims to help the Robins finish the season with a flourish as they look to build a springboard for a promotion bid next term.
He said: "We've got four tough games left to play, but we'll be looking to give a good account of ourselves and finish as high in the table as we possibly can - and if I can get some more goals I'll be more than pleased.
"It's been a hard season and we were in dire straits at one stage. But we've come through all that, and now we're looking forward. And with the ambition that the club has, I believe that we'll be right up there next season."
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