Tomas Kalas’ continued absence makes Bristol City’s defensive picture increasingly clear – Bristol Live

Curtis Fleming admits Bristol City are still managing Tomas Kalas’ comeback from groin surgery as the Czech Republic international missed another pre-season game for the Robins.

As was the case against Cheltenham Town last week, centre-back Kalas didn’t take any part in the 120 minutes of Tuesday’s 0-0 draw with Portsmouth having been out of action since March 5 which caused him to miss the final 10 games of last season.

The 29-year-old was at the High Performance Centre, watching on from the players seating area in vest, shorts and flip-flops and with just over two-and-a-half weeks before the 2022/23 campaign kicks off, it seems increasingly unlikely that he’ll be 100 per cent ready for the July 30 season opener against Hull City.

City do still have friendlies against Plymouth Argyle, Forest Green, Exeter City, Chippenham Town (albeit an Under-23s fixture) and Bournemouth over eight days starting from this Saturday so there is ample opportunity for some minutes but the Robins are clearly erring on the side of caution over his recovery time.

“Tomas is coming along fine, he’s looking strong, he’s looking fit but we have to be careful with these guys,” Fleming said, also later referencing Antoine Semenyo who is out with a shin problem.

“If you rush people back now you can lose them for the season. You have to gradually build them. At the moment, we are what we are. We’re going to have to work hard with them but also be patient.”

Fleming also revealed that Cam Pring woke up on Tuesday morning with stiffness in the knee and was omitted from the matchday squad as a result but the problem isn’t thought to be serious. Alex Scott is also yet to re-join the group in training as he’s given additional time off following his part in England’s European Under-19 Championship-winning squad.

Chris Martin, meanwhile, was absent due to his partner giving birth to a baby boy. The veteran striker did briefly leave his expanding family at hospital to train at the High Performance Centre on Tuesday morning but was permitted the afternoon off to re-join them.

With Kalas’ participation in doubt for that game at the MKM Stadium at the end of the month, the likelihood is that the back three that started against Pompey – Timm Klose, Kal Naismith, Rob Atkinson – will be the trio that lines up for the campaign curtain raiser.

Fleming admits pre-season games are fundamentally about fitness and building chemistry with teammates in a match situation, which simply cannot be replicated in training. And that sense of understanding is absolutely vital in defence, hence why when it was changed at the HPC after 70 minutes – all three were swapped out at once.

Nigel Pearson is clearly giving maximum minutes to that trio as a unit, with Naismith the newer member but now very much the vocal leader at the back and getting used to the habits and instincts of his new colleagues.

The Scot was stationed in the middle of the three, with Atkinson to his left and Klose on the right, regularly imploring his colleagues to get higher up the pitch, hold their line and issuing various instructions in and out of possession.

Pompey certainly had chances, with Ronan Curtis denied by a fine Dan Bentley save when 1v1, and while the result isn’t paramount, a second consecutive clean sheet for this defence is a nice additional extra for the squad.

“For us it’s about building, it’s about relationships – the players getting to know each other in a competitive environment,” Fleming added. “It’s great in training but it’s great to play against individuals you don’t know.

“These games are great because when you’re in an uncontrolled environment is when you have to really concentrate and do your jobs.

“We got what we wanted from it. It’s not about now, it’s about July 30 and it’s about working and doing those things we’re good at and those things we have to improve on.”

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