Bradford (Park Avenue) 3
O’Brien 17, James 36, Deacey 76
Bradford City 1
Thompson 23 (pen)
Tuesday 7 August, 2012
By Joe Cockburn
A man with no name always brings with him interest and excitement, and he was the shining light in an otherwise very forgettable game to go with the forgettable squad. The team was filled with trialists and youngsters ahead of the season’s curtain-raiser against Notts County on Saturday. Many of those names will never be seen around Valley Parade again, but the man marked on the official website as “A Trialist” was the stand out performer at Horsfall Stadium.
The game began eventfully, with the first chance falling to one of four apprentices on show, Tom Bott. Good work on the right from trialist Gavin Hoolahan and a cracking cross from Marc Gallego fell to Bott, whose weak shot was well saved by impressive Avenue ‘keeper Tim Deasey. Gallego was caught napping in a forward position and the full back was almost punished, but the ball across the six yard box evaded everyone and good work from Forrayah “Faz” Bass got the ball away. However, the German was made to pay for being too adventurous when he couldn’t catch Avenue winger Alex Davidson who squared for captain Rob O’Brien to finish via the hand of Duke.
The still unknown trialist on the left wing was causing Avenue’s defence problems with his pace and skill, and he was played into space by Alan Connell before being clattered to the ground inside the area, and the referee could do no more than award City a penalty, and in a full game, the home side may have found themselves a man light. Garry Thompson avoided Deasey’s attempted mind games, sending him the wrong way with a composed penalty. Not long after, Connell’s hard work payed off as he won the ball from an Avenue defender before squaring the ball. A bit of a scramble and a save and a deflection resulted in a corner, but the ball should really have been replaced on the centre circle and City 2-1 up.
City were punished 10 minutes later as Gallego was once again caught too far up the pitch, and Davidson once again pulled back this time for impressive striker Matty James to smartly volley home. City faded towards half time, and little attempt had been made to play football at any stage in the first half. Well, by the visitors at least.
The second half started where the first left off, until 53 minutes in when Connell once again dropped off the front line and played the mystery man into the left channel. Some good pace and skill saw him go racing clear and he saw his near-perfect clip over the keeper cleared off the line by defender James Knowles. That was the last chance of note from City until very late in the game.
Before that, however, City were largely non-existent. Players were tiring, substitutions were made and any sense of organisation was completely lost; due to the lack of an organiser in the midfield – a role usually played by Ricky Ravenhill or Gary Jones, and a role that goes largely unnoticed despite its serious importance.
Avenue were in total control, and on 76 minutes, Jordan Deacey scored the goal that the hosts thoroughly deserved. Perhaps the shot could have been saved by Duke, but it may have got a deflection meaning the big ‘keeper didn’t get his full hand on it. Chances came and went, with noticeable interventions from trialist Jack Mills and Bass.
Substitute Adam Baker did create a sight at goal with some good skill and great pace to go clean through, but he was unable to finish past the on-rushing Deasey, who smothered the youngster’s shot with relative ease.
In terms of the player-watch, I was impressed by the trialists on show.
First of all, the unknown winger was revealed after the game to be former West Ham and Burnley man Zavon Hines. The class of playing at a higher level was evident, and he stood out amongst many average performances. He played with the pace and flair of Omar Daley, but with an end product and very little waste. He would be a coup if we managed to sign him.
Gavin Hoolahan is a midfielder released by Hull City in the summer. He looked very composed on the ball and was very capable going forward and in defence, and wasn’t afraid of a tackle. He would be a fantastic back-up signing, in my opinion.
Former England under-19 international Jack Mills showed good promise again following on from his appearances in the previous two friendlies. As a 20-year-old who can cover a number of positions, he would make a good signing, and could be an outside bet for a first team breakthrough.
Finally, we come to the exotic Marc Gallego. One thing to notice is he has a great cross on him. However, despite his largely uninformative Wikipedia page, I would say he is a winger, not a full-back. He has no chance against the numerous pacy left wingers in the division, and is unbelievably better going forward than in defence. He struggled to find consistency in today’s game, with some good touches and crosses; but was beaten for pace on many occasions, including the first two goals, and I am unsure as to whether Phil Parkinson will take him on full time. But he loves his versatility, so who knows.
In terms of youngsters, Faz Bass impressed me at left back. He looked composed on the ball and made a number of vital last ditch challenges. Two previously unheard: centre-half Kyle Harrison and midfielder Tom Bott, looked shaky, and often panicked in possession. But confidence comes with experience, so only time will tell.
One who everyone is interested in is “the best 16 year old Peter Jackson has ever seen”. Scott Brown, captain for the night, looked like one of the first-team regulars in a composed and combative display. I for one would love to see him lined up alongside Gary Jones come Notts County on Saturday.
Connell and Thompson looked worryingly off the pace. Thompson has obviously had his injury problems but Connell for me should be match fit by now. Thompson looked very good in the air for a man of his size, and Connell the exact opposite. He seems to try and win a free kick every time, which is okay if referees like you, but not for us. When he drops off and picks up the ball in space he looks good, but that didn’t happen too often. But again, with both those players, only time will tell.
In an interesting turn of events, Phil Parkinson chose to play in a 4-3-3 formation. It worked well in some areas, and with a few changes, for example Jones for Bott in the midfield and the majority of the back four, I think it is a formation that could work for us. I think Hines is very much a winger not a right/left midfielder. Some will say there is no difference, but there definitely is here. However, upon saying that, he did get back and help out defensively a lot more than Thompson did on the opposite flank, which could perhaps be attribute to few problems on the left and many on the right, and perhaps could cover for Gallego’s mishaps.
Brown sat well and did his job to perfection, shielded the back four and used possession well when he had it. I thought Hoolahan also suited the formation, with the ability to do both roles, however, saying that, I think both could easily play in a two-man midfield as well.
All in all it was a game which has taught me a lot, most of which will be very useless. I expect to see Mills and Hines at the club this season; but apart from that, I don’t think we will see any of the other trialists again, and none of the new-to-the-scene youngsters were quite ready for action, so won’t be used at any stage this term.
City: Duke, Gallego, Bass, Brown, Mills, Harrison, Bott (Boote 74), Hoolahan, Thompson (Swain 65), Connell (Hiza 80), Hines (Baker 65)
Not used: Morrison
In addition to Joe hopefully writing regularly for Width of a Post this season, he also runs his own excellent site, The League 2 View, which is well worth a look.