The bigger picture, as City look to put the Daggers to the sword

Dagenham & Redbridge vs Bradford City match preview

@Victoria Road on Saturday 6 October, 2012

By Luke Lockwood

Exactly a week ago I was writing possibly the most positive match preview in either my time writing for BfB or WOAP. City had won four on the bounce and a win against Port Vale would have elevated us into the automatic spots. However, since then we have taken only one point from a possible six and there has been a lot of understandable disappointment.

On the other hand, let’s not look at the last two games in isolation and – as we are at the 10 game milestone – look at the season as a whole.

1)      Bradford City are currently sat in 6th place

The league table does not lie, Bradford have had the 6th best start and sit in a play off position. Should we be in the play offs come the end of the season the majority of us would be very happy.

2)      We are currently on course to amass 78 points

City have managed 17 points from the first 10 games of the season, should we maintain this average for the rest of the season we would end up with 78 points. To put this in perspective 78 points would have seen us finish 6th, 5th and 4th in the previous three seasons.

3)      A tough start

After 10 games we have played the best three sides – based on league position – in the division, the two sides directly below us and a big spending Rotherham side who could go into the play offs if they win their game in hand. With this in mind and, taking ourselves out of the equation, we have actually played six of the top eight sides in the first 10 games of the season. Theoretically things should only get easier from here!

4)      We have been taking points off the weaker sides

Although I stand by the point that we have had a tremendously difficult start, we have played four sides from the bottom half. However, we have taken maximum points from these games which can’t be underestimated. Past City sides have been heavily criticised for failing to win points against those struggling in the league that has not been the case this year.

5)      The cup run

We have beaten a Championship side, League One high flyers and a League Two side full of confidence. On the other hand this has certainly been a distraction and it is interesting to note we have been beaten in every match that has followed a League Cup game. I’m sure we’d all quite happily have been knocked out by Notts County in the first round had it guaranteed not only an additional nine points but also a four point cushion at the top of the league.

Furthermore it is difficult to pick a weak spot in the side. Other than the being taken apart by Rotherham, there hasn’t been a game where those in attendance have felt Bradford either didn’t deserve something out of the match or were lucky to get what they did.

Many of the sides around us play each other this weekend, Accrington vs Rochdale, Cheltenham vs Fleetwood and Exeter vs Port Vale and Gillingham, Burton and Rotherham all have to travel away from home. This presents us with a fantastic opportunity as we make our way to the struggling Dagenham & Redbridge.

The Daggers have only won one game so far this season. Now what was I saying about City overcoming there hoodoo as a soft touch for those sides struggling to find form? Despite the fact I have probably put a curse on our fortunes for this weekend, this is a game Bradford should be looking to go and win.

Interestingly, though, the Daggers recent results have been on the up. Their recent win against Wycombe has been sandwiched between two draws against our early season promotion rivals, Port Vale and Rochdale. They have also slowly managed to find their scoring touch, after failing to score in the opening three matches of the season and only managing five goals in the opening seven games, they have since scored six goals in the last three fixtures. It is worth pointing out that they have scored three times from the spot already and after Parkinson’s recent comments about penalties in the T&A it would just be sods law if one was given the Daggers’ way this weekend.

However, City’s defence has been simply outstanding this season and I have absolute confidence in Jon McLaughlin, Rory McArdle, Luke Oliver, Andrew Davies and James Meredith to continue their fine form. Davies leads this defence like a man possessed, winning balls he has no right to. He came to the club under an immense weight of expectation and the fact that so little fuss has been made about his early season form shows just how good he has been and is one of the outstanding performers of this campaign – along with Nathan Doyle and Gary Jones.

Jones was a huge loss for City on Tuesday and his probable absence asks big questions over about the midfield this weekend. If Jones is not fit for the Saturday’s trip to Dagenham who will step in for the stand in skipper? Club captain Ricky Ravenhill took his place on Tuesday night and performed well he buzzed around the field, pressing the opposition without giving them a moments rest. On the other hand, it felt as though it removed the balance that has been evident in midfield when Doyle and Jones combined.

When they play together it works, simple as that. Without Jones, Bradford lacked a player who dictated play and tempo in the opposition half. Doyle was Bradford’s man of the match on Tuesday by a long shot, constantly looking for the ball off his defence and fellow midfielders but he also has to maintain his discipline to protect City when the opposition counter attack. Ravenhill, unfortunately, for all his endeavour, does not have the technical ability Jones possesses to be the key in unlocking the defence.

A man who does have that creative flair returned to the bench on Tuesday night. Ritchie Jones showed on numerous occasions last season that he is good enough to be the link man for our strikers and wingers and, if his namesake is not fit, I see Ritchie as the ideal replacement. At the same time, we don’t know how fit Ritchie Jones is himself and it is highly doubtful he would be able to last 90 minutes. It may be possible to ask Will Atkinson to step in because he has performed superbly in the middle so far this season but again this has been in a more reserved role and it is difficult to assess how well he would do in place of Gary Jones.

We therefore must hope our talisman, (vice) captain Jones is fit for Dagenham, but if not, I would presume Parkinson would remain loyal to his first choice captain and once again pair him up with Doyle.

If this is the case then there will be a reliance on the wide players to contribute heavily in all our attacking play. With the injury to Kyel Reid forcing him out of the next few games, Atkinson is likely to be required on either the right or left flank on Saturday with Zavon Hines/Garry Thompson on the opposite side. The injury to Reid is very unfortunate as he just seemed to be reaching full flight following a slow start, but it says a lot of how Atkinson has performed this season that he is likely to be first choice out of the three remaining wingers on Saturday.

Hines has shown he has the potential to terrorise defences at this level and to be fair to him he has shown this ability more often than he has not. However, on Tuesday evening, you felt the game was there for him to take to a 10 man Rochdale with his opposing full back on a yellow card, but unfortunately he struggled more than anyone in claret and amber hoops. You could tell by his body language at the end of the game that he was frustrated in his performance and Parkinson will have to decide whether that will spur him on or knock his confidence.

If it is the latter Thompson will be ready to step in. Thompson has made it very obvious that he is keen to start as a front man, but unless Bradford suffer a couple of injuries you can’t see him getting much opportunity in the front two for the time being.

That front two will once again consist of James Hanson and another as the intriguing fight for a starting berth continues between Nahki Wells and Alan Connell. In my preview of the Port Vale game I suggested that Wells would be understandably aggrieved if he was left out of the side. Parkinson rightly kept faith with him at the time, but has Nahki done enough to keep his place in the two matches since? He worked hard against Rochdale and showed some neat touches and movement – especially in the first half – but things didn’t seem to happen for him and Connell once again looked impressive from the bench.

Parkinson will have to assess what sort of player will have most affect against the Daggers defence, a decision he has been making very astutely throughout the season so far. In the majority of cases you would assume that Wells would pose more problems, and this is something Connell may have to come to terms with spending more time entering the game as an impact sub.

As for Hanson himself, he had a difficult game on Tuesday night and really struggled to make his mark as he usually does in front of the home crowd. In fact the worrying statistic that Jason pointed out following the Rochdale game is that he has not scored a league goal away from home in over a year – we can only hope is rectified this weekend. Hanson’s importance to the team can’t be underestimated, whether he is scoring goals or not. As I have pointed out a number of times before, not only does his partner benefit immensely from playing off him, his presence on defensive set pieces is a real bonus to the whole team.

A couple of slightly less complete performances combined with a couple of injuries has given Parkinson plenty to consider this week as City try to maintain pace with the leading pack. So far our away form has been a mixed bag with three wins, a draw and a defeat, but Parkinson has been getting it right against the side from the lower reaches of the table and will hopefully do so again this weekend. Daggers recent results do suggest that they are an improving side after a poor start but if we are serious about promotion this season we need to pick up points against these sides away from home.

On our way to Rochdale every fan I spoke to prior to the game agreed a point would have been a good result and not many sides will come away from Spotland with any more. The only disappointing factor was that against 10 men for around an hour and after dominating possession we did struggle to find a way through. However, if we can end a disappointing week with four points from two games the bigger picture will be full of roses again.

Look out for a Width of a Post exclusive from 12pm today.

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2 replies

  1. Very good analysis Luke and taking everything into account we have to be delighted with the start we have made.

    Tomorrow can really set the tone for the rest of the season – build on Tuesday’s point and performance, and chalk up another away win and this will set us up for what looks like a tough home match against York the week after.

    Some selection dilemmas for PP to contend with – would have thought he will stick with Ravenhill, with perhaps Thompson being given an opportunity to start, leaving Hines to maybe offer more of a threat coming off the bench?

  2. That’s a good piece of analysis Luke. We know how to score against weaker opposition yet fail consistently to put the ball in the net against the better teams who arguably have better defensive qualities. We have scored only 3 goals in 5 games I believe against other Top 8 teams. The harsh reality is that if we perform for the rest of the season as your analysis suggests (admittedly with 80% of the season yet to play!), we should achieve the play-offs where we will face the same type of team we struggle to score against. I’d like to see more guile and nous from our team when they get into potential scoring positions and show that they are more than capable of scoring against any team in our Division however well they might be organised defensively.

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