Rotherham United 3
Agard 12+71, Revell 62
Bradford City 0
Saturday 9 November, 2013
Written by Joe Cockburn (image by Claire Epton, see note below)
You could, as certain fans did, come away from Rotherham saying, “Oh well, it’s only a cup, we can focus on the league now”. But, for me, that isn’t an acceptable excuse for the woeful performance 2,138 of us were subjected to on Saturday afternoon.
Rotherham are a team in our league who, if the early table is anything to go by, we are very much fighting against for a play off place. City fielded a full strength XI, as if it was a full league game. That team got beat. Comprehensively.
But it’s nothing new. City put in a not dissimilar performance at Crewe, and the immediate reaction was that if nothing changes in terms of attitude, personnel, attacking threat, then Rotherham will embarrass us.
Rotherham embarrassed us.
There were some articles, on Width of a Post and other City blog sites, in the run up to this game which I disagreed with. The game had nothing to do with their manager, and there were no dirty, spoiling tactics. So the reaction to the game should also leave him out of it.
Rotherham played a similar style to us, quite direct at first before getting it down in the final third, and also using set pieces as a real threat. And they showed us just how it should be done. They knew how to stop it from us and where we were weak, and they made us look like a poor, poor side.
Alex Revell absolutely destroyed Rory McArdle. The Irish defender has been great for the larger part of this season, but since Andrew Davies has been out injured, he has had to take the more “hardman” centre half role, winning the headers and stopping these big players in the air and cutting off their supply line. For me, he has so far failed to do that, and this was truly highlighted by Revell.
Something certainly needs to change in the heart of that defence, a more leader type needs to come in and replace one of McArdle or Matthew Bates, be it Matt Taylor or Luke Oliver (I have no faith in Taylor, but he hasn’t exactly had a wealth of play time in the claret and amber) and it may be a slight blessing in disguise that McArdle is away with Northern Ireland next weekend.
Then we come to the middle of midfield. Nathan Doyle and Gary Jones were, once again, overran in midfield. The game just totally passed the both of them by, all they could seem to offer was hooking it on high in the air. I think the problem with Jones has been evident for a number of games now: the pace of play and other midfielders has left him trailing in his opposite numbers’ wake. You just look at Michael O’Connor yesterday who was up and down and in and around the box at both ends, and carried a real presence when there. Whether Jason Kennedy is the answer or not, something definitely needs to change. It would take a brave call from Parkinson to drop Jones, but one that I think he needs to make.
It is clear that Nahki Wells is not fit. It is obviously hard coming back from a month out, but it looks to me like he has even put on a bit of weight, and, as at Crewe, was just not involved at all. At Rotherham there were a few balls through that the Nahki Wells at the start of the season would have latched on to and put away. But he was always one step away or a yard off the pace. Whether he needs to put in extra effort at training, or if it will just take a couple more matches to regain the sharpness, we can’t afford to carry Nahki Wells. Not against quality opposition like Rotherham, or Coventry.
Finally, wingers. Rafa De Vita was great in his first two starts, at Preston and against Wolves. But he just didn’t get involved on Saturday. Whenever Stephen Darby was on the ball, he would always be on the inside hiding behind an opposition player, forcing Darby into the punt forward. That just isn’t the way we want him to play. If we want someone to do that we might as well just play Mark Yeates.
And then we come to Kyel Reid. He definitely needs to be dropped next weekend. Yes he is a threat, yes he worries opposition defenders, and yes they had to double up on him. But that isn’t a good thing when Reid isn’t creating chances or using the ball at all. He just didn’t look interested at Rotherham. He wasn’t running, wasn’t offering anything when his teammates had the ball, and didn’t take on the full back despite the fact he was booked after about 15 minutes. He has been below par ever since he scored at Walsall (bar Preston) and he needs to be shown that he isn’t guaranteed a place in the team, and also before the fans really turn on him, as there has been much less support for him.
The only positive coming away from the New York Stadium was Jon McLaughlin’s performance. I thought he was excellent, and it would have been 6-0 without his three fine first half saves.
I hate being so negative, and it does feel like a bit of a whinge, but when we have played like that for so long, without any reaction, it is time something finally changes.
But, thankfully, it doesn’t seem that Phil Parkinson has come out of the game with his usual “we can take plenty of positives” line. He has finally had a go at the players and demanded a reaction before an even tougher game, which hopefully to our benefit is on TV.
City: McLaughlin, Darby, McArdle, Bates, Meredith, De Vita (Yeates 63), Doyle (Kennedy 74), Jones, Reid, Hanson, Wells (McBurnie 82)
Not used: Ripley, McHugh, Taylor, Thompson
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