Carlisle United 1
Bradford City 0
Tuesday 11 February, 2014
Written by Mark Scully (image by Kieran Wilkinson)
The last match report I wrote was back in the good old days of August, ironically against Carlisle United. A Nahki Wells-inspired Bradford City ran riot that afternoon, winning 4-0 in our first home game back in League One. Mark Yeates scored a screamer; Gary Jones and Garry Thompson both got on the score sheet. The future seemed bright. It looked for every second we had the team capable of taking League One by storm.
Sadly, fast forward a few months to last night, and words fail me at how bad we have become.
What frustrates me the most is our inability to beat the so-called ‘poor’ teams that are around us, such as Crewe on Saturday and again last night. Let’s not kid ourselves, Carlisle are a very poor side made to look good by another very poor side. A couple of Carlisle fans openly admitted, en-route back to the car after the game, that they had played badly in victory – what on earth does that day about us?
I can take losing, that is part of the game. What I can’t take is losing without any resistance – the lack of fight shown by the players last night was frightening. Did we ever look like getting back into the game? Not at all. The only player that came out of the game with any credit was Middlesbrough loanee Adam Reach. In his opening four games in a Bantams shirt, Reach has looked the real deal and his performance in the second half especially was a treat. He caused the Cumbrians problems with his trickery; and had constant beating of two if not three men down the Bantams left side.
Such efforts were not matched elsewhere in the team.
Phil Parkinson had shuffled his pack for the game. In came fit again Rory McArdle for Carl McHugh and Thompson for Kyle Bennett. Both predicable changes and, on the face of it, the correct decisions. City started the game reasonably well and seemed to press Carlisle back. Plenty of away possession, but without any goal-scoring threat. Long ball after long ball hitting the head of James Hanson, who in the first few minutes was getting joy against the Carlisle centre halves O’Hanlon and Meppen-Walter. But that was the problem of the evening: the long ball continued. As the game progressed it was clear to every man and his dog that it wasn’t working.
This has been a bone of contention for a while for many Bradford fans: the lack of a Plan B. We have been very predictable for months and, for some reason, Parkinson just can’t seem to change the mould. Even with the new players, the same hit and hope is the dish of choice.
When the game’s only goal came it was possibly against the run of play. Carlisle hadn’t looked like scoring, but yet again we contrived to gift the hosts the opportunity. In fairness to Parkinson, you can work on things in training all you want – but if players in matches are going to make individual mistakes, you can’t legislate for it and that is what happened last night.
City failed to clear our lines a couple of times from a routine corner, before the ball fell to the home striker Lee Miller who acrobatically finished. Could Jon McLaughlin have done better in his attempts to keep it out? Difficult to say without seeing it again, but Miller was only a matter of yards out and his shot on goal appeared to be straight at the City keeper.
From that point forward, apart from the already mentioned Reach, we simply couldn’t string passes together or build up a real intense pressure period where we peppered the goal. Reach had the only meaningful effort in the first half, when he ran down the right hand side and beat two men before cutting into the area and causing the Carlisle keeper to make a good save. Aside from that, both Gary Jones and Aaron McLean had half-chances.
Rather predictably, Matty Dolan was taken off at half time for the returning Nathan Doyle. Dolan did nothing wrong as such, but maybe the prospect of Doyle playing like a quarterback and spraying the ball was in Parkinson’s mind as he attempted to open up the Cumbrians.
Just a matter of seconds in the second half it should have been game over. David Amoo turned Stephen Darby on the half way time and ran clean through on goal with just McLaughlin to beat. Perhaps Amoo had too much time or perhaps he’s just not very good; either way he contrived to take far too long and stumbled in front of the onrushing McLaughlin, who saved with ease.
That should have been the catalyst and wake up call to re-energise the Bantams and it did to a certain degree; we had a large amount of possession without necessarily doing anything with it. Again the hoof ball football continued, by which point it was evident that is wasn’t working. Hanson was taken off with ten minutes or so to go. I’m a huge fan of Hanson, but last night through no fault of his own it was the right decision to take him off. Surely, try something different. Surely, try to get the ball on the deck and play through Carlisle. So what did we do with the first ball up to his replacement, Andy Gray? Launch it long towards him from defence. No Plan B.
Hanson did have a half chance, when he failed to connect with a Thompson cross after the winger had shown a turn of pace to beat the full back and get into the area, but the ball was just missed by the big man. McLean blazed over after creating a shooting opportunity for himself and, from memory, that was as good as it got for Bradford.
Full time was met with a smattering of claps, but in general just silence as the pressure and worries mount for all connected to the club. Reach was first over and deservedly received a standing ovation. But that can’t be said for the rest of the team, as they were met with a chorus of boos.
I’m not saying sack Parkinson or anything like that, but I think we will be very naive if we don’t think the board will be having the odd thought if this run continues for another couple of games or so. Will the manager turn this around? I really hope he does. Saturday’s game at Coventry will be difficult, but the run of three home games that follow give Bradford a real opportunity to get a couple of wins. If and when that does happen, the whole situation will look far better.
However, in the here and now the stats don’t lie and that win for Carlisle had just ended a run of six defeats in the last seven games for them. Bradford City have just continued their pathetic run of no wins in 13 and are still without a win in 2014. It is not time to press the panic button, but equally we can’t afford to be sentimental.
It took us seven years to escape the basement division. We can’t afford to go back straight away.
City: McLaughlin, Darby, McArdle, Davies, Bates, Thompson (Bennett 75), Dolan (Doyle 46), Jones, Reach, Hanson (Gray 80), McLean
Not used: Jameson, McHugh, Atkinson, McBurnie