A New Year but little reason for change

Morecambe 0

Bradford City 0

Tuesday 1 January, 2013

By Luke Lockwood

The New Year promises to be an exciting one for Bradford City: a League Cup semi final, a second chance of Wembley in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and a promotion race to look forward to. That promotion challenge would have looked a lot healthier had City managed to come away from the Globe Arena with three points against a struggling Morecambe side – three points which would have seen us sitting just outside the automatic spots in 4th.

Parkinson obviously saw the turn of the year as an opportunity to try something new and completely shuffled his pack from the dire, lacklustre performance against Rochdale. In fact, he obviously felt so tactically outclassed by John Coleman on Saturday that he picked his side to mirror Rochdale’s formation against us.

He kept faith with Matt Duke, but it was all change in front of him. Nathan Doyle replaced the less than impressive Tom Naylor at centre back, adding heat to the rumours that Parkinson may be in the market for another centre half this January, despite Andrew Davies being close to a return. Ricky Ravenhill, Ritchie Jones and Will Atkinson formed a midfield three in front and Gary Jones plugged the hole behind strikers, Zavon Hines and James Hanson. Interestingly Gary Jones remained as skipper despite club captain Ravenhill returning to the side.

The City squad struggled to come to terms with the new formation in the first half, as the wet ground provided more slips than successful passes from both sides. No more so than James Meredith who was enduring his worst half in a Bradford City shirt. I felt the criticism of Meredith against Rochdale was quite harsh and he was actually one of our better performers, however today he looked a shell of the footballer who has looked like a contender for Player of the Season over the first half of this campaign. Will Parkinson consider bringing in recognised cover for Meredith, who has had to play more minutes than most this season?

The midfield three buzzed about and looked lively; Ritchie Jones and Ravenhill in particular tried hard to make an impression on their return to the side showing the strength in depth we have in the middle of the park, but Gary Jones struggled to get into the game in his new more advance role. This showed that, despite having such quality in the centre of midfield, there are not enough goals being contributed and Parkinson may need to look at getting someone in who has a knack for getting beyond the strikers and threatening the goal. Interesting to see that David Syers scored again for Doncaster today and it would be someone of that mould Parkinson would need to bring in to warrant a starting place over any of the talented five we already have on offer.

Up front there was another anonymous display from Zavon Hines alongside James Hanson and the general consensus was that Connell was unlucky to be dropped. It was difficult to see what Zavon Hines contributed today and his decision making seems very poor. As a natural winger, on one occasion he received the ball in space on the right hand side with the opportunity to drive into the box and frighten the Morecambe defence. Instead he opted for the early cross with only Hanson to aim at and failed to beat the first man. There is no doubt that he is a talented footballer but it becomes increasingly frustrating to see him not produce the performance levels expected.

On the other hand, as a partnership Connell and Hanson have not clicked and Parkinson obviously feels Hanson works best alongside a quicker partner who can race on to his flicks. The big man is obviously struggling for goals and he was denied again with the only chance of the first half – a header comfortably saved by Barry Roche. City need to score more goals from all areas, but could Parkinson look to add someone in the mould of Hanson rather than relying on him to find his scoring touch again in the second half of the season? It was noticed by everyone that there was no place for Ross Hannah on the bench and despite his recent good goal scoring form at Grimsby (in the Blue Square Premier) it would suggest we have seen the last of him in a Bradford shirt.

Half time came with no real talking points and the underwhelming display following the disappointment of the Rochdale game added to a muted atmosphere. Despite the once again strong following from City fans this was the quietest I’ve seen them in a number of away trips.

Credit has to be given to Parkinson for being bold and changing things at half time. Meredith was withdrawn which can’t have been an easy thing to do but he was enduring a horrible afternoon and Curtis Good replaced him. Nahki Wells also came on for the anonymous Hines as Parkinson obviously felt he was up to at least 45 minutes following his recent illness.

The introduction of Wells brought Bradford to life and woke the fans up a little too. A lot has been said about how City look a weaker side without Hanson, but based on today there is one key catalyst. Morecambe couldn’t live with Wells constantly chopping him down at any opportunity and he needed more protection from the referee. The biggest piece of business Parkinson will do over January is keeping hold of the Bermudan or replacing him extremely well, because without a Nakhi Wells of some description we will not get promoted from this division. If he is to go you would hope a deal could be struck where he could be loaned back until the end of the season if his new club don’t see him as an immediate starter.

Bradford could suddenly see the three points within their grasp and played with a much higher tempo and urgency in the second half, typified by Wells. Ravenhill and Ritchie Jones continued to dominate in the middle of the park and Ritchie Jones almost provided City’s first goal as he delivered a dangerous low cross from the right hand side. The Morecambe defender sliding in could only knock is towards goal but Barry Roche managed to get something on it to keep it out. The rebound fell to Stephen Darby who had continued his run forward, however he wanted an age to prod the ball home and the chance was gone.

The game became extremely one sided and Duke was merely a spectator at the other end occasionally collecting a ball for a goal kick. Rory McArdle forced Roche into a fantastic save from a corner and he was then tested from range by Wells with an effort he could only parry wide.

Then the best opportunity of them all arrived at the head of Hanson. Having done well to lose his man Hanson found the ball perfectly floated in and from no more than 6 yards out with the goal gaping he could do no more than cushion a header down for the relieved Roche to gather. I am a Hanson fan, I acknowledge what he contributes to the side other than his goals; however any striker playing professional football should be burying that opportunity and he will most certainly be seeing it again in his sleep tonight.

For whatever reason Hanson is having a torrid time in front of goal and unfortunately opportunities like this will cost us if we do not convert them. If the return of Kyel Reid does not have a timely effect on Hanson’s return to the scoresheet then Parkinson will have to look at another option.

City continued to press and Reid looked lively when he came on, running at the Dale defenders and providing excellent set piece delivery, however no better chance was going to be created than Hanson’s header. The mood amongst City fans appeared quite low following the game as another two points dropped compounded the feeling of disappointment following Rochdale. It is times like these we must keep the faith. Today we battered Morecambe 0-0 and created enough chances to win more than one game – on any other day we would have certainly come away with three points.

Morecambe are a poor side without question and City must put teams like this away if they intend to achieve promotion in 2013, however the signs are still there. We were playing a completely new formation in the first half today with a side that have not played too much together. In the second half we came good and have been unfortunate not to win. Now is not the time to start panicking and I hope Parkinson doesn’t do so in the transfer window. One or two key additions would be welcome but let’s not completely disrupt a side that has proven so capable for half a season.

As our chairman pointed out in the press, nobody is going to make two better signings than Andrew Davies and Kyel Reid who are returning to our side. If we can lock Nahki Wells up in a safe house until February 1st that will be the best bit of business Parkinson could do.

City: Duke, Darby, McArdle, Doyle, Meredith (Good 46), Ritchie Jones (Reid 73), Ravenhill, Atkinson, Ritchie Jones, Hanson, Hines (Wells 46)

Not used: McLaughlin, Naylor, Connell, Turgott

Categories: Match Reviews

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4 replies

  1. Nice report Luke and agree that keeping the faith is critical – we can easily talk ourselves into a crisis.

    One point regarding James Meredith – apparently he was sick before the game and his withdrawal was due to him suffering the continued effects of the virus sweeping through the squad. No doubt this helps explain his recent performances.

    • I think that is the key – this isn’t crisis point and we shouldn’t believe it is. We had a bad result Saturday, and PP made sure we didn’t get beaten yesterday first and foremost. A pragmatic view from PP for sure, but first and foremost PP is pragmatic.

      I personally thought the whole team looked tired yesterday. Not enough off the ball running, lack of pressure when needing to win the ball back, and no one was reading other people’s flick ons. Think the players need a breather more than anything else.

  2. Think BCFC are doing just fine…..40 points collected with 21 games still to play….we’re in a first major domestic cup semi final since 1911…semi final of the JPT …with money in the bank to strengthen an already strong squad of players. Now if someone had mentioned this would happen by the start of January at the start of the season i’d have told them to lay off the pipe. An excellent first half of the season…hopefully the second half will be just as good. An excellent match report Luke!!!

    • Just like to add that Wells wont be going anywhere……. For me James Meredith has been playing superbly all season with no drop in form. My reading of playing Hines instead of Connell up top with Hanson is so that teams cannot push up too far for the fear of Hines breaking through one on one with the keeper, of course if Wells is fully fit he starts ..having a pacey player next to Hanson also gives our midfield more room to play in. Don’t think you’ll ever see Connell and Hanson starting a league game up top as a pairing.

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