Just one of those days

Barnet 2

Atieno 41, Oster 48

Bradford City 0

Saturday 5 January, 2013

By Tom Warden

Several years ago I was sat idle in a recording studio on the outskirts of Manchester listening to City’s promotion bid begin a slow decline with an away defeat to Barnet.

I was confident that year, just as I am this year; except this year I can be at Underhill in person. Ultimately the result that previous time kick-started a run which saw us out of touch with the play off pack towards the end, but this season one hopes we seem more resilient. City are going through a mini-slump recently, perhaps a case of after the lord mayor’s show (an outdated term if ever there was one), who knows? But a slump all the same, a two goal lead thrown away at Southend followed by a demolishing by John Coleman (boy does he have our number) and a deflating draw at Morecambe led us here, potentially the perfect place to start our resurgence.

The fans arriving at Underhill were greeted by a changed formation and backline from the one that has served us so well up to Rochdale, Curtis Good and Stephen Darby taking the fullback slots whilst Nathan Doyle dropped back to centre half with Rory McArdle, while Carl Mchugh recovered. Formation-wise City began with the controversial diamond, designed to stifle a midfield which had provided some joy for Barnet in recent games.  Gary Jones was the tip, with Ritchie Jones and Atkinson in the centre while Ravenhill anchored the side.

Tactically, the first half could not have gone much better, Barnet seemed happy to show little intent aside from on the counter, soak up City pressure and allow us time on the ball, Nahki Wells began running the open channels and when James Hanson flashed a shot wide of the post after about 15 minutes it seemed the tempo was set. The idea was evidently to use the pace of Wells to stretch the backline and bring the extra midfield into play or have them there to win the inevitable Hanson knockdowns.

To get this out of the way early, Hanson was categorically not to blame for this defeat. His brief was to get out there and win the ball in the air, which he did, multiple times. The fact that the officials gave him nothing despite him being sandwiched in-between two giant men at every challenge and tugged back every time he turned should be something we defend him against, not pillar him for.

What do we want him to do? He covered an awful lot of ground today, the service to him was mostly balls hoofed lo him which he challenged for EVERY time against a back line which was allowed to push both him and Wells around, yet I don’t hear Wells getting stick, because of the goals? Maybe, but without Hanson, Wells doesn’t score the amount he has done.

Anyway, rant in defence of James Hanson over, the first half drew little, until just before the interval when Ritchie Jones, instead of playing the ball out for a throw, decided he could get it over the top of a man stood less then a foot in front of him. He couldn’t. The ball ended up bouncing off the Barnet full back Johnson who had a free run through to square the ball to Atenio who had a simple finish. This was a lazy piece of play which epitomised Jones’ game, Darby had little or no protection from him until, ironically, this instance, where he contrived to provide Barnet with their first shot on target of the game.

This led into a half time where Phil Parkinson had a decision, go for the equaliser by bringing on an attacking player or stick with something that had worked in stifling a team which had been performing well recently (a draw at Exeter and an away win at Gillingham, let’s remember.) He chose the second, bringing Kyel Reid on for the disappointing Ritchie Jones.

Immediately there was an impact. Reid pulled out Barnet’s hitherto solid midfield and Hanson outmuscled his man on the flank before squaring a ball into the six yard box that Wells should have buried for 1-1, he didn’t. Instead, following Wells’ shocking miss, Barnet came forward, a fairly blatant handball was missed by the linesman, City failed to clear twice, and John Oster was on hand to fire home from inside the box. I had the same feeling as I’d felt listening to the radio that day a few years ago.

After that it was an exercise in extreme frustration. Ravenhill gave very little but mouth to the referee, Hanson had a goal disallowed from a header after a sumptuous cross from Reid, Alan Connell missed a glorious opportunity from 10 yards and Nahki Wells and Gary Jones argued about who should take a free kick which Jones curled marginally wide.

On another day Ritchie Jones would have put his clearance out for a throw leaving us to go in at 0-0 and grab the goal in the second half that our dominance deserved, on another day Nahki would have slammed home that chance from 5 yards, on another day Connell would have buried his shot with ten minutes to go, kick starting an unlikely comeback. On another day everything could have been different.

But this wasn’t another day, it was today, and I hope that today doesn’t end up ultimately lead to the same result this season as the one I heard on the radio a few years ago.

City: Duke, Darby (Turgott 77), McArdle, Doyle, Good, Ritchie Jones (Reid 46), Ravenhill (Connell 67), Atkinson, Gary Jones, Hanson, Wells

Not used: McLaughlin, McHugh, Brown, Hines

Categories: Match Reviews

Tags: , , , , , , ,

9 replies

  1. I’m not a fan of this diamond formation ,I also dint feel we have that attacking midfield player needed to support Hanson , wells.
    Gary Jones came to Bradford with goals from midfield written all over him!!.
    Sadly his performances have been very good , but don’t look like the goals from midfield will come from him?
    That leaves us with ravenhill, R.Jones , Doyle , Atkinson , in the centre , good solid midfield players but hardly double figure midfield players.
    For me there’s one player Phil Parkinson just hasn’t replaced in the summer thats Dave Sayers!!.
    Im sure in this team Dave syers would have at least 8-9 goals from midfield because he was so difficult for teams to pick up and mark!!
    He also read the Hanson flicks, got beyond the forwards in support .
    The currant form of the team does not worry me , the performances are good were lacking goals from the whole team not just from James Hanson!!.

  2. Good report Tom, keep them coming, but hopefully reporting victories in the future.
    Best, El Stevo

  3. I’d be looking at bringing in Akinfenwa from Northampton if i was Parkinson..let’s get Hanson some help as he getting precious little from the officials…burn out is on the cards if we don’t suppliment our only battering ram centre forward. Looking forward to the Villa game…absolutely no pressure on BCFC…would be delighted to be still in that tie come the Villa Park game.

    • I absolutely agree that we need another target man forward. It would mean that when things are not going Hanson’s way we have someone else to throw on who can do the same job without having to change the game plan. Akinfenwa would be great but I don’t see it happening, he’s got himself into a comfortable little spot at Northampton.

  4. I agree wholeheartedly with the defence of James Hanson, both in terms of what he brings to the team and the appalling lack of protection he gets from referees.

    That said, there’s one word in the report that frustrates me. You mention that we were ‘stifling’ Barnet. Good teams, promotion teams, do not go to a team third bottom in the league to stifle them. Surely we should be aiming to expose their fragile confidence and impose our game on them, rather than showing them too much respect and allowing them a foothold in the game.

    I worry that PP is too easily swayed by our occasional poor performances (for example Rotherham away, Rochdale at home) where we’ve just had a bad day at the office. Following both these games we’ve gone back to (what I consider to be) negative set ups rather than trusting in the attacking football which has served us well this season.

    I couldn’t argue with a formation designed to frustrate Villa on Tuesday but I sincerely hope PP reverts back to positive mode on Saturday for a game we could really do with winning.

    • I have to agree , David.
      Were a team full of high energy getting the second ball , 442 ,wingers have brought out the best results for us.
      Ok yes we will get out numbered in midfield at time playing this way ,but im certain we will win more games than loses.

    • I know what you’re saying David, and part of me does feel that we should have just gone for it in this game, indeed, when we did bring the pace on late into the game, we had Barnet pegged back in their own half. However, I can understand PP’s thinking, this was a Barnet side who had recently beaten Gillingham away and got a point at Exeter, so not in as bad a run of form as their league position might suggest. Pragmatism has always been PP’s thing, and but for Jones’ mistake which led to a goal before half time, I’m confident we would have got and kept the lead in the second, which would have meant we would be talking about how the change of tactics arrested our little slump and got us back to winning ways.

      PP can’t be blamed for a brain-fade from Jones and some terrible finishing from the players he put out there.

      • I understand PP’s thinking too because his default setting is, as you say, hard to beat pragmatism. I know we’ve adopted this ‘keep it tight in the first half and try sneak a goal in the second half’ approach a few times this season and it has had a degree of success on a couple of occasions. However, we’ve had far more success when we’ve got at teams and really imposed our game on them. Plus, it’s a whole lot more enjoyable to watch than the frustrating fare on offer yesterday.

        I do take your point on Jones’ brain-fade (though had PP picked a more adventurous team you could argue he may not have even been on the pitch) and the poor finishing. It seems particularly typical of Hanson’s luck that he should get a poor contact on a header and it sneak in (exactly the type of scruffy finish he needs to get back up and running) only for it to be ruled offside.

        Hopefully I’ll be made to eat my words on Tuesday night as our pragmatic approach yields a clean sheet and a couple of goals to take to Villa Park!

  5. As much as I admire your defence of James but the fact of the matter he is not scoring goals and the team can not rely on Nakki to win us games every week. Yes he puts effort in and yes he wins most headers but that is not going to get us promotion we need another body in attack. I really can’t understand the formation playing with no wingers and very no width and then expect James to score with very little supply, Surely if we are to play this diamond formation we have the ideal player in Alan Connell who is great with the ball at his feet and can bring other people into the game and scores goals. I personally think a little tweaking and a few new signings and we are up !

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