We need to talk about Alan

Bradford City 1

Connell 90+8

Aldershot Town 1

Cadogan 45+1

Saturday 9 March, 2013

By Damien Wilkinson

So another two points slipped from the grasp of City again, as the 2013 home form hoodoo continued at a wet and cold Valley Parade. Despite Alan Connell’s last gasp equaliser from the spot, there was a very flat feeling on leaving Valley Parade following a match where City’s inability to capitalise on their dominance again resurfaced.

City approached the game in positive spirits after a good performance at Port Vale during the midweek, and the Aldershot match looked like a great opportunity to propel the play off surge, get three points on the board and push on in the next two away matches down in the South West. Phil Parkinson made just one change to the starting line up, with Nahki Wells replacing Garry Thompson up front. It was hoped that after a reasonably bright appearance as a substitute on Tuesday night, Wells might be able to recover from what has been a recent disappointing spell.

Aldershot arrived on the back of a five match unbeaten run, and the appointment of Andy Scott as manager, just over a couple of weeks ago, seems to have reinvigorated the club, who have spent much of the season marooned at the wrong end of the table. Scott made two changes with new loanee, Paul McCallum, brought in from West Ham, up front in place of injured top scorer Danny Hylton, and a change at left back with Aaron Morris replacing the injured Anthony Tonkin.

The Bantams made a reasonable start to the match and looked keen to continue the form shown in the second half of the Port Vale match. Aldershot looked no pushovers though, and stood firm in the opening exchanges. City continued to press and began to carve out a number of chances; a couple of smart shots from Zavon Hines, who had a good first half, were well saved by Aldershot’s Australian keeper, Jamie Young, and a further chance for Michael Nelson, who headed wide with the goal gaping. City continued attacking, and a piledriver from Gary Jones was tipped over by Young.

Despite the pressure, there was a feeling that City would yet again fail to capitalise and get an early goal, and this was indeed the case. Yet again this came back to haunt us, as Aldershot scored with their first attempt on goal,right on the stroke of half time. In what seemed a harsh decision, Rory McArdle was booked for a foul on McCallum, and from the resulting free kick, Kieron Cadogan’s delivery eluded everyone in the box, eventually going in off the post. A sucker punch if ever there was one.

With no changes made at the break, it was hoped that City would come out all guns blazing in the second half. This wasn’t really the case and City struggled in the opening 15 minutes or so, with Aldershot creating a couple of half chances. As things began to fall a little flat, Phil Parkinson looked to liven things up with a double substitution on the hour mark; replacing Wells with Thompson, and Ricky Ravenhill making way for Kyel Reid. Will Atkinson moved into the centre of midfield to accommodate Reid.  Wells again had a disappointing afternoon – he looked bright early on but increasingly seemed further isolated from James Hanson, and is clearly short of confidence and needing a goal.

City initially began to create a few more chances, but a degree of frustration also began to creep into their play. Atkinson in particular struggled and, with maybe the heavy pitch impacting, a number of passes went astray. Reid saw a lot of the ball, carving out a few opportunities, but City could not find a way past the Aldershot defence. Keeper Young was injured racing out of his goal on 66 minutes, which almost left Hines with an empty goal to aim at, but the chance was thwarted. After lengthy treatment Young was replaced by substitute keeper Glenn Morris.

With the last throw of the dice, Parkinson brought on Alan Connell for Nelson, and he made a good impression getting into the thick of City attacks with some intelligent play and was unlucky with a shot from distance.

As the game entered the last 10 minutes or so, City’s belief waned and, despite a header from Jones tipped over and a flurry of corners, the game began to fizzle out. However, due to the keeper swap and a subsequent injury to Aldershot’s skipper Ben Herd, injury time of eight minutes was signalled and seemingly re-ignited City’s resolve. With the game slipping away, Hines was sent sprawling in the penalty area and referee Richard Clark had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.

The decision looked soft to be honest, but there didn’t seem to be many protests from the Aldershot players. Up stepped Connell, who made no mistake with the penalty, firing an unstoppable shot past Morris into the net.

The match ended soon thereafter and, despite the late equaliser, there was a noticeable air of despondency around the ground. The result leaves City in 11th place in the league, nine points behind Exeter in 7th place, albeit with two games in hand on them.

With the play offs becoming more and more distant, the forthcoming visits to Plymouth and Exeter, could now potentially make or break the rest of the season. If there was ever a time to rectify a run that has seen City not able to string together two league wins since the middle of October last year, then surely this is it.

As Parkinson seeks to resolve City’s scoring dilemma, more shuffling of the pack may be necessary, particularly with the clamour to accommodate Connell in the starting line up gaining some momentum, following his cameo performance. Over the last few matches, City have been close, but not quite there, and the final tinkering may be crucial to the rest of the season – hopefully Parkinson can find the answer starting at Plymouth on Tuesday night.

City: McLaughlin, Darby, McArdle, Nelson (Connell 78), McHugh, Hines, Ravenhill (Reid 61), Atkinson, Hanson, Wells (Thompson 61)

Not used: Duke, Davies, Doyle, Gray

Categories: Match Reviews

Tags: , , , , , , ,

8 replies

  1. I can see why Connell doesn’t start games in a front two to be honest. I take Parkinson’s point that we lack a threat “in behind” when we set up that way. However if we are throwing a third striker on to try to win a game then that man has to be Connell. He has proved himself in this toke tone and time again and to have been using Andy Gray ahead if him recently is nothing short if criminal in my opinion.

    • I can’t see why Connell couldn’t play in a front two providing his partner is capable of the threat “in behind”.Why do we assume that it has to be Hanson and one other? All opposition teams now know about our one dimensional football and are set up to deal with the long diagonal ball from the back towards Hanson’s head.

      In Hanson’s absence we would have to play through the midfield and Connell and Nahki’s movement would create new problems for the opposition. Nahki spent most of his time yesterday with his back to goal well outside the penalty area. These sort of balls are a waste of time and certainly won’t play to his strengths. There’s an old expression “always do what you’ve always done and you’ll always get what you’ve always got”.

      To stand any chance of the playoffs we need to change our tactics now to utilise our superior players at this level. The clock is ticking.

      p.s. what is a “toke tone”?

      • I think that it’s worth noting that, earlier in the season, a Connell/Wells partnership was attempted and did not work. I think that Hanson played well yesterday – and he has played well since Wembley – and i’m not sure he is the problem. For me, it is working out who should partner Hanson.

      • I agree very much with Mick. Yesterday we were very one dimensional until Connell’s late introduction “in the hole”. Our back line sits too deep, as do the midfield middle 2 and we end up lumping just too many long balls to Hanson – often horribly isolated. Wells was blocked off cleverly any number of times yesterday trying to get on to flick on’s, and has been said already he seems unable just now to hold up which is not anyway his strong suit.
        We were much more threatening when very late we started to get the ball down in the final 3rd and look to thread passes into the box. Darby especially was excellent on the overlap. When teams set up 4-5-1 or even 4-6-0 as yesterday I would like to see us go 3-5-2 and always have at least one full back providing an overload rather than a winger going 1 on 1. And why will Jonny Mac not roll the ball out to a defender to build the play from the back ? All bar Nelson have reasonable distribution. I sit in the kop – just how much of a sitter was Nelson’s chance – it looked a certain goal?
        And surely we can work on a new corner routine or two – we forced 12 yesterday and none posed any big problem.

  2. As a ref it was a definite penalty. Hines was tripped which is a foul. It doesn’t matter if it looked ‘soft’.

    Also Connell should be tried again instead of Wells. I know it didn’t work against Rochdale but its with another try.

    • Again a team come to valley parade and steel pts of us they do not deserve.
      It was attack and defence with Cty been on attack most of the game.
      Again the reason we didn’t take all 3pts is our inability to score goals and our pathetic final 3rd play.
      The lack of goals is very worrying for me time and time again we need to many passes in the final 3rd for somebody to take the bull by the horns and shoot with purpose!.
      Alan Connell is the sort of player who can bring people into play in the final 3rd with his vision and passing ability. Somehow Mr Parkinson has to find a way of using Connell .
      My idea would be to play 4-3-3 with a midfield of Hines ,G.Jones Doyle lets be honest the loss of Meredith on the left is killing us because in my oppinion parky plays will Atkinson tucked in on the left and very rarely gives us width there.
      The play offs are too far on my oppinion but im sure the players and management will do there best to get there.
      We may as well plan for next season now.
      Parkinson contract still up in the air also players contracts up come end of season.
      I hope we here news soon on contracts etc.

  3. Jason, in response to my earlier point you say that a starting partnership of Wells and Connell has been tried and does not work. Other than the York home game I can’t find a match, league or cup, where they have been tried together. Is it fair to write them off after one game?!

    • I think they have ended a few games as the strike partnership.

      Don’t forget PP sees them in training and I’m sure that he has tried many practice matches with those two together.

      Maybe we will see them up front together tomorrow? As poor as Nahki’s form has been, I’d be playing pace against Branston tomorrow if I were PP

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