Bump in road as Tranmere waste Bradford City’s time

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Flashpoint

Bradford City 0

Tranmere Rovers 1

Lowe 69

Sunday 13 October, 2013

By Jason McKeown

I honestly thought that we had moved on from days like these. You know, with constructing such a heroic group of players, getting promotion and with the start to the season that we’ve made. But now this.

Yep, I really believed we’d elevated ourselves to such a status that we’d no longer have to encounter such Dark Age football and woeful time-wasting tactics of the type that Tranmere Rovers inflicted upon us today.

This felt like being back in League Two. It was as though Dagenham & Redbridge were in town once more and the last 14 months never happened. Ian Goodison’s forearm into Kyel Reid provided the smash, and then Ryan Lowe’s second half finish produced the grab. Bradford City’s first league defeat in eight matches, and it was awful, awful, awful to watch.

The frustration stemmed not only from enduring Tranmere’s horrendous football, but the role in which the referee, Darren Drysdale, played in helping them to succeed with it. And yes, how depressing it is that the first home defeat of the campaign is cue to have a moan about officials. This season I have been really impressed with the standard of refereeing, which has a lot more to do with merely City moving up a division (League One and Two basically get the same officials). But today we had a referee going a long way to deciding the game’s outcome due to his shambolic display.

The game’s flashpoint came after half an hour, when Goodison attempted to shield the ball out of play and, right in front of the two dugouts, caught Reid in the face with a suspected elbow. The 4th official, James Wilson, would later tell an outraged Phil Parkinson that it was the Jamaican’s forearm which made contact with Reid. Either way, it was clearly a straight red card. Parkinson’s own reaction in pushing Goodison was not the best judged and sparked angry scenes involving both sets of benches and players; but when Drysdale produced only a yellow it was hard to avoid the conclusion that he had bottled it.

As he had when it came to several good penalty shouts for the home side. In particular, after Mark Yeates wriggled his way past numerous challenges and was bundled over inside the box by a Tranmere defender. Drysdale waved the strong claim away, as he had with a couple of earlier, less convincing appeals. Yet it wasn’t just a few bad calls which were to affect the outcome, it was the way he let Tranmere get away with their negativity.

Right from the first minute, it was clear that Ronnie Moore’s side had come to spoil our attacking football through time-wasting and planting 10 men behind the ball. That is their call to make and – in view of their wretched form and league position – sort of understandable. But it needed the referee to take a firmer grip on the time-wasting, rather than allowing them to dictate the game’s tempo by bringing it to a near standstill. This was a game that needed a referee to referee it, and Drysdale failed to do his job.

Perhaps the worst example – and one that summed up how frustrating the whole afternoon proved – was when Drysdale finally saw fit to address Tranmere goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams persistent time-wasting. Just as the Welshman was finally going to get the game going again, Drysdale blew up and ran over to speak to him. But instead of producing a long overdue yellow card, he issued a long lecture and nothing more. So Fon Williams’ punishment for time-wasting on behalf of his team was for the referee to help him time-waste some more. At that moment I looked over at the clock: we’d only played 55 minutes.

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All of which is not to excuse City’s failings in the match. They began in typical style of getting on the front-foot and forcing Tranmere back, but all-too-quickly seemed to run out of conviction and fresh ideas to break down a spirited opposition side. The re-shuffling of the team had not helped matters. Although moving Nathan Doyle to centre back was an understandable call – despite Carl McHugh’s mad dash back to West Yorkshire from Romania and Republic of Ireland Under 21 duty – City badly missed his drive and creativity in the centre of midfield.

Jason Kennedy came in for a full debut that will only live in memory for the wrong reasons. He is tidy on the ball for sure and rarely gives it away, but more is expected than to continually pass it sideways and we needed him to display greater ownership. It didn’t help Kennedy that he was playing alongside Gary Jones – who basically offered every Kennedy can do, only better – but he produced little to merit the retention of his place when Doyle can resume his usual role next week.

But the biggest loss of all was Nahki Wells. This sort of game – with City trying to get on the front foot and a deep-lying defence struggling with anyone running at them with the ball – was crying out for the Bermudian’s pace. That James Hanson was the most forward-positioned player throughout meant he had no one to flick the ball onto. The 4-4-1-1 of Yeates in the hole worked well at Walsall last week and the former Watford man was again excellent, but the trickery both he and Reid consistently provided needed more forward players to make the most of the openings they created.

Stephen Darby wasted City’s best chance when they were dominating the early stages, but Tranmere grew into the game and provided a few warning shots before Lowe’s decisive goal midway through the second half. It was worrying to once again see James Meredith be caught out, as the former Bury striker ran onto a ball over the top and finished low past Jon McLaughlin.

Caleb Folan makes his Valley Parade debut

Caleb Folan makes his Valley Parade debut

Parkinson – who two minutes earlier had introduced Caleb Folan for a disappointing Garry Thompson – continued to push players forward in search of an equaliser. Alan Connell came on to play in the hole behind Folan and Hanson, but too much of City’s pressure ended with pot shots from distances or poor crosses from promising positions. Hanson could not get the better of the impressive Goodison – making his continued presence on the pitch, rather than in the stand, all the more galling.

There was a lack of quality to City’s play compared to the fluent football of recent weeks. The clock was ticking down far too quickly. Late headed chances for Folan and Jones resulted in excellent saves by Fon Williams, but despite a flurry of corners to defend Tranmere saw it out. I’m so glad that City have never resorted to such tedious tactics and it is no surprise that Moore has so often being sacked due to poor football driving crowds away.

Boos at the final whistle appeared to be aimed at the referee, but as we drove home and listened to the Pulse and took a quick glance at Twitter, perhaps it’s not so clear cut. It seems that a section of our supporters have turned on the players with a worrying quickness, which does not bode well for the battles ahead.

Whilst no one would claim this is the players’ finest hour, they surely deserve to be cut more than a little slack. The first time they have failed to score in the league this season, and still fourth in the division despite this set back. The quality wasn’t there today and there are some things Parkinson needs to address, but the effort and determination was as prevalent as ever. Some of our supporters need to get a grip.

For we have come a long way in an extremely short space of time. And whilst it is good that the bar has been raised so high that we feel bitterly disappointed when the players come up below it, the bigger picture remains hugely encouraging. City were not beaten today because Tranmere are a better side and we are in a false position. We simply need to lick our wounds, prepare for three massive games in a week, starting at Crawley on Saturday, and continue to enjoy what is happening in front of our eyes.

City: McLaughlin, Darby, Oliver (Connell 75), Doyle, Meredith, Thompson (Folan 67), Jones, Kennedy (De Vita 87), Reid, Yeates, Hanson

Not used: Ripley, Gray, McHugh, Bates

  • Before the game it was announced that Phil Parkinson has signed former Middlesbrough defender Matthew Bates on a three-month contract. The central defender can also play as right back and in midfield, offering greater cover as City move into winter. Bates emerged through Boro’s youth ranks but was released in 2012, playing for Bristol City last season.

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Categories: Match Reviews

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14 replies

  1. Dagenham also ran through my mind several times today, I thought these days were behind us, frustrated doesn’t sum it up. Given that following the Goodison/Reid incident Tranmere were awarded a throw-in I can only assume that the yellow card was for the tussle with Parky and that the forearm smash went totally unpunished, Mr Drysdale has previous with us, Deano incident, Wimbledon away a few years ago, if I never see him again it won’t be too soon. I hope this is just a blip, we’ve come a long way, there are testing times ahead having looked at December’s fixtures that will be one tough month although 3 of the games are at home. I hope we have Nahki back sooner rather than later. Let’s write today off and regroup.

  2. Jason, Bates has signed a 3 month contract not 3 years mate

  3. I don’t think the boos at the end were for the players. I think the fans were just frustrated at one of those days. I can see both sides of the argument. The ref wasn’t the best but apart from the Goodison incident, a lot of his decisions could have gone either way. As we all know, when you’re one nil down petty decisions against us are far more infuriating. We didn’t get the rub of the green today but, somewhat understandably, we were well below our best. The time wasting is nothing new and is certainly not exclusive to league two. Fans still have unparalleled faith in Parky and it will take many poor performances for them to turn against him. Things have gone our way for the last 15 or so games, today wasn’t one of those days. IPWT.

    • Adrian I agree with you that lots of things could have gone either way today. Tranmere looked really nervy at the back and if Darby’s first half effort had flown in they may well have capitulated. As it was we had our own set of reluctant/cautious centre-backs which the opposition managed to breach. Like you say our team were understandably below par. Given we were without a key forward, a key midfielder and a key defender it’s not really a surprise that we failed to match their lower league style game. However, I doubt we’d have got on any better against a footballing opposition -we may have got hammered. For me Jason highlights one failing that I felt parky made in playing Kennedy -he’s like the ‘b’ side of the same single (showing my age here!) at the moment and far too akin to Jones. For me if it’s going to be a scrappy game there’s no better player to put in than Ricky Ravenhill. At least he’d offer something a bit different.I thought the penalty shouts would have been harsh to give but out of three maybe one could have gone our way -not sure Tommo hasn’t got a reputation as a diver. He’s about as convincing as Schwarzenegger doing MacBeth. Is it just me or does he seem to be coasting games and could do with more ‘motivation’? BTW having been critical of JMac distribution previously, I thought he was great today. He may need to be next week…

  4. Thanks for posting this report. There were a lot of things to be unhappy about after that game and as you point out the referee was terrible. A couple of things leapt out at me from that game which I’m surpised you didn’t mention.

    Firstly, Kyel Reid was very poor today and his wastefulness was a major problem for us.

    Time and again he tried to do the same thing, cut inside and shoot himself regardless of what team mates might have been in better positions. It’s harsh to call Garry Thompson’s performance “disappointing” but the main disappointment for me was that twice he made excellent runs off the ball which weren’t tracked by the Tranmere defence and twice Kyel Reid opted to blaze over himself rather than play a simple ball into his path which would have let him shoot or get to the byline and cut back.

    Clearly Reid has some confidence at the moment but that’s a problem because his ability is not at the same level. Greediness isn’t so bad in a player if they score regularly but he doesn’t. We don’t actually create an awful lot of clear chances – our success has been built on ruthlessly punishing opposition mistakes – so we simply cannot afford to have a player creating openings and wasting them like he did today. I don’t want him to lose confidence because it’s great news that he’s been creating these chances, I just want to see him put the team ahead of his own glory. And on days like today, we need him to.

    ***

    On another note, we saw again today that whilst Phil Parkinson is a great manager he is still learning as a tactician. Putting Folan on so we had two big men up front was a valid tactic but the team didn’t seem to know how to play that way – wing play and crosses could have got the best out of that combination. And after that we incrementally piled on as many attacking players as possible, which left us with pretty much no structure. You could see individual players struggling to know what to do with the ball and the result was a lot of pointless head tennis, which played right into Tranmere’s hands. Parkinson and his coaching team need to give some serious thought to what our plan B is with this group of players and coach them to make sure they know how to implement it. It’s a great shame that Haris Vuckic never materialised at Valley Parade because a central midfielder who can really make things happen is just what we need in games like these.

    ***

    Anyway, sorry to be negative but things did not go well today and our performance was part of that. Keep up the good work.

    • I actually thought Reid did quite well and made things happen. As you say it was frustrating to see him blaze the ball over woefully from good positions, but I do think the wider issue was the lack of options in front of him. He’d do well beating a couple of players and putting Tranmere on the back foot, but then when in space there wasn’t much going on around him. Yes, blasting the ball over the bar wasn’t the right choice, but I think that he had a decent game in general.

      My problem with Thompson’s performance was a lack of willingness to go in where it hurts. I felt he could have been a bit braver at times. Thompson has had an okay season so far. Not as brilliant as he was second half of last season, but not awful either. I think there is more to come from him.

      And I agree that it would be nice for us to have an attacking CM. Interesting that David Syers went to Scunthorpe the other week. I’m not sure if the accusation of no Plan B is fair though given that is what we have been playing with the 4-4-1-1 formation – perhaps we are lacking a Plan C 😉

    • No way was Kyel Reid poor. Until Forlan came on he was the only attacking player prepared to take a man on and/or have a shot at goal. How many shots did the blue eyed boy have? Yes, some of his shots were poor, but if all those shots had been on target it is most unlikely he would playing in the 3rd tier of English football. Other than Jones he was the only player to emerge from the game with much credit.

  5. An excellent summation of the game, Thanks for that. Although I have great respect for Phil Parkinson I do wonder why he kept two centre halfs on the bench. Nathan Doyle was much missed in midfield where Jason Kennedy was average at best. I am not convinced that Folan is match fit, and would choose Connell over him any day. I thought that, apart from yet another exemplary performance from Gary Jones, no-one had a great game. Let’s hope it is a mere blip and that once we come up against teams who actually want to play football we get back to winning ways. It’s interesting to note that players who just go about their business quietly such as Rory McCardle are as vital to the team as our star striker.
    Keep up the good work.

  6. Few comments from me.

    Johnny Mac has played really well this season and did so again on Saturday apart from his one moment of madness. I’ve previously not been his biggest fan but happy to be proved wrong here.

    Form of Meredith is a concern – another goal coming from the left hand side today where he didn’t do his job again – he doesn’t seem to be very effective going forward either.

    I thought corners and crosses were poor today in general with little coming from the byline for Hanson to attack and those that did often of poor quality

    Don’t understand why the midfield was disrupted when we had McHugh available but on the bench and we missed Doyle in midfield. Kennedy doesnt seem to offer anything that Ravenhill couldn’t do at least as well.

    Tranmere were clearly going to come with a game plan in mind and credit to them in achieving it. I didn’t think they were a bad side personally and were tidy in possession and I thought more of a threat on goal than us.

    Still hopefully this is a blip and we can get back to winning ways next week. I think everyone would have taken the points haul we have so far, it is just annoying to drop points in this way to a Ronnie Moore team!

    • It would be interesting to see if Phil comes out and explains why McHugh was only on the bench having dashed back from Romania. Sure there is a good reason.

  7. Apparently PP sees McHugh as a back up left back rather than central defence where he did really well last season. He is quoted today as saying that it was kind of the Irish FA to let him come back as we have no cover for Meredith. My concern from yesterday’s game is that the manager and then the team quickly get embroiled in the spoiling tactics of the opposition and the bench to the detriment of the performance. That nice Mr Evans will do exactly the same when he brings his Rotherham team on Boxing Day and we need to avoid getting involved and play like we can. We played into Evans hands last April and did so again yesterday with Ronnie Moores tactics.

    • I think Mchugh and Bates were probably left on the bench because it was Oliver and Doyle that had been training all week, Bates hasn’t played a game this season so probably isn’t match fit and Mchugh had just flown back from Romania, maybe he didn’t feel well. There are so many possible reasons for Parky’s decision. let’s not forget it’s Parky that sees these players day in day out and knows what they’re capable of. We can question a lot of things but I don’t think we can ever question how well the manager knows these players, a lot of which he has worked with for years if not here then at his previous clubs.

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