Time to bounce back as City travel to Crawley


Caleb Folan makes his Valley Parade debut

Crawley Town vs Bradford City preview

@Broadfield Stadium on Saturday 18 October, 2013

By Joe Cockburn

Bradford City’s first home defeat of the season has certainly got people talking, but it is far from time to panic.

We currently lie fourth in League One, Tranmere was our first loss at home and the first league game in which we have failed to score. We are keeping a clean sheet every other game, and currently have a goal difference of +12.

If you had offered me half of that at the start of the season, I’d have bitten your hand off.

But the fact of the matter is, as a result of our exceptional start to the season, the fans’ expectations have increased, and that is something the players and management will have to deal with. And I think last season showed Phil Parkinson certainly knows how to keep the team grounded and ensure that the players continue working to achieve what they are certainly capable of this season.

They were dealt their first blow of the season last week with the news of Andrew Davies’ injury, and I think Parkinson has reacted in the perfect way. I think he has realised that Matt Taylor doesn’t have a career at Valley Parade, and the signing of Matt Bates is a very astute one.

I have a friend who supports Middlesbrough, and his scouting report on Bates is that he is a solid centre back with a good footballing brain. He is a good player to bring in as we continue to adjust to the increased level of football that comes with the division. I hope he plays a bit like Nathan Doyle does at centre back: tough and hard to beat, but also very keen to get the ball down and not just whack it forward.

On Doyle, I thought he was excellent at centre back last Sunday. For someone I slated around nine months ago, he has really picked up his game and fitness, and that comes with a full pre-season. As great as he was in the defence, we certainly missed his calmness and toughness in midfield, and we will need that back when we play at Crawley.

I am actually unsure how Parkinson and Steve Parkin will construct that defence on Saturday. The temptation would be to keep Doyle in the heart of the defence after his performance last week, but I would like to see Bates (assuming he is fit) and I think McArdle will come back in after finally playing for Northern Ireland in the week. I thought Luke Oliver looked a tad shaky again; his confidence and strength will only come back with game time, but perhaps a rest is required.

Then there is a decision to make in midfield. Opinions have been largely divided upon Jason Kennedy; but he impressed me in his full league debut last week. It was difficult for him, he wasn’t getting any of the ball played into him from the strikers so couldn’t dictate the play in an attacking sense, but he kept the ball excellently and worked hard all game.

I had been thinking that Gary Jones had started to look a bit weak in the midfield, was losing his energy – perhaps his age was starting to show – and was also struggling with the younger, nippier, better players. But at Walsall he controlled the game brilliantly, and I thought he was fantastic again against Tranmere. Still, I think the time is fast approaching where Parkinson will have to make the very difficult decision whether to stick with Jones and let him play out what may well be his last season, or put Kennedy and Doyle together: the partnership which I think will carry us through to next season.

Garry Thompson has, for me, been the big weak link in the side recently. His performances, very much like the start of last season, haven’t really got going yet. And there will be no goal against Arsenal to kick start his form this time around.

For me it has been disappointing that Thompson hasn’t played up front while Nahki Wells has been out of action. He is, in my mind, the most natural finished at our disposal, and he also has a great strike on him. While he is obviously no Wells, he brings pace and hard work to the forward line, coupled with a bit of strength and perhaps taking a bit of the weight off James Hanson’s shoulders in terms of winning aerial battles.

However, Thompson’s performances lately haven’t been up to scratch. He rarely crosses and rarely beats a man, he is not much use out wide bar winning headers from Jon McLaughlin’s mis-hit kicks. I think he needs to be dropped perhaps to show him that he can’t just get into the team week-in week-out without providing the performances to warrant it. Perhaps it’s time to give our little Italian mystery man a go.

I am not sure at all what will happen in terms of the team on Saturday, but you cannot blame Parkinson if he sticks with as much of the same team as he can, they have, after all, got us into such a good position thus far this season.

Let’s not panic. Everyone can have a whinge, it’s allowed. After all, we don’t want to be losing to bottom of the league, who happen to have a manager we hate. But you have to look at the bigger picture, and realise that no team wins every game, and every single match in this division is a tough one. Certainly there are there are no straightforward matches, as Crawley will prove come Saturday afternoon.

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3 replies

  1. Thanks for the prematch review. An interesting one, I have to say.

    Firstly, I sit opposite a Boro fan and he too said that Bates can be a really good player. However he said they sung a song for him that went ” There’s only one Matt Bates, WHOOOOOO, there’s only Matt Bates”. The song based on the fact he’s as injury prone as Darren Anderton!

    I think it’s wrong to say that Taylor doesn’t have a career at VP when PP said only this week, or last, that he’s out on loan to get up to speed. I haven’t seen anywhere near enough of Taylor to even form an opinion but I would say its a bit soon to right him off. Remember PP only signed him weeks ago. If PP has formed the view alleged then it would be a grave immediate admission of a poor signing. I don’t think PP will do that.

    For me the only option is to start Oliver and McArdle. I have made my views clear on other mediums that I felt it was tactically naive by the management last week to play the resplendent Doyle at CB. Yes, as Joe says, he did this with aplomb. But that doesn’t address the fact that we had lost two of our three partnerships within the spine. We then chose tactically to lose the last remaining partnership that is vital to the team. I say it agin, that was wrong. It certainly was in hindsight as Tranmere didn’t even come to attack. They could have played any other player at CB and they’d have been effective.

    Kennedy was playing his first game and therefore he’s getting some slack cut from me with regard to his future. However I wasn’t overly impressed with what I saw last week. Therefore in my opionion, to suggest that he and Doyle represent the future above our own Captain Marvel is hard to comprehend. To say the least.

    I think the comments on Thommo are spot on. I am a bloody great optimist of late and moan at little. But, I have to say I don’t really get what Thommo brings to the party. And therefore it would be interesting to see Danny given a go.

    But there for me lies the worrying niggle (see, told you I’m optimistic) that I feel we have very little strength in depth. If I had the capability to write like those whose prose I enjoy on this sight weekly I would attempt to review the signings since our cup run windfall. I think it’s open for debate, even in a period of pure optimism.

    Thanks Again Joe for the review. The Pre and post match words are enjoyed very much and are a part of my weekend. Sorry to disagree. Here’s to 3 points tomorrow.

  2. No question at all that Doyle has to be moved back into central midfield to allow Gary to be pushed further forward. Jones was last week trying to do the Doyle role. Break up play and spray the passes. There was less of the driving forward and setting the pace. That was left to Kennedy and I’m afraid in the two performances against Town and Tranmere I cannot remember Kennedy making a cutting edge pass. There just didn’t seem to be any confidence in his own ability. He was too quick to play the safe pass last week. Now there is nothing wrong with patient build up play. Some of the world’s best players are renowned for this. But equally an effective playmaker (which is what Kennedy has been brought into be) must sometimes be more adventurous in their passing. There were no angled balls that allow wingers / full backs to run onto. Most passes were played so that the receiving player was on his back foot, slowing down the overall play. For me Kennedy needs to be less conservative and take a bit more of a risk.

    However, for this reason alone it is impossible to break up the Jones and Doyle partnership at the moment. City rely on Jones being pushed up further forward. He puts more pressure on opposing players around the penalty area. He drives the ball forward. With Doyle mopping up he is also able to make time to pick a pass. But he is never content of making the pass, he ensures he offers an option for a return. This was something lacking from Kennedy’s game too.

    In terms of Thompson’s role in the City team, he is a James Milner type of player. His tracking back provides more defensive cover when Reid and Meredith bomb forward down the left. With Darby also likely to overlap, Thommo will sit deep. This element of his game hasn’t been below par. His attacking elements that are associated with his game, running the channel, crosses and even cutting inside onto his left foot, have been average. Towards the end of last season he became a ‘go to’ player if a goal was need by either scoring or by providing the assist. That said he hasn’t been atrocious, and believe it is a case of not being in top form. You would have to be an extreme pessimist to say he has had a stinker of a game so far. However, I am intrigued to see how much more of an impact De Vita can have in longer spells. From what I have seen he has a burst of pace, can cross, beat a man and has a fearsome shot on him. It could be argued that because Thommo has not met his high standards seen towards the end of last season, that De Vita deserves a chance to shine.

    But ultimately everyone can have their own ideas and opinions on what is the best approach, yet it is a certain Phil Parkinson who decides. He is the one who oversees training. This man reminds me very much of a Sir Alex. He is a thinker. He expects hard work to be the most important quality. He is passionate and he sees City as a project. Therefore, whatever team he chooses, that team is the one that he believes is the most likely to get the 3 points. And at this moment in time you’d have to be a fool to disagree.

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