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.