Another tight affair, another defeat for stalling Bantams

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Crawley Town 1

Sinclair 53

Bradford City 0

Saturday 19 October, 2013   

Written by Mark Danylczuk (images by Mike Holdsworth)

Yes, it’s two defeats on the trot and a setback to the early season form, but it’s still early days. It’s a good reality check for Bradford City and a timely test of character for the players to step up and show they can maintain their high standards and challenge in League One.

City came into the game with two changes from the team which lost to Tranmere. In came the new centre back pairing of Rory McArdle, back from international duty, and Matthew Bates, handed his City debut. Luke Oliver and Jason Kennedy missed out as Nathan Doyle reverted back to his usual central midfield role, and Mark Yeates was again given the role just to play off James Hanson up front.

The game started very scrappy with difficult wet conditions and a bout of long balls from both teams. However, the game soon settled into a rhythm with both teams content to play a patient passing game before going for the killer punch in the final third. It was Crawley who had the opening chance with Jon McLaughlin saving a Proctor shot and Drury just missing the rebound which was blocked by James Meredith. City’s first opportunity came from a long ball from Kyel Reid, headed down by Hanson and Yeates missing with a half volley over the bar.

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The first half was interspersed with Reid and Garry Thompson frequently changing wings to try and get the better of the Crawley full backs; but the visitors set their tactics out to bully and dominate the midfield which as the game wore on, became more apparent as McLaughlin was forced into a succession of decent saves as Crawley hit 10 shots on target throughout the match. City’s next best chance came from a neat exchange down the right hand side, which resulted in a deflected Yeates cross falling to Thompson who fired over from close range.

Crawley immediately responded with Proctor – a handful all afternoon – skimming McArdle with a neat turn in the box before firing a low shot straight into the hands of the City keeper. Thompson, a few moments later, was guilty of another miss; this time latching onto a half clearance from Crawley and missing an attempt to lob the keeper from just inside the opponent’s box.

The first half was generally a pretty even affair and the defence, particularly McArdle and Stephen Darby, looked very solid winning multiple headers even though a few times City were being caught short on the Crawley right wing. This occurred on the 35th minute when a ball was cut back to Mike Adams to shoot at goal which was well blocked by Yeates. The midfield pressure was beginning to tell from Crawley and City went into half time slightly the happier side at 0-0.

Crawley started where they left off and it was the midfield dominance and creativity which lead to the game’s only goal just a few minutes into the second half. It was the ever prominent Derry who slid the ball through to Emile Sinclair to tuck a tidy shot into the bottom corner, beating McLaughlin at his right hand post. A real shame for City, who did not get the chance to settle into the new half. Crawley seized on the momentum by creating more chances; the best resulting from a communication mix-up between McLaughlin and Bates in which Proctor intervened and forced the City keeper into a smart save at his near post.

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City were missing Nahki Wells. Although Yeates was trying to support Hanson – who was again superb in winning almost every ball without drawing a foul – there was a sharpness missing in getting behind the Crawley defence. City mixed it up in switching to a more rigid 4-4-2 formation with the introduction of Caleb Folan for Yeates on the hour, as Phil Parkinson was clearly unhappy with the team’s fortunes. Soon after this City again had another great chance with the Crawley keeper Paul Jones providing a superb finger-tip save from a Reid right foot shot over the bar.

The chances flowed with Crawley then hitting the bar from a miss-hit left side cross from Derry. Thompson was next to be substituted with 15 minutes to go, being replaced by Rafa De Vita. Thompson again had little impact other than one decent looking run but without the ability to beat a man or provide a decent cross, he could prove a casualty for either of next week’s fixtures. The final throw of the dice came soon after as City switched to 3-4-3 with the removal of Bates and the introduction of Alan Connell to a front three.

City continued to apply the pressure towards the end of the game, but Crawley remained well organised in defence often forcing City to play out from the back and pass back to the keeper. A number of long balls and dead ball situations resulted in the final moments, the Bantams – who usually have the presence to create chances from these situations – were unable to muster a goal even through the eight corners obtained in the entire game. Another glorious chance came in the final minute of the game where a near post corner from De Vita saw a McArdle header somehow scooped off the line, much to the despair of the City defender who held his head in his hands.

McArdle's late chance

McArdle’s late chance

An entertaining match between two willing passing sides – but the result unfortunately was just about right as Crawley slightly edged it. It’s good that City have a Tuesday fixture to bounce back from, but the coming week looks an almighty challenge in facing two top six teams in Preston and Wolves. There are bound to be changes on Tuesday and one feels Gary Jones may need a rest as he seemed slightly off the pace, although committed to the cause as usual.

You feel the next week could provide a real indicator of whether City are able to mix it with the big boys and stay in those play off places as the season unfolds. It’s time for the players to stand up and be counted as the League One season really starts to take hold, just over a quarter of the way in.

City: McLaughlin, Darby, McArdle, Bates (Connell 76), Meredith, Thompson (De Vita 72), Doyle, Jones, Reid, Yeates (Folan 64), Hanson

Not used: Ripley, Oliver, Kennedy, McHugh

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