Is it only a cup? Bradford City lose to Rotherham, again

Byline Claire Epton/Bradford City FC

Rotherham United 3

Agard 12+71, Revell 62

Bradford City 0

Saturday 9 November, 2013

Written by Joe Cockburn (image by Claire Epton, see note below)

You could, as certain fans did, come away from Rotherham saying, “Oh well, it’s only a cup, we can focus on the league now”. But, for me, that isn’t an acceptable excuse for the woeful performance 2,138 of us were subjected to on Saturday afternoon.

Rotherham are a team in our league who, if the early table is anything to go by, we are very much fighting against for a play off place. City fielded a full strength XI, as if it was a full league game. That team got beat. Comprehensively.

But it’s nothing new. City put in a not dissimilar performance at Crewe, and the immediate reaction was that if nothing changes in terms of attitude, personnel, attacking threat, then Rotherham will embarrass us.

Nothing changed.

Rotherham embarrassed us.

There were some articles, on Width of a Post and other City blog sites, in the run up to this game which I disagreed with. The game had nothing to do with their manager, and there were no dirty, spoiling tactics. So the reaction to the game should also leave him out of it.

Rotherham played a similar style to us, quite direct at first before getting it down in the final third, and also using set pieces as a real threat. And they showed us just how it should be done. They knew how to stop it from us and where we were weak, and they made us look like a poor, poor side.

Alex Revell absolutely destroyed Rory McArdle. The Irish defender has been great for the larger part of this season, but since Andrew Davies has been out injured, he has had to take the more “hardman” centre half role, winning the headers and stopping these big players in the air and cutting off their supply line. For me, he has so far failed to do that, and this was truly highlighted by Revell.

Something certainly needs to change in the heart of that defence, a more leader type needs to come in and replace one of McArdle or Matthew Bates, be it Matt Taylor or Luke Oliver (I have no faith in Taylor, but he hasn’t exactly had a wealth of play time in the claret and amber) and it may be a slight blessing in disguise that McArdle is away with Northern Ireland next weekend.

Then we come to the middle of midfield. Nathan Doyle and Gary Jones were, once again, overran in midfield. The game just totally passed the both of them by, all they could seem to offer was hooking it on high in the air. I think the problem with Jones has been evident for a number of games now: the pace of play and other midfielders has left him trailing in his opposite numbers’ wake. You just look at Michael O’Connor yesterday who was up and down and in and around the box at both ends, and carried a real presence when there. Whether Jason Kennedy is the answer or not, something definitely needs to change. It would take a brave call from Parkinson to drop Jones, but one that I think he needs to make.

It is clear that Nahki Wells is not fit. It is obviously hard coming back from a month out, but it looks to me like he has even put on a bit of weight, and, as at Crewe, was just not involved at all. At Rotherham there were a few balls through that the Nahki Wells at the start of the season would have latched on to and put away. But he was always one step away or a yard off the pace. Whether he needs to put in extra effort at training, or if it will just take a couple more matches to regain the sharpness, we can’t afford to carry Nahki Wells. Not against quality opposition like Rotherham, or Coventry.

Finally, wingers. Rafa De Vita was great in his first two starts, at Preston and against Wolves. But he just didn’t get involved on Saturday. Whenever Stephen Darby was on the ball, he would always be on the inside hiding behind an opposition player, forcing Darby into the punt forward. That just isn’t the way we want him to play. If we want someone to do that we might as well just play Mark Yeates.

And then we come to Kyel Reid. He definitely needs to be dropped next weekend. Yes he is a threat, yes he worries opposition defenders, and yes they had to double up on him. But that isn’t a good thing when Reid isn’t creating chances or using the ball at all. He just didn’t look interested at Rotherham. He wasn’t running, wasn’t offering anything when his teammates had the ball, and didn’t take on the full back despite the fact he was booked after about 15 minutes. He has been below par ever since he scored at Walsall (bar Preston) and he needs to be shown that he isn’t guaranteed a place in the team, and also before the fans really turn on him, as there has been much less support for him.

The only positive coming away from the New York Stadium was Jon McLaughlin’s performance. I thought he was excellent, and it would have been 6-0 without his three fine first half saves.

I hate being so negative, and it does feel like a bit of a whinge, but when we have played like that for so long, without any reaction, it is time something finally changes.

But, thankfully, it doesn’t seem that Phil Parkinson has come out of the game with his usual “we can take plenty of positives” line. He has finally had a go at the players and demanded a reaction before an even tougher game, which hopefully to our benefit is on TV.

City: McLaughlin, Darby, McArdle, Bates, Meredith, De Vita (Yeates 63), Doyle (Kennedy 74), Jones, Reid, Hanson, Wells (McBurnie 82)

Not used: Ripley, McHugh, Taylor, Thompson

Editor’s note: Special thanks to Claire Epton for providing the image included in this report. Take a read of her superb site:


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Categories: Match Reviews

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9 replies

  1. Very honest assessment of the game which I agree with. City haven’t truly played well since the Preston game. The team spirit and work rate we they usually have in abundance is missing at the moment. I thought only McLaughlin, Darby and Hanson came away with some credit yesterday, plus it was good of Parkinson to let McBurnie have a run out and experience 1st team football for the last 8 minutes. A 3-0 down and the game effectively lost, it was worth giving the youngster a run out even if it was for a few minutes.

    Not counting the Hartlepool game in the JPT, City haven’t been as comprehensively beaten since the Exeter game last March. After that game Parkinson held a team meeting and I suspect that this is needed this week. Something has gone wrong and it will need fixing before the game against Coventry next Sunday. Yes, losing Andrew Davies is a big loss and I agree that Nahki Wells doesn’t look fully fit yet. In defence of Kyel Reid, I think many of us would shirk out of some of he challenges that he has to endure. I sense there is a frustration at these challenges are going unpunished making him (and others) fear getting injured.

    I agree with Joe’s comments regarding Rory McArdle and though Bates isn’t playing badly, maybe he isn’t the right central defensive partner for McArdle. Bates can also play in midfield and I’d like to see what he is like in that position. It almost seems heresy talking about dropping Gary Jones, but he looks like he could do with a rest at the moment. I actually think Doyle didn’t do too bad yesterday and at least he was prepared to get stuck in which was needed to match Rotherham’s work ethic which surprisingly was far better than ours. If City missed anyone in midfield it was a Ricky Ravenhill type of player, but he is out on loan at Northampton Town now and is currently the only City player left in the FA Cup ( and on the TV as I type!).

    Two years ago when City were still struggling away from home, Parkinson changed the formation and City gained two 0-0 draws against Swindon and Gillingham. And certainly for the upcoming away games at MK Dons and Oldham perhaps a similar plan to frustrate the home side and see what we could get on the break is needed. Whilst for whatever reason that confidence is low at the moment, City need to get back to basics, working hard and certainly stopping the opposition swinging in crosses which seem to be our undoing. I reckon the last 8 goals conceded have come from our inability to defend crosses properly.
    Phil Parkinson and Steve Parkin won’t need reminding of this and I’m sure they’ll be working hard this week to remedy the situation. #inparkywestilltrust

  2. The defence is easy to sort out. Back four of Darby, McHugh, McArdle and Meredith. Bring Yeates and Thompson in as well. Jonny Mac was awesome yesterday – finally getting the backing he deserves.

  3. Don’t think there is a miracle ‘on switch’ to correct the problems. I think it’s a confidence matter and system problem. This run is similar to after the cup final, when similar characteristics crept into the side’s game. The goals have dried up, as have the creation of chances. Midfield, seems to have lost the energy needed to recover the ball and set the tempo as well as protect the back line. This puts a lot more stress on our backline, so they are overloaded and kept busier for longer periods of the game. The fact that Davies is missing is also vital.

    McArdle is away on international next week so putting Oliver or Taylor into the back line might freshen things up. It might also be worth changing the shape of the midfield by having 3 central midfielders. Having Doyle mopping up and allowing two others to push further forward. Using Yeates in a free role of the three midfielders and alongside Jones or Bates. It would be a very tough call to leave Jones out, even if his performance was poor yesterday, his performance against Wolves was very good and he led by example by driving the team forward in that game.

    If 3 central midfielders are deployed you could keep De VIta and Reid in the side to provide the pace down the flanks and assist Hanson (who seems to undroppable.) However as much as Hanson has improved in the last season, it still seems that there a elements to his game that limit the attacking capabilities of the side: his lack of acceleration/mobility to beat a defender, inability to play alongside a striker other than Wells, which relates to his inconsistency to play the correct pass/knock down. Sometimes City get into promising attacking positions that break down due to poor decision making in the forward positions.

    Bearing this in mind and keeping the three central midfielders, adopting a flexible forward three in Wells, Thompson and either Reid or De Vita may be more viable. Pace, intelligence and players that can interchange their positions. This is how Wolves play, in that the strikers drop off the defenders / pull out wide, the midfielders push forward and overall making it hard for the opposition to defend against. I just think at the moment we are too predictable and a lot of it is due to the rigidness of the current formation. It would also send a message to the players dropped, that they are not immune from the subs bench.

    To summarise, it is my opinion that a lack of confidence (from a run of poor results) and the limitations in the side’s formation are having an effect on current results. Being overpowered in midfield could be resolved by changing to a central midfield of three. This should in theory provide more protection for the backline, who in turn can concentrate for longer spells as they wouldn’t be under the cosh as often. By changing the forward personnel to a ‘front three’ should create more flexibility in formation, that could also help see more chances created in front of goal. Yeates playing as one of the three central midfielders may see a more intelligent style of play adopted by the side, through his positional play, combined with his and Doyle’s range of passing. It would be hard to drop Jones but with Doyle able to sit in front of the back four, and being part of a midfield three would hopefully not see the game bypass energetic captain.

    • Like you Andy, the way that Wolves played at VP left a strong impression on me. I’ve long been an advocate of having more people in midfield and the change-positions approach that is so hard to defend against. However, I’m not sure that City have the right players to make it work. Certainly we have Doyle for the deep role, but I don’t think we have the midfielders who can get into the box in the way that would make this work. I don’t think we ever replaced David Syers well, and though that hasn’t mattered for a time you do wonder if the evolution of the squad now needs to go back that way.

      That said, the Hanson and Wells partnership is so effective that you can understand why Parkinson has built the team around it. Although your comments on Hanson’s weaknesses might be right, I’m not sure if it such an issue when judged against his considerable strengths. As for criticising Hanson for not forming a partnership with anyone else, well the same is true of Wells to be honest.

  4. I can’t agree that De vita was good against Preston or Wolves. An assist and a goal aside, he has been poor all season. Reid is the only wide player to at well at at any point this season.

    Doyle has been our best player this season by far and him and Mcardle were the only players to come out of Crewe with much credit.

    To the above poster suggesting dropping Hanson – I dispair, I really do.

  5. Yes the Hanson and Wells partnership is definitely effective.Having re-read my original post I can understand why that came across as negative. Wasn’t meant to come across as ‘Hanson bashing’ and he is very effective in what he does. Was just suggesting an alternative formation (plan B or even C) in order to find a change in style of play. As I said he has improved greatly. I was just pointing out areas where I think he needs to improve. I could have pointed out that I think Reid needs to run at defenders more if he is to be more effective, yet equally he is important to the side in terms of creating space for others to exploit, his ability to create a match winning opportunity etc.

  6. Obviously nobody likes to lose matches and certainly not Cup ones to a rival yorkshire club who have ‘him’ as a manager and by 3 goals. It has been a disappointing run of results and performances are nowhere near the standard we’ve previously shown, but in your article at the bottom you state
    “I hate being so negative, and it does feel like a bit of a whinge, but when we have played like that for so long, without any reaction, it is time something finally changes.” It’s the ‘have played like that for so long’ that I can’t get my head round. There are too many supporters (and I use that term very loosely) that are quick to turn on a team, look at Spurs yesterday and their reaction to a rare home defeat. I’m sure Joe isn’t one of these, but what we don’t want is to give ammunition to the negative few, by seeing their kind of negative idealism posted on an internet article. It’s not REALLY ‘that long’!! When I looked at the fixture list before the season, I remember thinking to myself that this was always going to be a tough spell, when you add to that the huge loss of arguably the best defender in League One and the spell out for Nahki. The Tranmere defeat was the biggest disappointment, but just shows how unpredictable football can be and I still believe if we’d have had a stronger referee on that day, we wouldn’t have left empty handed.
    This is still a learning curve, one which we’ve adapted to brilliantly so far and despite this dip, still sees us occupy a play-off spot for a place in the Championship!!! 7 months ago we were treading water below the play-offs in League Two, so this run really can’t be ‘that long’. This weekend sees us play another of the really quality sides in this division in Coventry City. I suspect we’re in for a tough 90 minutes, but should we fall to another defeat the worst thing that could possibly happen is for a reaction by the home fans. This season we’ve been a real 12th man and it still feels like we’re all in this together, lets keep it that way by having a little perspective. It’s a poor run of results, but it was a tough run of games, patience is the key. There are things that aren’t quite right at the minute and confidence really can be crucial, but lets help, not hinder, in getting us through this ready to go again rather than returning to the negative bad old days.

  7. I’m not excusing what was evidently a poor performance, but it seems to me Rotherham have won the psychological battle with City. Evans and his cronies can beat CIty every game – but they can’t beat anyone else and we can, so all is not lost.

    It reminds me of Huddersfield who beat Leeds every game, but can’t beat anyone else and will no doubt be in the relegation battle again this season.

  8. I like the way Preston formation worked as a 3-5-2 (Huddersfield was similar), and think it would work for us – especially as we seem to struggle defensively and in midfield and would be more fluid and less predictable. The problem is it takes a whole pre season to get right and also causes other issues when you swap and change. I get the impression that the players would have to think to much, in the same way they did when Wells was out and there was no obvious outball to keep possession …

    If there was enough time i’d look at a formation of


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