James Hanson becomes irreplaceable as Bradford City welcome Yeovil Town

Image by Mike Holdsworth

Image by Mike Holdsworth

Bradford City vs Yeovil Town preview

@Valley Parade on Saturday 6 September, 2014

By Jason McKeown

James Hanson has contributed so much positive of late that he was more than entitled to make a slip-up – although it was unfortunate that a rare mistake from the big man would cost his team their place in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

A nothing game at Boundary Park on Tuesday was drifting towards the drama of a penalty shootout – and we all know how they turn out for the Bantams – when Hanson lost possession on the edge of his own area and Oldham, with the help of some suspect Jordan Pickford goalkeeping, struck a late, late winner.

The joke on our journey home was that – if Hanson had have been sold before the transfer window closed, as was wildly rumoured – City would still be in the competition. Instead, they are out but more importantly Hanson is still a Bantam. And even on a night that the striker will want to forget, he still managed to further enhance his status of key player.

For with the top scorer rested up on the bench until the game’s final 20 minutes, an alternative universe of a Hanson-less City was presented – with discouraging results. The front two partnership of Aaron Mclean and Oli McBurnie proved largely ineffective; and though they can justifiably point to a lack of service from a poor midfield, you wouldn’t want to see the two strikers paired together without Hanson very often.

However much truth there was in those claims that Millwall, Huddersfield and Leeds had placed Hanson on their respective wanted lists, City would struggle badly if they were to lose their target man. Thank goodness the transfer window is closed for the rest of this year. Despite today’s announcement that Hanson has been pipped for the division’s player of the month award, that he was short-listed is a well-deserved external accolade for his superb opening month to the season.

Quite where the Oldham defeat leaves Mclean and McBurnie remains unclear. With the loan market opening up again next week, there is every chance of another forward being brought in to add to Phil Parkinson’s range of attacking options. At the moment, the manager favours Mason Bennett to partner for Hanson. Mclean’s lack of fitness might be a contributory reason for his reduced involvement and stuttering displays, but it’s an increasingly weak argument. At Boundary Park, we desperately wanted to see Mclean stake a claim for the nod to start up front against Yeovil. And for some much-needed evidence that could counter the growing opinion that he is proving to be a terrible signing.

It wasn’t Mclean’s night, once again. Patience is on the wane.

McBurnie certainly fared better, although expectations towards him are appropriately lower than those weighing heavily on Mclean’s shoulders. The young striker had a glorious chance to net his first City goal when he ran onto an Alan Sheehan corner, finding himself unmarked in the box. Unfortunately, his header flew harmlessly past the post when it should have hit the target.

What has been curious about McBurnie’s fledgling senior career is the lack of goalscoring opportunities he has been handed, so far. Has he been unlucky with poor service, or not taken up the right positons? Breaking his duck would clearly do wonders for his confidence, but for now the wait goes on.

The other JPT talking points were how the three other squad players, brought in on the night, fared. Christopher Routis certainly caught the eye and looks very comfortable on the ball. Mark Yeates endured a poor first half, but did improve greatly in the second. That said, when in wide positions and with players in the box, there was increasing frustration over Yeates’ failure to whip in a cross and instead choosing to dribble the ball into the box. Inevitably he would be closed down and tackled, whilst a queue of City shirts, waiting for a cross, struggled to hide their disappointment in his failure to deliver.

Then there was Matty Dolan, who struggled, in the first half especially, to convince that he deserves a place in City’s first choice diamond. At this stage of his career, former Yeovil loanee Dolan needs to be playing week in, week out; but at the moment he must be left secretly hoping for an injury to strike down Gary Liddle.

Routis aside, there was not enough shown on Tuesday night to persuade Parkinson to change the team that he picked at Rochdale. Against Yeovil on Saturday, expect the front two pairing to be Hanson and Bennett, with Mclean and McBurnie back to looking to make an impact from the bench if events of the game demand it. Billy Clarke will come in for Filipe Morais at the tip of the diamond, with Liddle, Billy Knott and Jason Kennedy taking the other spots. Kennedy ran himself into the ground on Tuesday and will benefit from the blank midweek that follows.

The back five will revert to how it lined up at Spotland, with Pickford in goal behind Stephen Darby, Rory McArdle, Alan Sheehan and James Meredith.

It has been a difficult start to the season for Yeovil, as they recover from relegation from the Championship. Whilst Bradford City were earning promotion from League Two to League One in 2012/13, above them Yeovil Town also moved up a division, via the play offs – on a budget roughly half of that which was spent at Valley Parade.

Reaching the Championship was an astonishing achievement for Gary Johnson’s side, and there was no surprise or disgrace in their immediate return. Yet it does leave them with something of an identity crisis on their return to the third tier: in the somewhat impossible position of being expected to pull off another miracle.

Like fellow relegated sides Barnsley and Doncaster, there is an assumption that Yeovil will challenge for promotion. However, the resources available, plus size and history of the club, would seemingly make this highly unlikely. With a small degree of controversy over his late arrival for the Glover’s midweek JPT defeat to Portsmouth, you get the feeling that, at some stage this season, Johnson will make his exit. With just one win so far, they certainly need to maintain their two-game record of having never lost at Valley Parade.

But with City so far sat in the top five, a position that Yeovil would expect to be, the prize on offer for the home team is clear. Another victory on Saturday would keep them amongst the early season pacesetters; and with the Swindon home game to follow next Saturday, a four or six-point haul over these two games would truly make people sit up and take notice.

Despite Tuesday’s set back, the momentum is with Bradford City – and these back-to-back home games could say a lot about the type of season they go on to experience.

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3 replies

  1. Interesting comments about McLean and he sure is becoming a major worry.
    I’m not sure how much longet the line “well at least he works hard” can be trotted out by myself and others in his favour. We are right to expect so much more.
    However, there is the other side to the argument which raises the question “how much of McLeans poor showings are actually his own fault?”. It’s interesting that you commented about Mcburnie not being presented with too many goal scoring chances during his minutes on the pitch. I think that the same can be said for Mclean really – I’m still fairly confident that if you put the ball in front of him in the box then he will more often than not hit the target. Sadly I can’t remember this happening too much.

    I also wonder if we should have gone down the route of signing an up and coming striker to replace Nahki, like McLeans old club Peterborough seem to always do, rather than aiming for a proven striker that was always going to be “on the way down” so to speak.

  2. I guess Phil Parkinson will have been praying that James Hanson stays fit for the season.
    Mr Dependable is so important I can’t see how our club could replace James (Touch Wood) should he be unavailable for a few months.
    Unbelievable how he’s the golden goose when not so long ago supporters (Big Majority) were on all the social media outlets abusing him!.
    Mr Mclean needs kick up the backside! He works hard chasing, closing down but he shouldn’t be! His game as always been goal poacher finishing moves off!. Using his intelligence to get in the box finding space.
    Every time I see him he’s not in that box sniffing out goal scoring opportunity.

  3. Sorry Gareth but if you put the ball in front of me in the box I would hit the target some of the time.

    Sorry Wayne but when have you seen McLean working hard chasing and closing down he spends most of his time Huffing and Puffing and getting nowhere.

    How long do we have to put up with the ridiculous McLeam Goal Machine chant GET REAL

    Big problem he is on one of the top Wages and has two years to run on his contract.

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