The Yeovil verdict: No need to panic, but issues to resolve

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The Width of a Post is today launching a brand new regular feature – The Verdict –which sees a team of pundits share their assessment of every home match. We’d love to get you, the valued reader, involved too – so please do leave a comment to share your thoughts on the topics debated.

Kicking off with Saturday’s disappointing 3-1 home defeat to Yeovil Town, Damien Wilkinson, Gareth Walker, Katie Whyatt, Nick Beanland and Phil Abbott speak about the performance and share judgement over where Phil Parkinson needs to enter the loan market this week.

Why do you think Bradford City fared so poorly against Yeovil? 

Gareth: Saturday was so poor. The team lacked a spark but, individually, I can’t think of anyone who had a decent game. I don’t mind losing if the effort and desire are there, but unfortunately that seemed to be lacking from eight or nine players. I don’t know if they thought that they could just show up and win or if they were tired after the hectic start to the season.

The pitch was heavy and didn’t help, but Yeovil were first to everything. You can’t write City off after one poor showing, but there was a distinct lack of drive and energy on show. Only Phil Parkinson and the players can explain why that was the case and ultimately stop it from happening again.

Katie: I have to echo Gareth’s words, really – Saturday was lacklustre and nothing like what we’ve come to expect from this team. City were careless and unambitious in possession, lacking real pace or sharpness, and were stretched against Yeovil’s pacy forwards and wingers. At both set pieces, marking was loose and sloppy; there was a real lack of communication and commitment, and I think the timing of the goals took the wind out of our sails to make it uphill pedalling from the outset.

I feel the lack of impact players on the bench highlights the lack of depth we’ll be grappling with for much of this season. What was needed more than anything was a rallying cry: I understand Gary Jones wouldn’t have fitted into the shape of this team and his departure was for the best, but the game was hankering for someone with his spirit and guile. This squad is a really exciting mix of passion, youth and well-placed experience, but none of that translated onto the pitch and it was frustrating to watch.

Phil: Let’s not panic. Yes, it was a very disappointing display. Yes, the formation faltered big style. These things do happen from time to time. The key is to put it right in the next game.

I thought Yeovil were terrific and they certainly played the atrocious conditions better than City. At times they played football of a Championship standard and the rest of the time forced us into long-ball tactics when the steady build up play of previous weeks was dispatched far too early on. In this sort of formation, when the likes of Billy Knott have such a disappointing game (littered with mistimed passes) and a back four who outmuscled their City strike counterparts, City were always going to struggle.

Having witnessed the playing surface first hand at half time, this factor cannot be discounted as significant in the way the game played out. Clearly, it was the same for both teams, but Yeovil used the ‘Bambi-on-ice’ features of several muffled clearances and misguided passes in the City ranks to gain an early and seemingly unassailable lead. This came from playing incisive, quick balls to feet, making the defensive task more difficult (in terms of closing down and sticking the breaks on). City’s response was to take the aerial route, much easier to defend from a standing start.

Nick: Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater – it was a very poor performance but these things happen from time to time and they have happened very rarely under Phil Parkinson.

I have a few concerns – one is that Pickford doesn’t command his box and thus we are prone to conceding cheap goals (see also Coventry at home).

Another is that Darby is being made to look a poorer player this season. This formation does him no favours as he doesn’t look particularly comfortable coming forward. Whilst James Meredith is better in this role, like Darby he’s got no one in front of him, making it very difficult for him to get to the byeline (not that I could see the byeline on Saturday). His crosses from deep are generally pretty easy for opposing defences to deal with.

Without pace and width to worry about Yeovil defended with relative ease and our bench options don’t offer anything different. I know he missed pre-season but John McGinlay, sorry, Aaron Mclean has looked massively out of touch so far this season, often unable even to control the ball. It’s not his fault he’s our highest paid player, but right now he’s struggling hugely.

All that said, this was our first poor performance of the season – these things will happen. Interesting that Katie questioned the players’ commitment. With this management team I would be very reluctant to make such a claim – I’d like to know who she thought wasn’t trying…

Katie: Sorry, I mean commitment in the marking of set pieces, rather than more generally.

Gareth: I have to agree with the comments regarding Aaron Mclean. I have defended him so far in his City career but it has got to the stage now where “putting a shift in” is no longer good enough. I have previously argued that he hasn’t had many goalscoring opportunities presented to him but now I am asking myself how often he actually gets himself into goalscoring positions. He is looking like another very poor signing.

Damien: I think there were some parallels with the Peterborough game in that we struggled again to deal with a team full of big, physical players.

Whilst there was possibly less cynical challenges on show we clearly struggled to defend crosses and also Yeovil managed to render James Hanson ineffective by doubling up on him.

We seemed to be unable to gain any momentum at the start of the second half when you felt a normal Parkinson team would have gone on and forced a equaliser, and this ultimately cost us. Perhaps the time to bring on a sub might have been at half time – whilst agreeing with Gareth’s comments on Mclean, I think he was always going to struggle towards the end of the game where Yeovil were in control.

Gareth: In hindsight maybe “lack of effort” was the wrong choice of words from me as it is difficult to believe that people deliberately don’t try. Maybe “lack of drive” or “lack of incisiveness” would have been more appropriate. Players were sloppy. Gary Liddle attempting a bicycle kick clearance in the opening five minutes really set the tone and is a good example.

Regarding Mclean, Damien is right, he only had a short time on the pitch so to single him out maybe is slightly harsh but it was the first time when I saw times that he really should have done better to get onto Hanson’s flick ons.

Katie: It’s still difficult to say with Mclean at this stage, as he’s obviously not fully fit. The diamond was made to suit his lack of pace to run in behind and his ‘playmaker’ kind of style, so, though few outright chances were created, I think some of the blame must lie at his door for not reading the game in the way we know he can. It’s not at all fair to judge any player on Saturday alone, because it needs to be chalked off as a bad day at the office, but it’s been evident for a while now.

It’s not just his inability to link up with Hanson, but he ironically seems at odds with the wider style of play sometimes. I’m patient with Mclean and know he should come good eventually, but the early signs this season don’t bode well. He found form towards the end of last year, so fingers crossed.

It’s important to not read too much into this game and to remember that, with Mclean, we’re judging him on largely fragmented and irregular appearances. More game time – of course, only when he’s ready – will be the key, as only then will the team learn to flow as a unit with him in.

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The loan window opens on Monday and Phil Parkinson reportedly has £150k of his playing budget left to spend. Do you think he should bring in someone now, or save this money for later in the season?

Damien: I would possibly look for a out and out winger, but generally I would stick with what we have got and try and fine tune that until the end of the year. Having said that you do wonder who we would cope with the loss of Hanson…

Phil: At face value, and we can only really guess Parky’s plan B, but Saturday, the diamond midfield was clearly not working. There seemed little in the onlooking City armoury to have the ability to change this. I’d like to see a couple of wide players join the club, preferably with the ability to beat a defender around the outside. Stephen Darby and James Meredith have struggled to find enough width and go forward often enough and it seems they might be reticent to leave the back door open on the counter-attack.

Yeovil’s ability to flood the midfield caused havoc to a formation that seemed brittle, yet unchangeable.

Gareth: I’m not sure that I’d be rushing into the transfer market for a panic signing right now. I think it’s more a case of waiting for the right players to become available and then making a move for them when they are.

There is a distinct lack of pace in the squad which means we can look short of a spark at times. I would like to see this rectified so that we have a Plan B to turn to when the diamond might not be working.

Last season a criticism levelled at Parkinson was that when our style of play wasn’t working there was no alternative. We seem to have changed our style this season, but we still only have one way of playing.

Katie: I don’t know if we have NO Plan B – I believe the versatility of the squad means there are alternatives there, but what we needed are an additional few faces – and pace – to make these ideas viable. With this in mind, I think I’d split this money, using half now (but, as Gareth says, not rushing into anything and placing the right type of player above the date he’s brought in) and saving the other half for January.

Financial rules will mean that windfall can’t be saved for next season, but the thin nature of the squad means injuries will hit City harder if – or, more accurately, when – they occur this year. Bradford need money in the bank to compensate for this; otherwise, they’ll simply be treading water for large chunks of the campaign.

That said, this game needs to be kept in context and, though it highlighted weaknesses, I don’t feel now is the time for panic stations. I think it’s indicative more of a blip than a wider, deep-rooted malaise, and I’m sure any transfer activity in its wake will be responsive but considered.

Nick: We all know the budget has been trimmed this season and I think Parkinson has spent what he’s got very wisely. The most obvious missing link looked especially glaring yesterday – the lack of pace in wide areas. It was crying out for a Kyel Reid type to open the game up. It’s possible Morais could have offered something in that role had he been available yesterday, but he doesn’t look particularly quick.

I’d look to spend some of the budget now to bring a winger in and I would guess Parkinson has had that in his thoughts for some time.

“Currently more emotionally invested in the career of James Hanson than he is in his own” – meet the WOAP pundits.

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Categories: The Verdict

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6 replies

  1. The more I think about it, the more I wonder if the root of the problem was the playing surface. Against a big side like Yeovil there’s a strong argument for playing a quick passing game on the floor, where big defenders are at a disadvantage due to their slower acceleration/change of direction. We certainly have the players for it, so I can see why the manager or coaching team could have decided to work on that before the game. However, the pitch was very wet and our players had their close-control shot to pieces, which would explain their hesitancy on the ball.

  2. I ve been to most games this season about 90% so far and our problem is someone who can take a player on and releive the pressure. I can count on 1 hand how many players we have taken on. What we normally do is stop and play it back to a defender ( Meredith has been the worst at this so far). I wasnt a massive Kyel Reid fan but on his day he was brilliant at this.

    I also dont think Morais is the answer as he’s started 4 games and I cant remember a time he has even attempted to beat his man never mind do it.

    We also need pace in our team and I genuinely beleive if we had these two ingredients on Saturday we would have beaten Yeovil and Peterborough (who I wasnt that impressed with).

    So for me Phil needs to bring some players in who can take players on with pace as well as a goal scorer (easy said than done I know) and then we could make the play-offs.

    I do think with the system we play we are better away than at home but hopefully Saturday was just a blip and doesnt become the norm

  3. I think there is an issue City may run into quite a lot this season when they face the more ‘lenient’ referees. We were simply bullied in the opening periods of the game and a stricter referee would have come down harder on the Yeovil players. Having said that after this period they played some very good stuff but I think their rough house tactics had put a number of our players off. A side of the game that the likes of Jones and Doyle would have relished.
    I also think that any criticism of Hanson is wide of the mark he was simply being fouled on every occasion. Being wrestled on every offensive set piece which is simply a penalty even in the Craven League never mind professional football! I noticed that after every attacking set piece he was having to retuck his shirt in. I think he needs to be a little cleverer in these situations and ensure he gets the referees attention when the ball is delivered (he may have done so and the referee despite wording the defender before corners wasn’t bold enough to give what he thought is a ‘soft’ penalty). If that is the case perhaps we should have taken the same approach with Martin.

    • I agree with you Luke. I thought Hanson won his fair share of balls on Saturday but didn’t get the rub of the green as far as the referee was concerned.

      The problem we had was that the crosses were being delivered from deep positions and nobody was running off him effectively. We need to either

      1. Get a bit of pace out wide and cross from the by line so that James is facing goal and the defenders are on the turn or
      2. Get someone closer to him – a la Wells. McLean for me has been disappointing so far. He really needs to show some form if we are to do well this season or
      3. Find a way of playing without Hanson.

  4. Yeovil played at a good tempo, moved quickly from defence to attack and were always pressing our players when we had possession. We did the opposite! We seemed to back off when they had possession of the ball and thus they were able to dominate in midfield. It pains me to say it, but I think Yeovil wanted a result more than us. Possibly a reaction to their much reported “off field problems”. I’m sure everyone at City will have learnt from the experience.

  5. I’m totally on board with the idea of the diamond and it’s great to watch when it works, but it seems as though Parky’s reluctance to apply any other approach suggests he would see that as an admission of defeat if he was to do so.

    I reckon that on Saturday when the diamond evidently wasn’t working early on, we would have benefitted from reverting to a more traditional 4-4-2 for a while with Clarke (or Bennett for pace) at RM and Knott at LM. Even if it had only been for 20 minutes, it would have given us opportunity to break the momentum Yeovil obviously had and gradually impose ourselves on the game. With their flow (hopefully) broken, we could have looked to deploy the diamond again later in the game.

    There are enough versatile players in the team to change the system without making early subs, so I don’t see why we wouldn’t consider taking advantage of that.

    Changing the system when it’s not working is not admitting defeat, but persevering with it when it has obviously been sussed by the opposition is certainly inviting defeat.

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