The Crewe verdict: Plan B pays dividends

Picture by Thomas Gadd (

Picture by Thomas Gadd (


At last, a home win for Bradford City – and Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Crewe certainly wasn’t short of talking points. WOAP pundit team members Gareth Walker, Mahesh Johal, Nick Beanland and Phil Abbott run the rule over Aaron Mclean and the change of formation

What did you make of Aaron Mclean’s performance against Crewe?

Gareth: I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t see anything from Mclean that I haven’t seen before. I certainly don’t buy into the views of some people that he was much better against Crewe. I think his first touch was dreadful. He ran around a lot and put the effort in, but he has always done that and it is the main reason that I have stuck by him when others have criticised him previously.

Mclean was unlucky not to score in the first half and he did well to get onto the cross for his goal, but in all honesty I felt that we were again severely lacking in the final third and a team with a decent striker would have been 3-0 up at half time.

I don’t think that it’s all Mclean’s fault, because I don’t think that we ordinarily create that many chances for our strikers in games. Saturday was slightly different in that respect because of the change in formation and the extremely poor quality of the opposition.

Mahesh: As Gareth says it was a typical Mclean performance. There was the endeavour and effort. As per usual, there was also the mix of the ridiculous and the sublime: his first half falling over the advertising board, and second half goal, being two examples that come to mind.

I think Gareth brings a good point about creating chances for our strikers. Against Crewe we created them but they were for a striker who wasn’t playing. I’m still not 100% sure what Mclean and Billy Clarke thrive off, all I know is the pair’s goal-shy records aren’t solely their fault.

Nick: Hard to argue with Gareth – Mclean appears to be trying, but he still bears the look of someone running through treacle most of the time. To be fair to him he hasn’t had that many chances created for him so far this season, but he doesn’t look like he’s going to make any for himself.

Parkinson altered the formation to a conventional 4-4-2, what are your thoughts on this development?

Phil: A Plan B! And it was a Plan B that paid dividends, albeit against a team with little confidence or coherence.

The width that the 4-4-2 allowed was telling, in particular in the way Mclean’s contribution was facilitated. He made far fewer backwards passes, had lay-off options when he held the ball up and, of course, had something to run onto and attack, capped off by scoring his well-earned goal.

Let’s face it, Crewe were very, very poor. But there was enough from City to suggest that Plan B was credible enough to give a few more outings too, especially when James Hanson returns. Moreover, we held the ball much better – and it was refreshing to see our full backs venturing forward with confidence.

Mahesh: I’m expecting some sort of backlash for this comment, but I think way too much discussion surrounds our formations. We are a professional football side who have ambition of playing at higher levels. We should be able to adapt our system when needed. 

On Saturday we were playing a fragile side and the two wingers worked well. We stretched them, put crosses in and put their defence under pressure. Against some sides, the overhyped/discussed diamond will be the better option. Either way, we shouldn’t be a one trick pony.

Nick: The return to 4-4-2 saw far more crosses going into the box, manna from heaven for James Hanson, whose hat trick of headers were magnificently dispatched. Oh wait…it just seemed daft that, in the first half, especially cross after cross was thrown into almost indiscriminately into the box. I felt for Mclean and Clarke as they were effectively being thrown into a gunfight with a water pistol each.

It’s hard to offer too much constructive thought about the formation as Crewe were so woeful. For any fans of winning money, I suggest back Crewe to lose every weekend this season and you won’t be disappointed.

Gareth: I was pleased to see us try a 4-4-2 system because the diamond hadn’t always worked in other home games recently, and I’ve commented previously that I’d like to see us play the diamond away and a 4-4-2 at home.

It was pleasing to see Parkinson show a willingness to try a different system and hopefully this bodes well for the future. If the manager can find and introduce more pace and a greater goal threat to the side – City could be on to something.


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Categories: The Verdict

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5 replies

  1. I completely agree with Mahesh about the formation issue. Good sides are flexible and adaptable. Unfortunately, though, I don’t think we have the personnel to make 442 work to any great effect when we need it, because it requires a real winger, and at the moment we haven’t got one. It worked against Crewe – only just – but against a better team….? It obviously is a question of resources, as I can’t imagine that Parkinson doesn’t want a true winger in the squad – Reid was his first signing on day one remember.

  2. All sounds a bit downbeat considering we won.

  3. Poor Aaron McLean.

    On Saturday he worked really hard, scored a goal, had one miraculously kicked off the line, won several headers from long balls which he had no right to win and still our fans line up to criticise him – even pointing out when he fell over an advertising hoarding as he closed down a defender as some kind of negative.

    Sure – he hasn’t been a massive success since his transfer but as parky points out that is 7 goals in 17 starts. That makes him a 15 goal a season guy – not setting the world alight – but not a disaster either.

    Give the guy a break…

    • Not to be pedantic, but Mclean fell over the advertising board after a poor first touch from a pass to his feet led to the ball rolling out of play. He had raced over in an attempt to rectify his mistake (which is a positive) and then fell over the board.

      Let’s hope that he has turned the corner over the last two home games. But to date, the picture is patchy at best.

  4. What I don’t understand is this: McLean is who we have. He’s not Thorne, he’s not Hanson or whoever else you want him to be. He earns what the club offered him – why can’t people get over that.
    This focus on individuals’ weaknesses is tedious and unfair. If you don’t like him, don’t go and watch him, which means you can’t watch players you do like because they are a TEAM. Just support the club.

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