Slide away

Picture by Thomas Gadd (

Picture by Thomas Gadd (

Bradford City 0

Sheffield United 2

Harris 66, McNulty 83

Saturday 18 October, 2014

By Jason McKeown

This sudden outbreak of adversity does not bode well for Bradford City. Back-to-back defeats have firmly placed a negative slant to the early season mood. In this latest loss, the team captain was sent off and the club captain made a result-sealing mistake. When even those who you can always depend on start to make costly errors, you know these are difficult times.

The stats suddenly make troubling reading. This was a fourth home defeat from seven league games; and since the start of the September it’s just two league and cup victories from eight. What appeared to be such an encouraging opening month to the campaign is beginning to seem like a distant memory. And up next are two of the most difficult away matches you could ask for.

It could yet get worse, before it gets better.

Only nine seconds had been played in the second half when referee Simon Hooper blew up for Stephen Darby’s tug on Jamie Murphy. Already on a yellow card after a reckless lunge five minutes before half time, the City right back was turned and in desperation twice pulled back his opponent. There was no argument in the second booking issued to the City skipper – it was one of the most straightforward red cards you will ever see. But with 44 minutes left on the clock, it tipped a tight contest firmly in favour of Sheffield United.

The visitors subsequently dominated possession and showed commendable patience in waiting for their opportunities. Eventually, left back Bob Harris found space on the edge of the area to emphatically smash home his-ever goal for the Blades. And though City belatedly staged a late rally, Andrew Davies was undone by a ball that bobbled over his foot and through for substitute Marc McNulty to run clean through and smash home the second.

And it was tough on City in many ways. Almost back to full strength with the return of James Hanson from injury, they gave as good as they got in the first half – as the front trio of Billy Clarke, Aaron Mclean and Hanson linked up reasonably effectively.

With Gary Liddle suspended, the decision to play Christopher Routis at the base of the diamond was a masterstroke. Routis sat in front of his back four, consistently won back possession and showed a great range of passing to set up attacking moves. The Frenchman looks very at home in this role, and his greater discipline in maintaining his position allowed Mark Yeates and Jason Kennedy to push forward. The first half performance was decent.

Sheffield United always carried the greater cutting edge. Out wide, Jamal Campbell-Ryce put in a mixed display but carried a threat throughout. He routinely beat his former Notts County team mate, Alan Sheehan, although his crossing was wasteful. Jose Baxter was also effective on the opposite flank, and he and Murphy regularly tested Jordan Pickford.

Darby’s early dismissal changed everything, leaving his manager Phil Parkinson – who was still walking down the touchline for the start of the second half when the incident occurred – with a huge problem. He pushed Routis to right back and sacrificed Mclean, so Filipe Morais could take his place in a revised 4-4-1. But without Routis in front of the back four, Sheffield United found it much easier to cut through. Parkinson evidently realised this and quickly threw on Billy Knott to sit in the centre of midfield alongside Kennedy. The game turned into a training session of defence vs attack.

Harris’ superb strike left City with the problem of needing to get forward, and in truth a better side than Sheffield United would have clinically pressed home their huge advantage. They had two very good penalty shouts turned away – especially when Rory McArdle wrestled Stefan Scougall to the floor right in front of Hooper. Yet as the minutes ticked by, the visitors increasingly sat back rather than ruthlessly finish off the game – and City slowly began to find encouragement.

Hanson’s tame header from a corner, after 70 minutes, was the Bantams’ first effort on target all evening. Seven minutes later, a Sheehan free kick flew under a pathetic Sheffield United wall and forced a brilliant save from ex-City trialist Mark Howard. The biggest chance of all fell to Kennedy, however. Superb work by Routis enabled Yeates to whip a cross straight into the path of an unmarked Kennedy, but his header smashed against the post when the former Rochdale man should have scored. It was a shame that such an opportunity hadn’t fallen to Jon Stead; after he came on as sub for a tired Hanson and led the line well.

Davies then had a header cleared off the line, as a grandstand finish looked in prospect; but less than a minute later, McNulty latched onto the stand-in captain’s’ mis-control to finish off the game. City kept going in the closing stages and Yeates – who had yet another good game – was desperately unlucky with a jinking run and chip that hit the bar. Special mention to Morais too, who caused problems and forced two late saves from Howard.

Nevertheless it’s hard to shake off the feeling of despondency. A Tuesday night trip to runaway leaders and still unbeaten Bristol City is the worst possible follow-up fixture – although it would be typical of the Bantams to rip up the form book and get something from Aston Gate. Then it’s in-form Oldham at Boundary Park next Saturday, followed by another home Yorkshire derby against Doncaster.

Momentum is such a big thing in football, and Bradford City’s has completely disappeared right now. That glorious week where Leeds United and Rochdale were defeated should have been the platform for a tilt at promotion – but already it looks like a season of consolidation at best. City are not out of their depth and have a squad that should be good enough to avoid any serious relegation concerns, but the pressure is starting to mount during what are still relatively early days.

The turnaround needs to happen and happen fast. Previous Phil Parkinson sides have often being at their best when their backs are up against the wall – ably demonstrating their true character when the chips are down.

It’s time to found out if the new guard are made of the same stuff.

City: Pickford, Darby, McArdle, Davies, Sheehan, Routis, Kennedy, Yeates, Clarke (Knott 57), Mclean (Morais 53), Hanson (Stead 74)

Not used: Williams, Meredith, Dolan, Halliday


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18 replies

  1. I always enjoy your reports and rarely disagree, but I didn’t see any effective link up in the first half between the front three and believe we did not have a single shot on target in that half.

    • Thank you John.

      I’ll be honest I am not a fan of Mclean at all, and haven’t been since last season. I and some other WOAP writers gave him a bit of stick after the Crewe game and we got hammered for it by a few readers so I’ve tried to lay off him. At some stage he is going to be subject to a very critical article from me, but hard to blame him today given we had to sacrifice him at 0-0.

      I thought that Billy Clarke was a lot better in the hole and he played well in the first half. He’s not a striker for me but I like him in midfield. There was some good attacking build up play at times from City and Hanson and to a lesser extent played a part in that. I agree it didn’t translate into shots on goal, but I thought the first half was very even and there were positives from a City point of view.

      • I totally echo Johns sentiments. Not a shot on target. It’s becoming a common theme. We are totally ineffective upfront. I readily accept we are not as good a team without Hanson in it, but I think his contribution yesterday, and overall is too positively amplified. It simply isn’t enough to win it, he needs to put it in front of whoever plays with him.

        Many times yesterday he needed to use his noggin to greater effect and hold the ball up. We needed him to act as a pressure release but he rarely did so. I say this not to be too critical as the team needs him, but to add a new slant to the article and balance to the argument about our cutting edge.

        McClean is becoming in defendable but yet he’s scored only 2 goals less than Hanson. I think that says it all about our goal threat to be honest.

        Moving towards the back of the park, Pickford, McArdle and Routis emerged with real credit for me. What has this silly diamond done to last years POTY Darby? It’s heartbreaking to see the criticism he’s getting.

        Sheehan continues to get played despite, in my opinion, offering far less than Meridith.

        And now tin hat time. We all love Davies but he’s been poor this year at times. He’s cost us a good few goals already. I’m not alone in thinking this. Only last night a seasoned fan and sensible tweeter said the same. He’s not an emotive tweeter, more a considered guy who’s opinion you grow to enjoy. I tend to agree with him.

        I don’t like the diamond. It’s boring to watch. Oh how good it was to watch a fast, exciting winger again yesterday, and yes he was just like Reidy. The end product not matching the exciting build up! But it gets your bum off your seat doesn’t it.

        I’m going to be honest. I don’t like the make up of our midfield. We have two players in it who couldn’t get a game last year and who are now playing because they had a year left on their contracts and the budget was blown. That’s the harsh business reality of it. To soften that Kennedy started like a train. He’s petered out a little as times gone on. Yeates hasn’t been bad. Equally he hasn’t been that good.

        I am going to reserve judgment on Knott and Liddle. I’d like to give them a full season before commenting. Knotts a young lad and both are honest players so I won’t be critical other than to say I’d like to see more consistency from both.

        Sorry if this comes across as negative but I’m rather despondent at the moment and for a reason I can’t put my finger on just aren’t revved up about this season. I think it peaked as I left VP after the Leeds game. Do others feel that?

  2. Thanks for the post, excellent as usual, however like John I thought we were very ineffective in the first half. McLean was very poor, the worst that I have seen him. 2 yards off everything he looks uninterested and unhappy. Hanson provided plenty of good knock downs for him but half the time he didn’t even challenge. There was a lot of cheering near me when he went off (of the glad to see the back of you type), the crowd sadly are turning against him, it’s the first time I recall this since the days of Barry Conlon.

    The sending off for me seemed very soft, from the first minute Sheffield seemed to be trying to get a City player sent off. Some of the reactions to Hansons challenges in the first few minutes would have been comical if the intent wasn’t so bad. The Sheffield management jumped up like someone had electrified the bench, the ref was surrounded by a sea of red and white, the outcome was inevitable.
    We seem stuck with the diamond but it doesn’t work, our squad is set up for it and Parkinson will need a big swallow of pride to drop it. I fear that we lack cutting edge, McLean isn’t the answer but we can’t afford to replace him unless he goes of his own accord. It’s going to be a long season.

  3. We have a massive financial problem with McClean. Nobody will take him off our hands and I am afraid PP has bought a dud . I have tried to defend him with my colleagues who wrote him off ages ago but it is difficult when you see him incapable of linking up with anyone. With almost 2 years left on his contract it’s a financial headache.

  4. Points:- this is the type of full-blooded Yorkshire derby we have been missing
    – we have a focus when we have Hanson – he won everything (am I missing somethig, is he THAT dirty???)
    -I was proud of the City support after Darby’s dismissal, full-voiced, drowning out any Utd noise,really behind the team,brilliant. What a feeling to be part of that.
    -didn’t their number 20 play like Kyel Reid? – dead fast, lousy crosses (I see Kyel played for Preston today – good luck to him – oh, and a hat-trick for Gary Thompson and a goal for Gary Jones, too)

  5. Personally I feel we are in a similar situation to the Todd era in that maintenance of League One status has to be deemed a success. Those calling for Parkys head take note.
    I have defended McLean but hopefully pride and maybe a move back down South at the expense of financial gain will make him ask to be released
    The diamond is not working and the the midfield cannot carry two luxury players in Clarke and Yeates. The latter is in fine form so I would choose him. Perhaps time to go 4-5-1 now we have a left sided midfielder in. Hanson and Stead both have the qualities to play the lone forward role. Darby has struggled all season. I think the burden of being captain is affecting him and he will be better relieved of it. Davies and Liddle spring to mind.

    It is not all doom and gloom though as the club have unearthed a gem in Routis. At present I would play him at right back. Morais deserves a run as at least he goes for the jugular even it does not always pay off.

    The actions of players to getting others sent off is sad. What happened to the days when players asked referees NOT to book opponents. Perhaps the PFA needs to get involved. I gave up on watching the Premier League a few years ago, cancelled my television contract and can’t be bothered with highlights now.

    Finally recent results have been disappointing but only that and the saddest two incidents have come off the pitch. The fans fighting each other at Barnsley and yesterday two young children in tears behind the Kop as I went in. They and their father were clearly upset at the nature of the stewarding.I think the club need to have a word with the “security” company. Does it add to the match day experience when ladies are asked to reveal the contents of their handbags and young children searched ?

    Keep up the good work Jason and all City fans keep your chins up the good days will return.

  6. I agree with Tim, the response of the fans to the goal was fantastic and the support throughout was positive ! We need to encourage our players to be bold and shoot from outside the box. Harris took the opportunity clinically, in the same position we would have passed backwards !

    Routis looks impressive and Hansons return provides hope,given Sunderlands performance yesterday I hope Pickford is not recalled.

  7. So much negativity, particularly from Ben, and yesterday evening similar comments on Pulse. Personally it seemed to me that the game hinged on Darby’s misjudgment – although in that incident Yeates could have done much more, but his contribution in defence is often lacking, but in attack he is very creative. I thought we played OK, and it is difficult to accept such down beat comments – we could/should have been level (with the header) but a minute later the game was gone. These are the margins that decide the game (not “the diamond” or” the hole”) formation options which would not have been mentioned of our 10 had got a point. Support the team.

  8. I don’t understand why so many city fans have such positive memories of Kyel Reid. He was routinely awful for us. He may have been theoretically quick but his pace never impacted a game because he never wanted to take his man on for pace. And his dribbling was laughable – five times a game he would beat the full back, stop, let him get back into position and try to beat him again, giving the centre halves all the time in the world to pick up runners in the box. The argument that he would play at a higher level if he were better is irrelevant. There are effective players at every level and he wasn’t one.

  9. The diamond was the answer to the call from Mr Lawn/Mr Rhodes to have more entertainment this season, personally I was more entertained last season, we are ponderous in our build-up. Don’t get me wrong I would rather see slick passing and movement than lumping a ball 60 yards but we don’t seem capable of the former. I know Reid (and Daley before him) had his faults but the knowledge that he could spank one in like he did at Walsall or dominate a game like he did at Deepdale last season got me excited, he was also a very good out ball to relieve pressure and get us up the pitch. I’ll keep my thoughts on several players to myself as I think overt criticism isn’t helpful but there are number of players who appear to have larger egos than their ability is able to back up and they need to start delivering soon. Routis is a great find, a bit raw but plenty of skill and his work rate and determination are an example to others. His place in the side yesterday left me wondering a bit about Matty Dolan on the drive home, Parky wanted to sign him permanently in January but we got him on loan anyway so he must have thought highly of him yet when the midfield has been changed around this season due to poor form and suspensions he hasn’t had a look in. I know he’s been injured but has Parky lost faith in him?

    • Mr Wright, I take my hat off to you. I think you’ve nailed the issue totally. Or certainly my view on the issue in any event.

      Not one fan, or commentator, or critic had mentioned a diamond. A new style of play was not mooted on the last day of last season. Last season was at times frustrating, we had a dreadful run, we almost flirted with relegation, but we all accepted that Phil Parkinson’s style of playing to his limit squads strengths was the way to go. It served us well in the best season of this clubs history. He understood that with a small squad he must allow them to do what they could do within a drilled formation.

      Fast forward to an article in the T&A. We demand more attacking football said the board. Now, was that the beginning of what we now watch? Personally I honestly believe PP should have said something along the lines of “you’re my bosses, my paymasters, but i pick this team and the tactics and I have a proven track record of success. Please butt out and leave me be”.

      Was he weak to accede to that request? Should he have listened? These questions are not rhetorical. I don’t know. But I do have an opinion. He should have stuck by his principles and his philosophy. He should have let the papers talked the chairmans talk but carried on regardless. I’ve been lucky to spend time with PP and more so on this point Mr Parkin. I can’t believe they were seemingly dictated to. Because that involved a massive overhaul that doesn’t SEEM to have paid off.

      I think PP should remain, for a long time, as our manager. He is however not without fault and I think the post upon which I comment on, and my thoughts, are quite properly constructive. When you have achieved what he has, in his career and at this club, he has the right to not play the chairmans paper game.

      • Hi Ben.

        Whilst I do agree with your comments about the two chairmen, it needs to be noted that elements of our support were also demanding a change of playing style from Parkinson. There were a lot of (in my opinion) unfair complaints about so-called ‘hoof-ball’ and they wanted to see a more passing style of football.

        So I think some of our fans share responsibility in this change of direction too.

  10. The main concern for me at the moment is how the pre-season promise of a more attack minded style of play, has so far failed to materialise. I realise the club have to have a ‘selling point’ pre-season to move season tickets, but I just wonder how long our fans will accept the ‘spin’, along with the not so attractive mediocre style of football currently on offer.
    We have attracted many new fans due
    to the fantastic exploits of a couple of seasons ago. Let’s hope the board can back PP, to allow him to take the club forward to the next level and retain the fanbase before they become disillusioned and drift away.

  11. There are obviously people who didn’t experience the lump-ball of Docherty, years ago – but to say watching our defence and midfield keeping the ball is a load better than seeing the ball reach our centre-half, who launches it up to James, who most often is crowded out or penalised, and then, lo and behold, we’re defending again, is utter bollocks.
    I don’t pretend to understand the game, but I know this team has been put together to a plan and a system, and it is too early to expect it to be working perfectly. Give it time, have patience, and remember what League Two was like.

  12. My sixpenny worth is to add just two things:
    1. More positives from yesterday than from Barnsley game….particularly, as others have said, Routis.
    2. Glaring tactical error from PP in not taking off Derby at half time. Weaknesses in the right side of defence were exposed at Barnsley and even more so yesterday. In this context when your right back has a yellow card it is surely obvious to replace him. I said this to folk around me at half time – I didn’t expect to be proved right within seconds of restart! Most of Parky’s decisions I applaud but this one lost us the game.

  13. Last season it was acknowledged that our style of football would have to evolve to make any progression into league 1. The diamond was introduced at the back end of last season I think we played this way against Peterborough at home.
    The chairmen and parky must have all signed up to changing personnel and style of play before pre season.
    What I can not understand though is
    1 why we have removed pace from our team, during pre season I was crying out for a signing of explosive wingers who could be used to get in behind and stretch the opposition.
    2 the style of football – well this has not changed really apart from we pass it around our back four and defensive midfield more before mcardle fires a ball to jimmy. However we have lost pace to gamble and support flick ons.
    3 the diamond is not working at home we still have less possession than r visitors and do not control games (Crewe apart) and it has effected Stephen Derby who is very exposed against wingers and overlapping full backs.
    4 how many players are under performing – Davies Derby Knott Sheenan McLean
    5 Jason Kennedy had a good start but he is just not quick or mobile enough – surely if we had the budget Gary jones would have been kept instead.

    However this is work in progress and I do believe we are 2 – 3 players off forming a genuine play off push. I would sign two wingers and a partner for James, play pass and move attacking football (on the floor and in the opposition half) and the season could be a positive one.

  14. What are your thoughts on us playing 3 centre backs and pushing Darby and Mezza/Sheehan higher up the wings giving more wide support?
    Although Routis did well in midfield, he is a defender and he seemed to sit too deep, in line with MacArdle and Davies, this led to a situation with no options to go through the centre of the park. (At one point he ran forward with the ball to halfway only to turn back and retreat as the was nowhere to go). Sitting to deep made the diamond to elongated and stifled much link up play with the attackers.
    I enjoy playing it across and out from the back rather than just launching it forward and generally conceding possession. Bringing it out from the back the CB’s would have options left and right or through to Liddle (or Knott) playing in that centre circle.
    I thought Clarke was quite ineffective (as well as McClean), but he was also quite isolated and always outnumbered so moves seemed to break down or not start at all.
    If we had a fulcrum in the centre circle there is the option to go wide again and cross or play neat passing football they have tried this season but with more purpose and numbers to work things through.

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