The Doncaster Verdict: Pace, goals and character badly lacking so far this season

Picture by Thomas Gadd (

Picture by Thomas Gadd (

The latest edition of The Verdict sees Width of a Post pundit members Gareth Walker, Phil Abbott and Nick Beanland share their views on the team’s current struggles, in the wake of Saturday’s fifth home defeat in eight.

Where is Bradford City’s season going wrong?


To be honest, I’m not sure where to start. There have been good performances that have been unrewarded, such as Saturday and Port Vale at home. Then there have been some dire showings, such as the Yeovil game and the first half at Oldham.

There will be times when you don’t get what you deserve, but the dire showings are worrying because we haven’t seen many of them over the last couple of years – in the past, there was always the character in the side to make sure that non-shows very rarely happened. Gary Jones in particular was likely to grab the team by the gonads and drag out some respectability from others, but this season I think that we lack that character.

We have a distinct lack of pace in the side, which is so vital at any level of football. No matter what system you play, pace can win you a game in a split second. We have nobody in the team who is even remotely quick. If we had someone on the bench who we could introduce to change a game and inject something different, we would be much better off.

Our lack of goals is a major issue. There is obviously the Aaron Mclean conundrum which is the main cause of this – and his case has been discussed to death. It is worrying that we seem to be relying on James Hanson as our main goal threat now, when he has never been more than a 15 goal a season man at best. Jon Stead is a great addition in my opinion, but he too is never going to be prolific. In all honesty, Parkinson has struggled throughout his tenure to sign decent strikers and now this has become a major problem.

There are issues with the formation which, until recently, did seem to work much better away from home – but I can’t help but think that, despite dominating possession in games, we are creating less chances now than we were last season.

Could it be that the players that we have just aren’t good enough? In all honesty I haven’t particularly rated Alan Sheehan at left back and I’d personally rather have James Meredith in the side. I also think that Billy Clarke has flattered to deceive. Billy Knott has blown hot and cold and has rightly been dropped from the side on occasions. Andy Halliday is another winger without pace, just like Filipe Morais.

Do I think that we can halt the current slide? Well, yes I do. Phil Parkinson is doing the right things to sort the problems out, in my opinion. He is trying to replace the misfiring Mclean and I like the way that he is looking at different formations at different times – most successful sides have the capability to interchange between different systems when required.

Still, the lack of pace and a goalscorer are going to haunt us whatever system we play; and the manager needs to find the right answer to these problems. The players have a major role to play in showing us that they have the character for a battle in order to drag us out of this slump.

Saturday’s performance needs to be replicated more consistently in order to do that. Pace, goals and character would turn this team around no end, in my opinion.


I have much empathy with Gareth and his synopsis. I think the ‘engine room’ is lacking in particular. I am not one for singling individuals out usually, but I can’t hide my disappointment at the currently poor exchange rate between Gary Jones and Billy Knott.

Knott came with huge accolades. A bitter outpouring from many Port Vale fans seemed to signal that we had landed on a gold mine (not a diamond!) I have been underwhelmed by his performances of late, which have largely looked sluggish, with poor distribution and little in the way of forward drive.

I am sure he has lots more to offer, but, like many other players, does not appear totally suited to the style of play/formation of the team. Phil Parkinson thought he had an impressive game on Saturday; I’m afraid I didn’t see it the same way.

Clearly, if you concede more goals than you score, you are in trouble. And with an uncharacteristic fragility at the back this season, partly due to injury and suspension, we are beginning to pay for not being prolific in front of goal. The difference last year, in my opinion, was that we were generally much tighter at the back – so were less often punished for scoring a relatively low number of goals.

I think Jon Stead is a big part of the solution here. It’s not that I expect he will be prolific in front of goal, but, I think he brings so much to the side in its current format that will enable the likes of Mark Yeates and Billy Clarke to chip in with more goals. When Stead was on the field on Saturday, I felt we were in total control. He was missed when he limped off.

I still feel that Mclean has been hung out to dry by some fans. There’s no mistaking the disappointing goals per game ratio, I grant that, but for some to question his work rate is beyond me. What adds to the criticism of Mclean is that, once again, the most regularly deployed system does not suit his style. What infuriates some is that he is reportedly on a fair wedge, and doesn’t appear to be the answer to our goal-shy forward options. It is a lot of money to spend on the wrong player.

The time is right to ship him out, albeit temporarily I suspect, and Oli McBurnie for a while in my opinion.

However, it doesn’t solve the midfield engine room issue. I remember backing Parkinson when Gary Jones was released. My caveat to this backing was that the manager would live or die by that decision. Hmmm.


Gareth has summed it up excellently – pace, goals and character are required. Sadly they are all expensive commodities to acquire, and we all know we are trying to sow a silk purse from a sow’s ear.

Our form has been pretty poor for a year now, but it felt with last season’s team that we created chances and made the other team work very hard to beat us – sadly I just don’t get that feeling from this term’s vintage.

Whilst we look a technically more adept team I struggle to see anyone beyond Mark Yeates grasping the nettle and trying to make things happen. The rest of the team seem content to play all their football sixty yards from the opponent’s goal, and we look incredibly easy to defend against.

Billy Knott may well be a clever player but he continually coughs up possession cheaply, almost always inside his own half. Gary Liddle is sound enough and may just be a slight upgrade on Nathan Doyle, but I’m not convinced. Jason Kennedy is a trier but rarely takes responsibility for anything beyond a five yard pass backwards or square.

I have great faith in the management team, but I fear a bleak winter beckons unless Parkinson can be exceptionally creative with whatever money is available to him.


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4 replies

  1. Broadly agree with all 3 writers but i think you’re all missing the point with regards to Billy Knott. When he came and everyone was eulogisng over him he was playing just behind the front two where he could be most effective as we saw against L**ds. For some bizarre reason PP has started using him at the opposite point of the ‘diamond’ just in front of the back four. In the past at Vale & AFCW he was deployed as an attacking midfielder. Gary Liddle is ideal for the defensive job. Let Billy push forward, we all saw he’s got a great shot on him but its no good if he’s deployed so deep.

    • I totally agree about Knotts position and it is a point that I have discussed at length elsewhere. He first dropped deepin the Leeds game in order to pick up the ball from the back four against their retreating ten men. It hasn’t worked since though and I too have been exasperated that he hasn’t been moved back either to the left of the diamond or to the front of it. We lose so much from Liddles game too by not having him at the base – he shouldnt be on the left IMO.
      Another point that I didn’t mention in my initial answer was our defensive vulnerability. Having initially looked susceptible to set pieces we now seem to be conceding a lot of soft goals compared to last year – I think that the diamond is partly responsible for this in that neither of our fullbacks are getting much defensive support. When coupled with our problems at the other end of the pitch, this is proving to be a recipe for disaster.

  2. I think Phil is been kind to Maclean as for me the biggest disappointment has been his first touch.

    It doesnt matter what system we play a 31 year old professional should be able to control a football and run into spaces.

    Maclean doesnt do either of these things and even though ive been diplomatic regarding him in the past he has to go.

  3. I agree with 3 posts I wud just like to add knott is a good player but he needs to things to make him effective- to be more advanced and he needs outlets for his range of passing to be successful. The outlets need pace this wud be the same for any creative midfielder. Provide knott and Dolan this and I think we wud unlock defences

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