The Gillingham Verdict: A good performance undermined by failure to kill off the game



Image by Thomas Gadd (

Image by Thomas Gadd (

Saturday’s hugely frustrating 1-1 draw with Gillingham was a game of two phases – before Bradford City’s goal and how they attempted to defend their lead after it. Width of a Post pundits Alex Scott, Damien Wilkinson, Gareth Walker and Mahesh Johal pick the bones out of the Bantams’ performance.

Damien: An absolutely classic City performance. And by that I mean it contained all the hallmarks of countless performances that have gone before.

Dodgy opposition on a rocky run, home team with an allergy to collecting three points in one go and despite lots of pressure and many chances the inevitability of squandering a win hung over Valley Parade massively during the last 15 minutes or so.

Before the goal, I thought we started off very well. The new found confidence from the last two matches was very much in evidence and Mark Yeates, Filipe Morais, Jon Stead and Gary Liddle caught the eye with some smart passing and movement, whilst also taking care of the uglier side of things. Despite this, and some good chances, it always looked the Gills carried a threat, either from set pieces or deliveries into the box.

After the goal that we clearly deserved, you might have realistically expected us to go on and win the game comfortably. At that stage Gillingham looked there for the taking. However, this followed a period of chances that in isolation looked unlucky or unfortunate but in combination were somewhat baffling, and particularly after the introduction of James Hanson, a number of efforts almost resembled back passes to Stuart Nelson in the Gills’ goal.

There also seemed to be an unwillingness to shoot from distance (which seems to becoming a common theme) and whilst I thought Billy Clarke had a good game and worked extremely hard, there were a good number of opportunities when he always favoured a pass rather than pulling the trigger.

The last 15 minutes or so seemed to see us hit the panic button and go all last ditch with the clearances and passing. At one point it really felt like the last few seconds and I was disappointed to note there were still 13 minutes left!

So, despite getting to 90 minutes, the four additional minutes always spelled danger and you knew what a further corner or set piece would result in. After the euphoria of last week’s turnaround this felt like a defeat.  Taylor really went for the jugular with his subs which was in stark contrast to Phil Parkinson – and sometimes going so gung ho pays off, as we unfortunately saw.

The problem is that if we had held on and won, most would have been purring regarding us turning a corner, making a play offs push etc – and that probably made the equaliser even more bitter, combined with our wretched home form.

The fact we haven’t managed three wins on the trot for a considerable amount of time speaks volumes too…

Gareth: I completely agree with Damien. Before we scored I thought that we played very well, although Gillingham’s defensive approach did allow us to dominate possession. The concern was that we didn’t create too many chances and those that we did create were squandered, so we only led 1-0.

After the goal Gillingham came out more as they had to, and it was evident that we didn’t have the pace in the side to hit them on the break.

I actually felt that the equaliser was coming, and it was just a shame it came from a set piece again. It was very poor defending because Andy Halliday made a hash of a clearance, which led to the corner, and then the corner itself was a ball to the back post which was the only move that Gillingham had tried from corners all afternoon.

In the end though we still had the chances, even when we were winning, to go further in front and a draw felt more like a defeat than two points dropped.

Mahesh: I thought we were the better team prior to going one up. We’ve rightly talked about Mark Yeates’ form recently (and he again looked a threat) however it was Jon Stead who caught my eye.

I’m a massive advocate of James Hanson, but Stead offers us a different type of threat. I thought his presence and link up play caused the Gills numerous problems. It was his pass that set up Billy Knott, who wastefully missed the chance to give us the lead in the first half.

I understand what Gareth means, but I think had Knott scored in the first half we could have killed the game off in the first forty five minutes.

I appreciate there is a pressure playing at home; especially with our poor record at Valley Parade. However, I was surprised at how nervous and twitchy the players got. We just went into our shell.

We’d hit the post twice, had a goal a disallowed. We’d proved that by attacking and pressurising Gillingham that we were a threat. To change our shape and play with one striker was disappointing to see and, with this growing fear factor at Valley Parade, it cost us three deserved points.

Alex: I thought they played well, the ball just didn’t break their way. It’s difficult not to slant negatively after conceding an equaliser in the 93rd minute, but looking at the bigger picture it was a decent performance across the board. Especially after losing Morais almost straight away, who has been such an important player for them over recent weeks.

As Mahesh and Damien have alluded to, as did the manager, it wasn’t the slack defending at the end as much as the profligate finishing which cost them in the end. As with basically any team in the country, if you don’t have a 15-20 goal a year striker, you’re going to have to be really good everywhere else. And City aren’t at the moment.

Given the make-up of the team, games like this are going to happen. Sometimes the ball doesn’t go in. You can only keep trying to put yourselves in a position to win. And given the last couple of months, that they have started to do so can only bode well.

I was actually pleasantly surprised about how they managed the game, pretty much throughout. As City didn’t see out the game, it’s difficult to defend their performance after taking the lead, but I really think the reaction is a bit outcome-driven. Gillingham went three and then four up front toward the end, so it’s understandable that Parkinson reinforced the defence and midfield, and each of the substitutions at the time were logical and made sense given the way the game was going.

Maybe if they left Hanson and Clarke on up top and they might have got another chance to ice the game, but at the same time, there is no guarantee they’d have taken it (especially if the first 80 minutes were anything to go by) and it could just as easily have gone the other way.

As it was happening, I was quite pleased with how they were shutting the game down, wasting time and seeing out the clock. They didn’t look in any real danger at any point. The exact same thing did actually happen last week at Preston too, City just managed to get another that time.

But four points, and two decent performances on the turn should be a reason for optimism, not second guessing.

Categories: The Verdict

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4 replies

  1. It’s probably an invalid comment on the back of Alex’s comment about going defensive when Gills went offensive, and in view of the budget cut, but did Saturday highlight a lack of depth and additional options on the bench? Stead was “dead on his feet” in his words and had to come off, and Clarke came off too, but beyond Hanson and Zoko (far too early for the latter to play realistically) what attacking depth do we have? You wonder if Parkinson’s hand was forced by a lack of options? In any case as discussed above we lack pace to hurt teams. I thought Gillingham had a lot of energy in the middle and that really showed at times on Saturday.

    Nice article and lots of valid comments. Hard to pinpoint where the two points were dropped but I think it’s a combination of missed chances and hesitancy. Four points from two is really impressive considering three of those came from beating Preston but you wonder why we still can’t beat the bottom teams at home…

  2. “There also seemed to be an unwillingness to shoot from distance (which seems to becoming a common theme) and whilst I thought Billy Clarke had a good game and worked extremely hard, there were a good number of opportunities when he always favoured a pass rather than pulling the trigger”

    The unwillingness to shoot from distance has been a going on for years (as long as I can remember). We always try to walk the ball in to the goals, either the players are instructed not to shoot or they lack the ability!

  3. A lot of people seem to have 20-20 hindsight “seeing the equaliser coming” but I didn’t. I feared it, I’ve been watching City long enough for that, but I didn’t expect it, cos after their first chance (nicely put away but disallowed for offside) I didn’t feel they really threatened, and especially not from corners.

    As for Stead, his first chance was from a good ball in, when he seemed to make himself some room, then try some half-arsed bicycle kick that connected with nothing. Our James would have headed it, I’m sure, maybe even in. Stead did hold the ball up well, better that our James does, and I like him, but not as much as I like James.

    I’m surprised at the calm (sounding) level headed response on this site – I wonder where all the ranting doom-mongers post?!

  4. Well its not a doom laden rant but I do think the home performances of players and manager warrant a much tougher assessment. We are way off a sustainable promotion push.
    The positives are Stead, Morais and McArdle. But they are outweighed by:
    Too many ‘nearly’ players
    Too many players who seem to be suffering a decline in form as the season progresses….Knott would be a prime example; even Davies doesn’t look 100%
    A tendency to play with ten men…did Halliday touch the ball more than about ten times on Saturday?
    A tendency to concede the midfield for large parts of the game
    A goalkeeper who, whilst a strong shot stopper and kicker – remains weak in terms of set pieces
    An inability to keep a clean sheet
    An inability to get ‘behind’ a defence. I can count the number of ‘pull backs’ ( e.g Stead for Knott on Saturday) on the fingers of one hand for the entire season
    A manager who, in recent weeks – and again I can only comment on home games – has been unable to match the tactical ‘nous’ of his counterpart and who has made some very questionable tactical changes, more often than not weakening the team performance.
    Until a number of these weaknesses are addressed I’ll be looking down rather than up!

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