The Leyton Orient Verdict: Bradford City find stability, form and purpose

Image by Thomas Gadd (thomasgadd.co.uk)

Image by Thomas Gadd (thomasgadd.co.uk)

Bradford City’s much-needed victory over Leyton Orient has put a spring in the step of supporters. The Width of a Post pundit team members Damien Wilkinson, Gareth Walker and Phil Abbott assess the significance of the three points on City’s season, and look at the Jon Stead/James Hanson dilemma.

How important do you rank the Leyton Orient victory in the context of how the season is progressing?

Phil: The win itself was a significant one for City, and the manner of the response after being pegged back to 1-1 was particularly pleasing. We created a truckload of chances and could have won the game two or three times over.  That said, I thought Orient were very poor and caused us few problems really.

It seems clear that there is still a lot of belief within the squad and for three consecutive home games we have been the better team. This all ranks well for a top 10 finish in my opinion.

Gareth: It was a massive relief to finally get our third home win, but nobody should be getting carried away. Our profligacy in front of goal almost came back to bite us again.

After dominating the first half we had the chances to be at least three up at half time and we didn’t take them. The inevitable period of opposition pressure came in the second half and there was a certain feeling of Deja vu when Leyton Orient scored. It felt in the immediate aftermath of the equaliser that we could surrender and lose the game from there, but the sending off handed the initiative back to us.

On the whole, the game probably showed us why we are what we are. The first half was the best that I have seen us play in a while, albeit against poor opposition, but even so there was good traits and bad traits throughout the 90 in equal measure. I am still unconvinced with Andy Halliday, especially as a winger. In general, the lack of pace and lack of a prolific goalscorer are probably what are going to hold us back from mounting a sustained threat at the top end of the table.

Having said all that, December’s games look like they provide us with a chance to reach the 30-point mark and progress to the third round of the FA Cup, which would have to be considered as a decent first half of the season.

Damien: Whilst I also agree that the win was significant, and dread to think what reaction a draw or worse would have resulted in, I think the most pleasing thing is that we seem to have gained some stability, form and renewed purpose since the Halifax cup tie. Despite the set back of conceding an equaliser on Saturday, it is good to see improved levels of confidence through the side, and Billy Clarke in particular seems to be blossoming and fully deserved his goal.

Despite this, we still seem to lack a clinical killer touch and with an inability to keep a clean sheet at home. We were greatly assisted by Chris Dagnall’s moment of madness, especially as he had started to have an impact on the game at that point.

hanson stead

Image by Thomas Gadd (thomasgadd.co.uk)

 

Jon Stead continues to gather the plaudits. As January creeps into view, do you think City should aim to make the move permanent and where does this situation leave James Hanson?

Gareth: I would definitely like us to sign Stead if the money is there to do so. I have been hugely impressed with his technical ability and work rate, and he really looks to be too good for this level.

Regarding Hanson, regular readers of WOAP will know that I am a huge fan of his. He is still our top scorer, and his importance to the team shouldn’t be underestimated, but who could have predicted six weeks ago that a fully fit Hanson wouldn’t be able to get into the side?

Hi fitness issues make me doubt whether higher league interest in his services will actually materialise, particularly at a price that would reflect his value to us.

To have Hanson, Stead, Clarke and a fourth (hopefully prolific and pacey) striker is perhaps too much to hope for as we head into the second half of the season. But hey, we’re heading into the season of goodwill, so why not? Oh, and add a) someone who is willing to take Aaron Mclean off our hands and b) Tom Cleverley securing an expensive permanent transfer to Aston Villa to your Christmas lists while you’re at it!

Damien: Stead had yet another excellent game and showed real quality in terms of holding the ball up and then picking out team mates with some great passing. His close control and ability on the ball has certainly added another dimension to City’s attacking play (and for me is also an enhanced version of the Jon Stead we saw at the back end of last season) and I guess there is some risk, albeit small, that Huddersfield might actually seek his return!

Which brings us onto James Hanson. With increasing rumours (hopefully just rumours) of his impending departure in January, coupled with his fairly recent return from injury and Stead’s form, means an unusual situation for a player who was previously one of the first names on the team sheet. It will be very unfitting for such an important player over the last few years if his time does wind down in this fashion, but perhaps unlike last season’s January transfer activities, we are possibly trying out “Life after Hanson” prior to it actually happening.

If Stead is indeed the replacement, then at least we have auditioned him with the other players. Although this will no doubt be another stick for some to beat the board with, if this is perceived to have reduced Hanson’s transfer value should Stead be part of the deal!

Phil: The balance of the team is looking pretty good with Stead up front. One notable comparison between him and Hanson is that Stead wins more fouls and gives fewer away. His all round game is keeping Hanson out of the starting line up.

If Hanson doesn’t feature at all on Sunday against Dartford, I guess we could begin to wonder if Stead may well be joining us permanently, with Hanson on his way. I’m not convinced that it will happen though.

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Categories: The Verdict

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9 replies

  1. Unlike Gareth, i think Andy Halliday is starting to grow into his role at the club. I think PP has faith in him and he must feel wanted by playing regular football. Admittedly as a winger he isn’t inclined to take players on but some of his passing was superb and his attitude is top class. By us, as he takes corners , he always urges the crowd and applauds them to get behind the team. He seems to have bought into the team ethic and i can see him staying for the season as a decent squad member.

    • I remain open to changing my mind on Halliday. I certainly won’t write him off so early in his City career. One only has to look at the improvements that Filipe Morais has made to his game as the season has progressed.
      Gaz.

  2. Way too often his crosses fail to beat the first defender. If he can sort this part of his game out, there is plenty there.

  3. Filipe Morais for me over Halliday any time. Let’s hope he recovers from his injury quickly; I think he’s been our most creative player recently.
    Regards Saturday, excellent first half, followed by our customary foot shooting , followed by even more foot shooting on Orient’s part!
    Good to see a win.

  4. City would be wise to hold on to Hans.

  5. Halliday grew into the game and had a very effective 10 or 15 mins up to half time when we looked our most dangerous. His versatility makes him a decent option and he can certainly put his foot in! You doubt he has had much footy recently and may just be finding some form. Morais of course looks like a very good acquisition and part of a much improved recruitment this summer from PP. The board must be thinking carefully about cashing in on Hanson whilst his contract has a reasonable time to run and Stead on a permanent deal would soften that blow however if we are to challenge for a top seven in the medium term Hanson really ought to be retained

  6. How important do you rank the Leyton Orient victory in the context of how the season is progressing?

    I know we shouldn’t get carried away but I think the win was massively important. Beating Halifax put the team back on track after a wretched run, but if anything I think this one is more important beacause it was a home victory. Prior to last weekend, I think the team lacked the self-belief or confidence, for whatever reason, to win at home and there was a frantic twenty minute spell on Saturday where you were worried Orient might steal the game. When they levelled, City came back and won the game again. I think the spirit required to pull it back and then hold out for the win will have a huge impact in the dressing room because they’ve proved to themselves that they can do it. Not just win at home, but finish a game well – something they didn’t show us against Gillingham or Doncaster. They’ve got the monkey off their backs and while Orient aren’t exactly the form team the fact City beat Preston a few weeks ago suggests upwards is the way they’re headed. I don’t think they’ll get promoted this year but the building blocks are starting to fall into place and things are so much brighter. Bring on Dartford this weekend!

    • I don’t think any sensible judge was getting carried away with our poor home form or our position generally. We had the same “headless chicken” panic last season unnecessarily. Similarly it is daft to be uber optimistic and a finish in or around mid table perhaps with another decent cup run and some good entertainment in the meantime should satisfy most. PPs recruitment this time round and his change of approach have been positive when the wheels could have come off in a big way losing Jonah in particular. It would be nice to ease the financial position with some good news with deals for Wisdom and Cleverley and hang onto Hans. If not as long as the deal is a good one its not he end of the world particularly with Stead as a makeweight.

  7. Having spent Saturday night with Huddersfield fans the rumour mill seems to point to the Hanson/ Wells partnership being reunited. We get Ward and Stead and a small amount of cash. I really dont want to see Hanson leave but i fear this may happen.

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