Grey day

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Coventry City 1

Nouble 45

Bradford City 1

Yeates 69

Tuesday 10 March, 2015

By Jason McKeown (images by Mike Holdsworth)

Sometimes it seems as though a large part of your Bradford City supporting life is spent watching one-one draws.

Not too bad, not too great. Reasons to be unhappy, but also crumbs of comfort. A life that is more or less ordinary.

If you weren’t at the Ricoh this evening, you will have seen the game anyway. It is a narrative repeated numerous times, season after season. The wretched first half that provokes outrage; the much improved second half that restores your faith. A sense of satisfaction, but also frustration that more could, and should, have been achieved.

Not every game can be like Chelsea, Sunderland or Leeds United. And if they were, they’d quickly lose their ecstasy and purpose. It’s like an action film that features quieter moments of conversation and building up of the plot. These elements are needed. Not every scene can be a shoot-‘em-up, or you’d soon get bored.

Equally not every game can be like the away matches at Barnsley, Oldham and Yeovil. And if they were, you’d eventually drift away from the club. The painful feeling of losing and losing badly is one that – thankfully – hasn’t occurred too often since 2012. But every so often such misery crops up, reminding you how horrible the life of a football fan can be.

So middle-of-the-road games such as this one matter for providing context and perspective on the highs and lows of supporting a football club. It’s about paying your dues. Passing the collection tray around and putting in your spare change. Filling time. Go home and look forward to the next game, knowing this one will be quickly forgotten.

This was a mixed performance from City, who played out the roles of Jekyll and Hyde either side of the interval. The opening 45 minutes was a horror show, as a lack of urgency, pace and effort encouraged a poor and demoralised Coventry side to seize the initiative.

After an early James Hanson effort flew over, the game was one-way traffic at the other end. City’s central midfield of Gary Liddle and Andy Halliday was curiously subdued, and possession was routinely handed back to the home side. Attacks were poorly thought out, and gaps on the pitch were obvious. Easy chances were wasted by Coventry, but a head of steam was built up. They found confidence in the lack of resistance to their endeavours.

The Ricoh Arena is a strange place and the greater number of sky blue empty seats to supporters resulted in a somewhat soulless setting. Credit to the singing section of home fans who did their best to ramp up the volume. They made a difference to their team. In contrast City supporters were subdued, offered little to cheer about by their team.

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If the Bantams could have held out until half time, it might have proven a different story. But then Coventry got in behind James Meredith and Frank Nouble beat Stephen Darby to tap the ball into the net. 1-0 to Coventry.

Take your pick of awful performers. Effort was hardly lacking, but as a team there was no cohesion. François Zoko summed that up better than most. He tried hard but couldn’t make the ball stick up front. He lacks quality and was unsurprisingly hauled off at half time.

Zoko’s replacement – Mark Yeates – was the catalyst in the second half improvement. Whatever words Phil Parkinson issued in the dressing room, they were heeded by his troops, who demonstrated everything they had been lacking. Coventry manager Tony Mowbray made his three substitutions early and fear was evident in the struggling hosts. The clock was ticking by painfully slowly for them.

With 21 minutes to go Yeates smashed home a stunning free kick, and from there on his side were dominant. He deserved that goal did Yeates, who after recent struggles offered a timely reminder of what he has to offer. Yeates continued to pose a threat as City pushed on. Good attacking moves only broke down through a poor final ball or good defending. The best opportunity came right at the end, when a Billy Clarke cross found Hanson but the top scorer’s header lacked force.

City were still not at their fluent best. Filipe Morais once again struggled and the injury picked up at Leyton Orient three weeks ago has badly disrupted his season. Liddle and Halliday improved greatly but have experienced better nights. Clarke found greater joy in the second half playing up front with Hanson. Meredith once again got up and down well but couldn’t match the heights of his outstanding performance against Reading. Alan Sheehan came on at half time for Andrew Davies and was solid alongside the always superb Rory McArdle.

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And that was that. A good display in the end and a point closer to climbing back into the play offs. But what was that first half performance all about? How different could this outcome have been had they started as they ended? And could they have committed more men forward in the final stages?

All of which are hardly serious questions. This team has proven it can do much better and there are hardly any concerns about their ability to continue doing so. With the games coming thick and fast, this stage is about keeping things ticking over.

The most important aspect was that – after defeats to Swindon and Peterborough – a third straight loss on the road was avoided. Coupled with the three points acquired against Crawley a week ago, City remain firmly in the hunt for the final play off spot and have as good a chance as anyone.

And with that in view, tonight was an okay night’s work. Nothing more, nothing less. A pause in-between the greater drama and storylines that will return all too quickly. Another day at the office, as grey as so many others.

City: Williams, Darby, McArdle, Davies (Sheehan 45), Meredith, Morais (Knott 80), Halliday, Liddle, Clarke, Hanson, Zoko (Yeates 45)

Not used: Urwin, Routis, Stead, Burke

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Categories: Match Reviews

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4 replies

  1. I wasn’t there. Thanks a lot for the report. I am a little surprised that you say Zoko lacks quality. I think he is quite a useful player to have in the squad. My impression is of lots of skill and lots of explosive pace, the latter in particular meaning he can provide something quite different from Hanson, Stead, et al.

    I reckon he’s been unlucky with the way he’s been used, invariably coming on in the dying few minutes when we are chasing a game, or to replace tired legs when we are seeing one out, neither of which are ideal scenarios to show what you can do. I thought his performance against Crawley was pretty good actually, and I’m glad for him that he scored – he’s come close before despite limited minutes on the pitch at the end of games. Perhaps in the context of the dreadful performance all round last night it shouldn’t be a surprise that he was poor also? It’s just a thought.

    • Cheers for your comment Dave.

      I like the type of striker Zoko is – thinking of the very best, Didier Drogba, and the way he marries strength, skill and pace. I just don’t think Zoko has shown enough even accepting he is often a substitute. He is doing a role for the squad but if he is available in the summer I wouldn’t be pushing for us to sign him. In the long-term I think we can do better and will certainly need to.

      He was certainly not the only poor performer last night, but he doesn’t seem to link up effectively with another striker and that was evident even during his best performance (Crawley). He can’t be blamed for the first half, but we improved when he was taken off and Clarke was linked up with Hanson.

  2. Wasn’t there either but was surprised from the photo of the Yeates free kick that the Coventry keeper, from behind, seemed to be wearing a kit that must’ve been very difficult to distinguish from City’s strip.

    • It crossed my mind at the game but it was ok I’m sure. More surprising the goalie lined up a wall of 8 and let the ball past him at the side he was supposedly covering – probably shows what a brilliant free kick it was, but I think his manager will be having words with him. Wouldn’t have happened under Pressley!

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