No encore?

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Gillingham 1

Marquis 72

Bradford City 0

Saturday 11 April, 2015

By Kieran Wilkinson (images by Thomas Gadd, see note below)

The curtain is certainly beginning to fall on Bradford City’s season and it doesn’t look like we will be asked back for an encore.

The phrase “still mathematically possible” may well be wheeled out but if, as seems increasingly likely, City do not make the play offs, this match offered in 90 minutes a good illustration of why we have just fallen short this season.

City made the long trip to Gillingham with a few selection headaches, chiefly at centre back where the pre-match talk had been of Gary Liddle moving back to cover the injuries to Andrew Davies, Gary MacKenzie and the suspension to Christopher Routis. It was therefore a pleasant surprise to see the big Scotsman’s name on the teamsheet, MacKenzie apparently being willing to play through the pain.

Phil Parkinson went with an attacking triumvirate of Billy Clarke, Jon Stead and James Hanson (albeit with Hanson playing more of a left wing role). Andy Halliday made a return to the squad, being named on the bench alongside youngster Reece Webb-Foster. However, there was no place in the squad for Dylan Mottley-Henry after his impressive cameo against Preston North End on Easter Monday. The one notable name from a City perspective on Gillingham manager Justin Edinburgh’s teamsheet was former City loanee, John Egan.

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City started the first half very brightly, forcing a corner and free kick in the opening ten minutes (Billy Knott unable to make either count).

The first decent chance fell to City after ten minutes. Good work from James Meredith resulted in the ball being fed into Clarke who managed to get a shot away, which Gillingham keeper Morris had to be alert to in order to make a decent save.

Morris was less alert a few minutes later when he rushed out and botched a clearance, hitting it against the lively Clarke. Whilst it looped back over him, James Hanson could not capitalise on the error.

It wouldn’t be Gillingham without someone called Hessenthaler being involved and it was Jake, son of many-time Gills manager Andy, who won Gillingham’s first corner but this was easily dealt with by Gary Liddle.

City’s absolute dominance continued, with Stead forcing a corner and Hanson winning a free kick after a foul by Gillingham’s Legge (the Gills player coming off the worse in the challenge and earning a yellow card after lengthy treatment).

Jon Stead forced a goal line clearance with a header from a Knott corner and MacKenzie and Clarke both had chances to break the deadlock. Gillingham had to make yet more goal line blocks just before half time as both Hanson and Stead participated in a game of  “how on earth did we not score” after a Knott corner.

So, numerous first half chances, complete City dominance and yet no goals at half time. Sound familiar? The half time talk was of whether there would be a sucker punch in this match. We’ve been here before. Would City repeat their failures against Fleetwood, Notts County, Walsall, Port Vale etc (the fact that this list could go on tells its own story) and fail to get their just deserts from a match?

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City continued to press but it was clear as the second half progressed that Gillingham began to take heart from City’s wastefulness in front of goal.

Rory McArdle and Hanson having had chances to head City into the lead and Stead having failed to do likewise with a shot. City also had a decent penalty shout turned down after a foul on MacKenzie but as we all know, “penalty to Bradford City” is not a phrase which has been overused in the past few seasons.

On the hour mark, Gillingham brought on John Marquis. It then took Marquis all of ten minutes to do what City had failed to do in the previous seventy minutes, with Ben Williams being beaten from a shot outside the box. Whilst there was some anger in the away end, the fact of the matter is that we have been here a number of times this season and so the goal was met more with a feeling of weary inevitability. We’ve been here before.

Marquis almost doubled the Gill’s lead a few minutes later, with Stephen Darby having to head off the line.

After the Gillingham goal, City faded away completely. Notwithstanding the introduction of Francois Zoko and Mark Yeates, City didn’t manage to cause Gillingham too much concern in the closing stages, a fairly weak attempt at a chip from  Clarke being the only real incident of note. It seems that even when we throw on strikers, it does not lead to an attacking onslaught.

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So another match where City dominated but came away with nothing. Even Gillingham fans were saying to us after the game that they couldn’t believe that we didn’t win that one, and so goes the story of the league season.

Whilst frustrating that we may fall short of the play offs, if you had told me at the beginning of the season that we would beat Leeds, score four goals at Stamford Bridge and also beat Sunderland but fail to reach the play offs, I’m sure I would have taken that.

We still need to push on and finish as high as we possibly can though and continue the season-on-season progress that Phil Parkinson has brought to the club. Parkinson also needs to find an answer to the problem of our failure to kill off games – City are probably only a player or two away from being genuine promotion contenders.

However, unless the next five games take somewhat of an amazing turn, I think we have sadly seen the last of the M25 this season.

City: Williams, Darby, McArdle, MacKenzie (Webb-Foster 90), Meredith, Liddle (Yeates 79), Morais (Zoko 79), Knott, Clarke, Hanson, Stead

Not used: Urwin, McMahon, Dolan, Halliday

With special thanks to the very kind Thomas Gadd for allowing us to use his brilliant photos. Please visit Thomas Gadd’s website for more details or click here for more photos of the game.

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Categories: Match Reviews

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13 replies

  1. Two words. NAHKI WELLS. good report, let’s hope we get back with radio Leeds the pulse presentation is realy dreadful

  2. The addition of more strikers does sound like a brave move, but to watch them support a misfiring pair of strikers is painful to watch. This is the time for me when Parky needs to be ‘brave’ and make ‘change’!!
    Using recent experience I would have hoped for the removal of Stead with Hanson pushed inside, alongside Clarke. It changes our style and causes problems for Defenders. We will miss out on the Play Offs. Not because we are a poor side, but because other sides are now hitting their stride at the right time. We are still a ‘work in progress’ and under our management team we will continue to develop. Oh and by the way; we will make mistakes along the way, name me a manager that never did…..

  3. Obviously, I am disappointed. We almost certainly won’t make the play-offs, but I never thought we would.
    There is something lacking, clearly in the scoring department, and PP needs to find the answer. I guess he will.
    But, as Kieran says, the season has been wonderful.
    I note that McBurnie seems to be doing well at Chester—admittedly 2 leagues below—and wonder if he should be given a chance.
    Finally, I think Div 1 is so much better than Div 2, and, having watched Wolves , Brentford and others recently, we need to improve dramatically because the Championship is much better still. Rotherham found that out.

  4. in the close season we MUST MUST MUST move heaven and earth (if that’s what it takes) to find a regular goalscorer to give us perhaps 20 goals next term. no one needs me to list all the games where we have dropped points because, for all our long periods of dominance we haven’t killed the game off by scoring more than one goal.
    after that, two things….first a more solid (and taller) ‘keeper. secondly we must move on the squad players who, if everyone were fit and available wouldn’t get anywhere near the first eleven. it’s been disappointing in recent games to see subs introduced who, by common consent actually weaken the team on the park. these are no more than journeymen. we need everyone in our small squad to be in the mix week in, week out for a first team place and sure in the knowledge that if they make a sub appearance it won’t be to the detriment of the team.

  5. Thanks Keiran, i wasn’t there but looking on those substitutions look confusing. Was Liddle injured? Why no Mottley-Henry after his cameo when Yeates fitness is in doubt? I’d love PP to sign a forward with blistering pace for next year, its the one thing that scares any defender.

  6. http://riasa.org/blog?hid=2335 Anyone know anything about this lad?

  7. It has been a very successful campaign and improvement on last year. We went over 20 games without a win, sold our star striker and went out at the first hurdle in all cup competitions last season. On a reduced budget Parkinson has guided city to the first victory over Leeds at Valley Parade since the 1930s, 1st appearance in the QF of the FA cup since 1976 and even in the bag for the semi final draw (1st time since 1911). Played before the biggest gates at Valley Parade since Burnley 1960. Oh and the youth side have just win the league.

    The profile of the club has been raised with the cup exploits this season and we have had a taste of some really big game atmospheres and occasions in the cup. We are not that far from knocking on the door of the championship and the club would really take off if Parkinson can take city to the next level. If Burnley & Swansea can thrive and win promotion to the premier league why not city?

    The fans have created a very special atmosphere away and at Valley Parade and our backing of the team is the envy of clubs up and down the country.

    It’s been a very tired ending to the season where players have given there all but we lack that the killer instinct to see games out and score when dominating teams. Lack of pace in wide areas and players who can unlock mean defences at Valley Parade in the last third has been our shortfall. Hanson has struggled this term and think I’m right in saying he has netted only 9 league goals up to press.

    If city are to push on we need to find a partner for Hanson and stop playing him wide left. Hanson needs to be in the box competing against defenders from crosses out wide.

    Parkinson needs to find a striker to compliment Hanson, find 2/3 quality players to unlocked defensive & negative teams visiting Valley Parade whilst learning how to win games from winning positions then next season could be the one. That if couse includes signing a number 1 who has the confidence of his defence. Shame we can’t buy Pickford as he was developing into an excellent prospect before his recall.

    There are a lot of questions to be answered in terms of Parkinson and the squad. But my guess is Phil will sign a new deal with city in the summer and look at possibly moving on out of contract players such as Davies & Yeates keep Mckenzie and let the rest of the loan players go.

    City need to finish with a flourish and then we can rebuild for next season ready for an assault on taking city to the next level.

  8. Yes we’ve exceeded our pre-season expectations but that is a fairly weak argument. Those expectations were formed before we really knew how strong the league was. It has surprised me how poor it has been this year. Are we really worse than sides like Fleetwood, Rochdale and Chesterfield? I can’t help but feel disappointed to be behind the likes of those in the league table.
    Fortunately I anticipate the league being weaker still next season. However we will need to find a clinical edge if we are going to take advantage of it.

  9. Lets look at the obvious pros to this season, and I do not really have to name most of them,beating L666s, Chelsea, Sunderland etc, and add a few more.
    An improvement in the league position on last season (Unless we have spectacularly terrible finish to the season) and our fans winning widespread acclaim for their passion, and general good support (In the cup triumphs and against Preston in particular). A general improvement in the quality of the squad, and maintaining our progress whilst staying `in the black`.
    The fact that our back four remains consistent, even allowing for the Davies injuries, a constant thorn in the
    side to the detriment of the team.
    Stead, Knott, Liddle, and Clarke

    Now the cons.
    The limitations in the size of the squad has ultimately been our downfall in the league, and to that you could add our success in the cups have played their part.
    Our inability to find the elusive `20 goal a season striker` still holds us back, coupled with the lack of a consistent creative midfield
    We dont seem to be able to have `our own` keeper, relying on loans. To me no such thing as a `cup keeper` and a `league keeper` We just want a keeper and an adequate back up keeper!!!
    The ticket mayhem surrounding the Cup games, and the continuing questioning from some fans of “Where has the money gone” or ” lawn should get his wallet out”.
    Equally the constant talk of deficits and selling players to cover such shortfalls, does little to inspire the fans. More positive talk required from the club as it engenders positivety.
    The pitch obviously!
    Yeates, Zoko, McClean, Sheehan.

    But obviously we are slowly, and importantly heading steadily in the right direction. Lets keep the manager, most of the team, and crucially the faith!!!

  10. Every team wants that 20 goal a season striker, but they don’t come cheap, and can prove very difficult to find.

    What is in our control, is that we can cut out those defensive lapses in concentration, which to me are the main reason as to why we are probably going to miss out on the play offs.

    Still, it’s been a good season, and all any fan can ask for is progress, which continues to be made.

  11. 20 goal strikers are indeed hard to come by. rochdale seem to have the knack of finding them though. they regularly have to sell on their leading scorer, only to replace him with a player who goes on to score……20 goals. the league is sprinkled with handy strikers who learned their trade at spotland.
    this time though PLEASE let us go for a striker who’s on the way up, not on the way down (a la Mclean).

    • Maybe the explanation is that our expectation levels are a lot higher Paul, so we are always looking to bring in more or less the finished article as a player, whereas Rochdale with a far lesser budget have no choice but to try and develop their own players to survive.

  12. Agree with the comments, but do feel staff should have been dropped as Hanson has done well when given the responsibility. Would be good to see a striker brought in our one of the young lads taking their chance. It does give hope for next season though. looking forward to it.

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