Bradford City’s performance in the final home game of the season against Barnsley won the general approval of WOAP pundits Andrew Baxter, Gareth Walker, Mahesh Johal and Nick Beanland, who reflect on the team’s showing and City’s Valley Parade campaign as a whole.
What did you make of the performance against Barnsley?
Andrew: I thought we played fairly well, we created a few chances and a couple of players, in particular Billy Clarke and Tony McMahon, were outstanding. Clarke was a real driving force behind the team, always picking the ball up and looking to drive forward, making something happen.
I thought we controlled the game against a decent Barnsley side, and there are certainly a lot of positives to take from this performance.
Nick: It was a professional, hard-working performance from a team clearly determined to demonstrate the Bristolian-inflicted pasting last time out was an aberration. It was rarely pretty to watch and it was clearly an end of season game, but City did more than enough to earn the three points. Honest endeavour – the watch words of Phil Parkinson’s Bradford City – won the day.
Mahesh: It was a job well done in the end. We started the game slowly but were able to grind Barnsley down as the game went on. I think Nick summaries the game well and alludes to the point that it was a quintessential Parkinson performance and victory.
Gareth: I thought that we played well against Barnsley. It was probably the best that we’ve played for a few weeks. Whether this was due to the pressure being off or because Barnsley were trying a few different things out (I listened to Lee Johnson’s post match interview), I don’t know.
All in all, the game had an end of season feel to it, but after the first fifteen minutes or so City were the better side – and with a pacey front man (a recurring theme this season) we could have had more goals.
What are your impressions of Tony McMahon?
Nick: Middlesbrough and Sheffield Wednesday supporting friends speak highly of McMahon, based largely on his versatility and work rate and his willingness to graft, allied to a degree of quality. His set piece delivery was good and he looks to fit the Parkinson template of having the right character to be a part of this team.
I think he’d be an asset next season, though of course it depends on whether next season’s budget is the one inflated by this year’s cup heroics or by something else entirely…
Gareth: I like McMahon. He offers great experience and versatility at this level. He fits into Parkinson’s thesis of having players who are committed and give their all. I thought that he was one of our better players and if the money works out then he would make a good addition next season.
Andrew: I really like McMahon. He’s a solid, versatile and most importantly reliable player. He played well in the position we have seen Gary Liddle excel at so many times this season, and McMahon’s reading of the game and defensive work was fantastic.
He’s not the most creative of midfielders, but he provides a backbone and strength that is vital to any team’s success.
Mahesh: I can’t say I share the same enthusiasm for McMahon as others.
Doing the match report at Bramall Lane and watching his full debut for the club, I was intrigued to see how the Blackpool loanee would fare. In that game I thought he was over run in the midfield and offered little defensively or going forward.
He performed better against Barnsley and broke up play but I wouldn’t class his performance as “outstanding” or “superb”. I’d maybe save that kind of praise for his opposite number, Ben Pearson. I get the impression that McMahon fits Parkinson’s character and player profile, however I personally can’t see why he’s getting the adulation he is.
James Hanson hasn’t netted in his last 15 appearances, what do you make of his general form?
Gareth: I have no problem with Hanson’s form at all. James is what he is. I haven’t checked out the stats but I would imagine that it is quite common for him to go this long without a scoring a goal in his City career. It is unfair of us or Parkinson to expect him to be our prolific goal scorer as he has never been one of those.
The other tireless parts of his game are prevalent for all to see and – again, having listened to Mark Robins and Lee Johnson after our games against their sides – both became the latest in a long line of opposition managers to praise the big man.
My opinion stands that both Hanson and Jon Stead would benefit greatly from having a prolific, pacey goalscorer to play alongside.
Mahesh: Hanson’s commitment and willingness to work for the team has been detrimental to his own goal tally and success. His recent stats are not great for a striker, but I would argue that James Hanson isn’t playing in the position of his shirt number.
I’ve always thought we lose an element of his skill set out on the left hand side. However, I don’t know a better way to house him, Stead and Billy Clarke in the same side. The three have all contributed with goals, but Hanson has been the most accommodating out of the trio.
He is a striker that thrives off service and he has lacked it this year. If his role next season is to score us the goals to mount a promotion push, he needs to play through the middle and he needs the service to fully utilise his strengths.
Andrew: Hanson’s goalscoring record is an issue, but his overall performances have been okay. He has been shifted out of position but still puts 100% in every game, and I thought he had a good game. His all-round play has developed, and he holds the ball up very effectively.
Nick: I think this spell playing further left has helped James improve as a player and there were signs on Saturday that his hold up play is improving, no doubt helped by working with Jon Stead, but it still looks to me like we get less from him by playing him slightly wider. His work rate and ability to help the team defensively are beyond reproach but his attacking prowess has been blunted somewhat by the change in tactics.
His goal output has dried up but he’s not had a huge number of chances created for him. Crosses into the central area for Hanson were a key part of our attacking armoury but that has been much less the case for spells of this season, due in part to our lack of natural width (Filipe Morais aside).
Give this season’s home form a mark out of 10 and explain why:
Mahesh: 5/10. Seven of our nine defeats have come against teams in the top ten. We need to perform better in those big games at Valley Parade. I don’t know how, but the players need to transfer the fortress mentality seen in the cups to the league.
On a side note, it’s interesting to note that relegation-threatened Crawly have a better home record than we do.
Nick: 5/10 for me – the number of good home performances married to victories is pretty sparse. Only the Coventry, Leyton Orient, Notts County, MK Dons and Oldham games would tick both boxes. This would be made more palatable if we’d ground out a decent number of home wins, but that only happened on three occasions, against Crewe, Crawley and Barnsley. Beyond those eight victories there have been far too many defeats and draws, often featuring hugely frustrating late goals for the opposition.
The diamond formation has worked well away from home but I remain unconvinced of its effectiveness at Valley Parade. Some thinking to be done by Parkinson this summer…
Andrew: I’d give our home form 6/10. Results on the pitch have not replicated the magnificent atmosphere that we have experienced this season at Valley Parade, and whilst our home form is not the worst in the league, it must be improved if City are to make a real play off push next season.
I think the pitch has been detrimental to City’s chances this season too – we tend to play best when we get the ball down and pass it around, and the likes of Mark Yeates and Billy Clarke have been hindered somewhat by the less-than-adequate surface at Valley Parade this year.
Gareth: I can’t agree with the other pundits here. If we are solely talking about our home form in the league then I can’t give it more than a four at most. To get five we would have to have won as many as we have lost.
For us to have lost more than we have won is poor, and that is what in part has cost us a play off place. It needs to improve drastically and get back to previous seasons standards if we are to mount a strong promotion challenge next year.
Categories: The Verdict