What might have been


Swindon Town 4

Byrne 52, 61 + 68, Obika 70

Bradford City 1

Morris 5

Saturday 8 August, 2015

Words and images by Mark Danylczuk

Penalties.  Player vs Goalkeeper.  The psychology.  The mental strength.  Some say it’s a cruel way to decide a game and decide a game it did on Saturday.

Billy Clarke was the unfortunate one.  A chance for 2-0, to give distance between us and the opposition.  On the road to three points.  But alas, and it was not to be.  A game changer but for the wrong reasons.  1-0 was not enough and back came Swindon with a second half onslaught to inflict an opening day defeat on City.

The phrase ‘Football is a game of two halves’ was fully epitomised in this game.

Bradford City – the first half goes to you.  Swindon – you take the second, and by a country mile.

It was entertaining, it was end to end, there were goals and incidents, but ultimately it is a loss and a heavy one to take.

City started the game with a number of new faces from last season; Nathan Clarke joined Rory McArdle at the back, Tony McMahon paired with Billy Knott in the middle and Josh Morris took his place on the left wing.  City went with 4-4-2 with McMahon sitting further back in midfield and Knott further ahead complementing the attack of Billy Clarke and James Hanson.

The game and season was barely underway when only four minutes in, City grabbed the opening goal.  It was a McMahon pass across the box which Morris beautifully side footed first time into the top of the goal.  The City support in near capacity were ecstatic and rightly so – it was a fantastic goal.

Just over 10 minutes later, it could and should have been two with that penalty.  The lively Morris made a run inside the left of the box, was checked and went down with the referee awarding a spot kick. Billy Clarke went for placement to the bottom left corner but it was a comfortable height for the keeper who pushed it away.

Swindon in the meantime were starting to get into some sort of a rhythm with a pleasing purist passing style and the added influx of pace and precision in the attacks.  Attacker Jon Obika was cutting inside and dragged a few shots wide and the penalty miss was a much needed wake-up call for the home team.

City had another two great chances in the first half to extend the lead.  The first was unexpected and a resulted from a good spell of pressing with City obtaining possession just inside the Swindon half and Billy Clarke tried an exquisite lob over the keeper which looped agonisingly wide of the goal.  Moments later it was Clarke again in midfield who slipped in the ever willing Morris to cross in and the sliding Billy Knott agonisingly couldn’t get on the end of the cross to convert.  So a solid first half – a superb goal, some excellent pressing and direct attacks particularly down the left with Morris and Meredith linking well.


My friends who knew I was writing this report said it wouldn’t be easy writing about this game.  It’s been okay this far but as for the second half, well…

It was a capitulation.  Four goals in 18 minutes including a wonderful 16 minute hat-trick from Nathan Byrne finished City off.  The ex-Tottenham youngster has played a variety of positions from defence through to midfield, but looked the real deal in attack with a number of excellent finishes, particularly the third goal taking on the static City defence from right to left to score his and Swindon’s third.  Jon Obika completed the rout.

Swindon played well and deserved to win the game.  The fast pace and incise passing of their play dominated proceedings and they were good to watch. It’s early days, but I fancy them to be up there or thereabouts, trying to avenge last season’s playoff final defeat to Preston.

From a City perspective, there were a number of areas it went wrong after the initial early promise of the first half.  McMahon and the midfield were far too easily over-run; it was crying out for Gary Liddle to come in and take some authority and leadership.  Chris Routis playing on the right midfield was another baffling decision – City were worryingly lacking pace and options and it was only a late introduction of Mark Marshall which attempted to rectify this.  Billys Clarke and Knott drifted in and out of the game far too much, lacking consistency in making an impact. Hanson didn’t get much service and the introductions of Steve Davies, Marshall and Paul Anderson failed to change things too.

It’s early days though and the Bantams go to York in the cup on Tuesday to try to get the season underway with a victory.  We can expect changes as Parkinson tinkers to find his ideal 11 and the squad aim to impress to influence his decision.  The opening home game against Shrewsbury next Saturday and the roaring voice of 18,000 City fans should provide a platform to bounce back and get the season underway with some points on the board.

City: Williams, Darby, McArdle, N. Clarke, Meredith, Mahon, Routis, Knott (Anderson 72), Morris (Marshall 76), B. Clarke (Davies 63), Hanson

Not used: Cracknell, Sheehan, Liddle, James


Categories: Match Reviews

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

12 replies

  1. What happened to Liddle? Was he injured or fallen out of favour? All seems a tad odd he didn’t even get a kick as a sub.

    • Could it be we have had a decent offer for him and he was rested so he did not get injured????????????????

  2. I think too much is being read into the Liddle situation (or at least I hope so). PP went with an approach that he thought would get the result on the first day and by the sounds of it for the first half was very effective. In the second half it seems things went wrong so quickly for Liddle to be introduced and he’s hardly the player you bring on when chasing the game.
    Sounds like yesterday showed what we all knew. A 1st choice GK and centre half are still required. PP has publically stated this already even if it’s masked with the unconvincing ‘to add competition’ that is to protect the morale of the players in those positions now.
    Only worry for me is the failure to kill off the game when on top – the theme throughout last year!

  3. It’s back. And so are the doom-mongers, nay-sayers, and I-told-you-Parky-was-clueless brigade.
    If only the Ashes were there to distract me from then today…

    We were excellent for the first twenty minutes, looked dominant all over the park. Kudos to Mark for being one of the only people writing on this game to realise that McMahon was in fact playing central midfield with Routis on the right ( those apoplectic on social media at Liddle’s benching directing their ire at Routis and his “failings” only showing themselves up yet again! ).

    To borrow and Ormondroydism, for me I think Parky’s decision made sense. McMahon was strong in pre-season and brilliant here in that first half, his involvement in both the goal and penalty sublime, and also he barracks those around him to keep their standards very high. Routis in front of Darby also made sense, given the latter is still behind on fitness, as he provides more defensive cover than the marauding Anderson and Marshall ( themselves both some way behind fitness-wise ).

    I’m a massive fan of Liddle, but by necessity he has had to play CB for much of pre-season and in hindsight he may have offered more continuity by still playing at CB yesterday, given the torrid debut of Nathan Clarke, who must get much better much quicker after this uncomfortable start. But that’s what hindsight allows and nobody was questioning the team during a rampant period up to the penalty miss.

    On the long-drive home, we four Yorkshiremen sketched a philosophy about the relationship between passion/emotion and rational thinking. For all the passion in a vibrant and noisy away end, and for all the emotion of going from dominant to dismal in just ninety minutes, a rational view might conclude that Parky’s decisions made perfect sense, actually.

    What cost us the game yesterday was nothing more complex than too many players early in the new season allowing their first half standards to dip at a time when several in the squad still lack a bit of match fitness and match sharpness.

    We’ll be much better than this, and ( assuming he’s not going to Middlesborough ) Liddle will play his part in ensuring we compete for those top six places come May. So yes, a reality check and a harsh lesson yesterday, but one that only proves Parky and Parkin right yet again – you can have all the talent in the world, but as individual players if you ever let your work-rate dip, you’ll get punished. That’s their philosophy and the players didn’t deliver on it.

    But rational thinking concludes that they will. One game in, let’s not get too emotional just yet eh?!

    • Brilliant comment Mark D, thank you

    • It’s alright you being a smarty pants and having a pop at people for moaning about the Routis/Liddle situation but when the T&A’s match reporter, Simon Parker writes, ‘For those wondering, nothing wrong with Liddle. Routis preferred for holding role of diamond’, just before kick off, what do you expect people to think?

      • Thanks for your reply G.

        I guess I expect them to think that any conclusions drawn “just before kick off” are subject to review and correction.

        I thought watching/listening to the game was key to understanding it, and then deciding how to feel about it, but as that may well fall into the category of “being smarty pants”, I’m willing to be wrong about this.

        How about you?

    • I understand your point regarding Routis being played on the right as cover for Darby’s lack of match fitness but surely a place needed to be made for Liddle. He was our best player behind McArdle last season and, for me, one of the first names on the teamsheet.

      Parky could have played McMahon on the right and Liddle in the centre. He could have played McMahon at right back instead of Darby and then had Liddle in the centre.

      It all seems a little odd to me especially after the rumours of a possible move, I have my fingers crossed these are just rumours and there is no substance behind it because McMahon, again for me, is not as good at holding midfield as Liddle.

      As for N Clarke, I will write it off as a poor day at the office but the fourth goal was schoolboy stuff and was alarming to say the least.

  4. Obviously Swindon were prepared and Bradford not. I thought that was what pre-season was all about. Surely your strongest side should be fielded. Some of the debutants were not match fit and Darby did not have a full pre-season (yet he played!) I do hope a quality CB and Goal Keeper are recruited pretty soon and Liddle takes is rightful place in the team.

  5. Mark, I agree with your comments but I have to say I was slightly alarmed at the contrast between Swindon’s fluid and technical movement through their midfield and into attack and our more laborious approach. This was evident even in the first half when we were on top. However, the season is a long one and Phil Parkinson has a proven track record of turning heavy defeats around.

  6. Definitely a game of two halves but the main difference is we chased them in the final third in the second half rather than staying compact, as we were in the first. This gave them the chance to pass around us and get in behind the defence. We should gave stayed solid, but panicked after they scored. A real shame. Our back four do not have pace and so will need protecting, which an open game does not allow. No need to worry yet though, good reality check for the team and supporters and swindon did pass very well and at every opportunity. They will be one of the top 2 if they don’t have injuries.
    There support wad poor though only getting a voice at 4-1.

  7. Good analysis Michael.

    We played a high tempo pressing game in 1st half and forced them into many mistakes, and we kept the ball much better than they did and looked the only team likely to win. We were really very impressive in the first half.
    Second half they slightly changed their formation – still played out from the keeper but pushed 5 into midfield. We made the mistake really of continuing to try and press very high – and as we tired in the blistering heat, more gaps opened up and they passed us to death…..thought Meredith could and should have cleared the danger for the first but seemed to panic and lose control, and I thought we should have had a free kick before their second – McMahon was “turned” on the half way line – those are usually given to the defender, but ref played on and left us 3 on 4.
    Their third and fourth you could argue either poor defending or some brilliant play or a mixture of both, but we looked spent by then.
    There seemed a worrying lack of leadership on the pitch when it did all begin to unravel.

    Very early days, and we really did look very, very good in the first half.
    Shame about the second…

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