The dangers of ignoring the negatives as Bradford City bow out of the cup at York

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York City 2

Summerfield 49 (pen), Berrett 85

Bradford City 2

Routis 19, Hanson 90

York City win 4-2 on penalties

Tuesday 11 August, 2015

Written by Jason McKeown (images by Kieran Wilkinson)

It shouldn’t feel so serious, so soon. And yet as Bradford City moved into stoppage time at Bootham Crescent, on the brink of a 2-1 cup defeat to follow the Swindon farce, dark clouds were gathering over a Bantams season that is less than a week old.

James Hanson’s tremendous injury time equaliser brought salvation but it would prove fleeting. Hanson would ultimately be the last Bradford City player to kick the ball, after he converted his penalty during a shootout lost by his team. No league points, out of the cup, and already four spot kicks missed. Happy new season.

Compared to the dismal surrender at Swindon this was much better from City. It had to be. There were positives. There were some solid individual performances. There was a show of team strength of character and unity in coming back from the dead. But there was also much to cause worry. There is a huge Andrew Davies-shaped hole at the back. There was a midfield missing in action in the second half. There is a lack of composure in front of goal.

For a time it all looked so encouraging. City bossed the first half and were a class above their League Two hosts. Phil Parkinson made six changes, but he gave the four Swindon scapegoats amongst the fans – Ben Williams, Nathan Clarke, Chris Routis and Tony McMahon – the opportunity to earn quick redemption.

Routis certainly grasped that chance in the first half, volleying City into the lead from an Alan Sheehan free kick. It was a terrific finish from the Frenchman and clearly a deliberate training ground routine to engineer the space for Routis – they tried it again shortly afterwards. It also illustrated his growing importance to the team.

So much has been written about Routis and much of it has been very uncomplimentary. But what is clear is that Parkinson sees something in Routis and is trying to develop a role for him. Routis is technically excellent on the ball and if he can remember to keep things simple he can go far at Valley Parade. He did well overall here. However, it’s still a challenge truly getting the best out of him for the good of the team.

Tony McMahon and Ben Williams also experienced good nights, although the struggle goes on for Nathan Clarke. The former Huddersfield defender had another torrid evening and his confidence looks shot to pieces. What was particularly worrying was Clarke’s failure to get the basics right and numerous errors offered York encouragement throughout. City tried to build on Routis’ goal and Sheehan had a long range drive well-saved by Scott Flinders. Luke James went on a mazy run and hit a low shot narrowly wide. James looked a useful player on tonight’s evidence, similar in style to Michael Boulding. Alongside him Steve Davies grew into the game and impressed greatly with his hold up play and vision.

But just like on Saturday, City’s profligacy in front of goal came back to bite. Parkinson must have surely spent the interval urging his players not to be slow out of the traps again. Russ Wilcox would have told his charges to stop showing their opponents so much respect.

In a pulsating second half, York came roaring back. Gary Liddle – recalled to the side and largely excellent – rashly gave away a penalty that was converted by Luke Summerfield. Despite two decent efforts from Davies, the game descended into one-way traffic at the other end.

York were brilliant. They knocked the ball around with confidence, and found alarming gaps between City’s midfield and defence. A Nathan Clarke slip-up went unpunished, and there were other goalmouth scrambles that ended with the ball rolling past the wrong side of the post.

But City earned a get out of jail card with a penalty completely against the run of play. Billy Clarke – who had just come on as sub and impressed greatly – charged past defenders on the break and played the ball into Davies’ path. The former Derby man was felled in the area, and after an argument between Routis and Sheehan over who should take the spot kick, Sheehan blazed woefully over the bar.

It looked even more costly when, with five minutes to go, York won a hotly disputed free kick and the excellent James Berrett smashed the ball into the net. Williams’ otherwise encouraging evening was blighted slightly by the poor way he had set up the wall. York fans were jubilant, whilst the mood amongst a muted City following grew darker.

Parkinson, who had just thrown on James Hanson, urged his players to attack more and the tempo was increased. For all the positives of James and Davies, Hanson and Clarke are on a higher level and will remain Parkinson’s first choice strikers. Mark Marshall enjoyed an excellent full debut and was a constant threat on the right wing. He is not pacy or direct, but has a good range of passing ability and can really cross a ball.

The final four minutes were carnage. City kept pumping the ball into the box and Hanson saw a shot blocked on the line whilst Josh Morris had a penalty appeal turned away. They never gave up, and deep into stoppage time Hanson drilled the ball into the net to spark brilliant scenes of celebration amongst the away fans behind the goal. The cross from Routis was perfect and Hanson reacted instinctively to sweep the ball home.

Extra time saw the tempo drop, as both teams looked more worried about losing than going for the winner. Hanson headed over from Sheehan’s cross and York hit the post, but after a cagey half hour penalties ensued. There was some controversy about the decision to take the spot kicks at the York end of the ground, but there shouldn’t be excuses. McMahon and Routis missed, Morris and Hanson scored, but York netted four of their five to win the game. It brought an end to City’s world record penalty shootout winning sequence. It brought an end to City’s interest in this competition.

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There is hope offered that City are expected to make two signings before Saturday. A centre half for a transfer fee – rumoured to be Shrewsbury’s Connor Goldson – and WOAP understands Chris Kirkland has been training with City. The extra signings are badly needed. The Bantams look strong in most departments, but are badly lacking at the back. The first two games have cruelly exposed their defensive weaknesses. Nathan Clarke needs taking out of the firing line immediately.

It shouldn’t be so serious, so soon – but it is. There is despondency and unrest amongst fans. There is a divide of opinion. There are fears that City aren’t good enough to live up to the rising expectations. And these fears can’t be easily dismissed. There are ultra-positive supporters trying to do just that, citing that past successful seasons like 98/99 and 12/13 didn’t start well, so not to worry right now. That is true, but at the moment things don’t look too clever. And whilst it is indeed far too premature to panic, to shrug off defeats as ‘early days’ risks missing a very important point.

Successful seasons like 98/99 and 12/13 didn’t start well, but there are other campaigns that also started badly and then didn’t get any better. The Notts County 5-0 defeat on the opening day of the 09/10 season, the Shrewsbury 3-1 day one loss the year after, the Aldershot 2-1 debacle the year after that. They immediately set the season’s tone to negative, and it proved near-impossible for the team and manager to recover from it.

There is a risk of something similar happening here. It would be foolish to label Saturday’s home game with Shrewsbury as must-win, but imagine the post-match reaction if City lose again? There is pressure now. It is pressure that can be eased and the tone can be changed, but only if it happens quickly.

The season has started in the worst possible manner. There is no need to be carried away by doom and gloom, but the negatives cannot be ignored. It’s all got serious, quickly. For the players, the huge crowd on Saturday must be an inspiration rather than something to fear.

City: Williams, McMahon, McArdle, N. Clarke, Sheehan, Marshall, Liddle, Routis, Anderson (Morris 61), Davies (Hanson 80), James (Clarke 66)

Not used: Cracknell, Leigh, Mottley-Henry, Knott

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Categories: Match Reviews

Tags: , , ,

16 replies

  1. Having just got back from York bradford city looked a very poor outfit. I wonder if the proposed summer take over bid has in some way derailed the club and affected recruitment in the summer? City have lost some key players from last season who contributed greatly to a successful season.

    After releasing stead, Davies & losing Morias in July parkinson has not found it easy bringing in replacement players. The current crop of players have only had 2.5 games together and the players look short on fitness & togetherness. On this evidence it will take time for the players to gel and at this moment in time I don’t think parkinson knows his best team or formation.

    The signing of Nathan Clarke appears to have been a panic buy and he looks unfit and lacking in confidence. However the six goals conceded have to be a shared responsibility from back to front and the back 4 have been left totally exposed for all the goals to press.

    City lacked leaders and for me only sparked into life when billy clarke added the guile & Hanson the physical presence. York thoroughly deserved the win tonight and good luck to them.

    Let’s hope this team can gain fitness and gel together sooner rather than later but in the first 2 games reinforcements are needed in goal, centre half & central midfield. It’s not often I disagree with parkinson after match comments but I there’s a lot of hard work to be done if city are to become real contenders this season.

    • Nathan Clarke’s nickname at Town was ‘hoofer’. Goodness knows why Bantams signed him. Slow and ineffective.

  2. I’m annoyed to see players arguing over penalties. This is so unprofessional and should have been sorted out beforehand by PP, especially after the miss on Saturday. Small point but it doesn’t look good and shows the opponents that there are problems within the team. Surprised that PP hadn’t addressed this problem & if he had then the players are clearly not listening.

  3. Brilliant article Jason.

    I think due to the accessibility of social media you have the ability to vent your frustration to the world instantly. In the past your anger would have been vented in the pub and after a pint or two you would come round and see that it is not as bad as you first though.

    It really isn’t the end of the world and as you say we have forty-five games to go. On the flip side you can’t really deny that preseason has not gone to plan. The failed take-over, uncertainty over Hanson and Parkinson and missing out on key targets (I suspect rather more than the two suggested) have clearly disrupted our preseason. I hope we learn from this and in future get our business done early so we can get them gelling in pre-season games.

    For me we are a goalkeeper, defender, central midfielder and goal scoring striker short. We are not putting our chances away which puts us under pressure at the back and that results in goals conceded after being on top. This takes the wind out of our sails and ends in defeat like Swindon and York.

    My concern now is that the numbers #onefournine and more importantly 18,000 do not become a negative rather than the positive that they should be.

  4. Hmm….I can’t help but wonder that the drawn out, and ultimately unsuccessful, takeover has not helped. For a number of weeks there was a sense of paralysis around the club whilst talks went on and on and on. We were also led to believe there were other bidders waiting in the wings; again can’t have been helpful to anyone within the club or attracting new players. Regardless of the organisation one works for, any speculation about change of ownership and/or leadership leads to unsettlement. Not comfortable raising the question but I do wonder whether Phil Parkinson actually has complete say over transfers. If the rumours around Conor Goldstone and Chris Kirkland come to fruition things should start to feel a bit more positive but it seems at this stage it’s going to take longer than we thought for a settled team to materialise.

  5. I am really trying to be positive and I am not going to panic get but we looked a very poor team last night especially in the second half. on a positive liddle played well that is all.

  6. I’ll start with the positives. Hanson has got off the mark and we are scoring first and not having to chase the game.

    Unfortunately something is missing and I think it is Andrew Davies who’s presence was immense around the place

    Im gutted we didnt sign Jussi and are instead chasing Kirkland. Jussi played at a higher level and is a fitter player and all round better goalkeeper.

    Another signing we made to wait too long and he got something better.

    Ill finish with a positive and that is Connor Goldson would be a good signing

  7. As usual excellent stuff Jason, but you need to shoot your “sources”. Kirkland just signed for PNE……..

  8. If we’re looking for composure in front of goal plus a new goalkeeper why don’t we just re-sign this guy?!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/33880100

  9. As ever a great article which is tone perfect. Yes, no need to panic, but yes again, some real concerns. The fact is, with a stable manager, comes stability. A stability that affords you to understand his team earlier rather than later. And there’s slight problems.

    Firstly, Ian’s comment re penalties is on the button. That should have been sorted. I wanted to deal with this firstly as I thought it was a real pertinent point. One that shows a real understanding of footy.

    Then moving on may I pass my tuppenth worth.

    I’m not accepting of the belief that any of the potential take over nonsense derailed the players or PP. I do accept it may have set the transfer activity back slightly. But that’s all. Players are professional and nomadic. Look how easily they move on and adapt. It’s evident on twitter. It’s evident by the amount of transfers. It’s a part of their life. And PP was part of that for many a year. He’s a mature, respected man manager. He’s an ex player.

    And I want to be blunt. He wouldn’t, as wouldn’t a player, have given one tiny care who owned the club. A career of, at best 15 years, demands a certainty of one thing. A contract demonstrable to ones talents at that given time. That’s the game they play and the gamble they take. So let’s knock that as an excuse right now.

    The fact remains that there is an air of expectation this year. I certainly have a degree of expectancy. I’ve been going 35 years. But I can also spot a problem. Many have pointed out that 18,000 does not a successful season make. And that’s true. But for some reason I thought we were due a great season. Having seen City for the last 3 games I’m really not so sure. Let me explain.

    We need two strong keepers to compete. We need a competitor to Williams. I’m not prepared to knock Williams yet. He seemed OK at Chelsea didn’t he. But maybe we need competition. And if they displace him so be it.

    Mezza, Mc Ardle and Derby need no comment. Clarke needs pulling out as Jason says. I simply don’t believe he stopped playing football overnight. Yet, he evidently can’t play right now. Many will point to Liddle. But, we’ve no central midfield so that’s not possible.

    I think, at this stage, we’ve recruited well on the flanks. Morris, Anderson and Marshall appear to have real talent. And, I always afford wingers more weeks as they need to stretch their legs and find the flanks. So a big plus for PP here.

    Central Midfield now worries me. Liddle doesn’t. Knott and Routis are frankly waiting to convince me. So the only other contender is McMahon. I like him as I like Liddle. The criticism of him V Swindon was mindless. He was pushed under a bus by PP. A sole defensive midfielder. But that means we only have 2 defensive midfielders and is that enough? If you are playing 2 out and out wingers Central must be solid. I’m not sure we’ve addressed this balance.

    Up front we have the ever effective JH, who as ever will score only 10-15 yet add a plethora of strength to the team, and a very impressive BC. I will not damn any man after two games but I’m not quite with Jason as to the merits of the two back ups. I hope he to be right and me wrong.

    In conclusion we STILL need a GK, a CB, a CM and a goal scorer.

    As an aside, and one I can’t not mention, I thought PP to be slightly weak after Swindon. The game was lost by his tactics in the second half. The mature and manly way to deal with that was to come out and say “my fault, don’t even look at the players”. That would have killed a lot of criticism. Stronger managers do it.

    It may have avoided the anxieties of such as Clarke at York. Anxieties brought on, for a percentage part, by the attitude of the crowd. PP could have negated that.

    Finally, I hope the more maturer supporter will have noticed the simply magnificent retro kits the club shop have produced. Go out and but please- or simply give positive feedback- as these are the products the fans have been crying out for.

  10. Last season everyone said we were relegation candidates and we nearly reached the play-offs.

    This season everyone expects us to be up there so I hope it doesnt go the other way and we are fighting for our lives.

    Too early yet to see but it will be an interesting season regardless

  11. I still think we’ll do quite well over the season. We’ve had an away loss in the league and an away draw in the cup (settled on penalties). It’s annoying but hardly a disaster. I wouldn’t read too much into the fact we’ve shipped six goals either; you get bigger scores in the early season when teams are at different levels of fitness and organisation.

    That said, the team should be better prepared by this stage. As far as I can tell the squad is incomplete, many players are unfit and the manager doesn’t know his best XI. He now has to address those issues while getting results in competitive games.

    • To be honest Mal, it is your last paragraph that I think is quiet damning of our pre-season and is the cause of much of the fans frustrations. We put so much into selling and promoting our season ticket campaign (understandably) which was wonderfully backed by the fans, but this should have been matched with a very concise plan from the club to have the vast majority of the things you list in place before the season started.

      I also think we will come good but I hope we are not left to rue these early season setbacks as I anticipate ours will be a very competetive division this time round.

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