Phil Parkinson’s new Bradford City team are failing to produce Phil Parkinson performances

Colchester United 2

Harriott 7, Sordell 32

Bradford City 0

Tuesday 29 September, 2015

By Tim Penfold

Jon McLaughlin must be feeling quite happy with the way his career has gone after leaving Bradford City in the summer of 2013. His Burton Albion team sit top of League One, and McLaughlin is their regular keeper having conceded just six goals in his nine appearances to date.

Andrew Davies also seems to be enjoying himself up in Scotland. His Ross County side are 5th in the SPL with Davies helping himself to two goals so far, although he did pick up a red card on Saturday.

Gary Jones’ Southport are not having a great season, lying 22nd in the Conference Premier. Age may be catching up with him, but all of his experience and leadership will be needed in what is likely to be a relegation battle.

This evening, Bradford City gave a performance which lacked the qualities that these three brought to the team: competent goalkeeping, defensive solidity and leadership.

Brad Jones was at fault for a goal for the fourth time in three games.  Jones let a drilled cross from Callum Harriott slip straight through him to give Colchester an early lead and take all of the momentum out of a bright start from the Bantams. There was a brief rally after this, with Lee Evans having a shot blocked, but Colchester picked up a second when, after they broke through a large gap in the middle where Tony McMahon should’ve been, Marvin Sordell was given the freedom of the penalty area to slot past a motionless Jones, and it was game over from there.

Phil Parkinson’s most successful City sides have been defined by their courage and refusal to lie down and be beaten, and for the second time in a week these qualities were completely lacking.

Parkinson sprung a tactical surprise by lining City up in a 4-3-3 formation. Steven Davies and Devante Cole lined up either side of James Hanson in attack, with Billy Knott and Lee Evans pushing forward and Tony McMahon holding the midfield. In defence, Chris Routis was a surprise starter in place of the unwell Rory McArdle, which suggests that Nathan Clarke will not be used unless absolutely necessary.

The system was designed to compensate for the lack of available wingers by using wide forwards, but failed miserably. James Hanson needs a strike partner near him to read his flicks, and tonight he was left badly isolated. He looks out of form and short on confidence. The wide forwards had very little impact on the game and City were generally too narrow.

We saw last season what happens when Stephen Darby is the only wide outlet on one flank, and the same thing happened again. The system should’ve been scrapped at half time, and a late switch to 4-4-2 did produce a brief flurry, with McMahon hitting the bar from range.

The whole team was too static – time and time again Lee Evans or Billy Knott would get on the ball only to have no passing options available apart from a pass back to the defence and the inevitable long ball which followed.  Routis was particularly shaky in defence, and his distribution was awful, regularly finding touch with his long balls.

In the holding role Tony McMahon gave a performance of staggering incompetence, unable to find his teammates with passes or stop Colchester from breaking forward through the middle. Gary Liddle would surely be a better option.

In the second half, too many players seemed to hide. There was nobody (with the possible exception of Billy Knott) that tried to get on the ball and drive the Bantams’ forward, and they seemed content to lump it aimlessly forward in the vague direction of a striker instead of having the courage to trust in their ability to create.

Our two on-pitch leaders have gone, and the result is a large hole which allows opposition teams to cruise to victory.

However, it is the goalkeeping position which is the biggest worry. Ben Williams has failed to convince, but is surely better than what we have seen so far from Jones. His command of his box was non-existent, his kicking was awful, and he looked like an accident waiting to happen. He came with Premier League pedigree, but has provided Sunday League performances so far. Without a vast improvement here, City’s season will continue to flounder.

This does not look like a Phil Parkinson team at the moment.  Where is the defensive solidity that the History Makers’ back four provided?  Where is the pace, power and skill which City’s attacks have provided in the past?  And where is the drive and leadership that used to keep City in games when they weren’t performing?

City: Jones, Darby, Routis, Burke, Meredith, McMahon, Evans, Knott (James 83), Davies (Marshall 72), Hanson, Cole

Not used: Williams, N Clarke, Liddle, Mottley-Henry, Leigh

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Categories: Match Reviews

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15 replies

  1. A great piece of writing. My sentiments exactly. I just haven’t got the knack of stringing all the words together in a such a way which makes as much sense to be fair.
    The team lacks leadership and Nathan Clarke’s confidence must be shot to pieces now. 4 centre halves have been preferred to him since he was dropped!

  2. Don’t give up! At least PP tried something different with the players available. The thing that suprised me was not playing Clarke at the back. The amount of injuries we have had is worrying and when we start to get a settled side something else seems to go wrong. It also is frustrating to see the booboys out in force so strongly already, PP has shown he’s a good manager we just need to trust him, he will get it right. I agree we need someone to get hold of the team and lead by example even when it doesn’t work. Showing the right effort always gets our fans going.

  3. Have to agree with the early comments in this article. we all expected better, but unfortunately the last two games show that we have significant shortcomings in all areas. a) two weak and unreliable ‘keepers. b) lacking a central defensive leader – the rock at the heart of our defence. c) missing someone in the middle with the drive of Doyle or the drive, determination and will to win of Jones. d) a misfiring front partnership. if and when Hanson gets the knockdowns, Cole is usually 20yds away and moving in the opposite direction.

    • Agree with the points you make with the addition that Hanson simply has to be better at directing his knockdowns rather than, at times, heading/flicking and hoping! Please don’t think I’m a Hanson basher as I’m not but he’s been poor when I’ve seen him this season and perhaps it’s time to try a partnership up front without him.

    • I miss Doyle. We could use a player in that mould to balance the team. Unfortunately we now have another issue which is that our attack has been seriously blunted by injury.

  4. I agree entirely

  5. A depressing read if ever I saw one. But unfortunately, it’s all too true. Perhaps time to throw that young keeper in – I forget his name. He can’t be any worse than the shower we’ve seen in goal thus far this season.

  6. Spot on report Tom.
    It was depressing watching after an encouraging and spirited opening 10 mins when we totally bossed the game.
    The appalling concession of the goal from a nothing scuff across jones seemed to completely deflate the team.
    No organisation, no movement, no courage on the ball and no width on a huge wide pitch. That said Colchester offered practically nothing either but you sensed they simply felt at 2 0 it was job done and conserve energy for Saturday.
    One bright note – others may well violently disagree – but I thought davies had a decent game and with better support could be very effective wide right. It wil not happen with Darby seemingly undroppable.

  7. Whilst I agree with most of what this report says, I have a couple of points to make:

    – from all the reports I’ve read and heard about last night Brad Jones was at fault for their first goal but I think it’s a bit churlish to give him all the blame for the goals in recent games, after all when the defense lets the attacking team have free shots 8 yards out in front of goal it can’t be the all the keeper’s fault surely.

    – James Hanson doesn’t really flick the headers – they bounce off his head – reading these for his strike partner has got to be difficult – also he misses more times than he scores.

    – I’d like to see Davies given a run in the side as target man along side Cole

    – yes we’re missing the players you mentioned but most of all we’re missing Stead up front, his hold up play and bringing the midfield into the game was what made us successful last year going forward.

  8. As soon as Mcmahon was starting the holding role i knew we would struggle. He is a right back! he can play in the middle but only if he has liddle to help him out, who was dropped but i am not sure why, he made more tackles than most againt peterborough. I truly hope parkinson isnt surprised by Mcmahon performance. I have no doubt parkinson will turn it round but the decisions made last night were poor from the very start

  9. Strange decision to leave out Liddle, and play Routis at centre half who has not had his best games in that position. Liddle is more than competant in that position.
    Goalkeeping situation is worrying, Jones looks very suspect, not sure if he knows he is allowed to catch the ball and also not push the ball back into open play. We have not recruited well in that department since Johnny Mac left. Williams did well in the cups last year and was improving with every game this season, the knockers got there wish by him being dropped.
    I have great admiration for Hanson but maybe its time for us to try something new, Davies And Cole or James, Cole looks a bit off the pace and cant read Hanson’s knock downs, maybe by using one of the other combinations we would get more football from midfield and thru balls for the strikers to run on to and create some chances which have been seriously lacking.

  10. The really sad part of all this? ten games in and we’re all discussing what amounts to City missing, and needing the spine of the team. what have we discussed lads? shaky ‘keepers, missing the rock at heart of our defence, a never-say-die leader in central midfield and a misfiring strikeforce.

  11. The names of players from the past, are just that. However it is the lack of suitable replacements. There is a need to win games at home. The loss last night, was in itself, not too concerning, as gaining a point away from home can be difficult. However the reported performance was a major worry. With Rochdale away and Barnsley in the JPT, we could face two more defeats before Blackpool visit VP. The current home form is very poor, and in my view far more worrying, than a loss at Colchester.

  12. Just play people in their correct positions and play 442….Luke James can play the Billy Clarke role or out wide, anyone who saw him destroy us at the Victoria Ground two seasons ago knows his worth… I just feel Phil has a determination sometimes to be ” cleverer” with his tactics than I believe he needs to be. And I can only see Devante as an impact player, a 20 minute substitute. By the way Davies had a reasonable game playing out of position from my seat in the away end.

  13. The problems lie with with the recruitment of new players through the summer. 5 players were disposed of who contributed greatly to a successful season. Davies, Yeates, Halliday, Stead & Pickford.

    Firstly, the goal keeping situation has not been resolved by Parkinson since McCloughlin’s contract was rejected and he left for pastures new 2 seasons ago. There has been at least 2 attempts to sign a keeper this season before the signing of Jones & it has been quite clear that Parkinson was waiting for Ben Williams to make any kind of error before ushering him out of first team action as quickly as he possibly could. Williams seems to have been a stop gap keeper until what Parkinson thought was a superior replacement in Jones without him earning the right to go straight into first team action or Williams making a hatful of mistakes. This has left Parkison with a major headache and may well result in a recall for Williams after been so unceremoniously dropped by Parkinson.

    Second, on the back of the successful #149 campaign the expectation levels have been naturally raised given the exposure of last seasons FA Cup run and a seventh place finish. However, given the extra revenue through the cup runs, season ticket sales that the club pitched at 15k as a realistic figure but sold a further 3k, the sale of Ollie Mcburnie and the sell on clause triggered by the loaning of Andre Wisdom from Liverpool to Norwich. This should have left the club in strong position financially to compete with any club at this level with the exception of Wigan Athletic. This clearly has not happend and the replacement signings have not been good enough.

    Thirdly, I feel Parkison went into the season under orders to play a more attacking style of play given the expectections of bigger crowds at Valley Parade and to show the door to the big earners and if not to renew the contracts of the bigger earners on lower terms than the previous season ie McClean, Davies & Stead. However, once this happened in July it left Pakinson 1 month to bring in key players and mould them into an attacking 442 system with the 2 new wingers and forward line in a little over a month.

    Fourthly, it appears the club has had trouble signing the caliber of player needed to fit in with a 442 system and there were no signings made for the midfield areas and there appears to be an imbalance as half of Parkinson’s signings have been attacking players Davies, Marshall, Anderson, James, Cole leaving Parkinson trying to play an attacking formation with players not good enough to fit in with his plan A thus leaving him with no plan B and having to sign a further 3 players to cover the lack of quality signings in the summer. In Nathan’s Clarkes case he looked like a panic buy to replace Andrew Davies and it certainly appears that Clarke has kicked his last ball in a City shirt at this early stage of the season.

    Fifth and finally there appears to be a total lack of confidence amongst the players and there is not enough togetherness and this may be down to the whole sale changes in the squad, injuries, or that they are just not good enough to take city to the next level. What ever the reasons this is Parkinson’s biggest test to date and one that requires a massive rethink on the current players abilities, formation and tactics or a further dip into the transfer market to to reverse this worrying downward trend.

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