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
Categories: Match Reviews