Bradford City 0
(Bury win 4-2 on penalties)
Tuesday 19 January, 2016
By Tim Penfold
Courage comes in various forms. There is the obvious one, the physical courage that runs through the heart of Phil Parkinson’s sides, exemplified by the likes of Rory McArdle and Stephen Darby who will put their bodies on the line for the club. But there are other forms of courage too, and tonight these were sadly lacking as City, toothless for 80 minutes against ten men, went out of the FA Cup on penalties to Bury.
There is the courage needed to keep working constantly, and to keep your head up after mistakes, and to keep running even when you’re exhausted, and that was missing from the team, exemplified by Devante Cole. During the second half, as Bury looked to slow things down, the ball repeatedly went back to the keeper who was able to use up 15 seconds before Cole would jog in his general direction to make him play the ball. After a bad early miss where he seemed to trip over himself in the six yard box, Cole seemed to disappear from view and hide – he didn’t want the ball, so didn’t get it.
There is courage in trying something difficult, even though it may not work out, rather than the easy option which just shifts the possibility of a mistake on to someone else. Lee Evans lacked this tonight, constantly taking a touch, slowing it down and passing it sideways. He seemed to be looking for a high pass completion rate rather than a win, and it allowed Bury to rest out of possession. They kept their shape and allowed City to pass it unchallenged 40 yards out, going from fullback to Evans to fullback and back again, possession without purpose, moving too slowly to disrupt Bury’s shape and unwilling to try the difficult pass. It’s notable that Bury were able to save two of their substitutions until the second half of extra time – with 10 men, they should’ve been shattered, but City never made them run.
There is also courage in breaking away from your safety net, and trying something different, and Phil Parkinson failed to do that tonight. There was no need to retain a midfield with two defenders in it for 15 minutes in the second half, or to ensure that both central midfielders never got past the centre circle. The current system is unbalanced – seven players in primarily defensive roles, three attacking – and is not helping our lack of creativity. This game was crying out for Billy Knott, the one midfielder in the squad who has the ability to pick a through ball and unlock a defence, and he stayed sat on the bench. The lack of thought and creativity going forward is now costing us games – with Parkinson and Parkin both defensive specialists, is it time to hire an attacking coach?
City were on top before Nathan Cameron’s needless red card, and dominated afterwards, but it was sterile domination and lacking in ambition. When chances were created, Cole and Luke James wasted good opportunities, while Josh Morris was unlucky to hit the post, but this pattern of missed opportunities is too familiar to be bad luck. The Bury keeper, Ian Lawlor, who was allowed to get away with horrendous time-wasting by a referee who also lacked the courage to keep control of the game, made one fine save from Billy Clarke but otherwise was not tested enough – five shots on target (some of which were particularly tame) from nineteen overall shots is a poor ratio.
Penalties seemed inevitable, and City’s strikers continued their poor run with Steve Davies and Cole both hitting penalties that lacked both power and direction. Bury scored all four of theirs and get the reward of Hull. The Bantams, meanwhile, get to concentrate on a league campaign that seems doomed to mid-table unless the fundamental flaws in their attack are solved.
To push for the play offs again, they’ll need to find their courage.
City: Williams, Darby, McArdle, N Clarke, Meredith, McMahon, Evans, Routis (B Clarke 66), Marshall (Davies 85), James (Morris 66), Cole
Not used: Cracknell, Leigh, Knott, Reid
Categories: Match Reviews