Image by Thomas Gadd - courtesy of Bradford City

Image by Thomas Gadd – courtesy of Bradford City

Bradford City 0

Bury 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

Tags: , , , , , , ,

22 replies

  1. Same problems that have been evident for the last couple of months.

  2. Nowhere near good enough, I’m afraid.

    For me we lacked character last night. We were leaderless and playing without any real philosophy or clear game plan. For example, I just can’t imagine Parky spends all week planning to get to the final third of the pitch and then either “clip it forward, something might happen” or “pass it sideways, something might happen”.

    But Tim’s point about courage is spot on! We were almost too young and inexperienced, save for the back four and Williams, which meant we weren’t passing the ball last night, but rather passing responsibility.

    It was crying out for Knott to come on behind the front two and make things happen. Knott’s been below par for a while now, and for various reasons, but the good favour he still carries with City fans is drawn from memory of a cup game, on a cold midweek night beneath the floodlights, against 10 men. He grabbed that game by the scruff and played a pivotal role in us beating L***ds for the first time in decades.

    That night feels a lifetime ago this morning; the character we showed to come back is curiously absent from this squad and we’re developing a very soft centre.

    Right now, we’re not tough enough, we’re not creative enough, we’re not positive enough. And we lack clear, vocal, passionate leaders out there to turn it around and set much higher standards.

  3. We are just a decent league 1 team! Let’s be thankful of that and not get above our station

  4. I think the fans will need plenty of courage to sit through any more of these poor (crap) displays

  5. We’re just a league one side! Let’s not get above our station

  6. I dont think Knott is the answer. Sure he has potential but that is not enough. He needs to produce it on the pitch and I can count on 1 hand the amount of times thats happened this season.

    I know its easier said than done but we need 2 new attacking midfielders which are box to box but Parky doesnt like to play that way so this is how it will be.

    People can either not go to games or realise this is how it will be with Parky as manager.

    Even though im not too keen on tactics sometime displayed by us and lack of creativity i’d take this any day over the 10 years before Parky and Parkin came in

    • Agreed. I also don’t think Knott is the answer, and we do need box to box players. But I do think that last night, in those circumstances, he was a better option from the bench and would get other things happening out there.

      And you’re spot on the last decade too!

      • Unfortunately we’ll never know since he never came on but he does seem to get pumped for the cup games and these are where his best performances seem to come

  7. Well said I have be saying for months that we have too many players set up defensively only 3 players offensive and when Hanson plays he spends half his time defending corners etc.
    Wonder why we don’t score goals mr Parkinson its Bloody obvious and has been for a long time.
    An attacking coach badly needed and a change of tactics.

  8. ‘Sterile domination’ is a good description. Sums it up for me. Trouble is with 5 strikers on the books, and a large number of midfielders, it is difficult to see how we could bring someone in, before ‘shipping’ some out. The change has got to come from within.

  9. Was it Beagrie who once said that ‘courage is doing something for the 10th time that hasn’t worked the previous 9’?

    I think that sometimes City players pass the buck when they pass the ball, and I’m not sure how we managed to get into this state. We had a great November, a set back against Walsall and then two defeats in two tough away games, yet we appeared to have imploded.

    Still, we’ve been here before post League cup final in 2012. We’re lacking form but are still in a good position in the league to push on. This is where PP has to really earn his corn and either rethink his approach to games, change the starting 11 or bring someone in. He’s proved time and time again that he can come through this type of test and his teams seem to thrive when there’s a gun to their collective heads.

    I’m really looking forward to see how he and the team respond to this and am desperately hoping that I’m not disappointed…

  10. It felt to me ike Evans and McMahon were being left on to take penalties, McMahon in particular is turning into a footballing equivalent of an NFL kicker, he’s just left on the pitch somewhere so he can take set pieces.

    It was an odd set up to cope with 10 men. The received wisdom is that against 10 men you are supposed to retain possession and try and stretch the opposition and exploit the space, the problem was against a very well set up Bury team the only space available was just in front of their midfield and Evans/Routis/McMahon would simply shovel the ball out to Darby/Meredith who would either pass forward to whoever was in front of them who would then be dealt with or pass it back into midfield to shovel it out to the other side. I think Knott would have helped out, at least he has the inclination to run forwards with the ball, try a pass into a forward’s feet or down the channels. City looked a little better in extra time when it was a bit more harem scarem with players all over the place in midfield.

    Bury were a very strong team though, it felt like having 10 men played to their strengths where they didn’t have to really worry too much about attacking and knew that Leon Clarke has enough about him to keep our defence honest.

    • Sorry, Ben ….. But Bury were not as good as you have made out. City failed to expose then, so they had little to do, in containing us. Heavens knows – the ‘Dog and Duck’ could have gone to penalties in this game ….. and WON, too.

  11. I’ve said for a while the shackles need to be taken off Billy Knott – look at his purple patch from last year as he was employed further up the pitch. He and Evans spend too much time standing on each others toes but this is the Parky way. We’ve not had a truly attack minded central midfielder since Syers.

    Reece Burke is also missed a great deal from an attacking tempo point of view. His ability to take the ball forward and to switch play quickly with either foot are abilities that neither Nathan Clarke or Rory have.

  12. Winning last night would have meant another rearranged home game and a big distraction in a fourth round Yorkshire derby in front of a near full house. Now we find out what the alternative really feels like..and if that is sixth place then no-one will really remember the pain of this match. Almost every team above City are already out of the FA Cup. In May they won’t care if they sit in places 1-6…let’s make sure we sit in the last of those places. The defence needs little, the midfield needs some work, the front needs a lot more..but ultimately 7 wins and 7 draws from the last 22 games equates to last season, and i for one can see us comfortably exceding that..especially with the work that will now take place in the club!

  13. Weird game where no side really should have won!! They took off Pope for a defender and that was the cue for us to go into attack mode, but in hindsight he needn’t have bothered.

  14. The best City sides I have seen over time have always had certain characteristics. The current team is somewhat lacking in most of these areas with one notable exception.

    1. Passion. Think of the big cup games in the last few years. (Arsenal, Sunderland, Chelsea, Leeds etc.) The `passion factor` seems to be a bit diminished at the moment.
    2. The ability to hunt down the opposition in packs. Think of McCall, Singleton, Abbott in their pomp in the 80`s. They would run down the opposition to such an extent that they would have little time on the ball and would often cough up possession allowing us to dictate games. I particularly remember a 2-0 win at Hull who were top of the league at the time in the 80`s. We went on to win Division 3 (League 1) that year if memory serves me right.
    3. Solid at the back particularly in the Goalkeeper and Centre Half positions. We had this in abundance with the McLaughlin, Davies, McArdle partnership. This is one area the current team does compare quite favourably with successful City teams of the past.
    4. Midfielders and wingers with the ability to run at and dribble their way through packed and organised defences, creating space for strikers to do the business. (Mark Ellis, Peter Beagrie, John Hendrie, and David Syers to name just a few)
    5. Chemistry. I appreciate this may sound a little vague but I can best sum it up by saying you can spot a team that has got it as they just seem to enjoy playing together. Sometimes there may be a couple of players with limited ability but they do their bit for the team and allow the more gifted players to flourish. The `nearly side` of 87 was like this. Remember Mark Leonard. Not the most gifted player but somehow fitted in perfectly when called upon.
    6. One or two `flair` players. These players are the creative heart of the team and often seem to play instinctively, doing the unexpected to open up defences. (Older supporters like me will remember Bruce Bannister and Leigh Palin and a bit more recently Robbie Blake)
    7. Pretty obvious this one but there are not many successful sides with at least one decent striker. A top striker can sometimes cover deficiencies in a team. I would argue that Nahki Wells came into this category.

    I may have missed some of the crucial ingredients of a successful side but these are the ones that I wish the current side had a bit more of!

    • Interesting points and for the most part I agree. There are certain characteristics that make up the DNA of a Bradford City team and us supporters. Players, managers and chairmen come and go but I reckon if every supporter closed their eyes and pictured their perfect Bradford City side they would be remarkably similar.

      My guess is there would be pace out wide, big fella / little fella combo up front, a midfield general, solid keeper all playing a 4,4,2 formation. Pace, power and passion would be the hallmark rather than tikka takka passing, honesty and commitment over elaborate, flowery skill.

      In his tenure at City, in general, PP has delivered sides which, successful or not have chimed with this DNA and have connected with supporters. I think that on their day this City side, even the one that played against Bury, have all the qualities you listed and more. The problem is that there are just many players out of form and for whatever reason the team has lost its mojo.

      Confidence, belief and momentum is everything in football. What’s important is that we don’t overreact and go into some sort of downward spiral – lets face it in times gone by the panic button would have been well and truly pressed by now. Most thought we were a good team 6 weeks ago, they just need to get their heads down, work hard, and come though this lean spell.

  15. Any thoughts from anyone about reverting to an attacking 3 (a la Stead, Clarke and Hanson wider) like last season, but with Hanson in the Stead role, Clarke in behind and Morris the wider of the 3?

    • Id like to see that but with Cole instead of Morris but i’d try 4-3-3.

      Goalie and defence picks itself with Evans,Morris(left) and McMahon(right) then Hanson,Clarke and Cole.

      Im not sure how effective it would be since we havent done this before but with the long ball to Hanson there will be 2 players to read the knock downs

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