The wrong kind of Bradford City cup shock

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

Match review: Bradford City 1 (Kilgallon) Accrington Stanley 2

By Tim Penfold

We’ve seen this before, haven’t we?  A lower division side goes to a higher league team in the cup, and through teamwork, skill, and a bigger side being off the pace, an upset happens.  It just feels a bit odd to be on the receiving end, as Accrington yet again dumped the Bantams out of a cup competition.

City gave plenty of chances to fringe players today, with six changes from the Wimbledon game, but not enough of them staked their claim for a place.  Going forward, Filipe Morais had some flashes of good play in the first half but disappeared in the second, whilst Haris Vuckic was replaced at half time.

Vuckic has quality, but it’s becoming obvious why he’s never been able to establish himself anywhere, as he vanished in spells here, and his laid-back style made it impossible for the Bantams to press as a team.  He’s been a promising youngster for too long – eventually he needs to turn that promise into something more substantial.

There were also changes to the back four, with Rory McArdle and Nathan Clarke coming in at centre back.  Unfortunately, Clarke appears to have reverted back to the nervous, hesitant defender we saw at the start of last season, and McArdle, who made some important blocks and headers, had a poor game with his distribution.

This was a common theme across the back four, with possession surrendered too easily by all of them, and none of them comfortable bringing the ball into midfield.  It’s a strange thought – before the start of the season I couldn’t imagine our defence without McArdle or Darby, but I’d now argue that none of the players who started today would make up our first choice back four.  In particular, James Meredith’s return can’t come soon enough, as his drive forward is vital to the way the team plays.

The midfield also underperformed.  Danny Devine was below par despite battling hard, while Timothee Dieng was constantly being dragged out of position by Accrington’s quick interchanges, leaving a large hole in front of the back four and space for the visitors to attack.  Mark Marshall, meanwhile, had the most threat going forward with his pace and trickery, but was sacrificed for a tactical switch to a diamond midway through the second half.

At their best this season, City have been one truly fluid team, with positional interchanges and link-up play coming easily.  Today, they weren’t one team – it was a defence, a midfield and an attack, all on the same pitch but never seeming to connect properly.  The tactical shift to the diamond and the introduction of Billy Clarke and Nicky Law sorted some of the issues going forward, but the defence never really connected with the rest of the team, meaning that the ball ended up either given away or launched at James Hanson too often.

Accrington, meanwhile, played a bit like City wanted to.  There was fluency, there were long spells of possession, there was good link up play and a cutting edge going forward.  Their first was a near-post header by Rommy Boco, while Boco set up their second with a flick to Jordan Clark who ended up 1v1 against Darby and found enough space to drive the ball into the bottom corner.  They looked like a team today, whereas City looked like a collection of individuals.

City will need to be back to playing as a coherent unit against Rochdale next Saturday.  The return of the likes of Law, Romain Vincelot, Nathaniel Knight-Percival and Billy Clarke will help.  They will deservedly walk straight back into the side, as none of the fringe players on display did anything to advance their cause – a concern, considering that we will need them in the months ahead.

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15 replies

  1. The summary is spot on. I could not put it any better.

  2. Manager made wrong calls; Vkucic, Hiwula, McArdle for example. It’s no good splitting up our best team just for the sake of giving minutes to players not being picked regularly, because when are you going to pick players like Vkucic or McArdle in the forseeable future. Game yesterday cried out for Law, who when he came on alongside Billy Clarke transformed our ‘go forward’. Pity our back-four couldn’t defend against a League 2 team!

  3. So if McArdle, N.Clarke, Vuckic and Morais are now to be replaced on Saturday..does he also phase Meredith and McMahon back in for Kilgallon & Darby? Naturally Devine moves over for Cullen and Law, B Clarke, Vincelot and NKP will return. Perhaps McNulty in for Hanson? May well need for a couple of new faces in January to compete with the others at the top of League One. Our overall squad is evidently lacking a little in quality when one really looks at it..One week vs. Rochdale to turn things around (checkatrade match

  4. All credit to Accrington Stanley the team closed down the space, rarely wasted a pass, were first to the second ball and played a a slick pass and move style that made us look like we were the lower league oufit. A fully deserved and well earned victory for Stanley.

    Apart from a 15 minute spell in the first half when Vuckic and Hanson were denied from a fine 1 on 1 save and a clearance off the line Stanley’s pass and move style and high tempo approach was far superior to anything we had to offer on the day.

    Put simply Stanley wanted it more than we did. John Coleman, his coaching staff and the players deserve the plaudits for a well executed game plan carried out with great skill and determination.

    As alluded to by Stuart Mccall post match the players did not show enough passion, did not work hard enough for each other and in my opinion the players just rocked up and expected Stanley to just roll over. Apart from a 15 minute spell in the first half the vistors controlled the game with a disiplined and a skillfull performance.

    Today was a great opportunity for the likes of Vuckic, Nathan Clarke, Mcardle, Devine and Morais to push on and stake a claim for a regular start in the first team starting 11.

    The starting line up for todays game showed up some of the frailties of Stuart’s squad and the imbalance of quality that is currently missing both out wide and the cutting edge up front.

    The prospects only improved for the Bantams once Billy Clarke and Nicky Law were introduced into the fold and Mark Marshall was sacrificed for Hiwula with Mccall opting for a diamond type formation.

    However, after nicking an equaliser with a great set piece cross from Billy Clarke this only made Stanley more determined to win the game. After a 5 minute spell of the shock of conceeding the city goal the vistors moved up a gear. The winning goal was a well worked and splendidly finished move from Jordan Clarke from the edge of the box. His angled shot was proceeded by good link up play from the hard working Romuald Boco and was a clinical finish.

    Stuart has created a squad that has too many defenders given the pre season injuries to Darby and Mcardle. Given that Stuart only took up the reigns as boss with a small squad, no backroom staff and the best forwards already signed by rival clubs it makes the job he is doing evenn more remarkable. With the emerging talent of Danny Devine as a utility player and the sucess of Roman Vincelot at centre half there is an embarrassment of choice for the back four positions.

    Not so for the forward line and wide positions. James Hanson toiled hard tyesterday with little service or support from his team mates. Stuart and Greg Abbott need to find a front man who can play off Hanson and a wing man who can support and create for the front 2 in the January transfer window.

    Althoulgh this defeat should not detract from the excellent start and progress city have made to the season Mccall and Abbott need to shuffle the pack in the new year and find a better balance in the final third o the field that will score the goals and marry all the good approach play to take city to the next level.

    • I agree with this summary, but the problem yesterday seems to go deeper. There was no atmosphere in the stadium, apart from the very noisy Stanley fans. The crowd was small and silent, and City played like that. Hanson had nobody to pick up his flicks, and, like the next commenter, I wonder if he really fits in to the new City style. I hope he does. Kilgallon looked very slow and unconfident, and Clarke and McArdle lacked skill in distribution. The Accrington number 14 was brilliant. Vukcic is what we used to call a flatterer, and the speed of Meredith was missed.
      Frankly, I expected City to do what Sheffield United did today, and was sorely disappointed with the way they play, and the seeming lack of desire. It was not good enough.

  5. I agreed with so much of what you say but then you came to the part about someone playing off Hanson. A lot of the excellent Accrington play came through Boco who was, in my eyes, the man of the match. He ran our defence ragged with his control, movement and vision. All qualities sadly lacking in Hanson and evidence you don’t need to be 6ft 4″ to be a successful striker.

    Combine that with the fact we resorted to the long ball tactic so beloved of Parkinson because of Hanson’s presence so the last thing we need is him in the team rather than thinking who can play off him. He has been at the club for a long time now with numerous partners who have all but one failed to bond with him. Surely the time has now come to realise that his “style” is such that even Messi or Ronaldo would become ineffectual playing with him?

    • 2 in 8 games for hanson this season and will score between 10 an 12 goals per season.

      Clarkei is better as a number 10. That leaves hiwula who put so little effort in yesterday and looks unready for the rigours of first team football. That leaves Vuckic who again did nothing in front of goal and his attitude and work rate leaves alot to be desired. Mcnulity was lefft out and Morias is showing very little going forward and his trackig back and tackling ability is none existance.and constantly gives the ball away in is own half putting rhe defence under oresure. Id rather ellis hudson be given a chance and played over morias. Apart from Clarke Hanson appears to be the best of a very goal shy, liight weight and under performng front line squad.

      Mccall must let mcnulty, vuckic and hiwula go in the new year and drop morias. 2 front men and a wide player needed to progress.

    • Sorry Mick….if you think Bocco is better than Hanson please read his stats…..he had decent game yesterday but Christ, I would probably have a decent game every once in a while!!!
      James is decent, proven by the fact that every manager we have had plays him. His hold up play yesterday was good and he was really unlucky not to score early on…

  6. Very good and honest report. I said after Sheff Utd that we have always missed out on that type of striker. Bocco, Billy Sharp are just two of many examples of strikers who run City ragged and, hard as Billy Clarke tries, we need that extra quality. Pleased to see Darby & McArdle receive comments that I’ve been saying for months Darby backs off far too much and is awful when attacking & always stops, turns and plays the ball backwards and Macca must come back in asap. Reading ‘between the lines’ of our joint chairman’s comments, McArdle is on his way in January – Good riddance for me! He has only one game (thump, thump it long towards Hanson) and he will never fit in to Stuart’s style. Finally I despair with Marshall – he’s had so many chances to justify his place in the team but his ability to cross and shoot are VERY poor (Coventry excluded) and, don’t forget, his pathetic marking and defending led to the first goal on Saturday

  7. Overeaction from one poor result, get a grip. You would think Accrington played us off the park. Accrington edged it, but can you complain about the players not caring when so many fans didnt even bother to turn up? Atmosphere was terrible. Vuckic had looked ok before this game and deserved a chance, sadly he did not take it. Clarke hasnt played a game all season so obviously going to be rusty (you wouldnt understand if you havent played football since you were 18). And this about darby and hanson, hanson was our hero in the last league game and was not one of the worse players on the pitch in this game, darby set the winner up in the last game and put in two decent crosses against accrington, although he does seem to back off more than he use to. Overall, it was a poor display but in contrast to the season we are having it is not one to worry about. we are not going to dominate and win every game. Move on from this and judge the players in the next few games, against tough opposition in Rochdale and Northampton.

    • Accrington, League 2 remember, did play us off the park. We included players who showed why they haven’t been picked week on week; Vuckic, Morais, Clarke for example. A mistake not to take the Cups seriously and merely treat as practice matches/90 mins under the belt type games.

  8. Accrington didn’t ‘just’ edge it though! They scored the first after a good ten minutes pressure; we equalised after the subs came on; but they adapted to our subs, and carried on attacking! Even our 15 good spell in the first half climaxed in goal attempts that were just not good enough!

    It is not the end of the good times, I still think we are play-off contenders, but unless we beat Rochdale this loss will grow. A fact not helped by the crowd being a glaring illustration of just how fickle City fans are. And let’s not forget that we can still be dumped out of our last remaining Cup by Morecambe tomorrow, if they beat us by two clear goals.

    Even the most optimistic assessment of where City are now, has to abandon any pretence of strength in depth. As other’s have said; we have some defensive death; but very little elsewhere. We also seem to lack steel. For every Sheffield battling display there has been at least one Fleetwood, or Oxford, or Accrington’s.

    • Accrington hit us on the counter after the changes, we were building pressure and in control of the game itself after the subs came on. Our penetration was poor but accrington did not play us off the park. We beat fleetwood, the first accrington loss in the EFL cup we battered them, accrington were very lucky that day to even get to pens let alone win. I didnt go to the oxford game but from i have heard of people who did go, we put in a good performance and were unlucky to lose. Couldnt give a rats arse about the checkertrade cup, dont think many fans do either hence the appauling attendences for these games. We have had some very good cup runs in recent years, it isnt going to happen every season. Just need to move on and back the players. If it becomes a common occurence then maybe worry a litte. Far too many positives this season to feel down about what happened on saturday.

      • Just over 4000 Bradford people paid to watch us lose to Accrington! Can you remember the deafening and lying whining when we managed to beat Millwall (just over 8000 at Valley Parade if I remember right) and got Chelsea?

        Yes we did beat Fleetwood; bad illustration. How about the soft goal that gave Southend 2 points? How about all the other soft goals and missed chances?

        We have done remarkably well this season in the league, and I am pleased with that: but we have been dumped out of 2 cups by the same lower league team; who were better prepared than we were on Saturday!

        Like I said: it’s not the end of our season by a very long way; but I think we are a long way from championship contenders.

  9. Fair comments re Darby/McArdle. McArdle played for so long under Parky and his obvious orders to thump it long to Big Jim. Become a habit unfortunately.

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