Worst Bradford City performance of the season is a painful experience

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

Match review: Shrewsbury Town 1 Bradford City 0

By Tim Penfold

I wasn’t planning on going to this game.  On Thursday I had a tooth extracted and I was planning on taking it easy and staying at home within easy reach of painkillers.  On the morning of the match, however, a friend of mine talked me into the trip, and I ended up with an experience that was actually worse than my trip to the dentist.

It wasn’t that Shrewsbury have suddenly become an outstanding side.  Take nothing away from them – they were organised, difficult to break down and occasionally threatened with pace on the counter, but nothing spectacular.  But Bradford City produced by far the worst performance I’ve seen from them this season.  It was disjointed, it was sloppy and it lacked any of the qualities that have defined City’s impressive season so far.

The defence looked wobbly from the start.  Nathaniel Knight-Percival had looked shakky against Chesterfield and continued these struggles.  He looked like a mistake waiting to happen, and had already got away with one slip – failing to track Freddie Ladapo before being bailed out by a fine Doyle save – when he made another on the halfway line which ended with the ball in the back of the net.  Alongside him, Romain Vincelot spent too much of the game giving possession away and both centre backs struggled to deal with the physicality of Ladapo.

Dan Agyei, Alex Revell, Tom Pope, Ched Evans and now Ladapo – struggling against physical strikers is becoming a worrying theme and a weakness that is being very obviously targeted by opposing managers now.  At right back, Tony McMahon had his poorest game of the season – his crosses were poor, his passing was poor and his decision-making was poor.  James Meredith was the only one of the defence to come out of the game with any credit at all, and even he got caught upfield for the goal.

The midfield fundamentally failed to do its job.  Nicky Law, usually so impressive, had an off-day and as he goes, so does the rest of the midfield.  Timothee Dieng offered nothing going forward and left too much space behind him, allowing Shrewsbury to counter too often, while even Josh Cullen gave the ball away a few times.

Meanwhile Mark Marshall started brightly, but made the wrong decision far too often in good positions – the goal came from a counter where he ignored Meredith overlapping and ran into a dead end in the box, losing possession.  The midfield as a unit lacked the usual tempo and fluidity, and as a result nothing significant was created.

Up front, neither striker had a huge amount to work with – the midfield wasn’t getting the ball to them, so they only got hopeful high balls.  Jordy Hiwula was being asked to link with the midfield but he didn’t seem to suit that role – he was wanting to spin wide and run in behind instead – but Alex Jones also wanted that role, and as result the partnership didn’t work.

Jones was too easily outmuscled at times and disappeared too often – mostly as a result of lack of service.  In the second half James Hanson was brought on, and he did win the hopeful high balls, but it still didn’t create anything.  The return of Billy Clarke cannot come soon enough, and possibly even another striker is needed.

This could just have been an off day.  All teams will have them, and City do have the quality to bounce straight back – they’ve shown that plenty of times this season.  But it wasn’t anywhere near good enough. On a day when fans were delayed by a lorry load of paint spilled on the M606, this performance meant they’d have been better off staying up north and watching it dry.

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7 replies

  1. We need to learn quickly that Jones will be best serviced to feet. Even when we tried this, the passes were so wayward that his runs were wasted. With so many of the team having an off day, Shrewsbury thoroughly affords their win.

    I think we might see the return of McArdle on Tuesday and he may even keep his slot against Millwall (another physically improving team). I wouldn’t be surprised if he is partnered by Killgallon on Tuesday too. Dieng has had a blip this month, after a really good start, and his place is up for grabs.

    Whilst Hiwula divides opinion, mine is that he is not good enough. I get that he is young and inconsistent etc, but we are told his running off the ball is the best part of his game. Yesterday, he showed none of that and his control was abysmal. He needs to learn quick (and develop his composure in front of goal) if we are to benefit, as he once again added to his ‘airkick’ tally yesterday which must easily be as high as his goals scored tally.

  2. I didn’t go yesterday but that performance has been coming. Think about the first half against Bury, the first half against Northampton and the second half against Chesterfield.
    Yesterday it sounds like we just put in one of those performances across the whole 90 minutes.
    It might be time for a few changes.

  3. All depends if we really want to be promoted this season..or if that would be nice but not that important. The club could finish third or drop to eighth..depending on how things pan out. One more striker could be necessary to even ensure the play ofs are made..but i agree it might be time for McArdle and Kilgallon to be given a chance at Centre Half..an aerial threat at corners and free kicks and would allow Vincelot a slightly more advanced role. Hanson, Clarke and Jones need to be the main three up front (rotating as necessary) with Hiwula an impact sub as he continues to learn and develop.Third is still possible. Bolton showed some vulnerabilty themselves yesterday and beating them next month could continue that charge..but top 2 is a non starter now realistically. It’s up to us!

  4. Difficult to disagree with any of your comments. It was a very disappointing performance by virtually the whole team and one which can not be repeated if we are to challenge the top two.
    Hopefully we will see Clarke & Hanson back together for the Millwall game.

  5. As much as Cullen, Law and Dieng are decent players, it does seem like we are trying to squeeze three similar players into two central places. Time for a more attack minded policy, a little less of the sideways movement and pretty triangles. Got to take a few more risks at the business end of the pitch. A tight defence is important but not as important as scoring goals.

  6. I feel that Tim and other posters have identified relevant issues. Whilst we have not conceded many goals there have been worrying signs in recent games at the back, and for me there is a strong case for McArdle in place of RV. This would lead to more competition for midfield places, and I hope we could be more incisive in that area.

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