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.
Categories: Match Reviews