Width of a Post writers Phil Abbott, Tom Swithinbank, Nikhil Vekaria and Mesh Johal don the pundits chairs to reflect on recent Bradford City events.
What did you make of the performance against Gillingham?
Phil: Whilst I didn’t think it was a poor performance, we lacked bite and ambition at key points. The surface deteriorated surprisingly quickly and I felt that we went a bit long, which is uncharacteristic of us this season. We will be disappointed by their goals as we had chance to clear both.
Going forward, we seemed to be afraid to put an early cross into the box – the first goal was a great example of what happens when we do! We seemed more content to knock it square 25 yards out. I didn’t feel we did enough in the second half to win the game and, despite the Gillingham time-wasting and theatrics, I thought they were good value for a point.
Mesh: I echo Phil’s sentiment. There was lots of huff and puff, but no real quality that could unlock the Gills’ defence.
We were neat and intricate but this was all done in front of their back four. I thought the game was crying out for Jordy Hiwula and his ability to get in behind and stretch teams. He gave them something else to think about and caused problems instantly.
The McArdle/Vincelot combination worked well again, however both goals conceded were disappointing.
What were your views on Charlie Wyke’s first appearance?
Phil: He looked really nervous in the warm-ups and his goal will have settled him down massively. It is difficult to say with any authority after only 90 minutes, but I saw plenty to excite me by his debut. Whilst he doesn’t appear to have the physical presence of James Hanson, he found some excellent positions and his control was sound.
The ease with which he took his chance was testament to his positional play and I am sure he will score many more for us. He clearly needs more time with the team to build a greater understanding of his attributes.
Mesh: He’s scored early which is really important. It takes a weight off his shoulders, and settles down the fans as well. His signing has similarities to Aaron Mclean’s arrival in 2014. Thinking back to Mclean’s time, there was a growing anxiety every game he didn’t score in. Thankfully, Wyke broken his duck a lot quicker.
He looked up for the fight against two physical centre backs. Whilst I thought they had the better of the battle, he never stopped trying. As Phil has touched on, Wyke was neat on the ball. There were also a couple of instances of really good link up play with Billy Clarke which is promising.
Are you satisfied with the club’s January transfer window business?
Tom: It was a huge blow losing James Hanson and his signing should see the Blades through to a top two spot; however I’m pleased with the signings of Charlie Wyke, Alex Jones and Jacob Hanson, they are a good age to develop with us if given the opportunities.
It seems odd bringing in three defenders, two of them won’t make the bench when Nathaniel Knight-Percival is fit next Saturday. Another creative midfielder would be more beneficial. Alex Jones looks a good prospect and the signing of Wyke may have just taken some pressure off him and his lack of goals so far; I think it will be interesting to see what role he plays this season.
Finally I think keeping James Meredith and Stephen Darby was key, they are ‘experienced pros’ – as Stuart loves to tell us! – as well as fantastic players at this level. I’d like to see come contract talks commence soon for Meredith and others.
Nikhil: I am relatively happy with the club’s business over January. I was fairly surprised that Hanson left although I do think it was the right decision from both a football and financial point of view. I think Wyke will be a good signing and it was nice to see us paying to sign a young striker who’s scored goals this season.
However, I do think we could’ve done with another winger – although we may see more of Gillead than I expect – and I think a lack of pace may come back to bite towards the business end of the season. Overall though, I think we had a decent January window and I’m quite excited about the addition of Hanson from Huddersfield, who appears highly rated from what I’ve seen/read.
I also think the decision to allow Filipe Morais to leave was the right one, as he hasn’t been the same player in recent months.
Mesh: I take my hat off to the transfer committee for getting two, in form and goal scoring, attacking options. That was the priority and they have delivered. From a sentimental view, I was gutted to see James Hanson depart. But as Nikhil alluded to, it’s probably a good move for both parties.
However, I’m not sure if we are any stronger than pre January. I don’t know enough about the young loanees, but have we really upgraded on squad players like Nathan Clarke or Fil Morias? We have also lost a lot of experience. As last season’s play offs showed, it is an important thing to have in those high pressured games.
Thankfully, we have kept hold of James Meredith. He has been the standout player for me, and is so important to the way we set up and play. The creative trio of Law, Cullen, Clarke does not happen without Meredith. It’s crazy how a left back adds so much balance to a side.
Phil: Overall, I think we have done some good business, although I would say we are probably a midfielder short. I would perhaps not have brought in three defenders at the expense of releasing Filipe Morais, whom I am sorry to see leave.
I’m not convinced that any of our League 1 rivals are any stronger as a result of the window, but whether we can claw back enough points to challenge for the automatic spots with this squad remains to be seen.
What are your expectations for the rest of the season?
Nikhil: I think we’ll get into the play offs. I don’t think we’re good enough to finish in the top two – I think that Sheffield United, Scunthorpe and Bolton are better teams and despite a lack of consistency recently, I think they will be the three who battle it out for the top two automatic promotion places.
If we were to fall out of the play offs now it would be a real failure considering the strength of our team and the fact we’ve maintained being in the play offs for such a long period of time this season. The lack of goals is a slight concern, as is the amount of draws; but despite Saturday’s result, I think the addition of Wyke and the form of Hiwula should hopefully see us turn some of those draws into wins.
As a result, I expect us to finish in the play offs fairly comfortably. Even if we were to lose in the play offs, I think it’d be a relatively successful season and give us a really good base to build on for next season.
Mesh: If you think back to the summer and the disarray we were in, McCall has done tremendously well to have us in this position. With the incomings, you would think there is enough to solidify our position in the play off. From there it’s a lottery and with the talent in the side, there’s no reason we can’t get promoted.
Phil: I think we are a solid play off candidate, but the number of draws is becoming a major barrier in chasing down an automatic spot. We have a very tough set of fixtures coming up and we need to win most of them if we are to be serious automatic promotion contenders.
The rest of February will define our season in my opinion. Three points on Saturday would have really put the pressure on as we could have gone 3rd – a real statement of intent. As it is, with tough games coming up, if we are still within, say 6-7 points of the top 2 when March arrives, we’d have a great chance of chasing it down, especially with the Scunthorpe away fixture coming up in March.
It is, as we all know, a long season and whilst this month is crucial, if it goes wrong we would still have plenty of time to secure a play off spot.
Tom: The number of draws is a concern and with the playing style seemingly being affected by the pitches too, I wonder whether McCall might freshen things up with Alex Gilliead stepping up in the next few weeks. Whilst on the subject of our playing style, the fitness and form of Josh Cullen and Billy Clarke is so important, they are absolutely key to the way we play and will the vital over the coming months.
I agree with Phil though, I think a play off spot looks achievable and if we pick up a couple more wins and beat Bolton/Scunthorpe you never know: the run in could be very exciting!
Categories: The Verdict