Match review: Charlton Athletic 1 Bradford City 1 (Deing)
By Jason McKeown
Bradford City’s 18th draw of the season was undoubtedly their most fortuitous. On so many occasions this campaign, the Bantams have been unlucky to only draw but that was not the case here at the Valley. A lethargic second half display left them clinging on for a share of the spoils. It was very poor by the season’s high standards, and probably sums up their limitations.
Every other team in the top seven won tonight, again pushing the top two further from reach and arguably confirming the play offs are the only realistic target. City have dropped to fifth, and although the three sides above them appear catchable Bolton and Fleetwood’s games in hand offer them the chance to put serious daylight between them and the Bantams. It is all about playing catch up with time running out.
But if, realistically, it is now a case of finishing in the play offs, this will go down as a decent point for City. They were second best overall to a Charlton side who – on the evidence of two strong performances against City – have seriously underperformed this season. The Addicks pinned the visitors back for long periods in the second half, and prevented their guests from creating any serious chances. Only poor home finishing denied Charlton a deserved three points.
For City, playing so poorly but not losing is a positive of sorts. To a man, they were well below their best but at least showed character and resolve to grind out a point. Southend’s victory at Coventry offers a timely reminder that a play off spot is not yet guaranteed, but the spirit and commitment on show from City at the Valley provides further confidence that City will finish the job. And that nights like this can be looked back upon as the foundations of a top six finish.
Yet still, improvement is needed over the final eight games. With no Alex Jones, Stuart McCall brought Billy Clarke back into the side after a two-week breather, and the City manager will be concerned by how ineffective the striker proved to be. Clarke is repeating last season, where a bright start to the campaign was halted by a lengthy lay off, after which he didn’t look the same player. Clarke made a strong return from injury at Oldham in January but since then has been poor. Tonight was probably his quietest game of the season. He was curiously uninvolved all evening.
And that left Charlie Wyke isolated and easy to defend against. City’s number nine has made an impressive start to life at Valley Parade but is prone to spells in games where he is too quiet. Wyke is not a James Hanson type of player who can win flick ons and hold up the ball, and that made it difficult for City to attack in numbers.
The best performer on the evening was Mark Marshall, who played up front with Wyke and Clarke in a 4-3-3. Having the freedom to roam around the park suits Marshall’s game and he caused problems, but as the only major attacking threat it was obvious who Charlton needed to stop. City had plenty of the ball and some of the build up play was good, but in the final third there simply wasn’t enough quality.
The first half saw the two teams trade a goal each – both managers will be bitterly disappointed with the defending. It was encouraging to see Timothee Dieng on the scoresheet. The French midfielder has been unfortunate not to start more games of late but brought much needed energy to a static midfield. Romain Vincelot and Josh Cullen have enjoyed much better performances of late.
With City’s back four playing reasonably okay and Colin Doyle making some fine stops, a point was taken back to West Yorkshire. If City can beat Swindon on Saturday, this will go down as a good week. But they will need to perform better to make that happen. They need to improve attacking-wise especially.
Indeed, the big concern tonight was how short of options Stuart McCall was in changing around the team. With Alex Gilliead, Alex Jones and Nicky Law sat on the sidelines, the squad looks thinbare. Gilliead is expected to be out a month and that is a major blow in view of his recent impressive displays. There is a danger of City becoming too predictable and easy to stop. Any further injuries – especially to Marshall – could seriously disrupt the season.
City should have enough about them to finish off the job of finishing in the top six, which would be an excellent achievement. If the top two is to remain a possibility, the margin for error has narrowed significantly after tonight’s results. They can’t afford too many more draws, and they certainly can’t risk playing as poorly as this again over the final eight games.
Categories: Match Reviews