Impressive Bradford City victory offers plenty of reasons for optimism

Image by Thomas Gadd

By Tim Penfold

Isn’t it nice to be back to normal?  After a fortnight where City had lost a low quality game at home to Blackburn and thrown away a three goal lead at Walsall, they returned to winning ways against a below-par Bristol Rovers.

This was a display taken straight from last season, but with an extra clinical edge, and has shown that there is the ability in this squad for a promotion challenge.

McMahon’s delivery on point

City got two goals and two other good chances from Tony McMahon’s corners, which were excellent.  He’s received some criticism for his set piece delivery recently, which is in part due to where he aims them.

A near post corner whipped with pace is really difficult to defend against (see McArdle, Rory) but is also very difficult to get right – if it’s under-hit, then the defender positioned on the near side of the six yard box has an easy clearing header, and the corner taker is heavily criticised for “not beating the first man”.  But these corners caused Bristol Rovers all sorts of issues, with Vincelot missing a good chance early before his flick set Wyke up for the first, and Law also finding space for a header that went over.

This was much more dangerous than just floating something high into the six yard box, which would beat the first man more often but not set up a good chance.  McMahon is a fine set piece taker – most of his assists in 2015/16 came from them, including a spell of setting up five goals in a row from corners and free kicks – and City have profited on this occasion.

McCall finds a bespoke tactical solution

Image by Thomas Gadd

The formation played by City was something of a strange one – it initially looked like a 4-3-3 with Dominic Poleon on the left of a front three, but then seemed to morph into a lop-sided diamond.

Alex Gilliead on the right was very advanced, but on the left there was nobody going forward in midfield – Nikcy Law was central – and without the ball Romain Vincelot came across to provide defensive cover.  This was designed to stop Billy Bodin, Rovers’ dangerous right winger who likes to cut infield on to his left foot, and it worked.

Vincelot shut down the space that Bodin wanted to run in to, and while he did pick up a consolation goal his overall impact on the game was minimal.  It also freed Law to play further forward, and he was able to both create chances (one excellent flick and cross nearly finding Poleon) and set the tempo for City.

This was a feature of the City side that started last season so strongly, and it’s important for this team that Law can continue to do this.

Knight-Percival is back to his best

Image by Thomas Gadd

Defensively it was generally a solid display, epitomised by Nathaniel Knight-Percival’s best performance of the season so far.  He’s been less comfortable on the right hand side of a two man central defensive pairing, but that wasn’t obvious in this game.

Knight-Percival faced an aerial threat in Ellis Harrison and dealt with him comfortably, and made a vital goal-line block at 1-0.  If City want to get their solidity back, then they need Knight-Percival at his very best – he was for the first few months of last season before a mid-season dip, and during that time City barely looked like conceding a shot, let alone a goal.

There’s extra competition for the defensive spots now that Adam Thompson has joined, and this display may have kept Knight-Percival ahead of the competition.

Wyke is vital

Image by Thomas Gadd

The day truly belonged to Charlie Wyke.  This was a magnificent all-round forward performance, showing good hold-up play, intelligent movement, physical presence and, most importantly, three goals.  With a steady supply line of crosses – it’s no coincidence that Alex Gilliead has come back into the starting lineup now Wyke is back – he will always look like scoring.

Wyke is also (and apologies for repeating the James Hanson cliché here) useful at defending set pieces and allows us to go long and retain possession when our opponents attempt to stop us playing out from the back.  We’ve got a lot of cover in forward areas – this is a side where the likes of Alex Jones and Shay McCartan may not be first choice – but Wyke is unique amongst our forwards in what he offers.

It’s vital that he stays fit – there is only one Charlie Wyke.

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Categories: Opinion

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7 replies

  1. Yesterday showed that when we have our first team out, including a striker who can hold the ball up and a winger who will offer width then we are a good side. The worry is the lack of cover for either in our squad. As the season has shown so far and McCall has admitted we struggled going forward without these two in the team.

  2. I thought Charlie Wyke looked very sharp and it was a shared remark on Saturday that he was like Bobby Campbell in his prime. He has clearly not lost any fitness on his return from injury. What a difference Meredith or a wide player could have made to the team. We still need to avoid an opposing team sneaking back into the game but all told a very encouraging day and a fantastic afternoon / evening at Bingley Music Live (with plenty of City shirts in evidence).

  3. I think what was evident, to me at least, was that replacing a forward with a midfielder gave a balance to the side. If we lost the ball we regained it again and with that increase in possession (as last season demonstrated) goes a better defensive stat.
    I also felt that we were attacking from all over the pitch, no reliance on Marshall, instead all the team offered some type of threat.
    Finally Law was back to his best as the ineffective McCarton was away, allowing him to drive forward.

  4. This is the best display of the season by far. That might be because Wyke was back or it might be because we are finally clicking, either way it was a pleasure to watch.

    Even though we was helped by Rovers central defensive pair missing and all round poor performance, I thought our closing down and harassing was the reason for their mistakes.

    The next game away at Peterborough is massive and if we can repeat this performance we have a great chance of getting something down there

  5. For the first time this season I think we saw a ‘team’ performance. What’s exciting about the new crop of players is that up until Saturday, they hadn’t gelled as a team and yet, we’d still managed to pick up 7 points from 4 games. Plus there’s been no shortage of goals without Wyke in the team. There is real potential for more improvement over the coming weeks and months.
    It’s still early days and I’m optimistic and realistic to know that there will be a few defeats and draws along the way. I’ve been staggered at the negativity of some fans after the first 4 games. One home defeat and an away draw does not constitute a crisis, but the way the rumour mill has been going into overtime on social media it’s been ridiculous.

  6. Agreed. Our fans amaze me. One minute you are at Wembley and 5-0 down and the supporters are waving their flags for twenty minutes in total support. It makes you proud to be a City fan. Are we the best supporters in the land?
    The next minute all you read is negative comments and even personal insults to some players and even their families.
    Are these the same supporters that gave the watching world a fine display of what being a fan of a less fashionable club is all about? Real fan s and genuine unconditional support.
    It’s hard to believe they are so then you start to think maybe these are new supporters and by definition younger ones who haven’t yet ‘got it !!!
    Being a City fan is a bit special, as I believe we are a special club who have always embraced ‘our’ players who might lack in skill but make up for it in effort etc.
    But equally go back through the years and we have always had players in the team who have been the butt of the fans criticism. Ormondroyd, Leonard, Hanson, and he Doyle to name obvious ones.
    Is this unique to City or does every club fans behave like this.
    As I says our supporters can be the best, and can be the worst.
    The clue is the word ‘support’.

    • Suspect it is true of most clubs. It has certainly been true a long time of us. I think there’s a bit of innate pessimism. Fans get behind their team but they also express their frustrstion. However, there are always one or two who can only be negative and must do it in as offensive a manner as possible. The problem is that it is amplified by blogs, forums and social media in a way it wasn’t in the past. In reality, I think it is true of most blogs and social media whether for sport religion or football, volume of comments only gives us a noise reading and it is often just 1 or 2 people making the commentd

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