By Paul Wills
The frustrations at Valley Parade continued at the hands of Wigan on Wednesday night as City conceded in injury time to lose 1-0 and extend their current winless run to 10 games.
It was a role reversal of the late events that transpired at the DW Stadium earlier in the season when these two sides last met. It seems a long, long time ago since Tyrell Robinson fired in a stoppage time winner for City to claim all three points back in November and give genuine belief at the time that a possible automatic promotion tilt could be on the cards.
Here it was Michael Jacobs rolling the ball past Colin Doyle in the 91st minute that keeps Wigan’s hopes of a top two finish very much alive while casting further doubt on whether City can rescue their season from the mid-table wilderness and finish in a play off spot.
Simon Grayson made a belated first appearance in the home dugout after recent postponements. With a new manager, the hope was he would bring new ideas and provide a much-sought Bantams bounce. Unfortunately, thus far, the amount of bounce has been similar to that of the ball when landing in the sand near the corner flags of City’s playing surface.
It looked like the intention was to keep things tight and avoid defeat, with five defenders and no out and out striker starting the game. Barring one or two moments of uncertainty at the back, and James Vaughan’s fumbling effort onto the post in the first half, Wigan weren’t particularly threatening, which is a credit to City’s committed battling and defensive organisation.
However, there’s no disguising the deficiencies going forward. Three attempts on goal in 90 minutes, all off target, speaks for itself. City simply never looked like scoring, a surprise given the extended break to freshen up, the players undoubtedly trying to impress their new manager and Wigan having conceded five in their previous two games. It is not unreasonable to expect a team with promotion aspirations to trouble the opposition goalkeeper.
A stream of over hit passes throughout meant Alex Gillead and Shay McCartan up front were often chasing lost causes. The lack of creativity in central midfield was laid bare, Callum Guy seemingly the only one willing to receive the ball and at least try to make something positive happen. Nicky Law will feel aggrieved he was only brought on in the 87th minute of this contest.
Tyrell Robinson looked bright in patches, his pace is always a joy to behold down the left but overall City’s threat in the final third was minimal. The introduction of Kai Bruenker and a Dom Poleon cameo made little difference.
There was also a bizarre moment as the game approached stoppage time with the scores still level, attacking the kop end, City won a throw in high up the pitch. The crowd stood and roared their encouragement, anticipating a chance to get the ball into the box and win the match. Tony McMahon had other ideas, walking across to take it, delaying for as long as he could, then trying to hold the ball up in the corner. Having won another throw in, he had the option to quickly take it and give the ball to the unmarked Matty Lund, instead he tried to find the heavily marked Kai Bruenker and succeeded only in throwing the ball out for a goal kick. From this goal kick, Wigan scored.
Perhaps earlier in the campaign a point here wouldn’t have been a bad result, however we are now reaching the stage of the season where City need three points. They no longer have the comfort of defending a top six position, they are in the chasing pack. Presumably this instruction came from Grayson, perhaps highlighting the difference in managerial styles between himself and Stuart McCall, Robinson had not been encouraged to head towards the corner with the scores tied in the reverse fixture and City were rewarded for their adventure.
It is far too early to judge Simon Grayson, he has inherited a squad of players who are bereft of confidence and it can take time to repair that. Despite the lack of clean sheet in his first three games, City do look harder to break down, it is at the other end of the pitch where the shackles desperately need to come off.
City missed Charlie Wyke, they always do, the worry is he won’t be around for the next two games either as he serves his suspension. Grayson will need to find a way for the team to create chances and score goals without him. Paul Taylor is not shy at shooting from distance, he’s pretty good at it too, he could make a big difference if fit. Poleon and Alex Jones have also shown when on form they are a handful for defences at this level.
Remarkably, City are still within touching distance of the play offs. 11 games to play and six points behind, with a game in hand, is not insurmountable. We saw last season what having a late burst of good form can do as Millwall’s momentum propelled them into the last playoff place and ultimately into The Championship.
City have had some magical moments in recent years in front of the live television cameras, let’s hope that Monday’s trip to Doncaster will provide more happy memories and be the springboard that gets City bouncing back into the play offs.
Categories: Match Reviews