By Tim Penfold
Bradford City were outclassed by Blackburn Rovers last night, and were lucky to come away with just a 2-0 defeat. It may be that we never really stood a chance – there are not many clubs in this league that can compete with the quality and resources that Blackburn have at their disposal. But this was a meek surrender, with the Bantams unable to cope with Blackburn going forward and failing to get hold of the game in midfield.
But it was the attack that really summed up the issues facing City, with the first shot on goal in the entire game coming in the 83rd minute.
This has been a problem for weeks now. With the exception of the second half at Charlton, Simon Grayson’s brief tenure has been defined by a side that throws men behind the ball but offers nothing going forwards. Even in the Gillingham victory, our goal was from outside the box – a good strike, but not something that can be relied upon week-in week-out to produce goals. So where can the goals come from?
If you look at the line up after Grayson switched the formation to 4-5-1 midway through the first half, you see a side devoid of creators. Neither full back has the pace to get up and down the flanks like James Meredith did, and against a side with the quality of Blackburn they were naturally cautious of getting caught up field.
In midfield, for all of his admirable qualities Callum Guy is not a creator and neither is Romain Vincelot. On the flanks Alex Gilliead should be doing more but his confidence looks shot, while Dominic Poleon on the left has never been a creative player, and this leaves the entire creative burden falling on Nicky Law.
Law has come in for plenty of criticism this season, and some of it is justified – for an attacking midfielder he has not scored or assisted enough Last night he broke from midfield several times only to stop and check sideways to groans from fans. But when nobody else is making a run or showing for a pass what on earth is he supposed to do?
When we were at our creative best in the autumn of 2016 Law had so many options on the ball. Meredith was overlapping, Billy Clarke was dropping into space, Jordy Hiwula and Mark Marshall were running in behind and the sideways option was a pass to Josh Cullen, who would often move us forward again. We have none of these players any more, and the replacements are either injured, not of the standard required, or both.
Given all of this, how is this team supposed to create chances with only one even partially-functioning creator? It is no real shock to see that we aren’t scoring goals, and the defence, despite Colin Doyle being in his best form since joining, just isn’t good enough to grind out 0-0s under pressure.
So how can we fix this for the future? After all, we don’t have a game against a team with the quality and depth of Blackburn for the rest of the season, so surely we can make a start on fixing the creative issues?
Some personnel changes could help – I’d like to see Shay McCartan given a run up front off Charlie Wyke and maybe Adan Chicksen in for Stephen Warnock, to add more dynamism from left back. And there are plenty of players who need to step up and stop hiding in games – we can’t create if nobody wants the ball.
But fundamentally the issue is one of recruitment. Even earlier in the season when we were in form we weren’t creating enough and were relying on Charlie Wyke’s finishing. There’s not a huge amount that Simon Grayson can do when the players at his disposal are so lacking in both ability and heart.
We need to rebuild, and cannot afford another summer like the last one.
Categories: Match Reviews