By Tim Penfold
Another game, another defeat. And while there was a much improved performance by Bradford City, particularly against opposition that are top of the league, there was still nothing to show for it in the end.
There’s still fight and effort in this Bradford City team, but there was precious little else. Going forward there was no invention, no movement and no creativity, with the team’s best creator spending too long stuck on the bench and the rest of the team just not working as an attacking unit. Defensively the team was particularly wobbly, with only Anthony O’Connor looking solid. Ryan McGowan and Nathaniel Knight-Percival both looked like they had an error in them while the returning Adam Chicksen had a nightmare game at left back.
It was Chicksen’s error that led to the goal. He got his positioning wrong when facing the impressive Jamal Lowe allowing Lowe to dart infield and spread the ball across to the other flank. Ryan McGowan backed off and allowed the pass to go into the middle of the box and Gareth Evans timed his run well to finish. Chicksen struggled to deal with Lowe all game, and the eventual second booking he got for bringing him down was entirely predictable. It was already a harsh decision to drop Connor Wood, and regardless of suspensions he should’ve been straight back in the team next week anyway.
Unlike last week, however, City did not collapse at the first sight of a setback. It wasn’t pretty, but they kept themselves in the game and began to make some small openings, with David Ball and particularly Lewis O’Brien looking impressive. However, they came up against a well-drilled Portsmouth side who worked hard to shut down options, and didn’t help themselves through the lack of off-the ball movement. Neither striker covered themselves in glory, though at least George Miller showed effort and willing. Eoin Doyle, meanwhile, is fast approaching Aaron McLean levels of disappointment and wasted money.
During the second half City kept scrapping away but openings were few and far between. O’Connor possibly should’ve done better with a header from an O’Brien cross, but other than that there were very few clear chances. Portsmouth only really looked threatening when Lowe got on the ball, but were able to comfortably keep us at arms length.
Chicksen’s red card seemed to kill off any hope of a comeback, but City kept pushing, with substitute Sherwin Seedorf showing more willingness to run at defenders than anyone else in the team. And in the last minute they almost had their reward – Hope Akpan pushed forward, gave it to Seedorf, got it back and burst through the defence to be one on one with the keeper. It was a glorious opportunity – the best of the game. But his shot sailed over the bar and condemned City to a sixth successive defeat.
This team is already looking stranded – bottom of the league and seven points off safety. So what can be done to turn this team around? Going forward, the return of Sean Scannell from injury is vital, while Jack Payne cannot be left on the bench or in a peripheral role – he is the best creator in the team and therefore needs to be at the heart of it. None of the strikers have impressed, but David Ball has worked hard in his wide role and deserves a go through the middle – in the absence of a genuine target man he’s probably the best available option to hold the ball up. In midfield Lewis O’Brien is the pick of a poor bunch, while the return of namesake Jim should improve things, but there are still too many passengers – Wright and Akpan had the best games I’ve seen from them in a City shirt but were still poor.
But it is in defence that the most work needs to be done. We’ve seen over the years what a defence with one weak link (Matthew Bates, Darren Holloway etc) is like, even when the rest of the defenders are very good. The defence put out today had three. It reminds me most of the defence during David Wetherall’s spell as player-manager, when the removal of Wetherall left Mark Bower on his own surrounded by inexperienced kids and Richard Edghill.
If we could sort the defence out then we’d have a chance of grinding out points – just as Phil Parkinson’s team did in 2011/12, even with the issues elsewhere – and maybe get enough to stay up. If any free agents are on the way in, a defender must be high up on the list of priorities. If we don’t strengthen here, the only way this team is going is down.
Categories: Match Reviews