Final nail in the coffin

By Adam Raj

It’s not often I’m speechless but after watching a truly pathetic 90 minute display from Bradford City and the utter farce surrounding the referee and the winning goal, I’m truly lost for words.

No two ways about it, this was a must win game for City today – the chance to go only one point behind today’s hosts and cut the gap to safety to three points was an opportunity we had to take. But judging by most of the players’ performances you’d think they were already on the beach rather than in the midst of a relegation battle. And I use the word “battle” lightly, as most of them don’t know the first thing about battling and fighting for everything on the pitch.

City lined up in a 4-2-2-2 shape with Billy Clarke replacing Lewis O’Brien as the only change from the defeat to Luton Town. It was a change in system from the diamond which had served Gary Bowyer fairly well in his first two games. And in truth, the change in system was a complete disaster.

The City midfield could get nowhere near the ball for the majority of the game, Oxford were first to second balls and handled the wind much better than us. Jermaine Anderson, following his very poor performance on Tuesday, somehow managed to put in a worse 90 minutes today. He was totally off the pace and looked completely clueless when he got the ball. But he wasn’t alone, the whole performance was too slow, lethargic and devoid of any ideas.

The game was a dreadfully poor spectacle, in particular the first half when both teams looked like they’d never met their teammates before. Misplaced passes, hospital passes, sliced clearances were occurring in every passage of play but there was still a hope that Bowyer could get them in at half time and give them a rollicking.

Whether he did or not we will never know, but the players certainly didn’t come out fighting for the second half. The second half was as bad as, if not worse than, the first half – and that took some doing.

Oxford seemed determined to get their shot count up by shooting from here, there and everywhere without really threatening the City goal. The last time I made the trip to Oxford, we lost via a stoppage time Chris Maguire free kick and when Oxford striker Jerome Sinclair went down in exactly the same area I got that awful sense of deja vu. However this time, Michael Jacobs saw his free kick in the same corner of the goal read and saved well by Richard O’Donnell. Aside from a couple of corners, Oxford didn’t create much at all.

But then neither did City. In fact we created absolutely nothing. 97 minutes and not a single shot on target is absolutely abysmal whatever the game, but in a must win relegation six pointer, it’s disgraceful.

The game was heading for what would have been a fair 0-0, when five minutes of madness ensued. On the break from an Oxford attack, Eoin Doyle linked up well with George Miller, with the former playing the ball across goal for Lewis O’Brien to tap in. But he didn’t score, he put what was an easy chance, wide. Ready to celebrate a last minute winner, I fell to the floor in disbelief just as I did when Tony McMahon infamously shot in the last minute of the play off final instead of crossing it. Could this moment be as significant?

Probably, given what happened 10 seconds later. A quick goal kick was taken, the ball worked upfield and there was Jamie Mackie to volley the ball home to take all three points. Disappointed? Yes. Surprised? Of course not.

City infuriated about something surrounded the referee Andy Davies, who after a few minutes, consulted with the linesman on the side of the pitch where O’Brien had just shot wide, and disallowed the goal. For what, I have no idea as the referee signalled in the general direction of the Oxford goal, whether that was for a corner or a penalty, only he knows.

Predictably, Oxford were furious and the usual handbags from players and staff started with the man in the middle losing complete control. Then after further consultation with the other linesman and fourth official on the other side of the pitch, he awarded the goal again. It was a situation which probably summed up City this season – clueless, amateurish and weak.

On reflection, there was probably no corner or penalty but arguably the most basic rule in football was missed from all four officials. When the goal kick was taken, there were four Oxford players still inside the box, which rendered the goal kick void. The rules states that all players must be outside of the area when a goal kick is taken. How all officials can miss this is unthinkable and totally unacceptable.

But referees won’t be the reason we fall into League Two. Sure, we’ve had more than our fair share of horrific calls over the season we are absolutely the masters of our own downfall. The decision to play Anderson and Clarke ahead of Payne and O’Brien today was as mad a decision as I’ve ever seen – probably our best two players over the season dropped for the two worst players on the day. We lacked any invention all day and an inability to control possession so it’s a mystery as to why it took 75 minutes for Payne and O’Brien to come on. And when they did come on they ended up playing out wide in a system that was not working at all – they were totally ineffective.

It’s a result which leaves City six points from safety and rock bottom of League One. A truly depressing position which, realistically, there is no way back from. We’ve got eight games left in which our League One counterparts can rub salt in our wounds, and in all honesty, I really don’t care anymore.

Categories: Match Reviews, Opinion

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24 replies

  1. This is so sad. It has been a terrible season. The team don’t seem to care. The management seem bereft of ideas. The football manager seems lost as did Hopkin. The fans alone seem to care. Just think. We might be playing Harrogate Town next season. I am ashamed of my team.
    Not only that. The future looks bleaker.

  2. I’m very upset and down tonight.
    This game was must win but it isn’t the result today that’s seen us on the brink of relegation it’s the whole farce of pre-season constant meddling with team affairs from Rahic and the changes of managers that have come and gone since the departure of Phil Parkinson.
    We really need period of strong stability … if that’s with Julian Rhodes at the helm next season remains to be seen or will we again see new owner’s arrive into valley parade? …. there’s to much of the unknown.
    Will we see low season tkt sales in lge 2 … with less of wage budget for any new manager to work with.
    We all know getting out of lge 2 is very hard to do so is this really the club’s level for years to come with let’s say crowds of under 13000 .
    Do we as fans expect far more than what is possible at Valley Parade?

  3. I can’t find where it says all outfield players have to be out of the goal area at a goal kick, the ball can not be played until it has left the goal area but was that the case today? Whichever, it is grasping at straws.

  4. Well I enjoyed Bradford Bulldogs v Hull Jets today. Full of passion, fight and skill throughout the game. If only City had an ounce of that …. so depressing.

  5. Thanks Adam I share your emotions. Felt a glimmer of hope with appointment of Bowyer and the (surprise) Peterboro result but it has only taken two further game for me to think we have another hopelessy flawed man in charge. His decision not to bring off Anderson on Tuesday night was very questionable….the writing was on the wall perhaps. His team selection today remains totally baffling. Has anyone any idea of his rationale for playing Anderson and dropping O’Brien? Bowyer has thrown away whatever hopes we supporters may have had that we could at least mount a decent fight for survival. Of course, it would a nonsense to place all the blame on Bowyer, his selections and the breathtakingly poor team performance today. it is not just about today but it does look like today’s performance, from manager and team, is a perfect reflection of the systemic problems that have existed from day 1 and which successive regimes have failed to resolve.

    • The problem with this argument is that Grayson, Hopkin and Bowyer are not useless managers. Yet they are all failing at City. There is a reason why City are consistently go good. Managers must see things in training that are not translated to the match play. I do not know what it is. But there must be a reason. Does anyone have any ideas?

  6. From the end of the playoff final, we (and i m mean supporters) have been completely been sold down the river.

    I no longer support BCFC, I only I follow with a sad heart.
    YEARS (nearly 40) with generations by my side I have turned up week in week out.
    But not any more.

    There are more reasons than most football teams in the country to support this club.
    But sadly that has gone as well.

    Sorry but I can not do it anymore.

    The club has lost its identity and most of all its soul.

  7. Totally wrong team selection. Bowyer speaking on Pulse complaining about the ref and the decision regarding the illegal goal kick. He thought we played well in a chasing and in a compact and controlled way. I’m sorry to say he’s delusional. Oxford had 24 attempts at goal we had 3 (non of which was on target).
    Had O’Brien and Payne played from the start we would have won. He must see something in training that places O’Brien and Payne only good enough to be bench warmers.
    The players and the management need to look at themselves and consider this “we were all crap today and we owe our long suffering supporters a performance”. I am fed up of pre-match rhetoric of we are going to do this and that and give our all etc. Do us all a favour and just shut up. Just do your speaking on the pitch and put in a performance for the long suffering supporters.

  8. All players do not have to be outside the box, as long as they dont interfere with play.

    Bizarre that, officials, professional footballers and managers dont even know this.

  9. Have any of you seen Jack Payne play recently? He has been awful.

    This is all down Edin.

  10. Im 43 years old, supported City since 8 years old, and tonight I’m truly gutted for the first time. Properly gutted.

  11. Nothing more to add really but I’d suggest that Oxford actually created more than what was alluded to. Three very good chances. Could have been 3 or 4-0. In a game of such magnitude, it’s just heartbreaking to see us perform so woefully. Dread the thought of League Two football again, goodness knows what in store for us next season.

  12. The worst refereeing decision in over 35 years and last ten as referre observer

    The goal kick in law should have been taken again

    Disgusting the only downside her performance until this incident was stanard

    With the possible exception of Paul caddis should be deepky ashamed

    Will interesting to see if he suppended !

    Ayr goals clearly show the defenders in the area

  13. We just always seem to think the world is against us when in reality we are self distructing. Not a shot on target in 94 mins yesterday says it all. Five different managers and five different captain’s in such a short period of time spells crisis and our league position bares that out. Can all the the managers we have had been poor or maybe just maybe we have signed some bloody awful players. ?

  14. It’s sad to say it but I actually despise this group of players. They are overpaid imposters who make the right noises midweek about how much they care but in reality they don’t give a damn about City staying up or not.The hysterics on the Pulse at the end of the game regarding the referee simply paper over the cracks of what was apparently another dismal performance. The club are desperate for leadership, it’s very poor that Julian Rhodes chose not to appear at the press conference when we appoint a new manager. Statements need to be made regarding the future direction of the club.. Is Rupp going to give us a budget to get us out of league 2 ? Is Rhodes going to continue? Is the club up for sale? What is the point of just giving a manager a 3 month contract? These questions need to be answered and quickly. Stafford would never have hid in a corner at a crisis like this, nor would Richmond so it’s time Rupp and Rhodes gave us some answers as to what lies ahead even if the answer is as grim as I fear.

  15. Reegation a certainty unless we can now win all 4 home matches and also at Bristol Rovers and Scunthorpe…as i said..relegation is now a certainty. The question is now..who will own the club..and who will manage it on the 1st of June ??

  16. It might seem bonkers but the manager already needs to be questioned after that team selection, formation and late subs 2 games on the trot where we haven’t mustered a shot on target. Playing Anderson, presumably just because he has some height, is a terrible decision. Mr bowyer is talking a good fight but that positivity is not been replicated on the pitch. He seemed happy with a defeat to Luton which was crying out for the introduction of Payne to open them up. Gillingham go to theirs and managed 2 goals, we didn’t get a shot on target. He claims we are progressing but I’ve not seen that. All he appears to have done is to get us to play it on the floor, which was obvious to everyone anyway apart from Hopkin.
    Sad times and Bowyer despite a free pass, needs to at least demonstrate that he could do a job next season in the remaining games…..

  17. Quite possibly the best match report ever posted on here, or anywhere for that matter. To say I feel/share your pain does not even touch the sides…your anguish seeps out of every word and informs my own despair and sense of helplessness.

  18. What hurts more than the defeat to Oxford is the uncertainty surrounding the club beyond the end of this season.

    I’ve got no further interest in the survival battle for the rest of the season, my gut feeling is we’ll be relegated. I’m half living in hope that we can emulate the likes of Blackpool and Coventry and get promoted at the first time of asking but my optimism is clouded by uncertainty.

    I think I would feel more confident if we had appointed a manager on a longer term contract with the aim of re-building a more competitive squad for next season regardless of what league we’re in. Also if there was some kind of comment from the club as to what the plans are for next season and beyond.

  19. It’s worth clarifying the rule about the ball leaving the penalty area. TV doesn’t show whether anyone did touch the ball before it left the area but it doesn’t really matter.

    The rule says” Opponents must be outside the penalty area until the ball is in play. Clearly, by taking it so quickly, the goalkeeper did not give the Bradford players an opportunity to clear the area and the kick should have been re-taken. I wonder how many referees would remember this from their training never mind spectators.

    Won’t change now unfortunately

    Source — Laws of the Game on the FA WEBSITE.

  20. Quite clear to me, especially after the very shifty announcement on club website of the ownership being “ Bradford City chairman Stefan Rupp is now the sole owner of the ER Sports Group GmbH.
    Rupp now owns 100% of the shares of the group, which acts as the holding company for Bradford City Football Club Ltd.”
    There is no money left guys. He is about to pull the chain and flush us all down with it.
    Everything leveraged against staying up. Season ticket sales. Anyone know how many sold so far?
    GB not offered a longer contract because we can’t see beyond this season. Our only hope is that someone somewhere has the love that we have and has enough to be able to write of £2-3million for the privilege of taking this utter shambles on.
    Rupp has been conspicuous by his absence along with others. He made the decision to get into bed with Rahic in the 1st place so he should share equally in the blame for it. I feel for JR having seen all of the hard work over many years just pissed down the drain in 18 months. Just where did all the Wyke £ and sell Ons for Delph etc go in such a short space of time. Surely not on a refurb pitch and some larger salaries. Sad days but we’ve been here b4. Those who’ve commented saying it’s as bad as ever seen in 50yrs and that they aren’t supporting anymore need to remember 15 years ago. Gareth Grant, Juanjo etc and 2 administrations. These are close but not quite as bad yet. Don’t give up. Ever. Even if majority of players seem to have and owner did ages ago. Rich

  21. I agree with your last sentiment Rich.

    I feel like I’ve woken up in a parallel universe.

    When did the Bradford City team aquire such a soft, immobile, ineffectual center midfied. When did Bradford City give up on putting pace out wide. When did Bradford City gve up on a strong, battling center forward to lead the line.

    Its unfair to compare any current City player to the greats like McCall, Jones, Hendrie and Campbell. They where once in a generation type of player. But even poorer City sides throughout the years had someone you could hang your hat on. Think Ravenhill, Duxbury, Flynn, Bullock. I’d have any of these guys back in a flash. Torpey and McClean would walk into this team up front. Colbeck, for all the stick he got when playing for City would be a vast, vast improvement.

    I always go to Oxford. Dont know why because I loathe the place, it seems to bring the worst out in both sets of supporters. For the first time I took my 11 year old lad. Showing sense beyond his years he said:

    “This isn’t a football ground…. Its a place to play football, but its not a football ground”.

    And that is the one thing we have. A football community. Oxford sold that when they moved from the Mannor Ground but we still have it. We have the history and the supporter base. We have people who care.

    Whether that will be enough remains to be seen but one thing is clear – we can’t give up.

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