By Adam Raj
Well here we are again, another week, another defeat and ultimately another hammering. Blackpool were the latest side to steamroll over a pathetic set of “footballers” this afternoon in what was a training exercise for the Seasiders.
By this point in the season, the majority of fans (me included) had lost all hope that City would be able to avoid relegation this season, however there was always that small feeling that a couple of wins, starting today, may just be the beginning of a miracle. But back down to earth, and that was never going to happen was it?
The team which Gary Bowyer picked was somewhat stronger than last week’s side that offered nothing at Oxford – Jack Payne and Lewis O’Brien gaining recalls, Jacob Butterfield somehow dropped to the bench and Jermaine Anderson miraculously keeping his place. But the changes made no difference, and looking at the squad there isn’t anyone who probably would.
Blackpool, who didn’t get out of first gear all afternoon, bullied the Bantams from start to finish. It was men v boys for the vast majority, with Blackpool far stronger, faster and hungrier in every area of the pitch. Whilst not the best footballing performance you’ll ever see, Blackpool battled hard and won every 50/50 challenge and second ball, which is all that needs to be done to beat this spineless and pathetic side.
City barely touched the ball in the first 15 minutes of the game, again pushed off the ball at every opportunity and were unable and seemingly unwilling to win it back. It was a surprise that it took so long for Blackpool to score the opening goal – Armand Gnanduillet with a free header in the box six yards out, after good work from Anthony Evans on the left. A goal totally unsurprising given our lack of ability at stopping crosses and the utterly dreadful performances week in week out by Anthony O’Connor and Nathaniel Knight-Percival – more on him later.
But that was that, 28 minutes into yet another “must win” game and its game over. This side does not have any fight or spirit to get back into a game when conceding first, as the stats show. No leaders in the squad is also a factor as to why we capitulate whenever the score reads 0-1. Recent captains such as Gary Jones and Stephen Darby had the character and ability to drag the team off the floor and produce comebacks and fighting performances which all Bradford City sides should be capable of. This lot hang their heads, stay quiet, bottle out of more challenges, misplace more passes and ultimately look like they couldn’t care less.
Half time arrived and the players were rightfully booed off. Another embarrassing performance from a side destined for the drop.
Jack Payne was replaced by Jacob Butterfield at the break, prolonging the fans’ agony at having to watch a headless chicken in Jermaine Anderson do absolutely nothing. It was a fractionally better start to the second half with Butterfield dragging a shot just wide in the opening stages, however it could hardly get any worse than the first half, oh so I thought anyway. 50 minutes on the clock and City, as usual, dilly dallying with the ball on the edge of the box, instead of playing the pass or taking a shot, lost the ball to midfielder Matty Virtue, who ran 40 yards unchallenged before hitting a great strike into the bottom corner.
The first set of fans started to leave and the first chants of “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” commenced. As usual, the midfield was non existent and no one wanted to take the lad out and take a booking for the team. It’s precisely this sort of half-hearted, lethargic attitude why we are in this position.
Six minutes later and City were handed a lifeline. David Ball was adjudged to have been fouled by Congo international keeper Christoffer Mafoumbi, after he had made an excellent save from Lewis O’Brien. Eoin Doyle, who had scored his previous four penalties for City, saw his effort saved by the Blackpool keeper. I’d be lying if I said I thought he would score it. This was a moment typical of Bradford City this season – handed to us on a plate and we still mess it up.
From then on, the game was dead, Blackpool were comfortable and – knowing the game was won – sat off us and allowed us to pass the ball along the back line. They knew that we couldn’t and wouldn’t hurt them.
The third goal of the afternoon arrived on 68 minutes through the impressive Gnanduillet once again. Adam Chicksen’s lack of any sort of positional sense gave right back Michael Nottingham the freedom of Bradford to whip a cross into the box and once again, the big Blackpool striker had a free header from close range. More people left and the boos got louder.
There was still time for a fourth and for those who left, they missed the most comical out of them all. If there was a goal which summed up City this year it would be this one. No positional discipline or awareness left a big gaping hole in midfield, but the goal could still have been prevented.
First Nathan Delfouneso ran past the gutless Adam Chicksen, who tried his best to foul the Blackpool attacker. But as is symptomatic of his defensive ability, he failed even at that. Then the truly pathetic Nathaniel Knight-Percival showed Delfouneso inside, before a truly embarrassing attempt at pushing him over failed, allowing him to set up substitute Chris Taylor, who placed the ball in the top corner. I’ve seen more effort and ability in Sunday league at junior level.
Time and time again Caddis was free out wide, screaming, along with most of the crowd, for a diagonal pass to be played to him. Knight-Percival though never lifts his head up and either plays a hospital pass to his partner in crime, Chicksen, or plays the ball aimlessly out of play. Is it any wonder the vast majority of our goals have come down that left-hand side with this pair in there? This season can’t end fast enough but, as each game passes, it’s a game closer to these two never wearing the City shirt ever again.
A consolation did arrive in the 91st minute thanks to David Ball heading in from close range after a Paul Caddis cross. Those two, are two of the very, very few who can say they give it everything every week. If only we had recruited more players with their mentality and ability.
There was also still time for one last comedic moment supplied by Josh Wright. Yes, you heard that right, the midfielder who hasn’t been seen since mid-November following a Checkatrade Trophy defeat at Barnsley, has somehow managed to work his way back into the reckoning. He came on and as usual, the League One Jordan Henderson, or Mr sideways as I like to call him, did nothing.
Anyway, back to the original moment – Wright, still trying to justify his early season joke selection as club captain, waved his arms, ordering the team forward for a free kick, which he hesitated to take multiple times before his eventual “effort” didn’t even make it into the box before it was cleared – the groans and sighs were there for all to see and hear. Appalling.
After the unwanted three additional minutes, the referee blew for full time, by which point the ground was virtually empty. But those who stayed rightfully booed and vented their frustrations at the players following a truly disgusting performance. What Valley Parade looked like at full time is what it will look and sound like in League Two next season, if we’re lucky, and that’s the most depressing thing.
All the hard work and success we achieved in the last seven to eight years is over – and this club is a shadow of what it was.