No miracles

Photographer Alex Dodd/CameraSport

By Jason McKeown 

In the 86th minute, the Bradford City substitute Sean Scannell was fed the ball in a wide area, and had the space to run at his man and whip in a cross. The ball he produced was woeful. Sailing high and over the bar. And with it the last, lagging ray of hope disappeared from City’s season.

Relegation beckons now. It’s something that has been firmly on the cards for weeks. But then the sudden return from injury of Scannell – last summer’s stellar signing, after all, who last featured exactly six months ago – reopened a faint glimmer of optimism. Out of sight, you clutch straws at the idea Scannell could turn the club around, ignoring the fact he is human and needs time to get his sharpness.

He was getting ready to come on from the bench with City on top in a scoreless game, and with results elsewhere offering the Bantams the opportunity to reduce the gap to safety, if they could find a winner. But by the time Scannell was stripped and ready for action, Doncaster had scored.

And so from the cusp of victory, Bradford City were beaten for a 25th time this campaign. And if you’re still bothering to check, the deficit to 20th is now seven points. There are only 15 left to play for. It isn’t over. But yeah, it is over. Relegation is now just a question of when.

It was a harsh defeat this time. The huge questions about the players’ commitment was answered here to a point, as they at least went down fighting. They were excellent in the second half, pinning their play off-chasing opponents back in their own half for long periods. The Valley Parade crowd loudly roared on the team, as they huffed and puffed for the all important goal.

But the application was once again found wanting at the crucial moments. City had the ball on the edge of the Doncaster box. Billy Clarke needed to take the opportunity to shoot. He paused. The chance went away. Doncaster eventually broke, with Mallik Wilks left with the one-on-one chance to run at Nathaniel Knight-Percival. Wilks shot early, seemingly catching out Richard O’Donnell. The ball squirmed under the keeper and into the net. Welcome to League Two.

If that proves to be the final nail in the coffin, it will be apt. O’Donnell should have saved the effort from Wilks. City shot themselves in the foot. It is the story of the 2018/19 season. Bradford City are going down when they shouldn’t be. This all looked so preventable.

O’Donnell had looked shaky all afternoon, as though something was weighing on his game. Rash clearances. Unconvincing punches for crosses he could have caught. Wilks’ shot was Doncaster’s only effort on target all afternoon. The only major thing O’Donnell had to do, and he failed.

Not that Doncaster were without their own merits. The visitors shaded the first half. They survived the early scare of Eoin Doyle’s header hitting the post to take control of the game, leaving much of the opening 45 minutes akin to a training ground game of defence vs attack. In the centre of midfield Ali Crawford looks a real prospect. Whilst the ever-green James Coppinger – amazingly still going strong at 38 – was a joy to watch.

Everything about Doncaster was centred on getting the ball up the dangerous John Marquis. But City marshalled him very well. Paudie O’Connor was picked ahead of Anthony O’Connor, and more than justified his selection with a man of the match display. Knight-Percival was decent alongside him. As usual he made one poor error in gifting the ball away in a bad area, but he recovered his mistake with an excellent block.

The 4-3-3 formation City deployed matched Doncaster’s similar system, but it wasn’t until Gary Bowyer’s half time team talk that the Bantams displayed an effective attacking tempo. They emerged from the dressing room fired up and took the game to Doncaster. David Ball’s excellent run and powerful low shot, which just missed the target, was an early statement of greater intent.

Jacob Butterfield came alive and began to dictate the game, whilst Lewis O’Brien pushed further forward to press and harry. And though Doyle was a little slow in reacting to opportunities, the attacking threat grew and grew. Ball and Clarke kept swapping positions so they were more difficult to track.

Alas, it was Doncaster who struck against the run of play. And as usual City couldn’t respond to falling behind. They initially kept their energy, with the introduction of Scannell and Jack Payne from the bench lifting the crowd’s sagging spirits. But after that moment where Scannell crossed the ball high and wide, belief began to ebb away.

Bowyer’s persistence with Jermaine Anderson has not been without justification – City need a ball winner – but the former Doncaster midfielder’s wretched performance has now pushed that concept to breaking point. The quip at half time was this had been Anderson’s best game of the season – for Doncaster. He must surely be benched at Bristol Rovers next week. It is time to give Danny Devine a chance.

There was a good reception from the fans to the players at full time and rightly so. They at least didn’t fold like that did last time out at home to Blackpool. They fought to the end, even if belief had drained before the seven minutes of stoppage time. They didn’t deserve to lose this time. And for that at least they merit a shred of respect.

But it is small, small crumbs of comfort. Relegation is coming soon. And it now feels a case of steeling yourself for the actual moment. Of facing up to the reality of trips to Morecambe, Cambridge and Newport next season.

There really is nothing left to cling onto now. Any hope of a miracle just flew over the bar.

Categories: Match Reviews, Opinion

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36 replies

  1. Disappeared the minute we lost 7-2 pre-season at harrogate!

  2. Bowyer took Ball off because he was injured he had no option.Although Bradford didn’t win they played better than the they’ve played this year so far.I agree with you about our goalkeeper we need to sign another keeper.

    • Three managers have kept Playing Dolye as lone striker all three fail to see what the crowd can see and say ,which is to say he’s his not good enough to play there , they say there’s nobody else who can play there wrong I don’t think anyone could play as bad consistently for me I look at the squad and why not try one of the centre half’s or try something completely different and play Clarke who can hold the ball up far better than Dolye and play to feet , and let’s not get on about our fantastic keeper who must rate as one of the worst I have ever seen at this level,we are talking about the spine of our team you don’t wonder we are in such a mess.

  3. At least, nobody can say we don’t deserve to go down. Not so long ago it was a great match day experience, with packed stands and a great atmosphere. Now, the yawning gaps in the crowd sum up our demise.

    The question on fans lips is not so much whether we’ll gain another point this season, but will we manage another goal before the curtain comes down.

    Three managers/coaches have had a crack this season and it’s got progressively worse.

    I want this wretched season to end now. I just hope Julian has got this latest managerial right otherwise I can see us dropping out of the League next season.

    • Who would be the alternative to Bowyer? Rhodes down right thing we Bowyer, we need all players to start pre season etc , barring the odd one or two. Ready then early August to start the assault on League 2.
      Bowyer right man IMO.

  4. ‘Managerial appointment”

  5. Anyone know how many ST’s have been renewed so far???

    Everyone seems incredibly tight lipped on this so I’m assuming its depressing poor!!!

    Think they need to extend the deadline til much later on in the summer….until we’ve at least made some sort of decent signing to get excited about!

  6. How can Bowyer be content by 1 win in 6 games. 4 of the 5 by just 1 goal. This was lauded on pulse as an achievement. He continues to play Atkinson despite his atrocious performances. He plays his substitutes too late to make any real impact. Sorry I personally do not rate the guy. His tactics are bizarre. This season has been disastrous. Bowyer has a 2 year contract and if he continues in the same vein next season then I see little hope of redemption. I do hope I’m wrong but the new team must perform week in and week out and demonstrate to our long suffering supporters a desire to put right all the wrongs of this horrible nightmare of a season.

  7. We,ve got a keeper that couldnt catch a cold, a brittle ch in nkp who is totally lacking confidence, a forward in doyle ( i refrain from callinng him a striker) who thinks playing the man instead of going for the ball is the way forward, what do we expect?. We played better today but are really where we deserve to be. Totally fed up.
    Bowyer two year deal, questionable, 3 points out of 18, think he has made us more solid but we still rely on doyle, can he not see he is rubbish, try anyone else at lease they will run and harass. Why not try ball up front now scannel is back, at least he puts in 100%. Rant over.

  8. We tried. That’s about it. Yes it’s encouraging to watch effort and endeavour but that’s all it was. I do that for ten hours a day, five days a week to make my business better. 99% of people who read this will too try very hard at work. They only have to perform for 90 minutes once or twice a week. It’s not really hard is it, and certainly shouldn’t be rewarded and praised.

    We’ve been horrific all season. The results of a fraudsters ego trip. An unbalanced squad that three managers haven’t been able to mange. Micky Collins doing the best of the three statistically. But let’s be honest. They have all been working with faulty tools. Caddis the only real bright spot. Ball has been okay at times. The young O Brien is a bigger prospect that Payne for me but he’s not going to sign.

    Nothing has improved since Edin went sadly. In fact we’ve declined further. January was a wasted opportunity.

    We’ve a disinterested owner (I don’t believe he’s in it for the long term) and a CEO who’s playing at it. Rupp made us all promises at the POTY a year ago. Then disappeared. I aren’t settled because he makes promises again. If he cared he’d have appointed a young and dynamic CEO who’s head is on the block if we fail. A man who commands the entire operation and reports back his success. We need a new David Baldwin. Julian Rhodes is a good man who’s done a lot of good for a City but we need to push on in my humble opinion. For what it’s worth I think JR backs this. Read his comments about staying again. I’m not so sure he’s here for all of next season, more here until they find someone else.

    So sad to be back in the basement. So, sad.

  9. This is all a bit negative. We know the players aren’t good enough and haven’t been all season. The January recruitment didn’t exactly make a massive difference either. And how is this Bowyer’s fault? At least the players are putting in a shift now, so his motivational ability is clearly good. And as compared with Hopkin’s hoof the ball to the midget tactic O’Donnell is at least spraying the ball around a bit. Bowyer knows the players in these divisions and, with bit of sensible recruitment over the summer now Abbott has gone, I’m feeling a lot
    more confident about how we will perform next season.

    • Can’t say I agree with you abut Knight-Percival today. As soon as Wilks started running at him he had one thing to do – shepherd him right – Wilks was obviously trying to get across to shoot with his left,
      Guess what – K-P let him do just want he wanted and got his shot in. Result? Goal.
      This is school-age football learning – why can’t K-P see what was wanted?

  10. Will be very interesting to see who we keep & who we manage to get rid of, and who we can’t get rid of.

    The well documented mistakes of last season are hopefully mitigated by having a manager in place now for next season. We need to let him sign his own players. Power & pace I agree is the way to go, both will cost money so there will be a question over how much the manager is backed. We have failed to sign a target man in 3 transfer windows.

    2nd half yesterday we did play some of the best stuff this season, winning the ball back quickly, pressing forward, basically everything except having a shot or scoring!

    A really sad season for Bradford city FC, no winners, we need to clear our heads over the break and fans come back ready to support the team.

  11. Another hugely frustrating afternoon, at the least there is only 4/5 weekends left for these chaps to ruin until August.
    The annoying thing is, it should be oh so different. Look at that bench today, nearly £40k in wages a week sat on it. Absolutely ridiculous, we didnt have that when we were premier league for goodness sake.
    The money has been there, albeit some in wild desperation, and this is where January i feel as done for us, and where perhaps Hopkin should take a bit more of the blame than he did.
    Why is Miller still here, he offered little up to January, yet we fought tooth and nail to get him back, and he hasnt played since hardly.
    Why sign Billy Clarke, absolutely anonymous every time he has played or come on, a poor mans Payne or Ball. A signing for signings sake.
    Anderson, how he gets a gig consistantly, is beyond me, very poor footballer. To give him a bit of credit would say he is a trier, as opposed to some. Unfortunately he just isnt good enough.
    More money wasted on flake legs woods, every man and his dog could have told you it was a recipe for disaster but no old Hopkin signed a crock.
    Some massive errors of judgement by hopkin have left the side a mess. All that money wasted which could and should have been spent on more pressing matters, and that is before the Barnsley debacle when changing a winning formula he had stumbled upon, proved a terrible decision, one we have never recovered.

    It smacks of our last relegation, multiple loan players and short term contracts with many with not one iota of affinity for bradford city, and subsequently couldn’t care less where we end up.

    I have a feeling next year wont be pretty, and that despite Bowyers call for a rebuild, we will be left with some of the squad that have badly let us down, and its how they respond to give an idea of how it will go. Be poor again, and it will turn naughty quicky of that i am sure, but as we have seen so many times how vibrant the old girl can be when we are winning, even yesterday when all hope was seemingly lost the place was bouncing.
    This is a massive summer, where the board, team and fans need to regroup and build bridges. Fans buy tickets, players put the effort in, the board work out long term ambition etc and all pull together. We need to become one again, i suggest open days, players attending social nights with supporters clubs, open training sessions and really unite because if we dont recover quickly, there may be no quick way back

    • £40,000 a week on the bench!! Times that by 52 and you get £2 million. What are the eleven playing on? A pound a week as there would then be hardly any budget left at all!

      • Are you saying its wrong? If so where do you disagree?

        Payne £12k
        Scannel near on £10k
        Wright £6k
        Akpan and o’connor in region of £5k each

        Absolute silly money

      • What part of the £40k dont you agree with?

        Payne £12k
        Scannel near on £10k
        Wright £6k
        Akpan and o’connor around £5k

        Absolute silly money

      • Don’t think he is far off with that estimate. YP reports that ER did include relegation clauses in players contracts ( a surprise in itself given his overall incompetence) so that should help to move on some of the dead wood and give GB some wriggle room. I came away thinking at least there was some evidence of greenshoots and chuffed with the backing in the second half from the hard core. We have kicked around the bottom two divisions for most of our history. Ain’t the end of the world

  12. …….no wonder we couldn’t afford the striker in the January window who would probably have preserved our League 1 status…..

    • Yep. I’m saying you’re wrong. Vast vast overestimates. As I say we wouldn’t have a penny to pay another player. We don’t turnover much ch more than that for gods sake.

      • Not sure if you have realised harry but we are £2m OVER budget this year. It has been widely publicised if that helps

  13. I am Mark. But that’s due to a plethora of issues. Major sponsors pulling the plug due to Edin. No sell ons achieving. Your figures just don’t add up. It’s well publicised the wage budget this year is close to £3 million. We know Doyle is on £5k a week. Add in the other 20 odd players and the maths simply does not work. I don’t think you’re far wrong but just a few grand per player.

    • There are players on the bench that swallow up a large chunk of the budget. Add on Reeves who has not featured and Rahics craxy wages and you soon see why we are £2m in deficit..i heard on Saturday thst GB has a retained list of four!!!

  14. Is O’Donnell on a similar contract to the one he had at Northampton last season, if they got relegated to the bottom tier he got a free transfer, not bothered if he has, he has hardly torn any trees up this season, and I know the defence in front of him has been poor, but there have been times when he could have done better.

  15. Come on guys,Its not all doom and gloom i would rather be in league 2 winning games and challenging for promotion. I have been supporting City for 50 years, And for the majority of that time we were always in the lower leagues. i support the club regardless of what division we are in. If the good times come again great. It will always be a rollacoaster ride as it is with most football clubs. Look at Bolton,Rotherham, Ipswich, Millwall, all looking like they will drop down a division. Be a supporter not a CAMP FOLLOWER CTID

    • So you would rather be relegated so you can win some games and challenge for promotion? I guess by that logic half the premiership can’t wait to go down so they can win a few. I’m surprised Huddersfield fans haven’t got the relegation open top bus out. We all support the club but i ain’t looking forward to league 2, i just we bounce back up with a sense of relief because the last spell we had down there was soul destroying.

  16. One things for sure the first 10, 20 minutes of the first home game of next season is going to be massive.

    They’ll need to put a real marker down. The first tackle, the first surging run, the first press – they need to show us something. They need to show us some real powerful intent.

    Close your eyes and think of a City side. My bet is you are dreaming of midfield generals, a big fella / little fella up front, pace out wide and warrior center halves.

    If they can show us that in that first 20 minutes I can relax. If not we’re in all sorts of trouble…

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