Square pegs in round holes

Grimsby Town 1

Hanson 66

Bradford City 1

Vaughan 53

By Adam Raj

The first away game of the season and 1,786 faithful and hopeful Bantams packed out the away end at Grimsby’s Blundell Park this afternoon, in what was, for the second week running, a very disappointing display. The gloomy mood from last season has been lifted over the summer and optimism has finally started to return in the stands, however, more performances and results like the first two of the season and that optimism will slowly drain.

Last week saw a lack of width, pace and penetration in our attack. Many, including myself, expected to see changes to the line up for today’s game, in particular the inclusion of Sean Scannell and Jackson Longridge. However, Gary Bowyer chose to stick with the front three of Clayton Donaldson, James Vaughan and Eoin Doyle, as well as the right footed right back playing left back Adam Henley, and in all honesty it didn’t work at all.

The first half was a hard watch, the play was far too slow and City were far too ponderous and indecisive in possession – at times it was just possession for possession’s sake. Anthony O’Connor and Ben Richards-Everton especially took far too long to make a pass, but to be fair to them, the midfield didn’t offer anywhere near enough options for the man in possession. City created next to nothing in the first half and Grimsby, despite getting themselves in some promising wide areas, lacked the final ball.

The second half was a much better spectacle all round but City had the same sort of problems. Jermaine Anderson, yet to even remotely justify his new contract, was anonymous for the most part and when in possession, he looked way out of his depth, with some terrible passing. Grimsby started the second period the livelier of the two sides, exploiting the vast amounts of space which we afforded them out wide.

The Mariners’ game plan was clear – get the ball out wide to their full backs or wingers and aim for James Hanson in the middle. Yet, we allowed cross after cross and gave away far too many corners and cheap free kicks.

It took 53 minutes for us to create a chance for either of our strikers, Jordan Gibson with a sublime cross into the box for James Vaughan to nod home his first goal for the club. The scenes in the sold out away end were brilliant, celebrations which have been missing for far too long, as the Bantams skipper celebrated with the corner flag in typical style.

It was imperative that we pushed on for a second and built on the momentum which we had. However, for fifteen minutes after we scored, the game wasn’t managed properly at all. We were still being exploited out wide and the midfield did not get a grip of the game and try to keep possession.

Grimsby had an equaliser ruled out for offside and Richard O’Donnell made a terrific save moments later. The goal was coming. Adam Henley, who got run ragged, gave away a corner, and in typical Bradford City fashion, James Hanson scored with a free header. This was a desperately disappointing goal to concede, no matter how poor the performance, there’s no excuse for giving a player like Hanson a free run at a set piece.

Sean Scannell, somehow confined to a place on the bench again, was introduced moments before, meaning we switched to a 4-4-2, allowing our players to play in their preferred and best positions. His introduction gave us everything we were missing – pace, power and someone who could drive forwards with the ball. He caused City old boy Luke Hendrie all sorts of problems when he came on, creating a great opportunity for Clayton Donaldson who couldn’t get his feet sorted in time to apply a finish, as well as having an effort cleared off the line by Grimsby skipper James McKeown.

In the end, the game slowed and it seemed both sides were happy for a point, which was a fair result but there are still some pressing questions to be asked after the first two games of the season.

The diamond system which Bowyer has employed thus far is not working at all. It seems Bowyer is trying to keep all his strikers happy by shoe-horning Eoin Doyle into a system which he does not suit in the slightest. He is playing at the tip of the diamond in a position where he is expected to create for the strikers as well as get beyond them when they win long balls.

However, Doyle doesn’t have the technical ability as the likes of Jack Payne or David Ball do, who played a similar role last year. He’s also painfully slow so struggles to get beyond the front two. This system, as well as his unnecessary inclusion, is stifling our attack. If Eoin Doyle plays, it should be either in a front two or not at all.

Doyle however, isn’t our only problem – our midfield is worryingly poor. I can understand why Bowyer wants to play a three man midfield, as he wants to dominate possession in the middle of the park, however we don’t have the midfield options to play this way.

Jermaine Anderson is obviously extremely limited and I struggle to list his attributes, he is a passenger who we can’t afford in this side. This means Matt Palmer is being asked to defend, attack and play his normal game all at the same time which is obviously hampering his own individual performances. I’d also include Jordan Gibson in this as the lack of a proper holding midfielder who can get a grip of the midfield, is holding him back from expressing himself further forward.

It’s imperative that we address this area before the end of the window, otherwise these issues will continue to suffocate our progress.

Defensively Adam Henley looks lost at left back. Full backs are vital in providing width in the diamond system which we’re playing but being a right footer, he is slowing down attacks as he is always having to take an extra touch. After two poor performances by him, I’d expect Jackson Longridge to come back in next week.

However, with this system, the full backs are left far too exposed. Far too many times Grimsby had two v one out wide and against a side who’s main asset is width, the selection of this system and the perseverance with it for 60 minutes, is bewildering.

City fans sometimes have an unhealthy obsession with playing 4-4-2 given our recent successes, however I totally agree that this system suits us best given the players we have. In the two games we’ve played, we’ve created only two real chances for James Vaughan who has scored one and hit the bar with the other.  It’s clear that given service, both he and Clayton Donaldson will score at this level. But, creativity is non existent in midfield, with Scannell and Gibson our only really creative players, both of whom play out wide.

I’d like to see Donaldson and Vaughan play together (not miles away from each other like they do in the diamond), and being fed by Scannell and Gibson out wide, although I still think we need to sign a left winger, something we haven’t had since Kyel Reid was here four years ago.

The optimism is still there amongst the vast majority of fans. But more uninspiring and lifeless performances like today and that will fade quickly. We have a chance to go and attack teams and build on the positive energy emanating from the stands, let’s not waste it.

Categories: Match Reviews, Opinion

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22 replies

  1. Can someone please remove that big massive anchor from Henley’s back!!! The minute he gets to half way it gets dropped and yanks him back ffs!! get forward!!!!

    And completely agree about pace, first half a snail was faster!! Get some urgency into our play please!

  2. Agree with most of the piece. Will just add that Hanson’s header was either going wide , or straight to O’Donnell without Henley’s deflection. Donaldson had no chance/time to redirect Scannell’s bullet cross-shot.
    Wholeheartedly agree Scannell for Doyle & 442 is a no-brainer for next week.

  3. City have now played 2 games. Bowyer is an experienced and successful manager. Please for goodness sake be fair and give city a break.

    • I respect your comments John … however ive never ever been really entertained by the team managed by GB.
      scanell is the one player at our level that can get us off our feet and make something happen… but yet he’s sat on the bench.
      Tactically I have never been impressed

    • City have played two games – two – the exact amount of wins Bowyer has achieved in 13 games with us.
      Not good enough.

  4. The Jury is out on GB for me, I think since he’s been the manager we’ve won just two games.
    Yes it’s still early in the season but the style of play is awful … no width and central midfield that are just not that creative.

  5. As posted last week and hopefully the last time..
    No width
    No pace
    Front three void of passes from midfield
    Nothing creative
    Come on city

  6. Adam comments, ‘I can understand why Bowyer wants to play a three man midfield, as he wants to dominate possession in the middle of the park’, I honestly struggle to see how a 3 man midfield can dominate possession, especially if the full backs are slow to come forward and are not the new breed of ‘wing back’. In reality you are overun and 3 against greater numbers simply will not work.

  7. What happened today could have been prevented. Why oh why does Bowyer persist with Doyle, a right footed left back and his love child Anderson. It is clear to all supporters that the formation he has played over the last two games has lost us 4 points! Play a left back and a winger to take advantage of Donaldson and Vaughn’s strengths. Why can Bowyer not see this? I am impressed with the signings he has made and believe that there is sufficient talent out there to win matches. So why does he not trust the players better suited to create opportunities for our strikers. Scannel came on and changed the game yet he had insufficient time to make a difference. Continuing with his bizarre team selection will alienate the support he has accrued during the close season. I can see that if he continues with these tactics , he will lose the good faith he has built and sadly sign is own premature departure.

  8. I concur with the report and I think a majority of city fans do too. Bowyers tactical formation , team selection and subs (too slow) have been very disappointing. His use of Henky, Doyle in positions that clearly actually hamper us and help the opposition along with the inclusion of Anderson who is very lucky to be a professional footballer in what he is showing is very concerning. Bowyer was quite rightly excused last season but the negative and frankly limited football displayed so far, even albeit only 2 games, is concerning me about the prospect of having to watch this for an whole season…..

  9. I’m finding it difficult to judge yet just what kind of team we’re going to be this season. Bowyer obviously likes 4-3-3 – once McCarten and Akpan are fit will they just slot into that system in place of Doyle and Anderson? Is he going to try and get a left winger or another central midfielder in on loan? Will we go 4-4-2 at some point? Regardless, whether it’s injuries or waiting for new signings, it feels like we’ve begun the season without being quite ready in terms of having the right personnel available. I guess it wouldn’t be like City to start fully prepared! So I’m willing to wait and see how it pans out before judging.

    I know the club have said that they haven’t exhausted the player budget yet, but the lack of new signings since getting in Vaughan and Donaldson suggests maybe they have, or are close to it. It feels like Bowyer knew he’d have limited resources and so when it came to new signings, he made sure to get the defence right first, and in fairness in the first two outings we do seem to be more resolute defensively (leaving Hanson unmarked today notwithstanding). But I wonder if, after sorting out the defence, he’s found there’s not enough budget left to fix both midfield and attack, so he’s decided to get two good, experienced strikers in to give us a half-decent chance of scoring some goals and provide some leadership up top, at the expense of having to muddle through in midfield for now unless he can get some loans in. I reckon we’re going to draw a bunch this season – we won’t concede many but won’t score too many either without some creativity and drive in midfield.

    That said, like everyone else I don’t like that Scannell isn’t starting games, or this persistence with Doyle at the tip of the diamond. I wonder if Bowyer thinks that if we play 4-4-2 with the current personnel available, then a midfield two of Palmer and Anderson/Devine/Gibson isn’t going to be strong enough, so he’s going with 3 in midfield to make up for that deficiency. But as we’re seeing, it’s impacting other areas of the field. It’s a strategy to make sure we don’t lose, rather than to go for the win, which I guess I can accept if Bowyer’s just holding out until we make new signings or injured players return. But if this is the plan for the season, then I think it will be a season of disappointment – and would show just how much work still needs to be done to get this club back to where it was.

    • My thought’s exactly, Keith. Together with yourself I think Bowyer is painfully aware that any of the currently available central mid players aren’t strong enough. Their efforts in stopping an opponent make blancmange look like reinforced concrete and I include Akpan in this, for whom tackling is what dry land is to a fish – to be avoided at all cost! Young Adam, be careful what you wish for. There’s more knee jerk reaction in your article than in an entire performance of Riverdance! We’ve only played two matches for goodness sake and the transfer window is still open. As Anon says lower down PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE. Bowyer is on record as saying it will take 2 or 3 windows to get the personnel he wants so he’s absolutely correct in getting the defence sorted first, just as Parky did. If he’d played with just 2 in central midfield Grimsby (and others) would drive straight through them. The lot of them would struggle to tackle a hearty breakfast!

      Last time we gained promotion from this particular cesspit we had Gary Jones, Nathan Doyle and Ricky ‘The Terminator’ Ravenhill to call on. Opponents were wary at the very least and some downright scared of facing any two out of those three. Do you think they feel the same about any of our current crop? I think not. Bowyer doesn’t have anyone on the books who can hold a candle to those three in terms of controlling the midfield – but given time I’m sure he’ll fix it.

      You can say what you like about Saturday’s performance but the fact remains that when we scored Doyle was still on the pitch playing in a front three which, when the cross came in from Gibson, gave the Grimsby defence an extra body in the box to think about which 442 wouldn’t have done.

      In Bowyer I trust.

      • Commendable perspective. Two years of carnage and folk expect bravura performances. It aint gonna happen. You suspect GB will want to provide a solid defensive base first and build from that. Most City fans will exercise patience and you only have to look at Scunny to see where we might be

  10. Great match summary and the headline sums it all up. I appreciate it’s not even early days etc. etc. but having come across home and watched the first two matches all I can say is that GB needs to up his game and see what we the fans are seeing. Where I was stood (yes, standing room only) today their were a lot of disgruntled fans who weren’t shy in letting GB know what they thought of his team selection and tactics. The natives are getting restless – even after two matches!

  11. Better players than ours can’t understand or work the diamond. Van Gaal used it disastrously at Man U. I would go 442 certainly away and use more attacking width at home. I think ultimately we will do well and need a win for confidence as well as 3 points.

  12. Unfortunately at the moment, it is result based comments. PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE.

    I can see what GB is doing, very shrewd manager and knows what it takes to get out of this hell hole, league 2 is very difficult to get out of and is very challenging physically and He has brought in 2 big forwards to deal with this and GB is utilising a system at the moment to make it very difficult for the opposition to break us down, regardless of how much possession they have.

    Granted, this system does not help us in an attacking style to create more scoring chances, but all I can see is work in progress at the moment, and I think with Scannell this is just steady progress to ease Him in gently to build Him up physically for the rest of the season as a very important player to what is planned out.

    If we soon, we start off with 4-4-2 and then fortunately go 2-0 within the 1st half. We Need To Get Promotion, how do we hold onto that 2-0 lead, I know, go back to 4-3-3 and let them have all the possession in the world, and just pass as many balls to the 2 big fellows up front at any given opportunity, then this will cause mistakes from the opposition as they need to attack but cannot break us down.

    It is not how you start the season but how you finish, I was watching the Grimsby game and anyone with half an eye can see the link up play between Donaldson & Vaughan was sublime at times and this is early doors, what will it be like in another 5 games, then in another 10 games, one move I saw at Grimsby, was like something from the Championship.

    On a Positive for now until the big results come in.

    Vaughan has signed a 3 year deal 🙂

    • 5 points out of 15. According to you par for the course. Remember this is a spectator sport. Fans pay to see positive play not the negative style Bowyer is advocating. If he has players who cause problems to the opposition why not play them? I see a bulk of supporters who disagree with this safety safety approach. They would prefer to see a team trying to dominate and score more goals than the opposition not a team that is happy to come away with a draw.

  13. Fair enough assessment. Although I would class Mark Marshall as a winger

  14. I wonder how WotP will assess today’s game against Preston.

    You may not highlight just how disgraceful it is for Bowyer to deliberately put a team out to lose. You may not highlight just what a liability Anderson and Akpan are, as well as all the other deadweights and average players being played out of position.

    I said I was willing to support Bowyer, unless City collapsed. So far this season nothing suggests better than bottom half. All the formations and all the players look like owt or nowt.

    Beat Oldham and I’ll calm down. Don’t beat Oldham and the fact I paid £15 to watch a farce tonight will rankle even more

  15. See this site is becoming a place for over the top unnecessarily negative fans. Use to value this place as a voice of reason, shame.

    2 games for christ sake, which we have not lost despite playing average. To see comments bringing bowyers record into question based on last season is also ridiculous, that squad was horrendous and not his. This squad still isnt his and still has a lot of deadwood we cant get rid of.

    A couple of good signings does not make a squad. If you are aware of players outside of bradford city you would know that midfield was never going to be good enough for automatic promotion. Top 10 with chance of one of last play-off spots is the realistic aim for this squad. It was before the season started but seems a few got over excited because we signed vaughan.

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