After two steps forwards, it’s two steps back as Bradford City are beaten at home

Image by Adam Raj

Bradford City 0

Forest Green Rovers 1

J Mills 90+3

By Adam Raj

If it isn’t broke don’t fix it.

A cliche, I know but Gary Bowyer’s decision to change the shape and personnel this afternoon was utterly baffling. After two straight wins starting with a 4-4-2 and players in their natural positions, we resorted to a 4-5-1/4-3-3 which we had deployed in the first two poor performances against Cambridge and Grimsby.

It was a sign of a manager who was far too concerned with the opposition and neutralising their ‘threats’ compared to a manager who was picking a side to give us the best chance of winning the game. It was scarily similar to the ridiculous changes to a winning side made by David Hopkin away at Barnsley in January which proved to be the beginning of the end for him.

Connor Wood was moved back to left back following Adam Henley’s injury at Stevenage, Jordan Gibson was playing on the left of the three-man attack, replacing Sean Scannell, and Matt Palmer was pushed further forward.

That meant the midfield consisted of Hope Akpan, Danny Devine, Jordan Gibson and Matt Palmer. I can’t be the only one who sees absolutely zero creativity in there, can I? It was a totally unbalanced midfield for a home team who wanted to win the game. Only Bradford City could have two strikers of the calibre of James Vaughan and Clayton Donaldson without one creative player in the team to supply them the ball in goal scoring areas.

The first half was a non eventful one in terms of goal scoring chances. Jordan Gibson going closest with a long range effort towards the end of the half. But today’s referee, Andy Haines, set the precedent for his own performance and the quality of the game from the first whistle. The man in the middle had no control of the game whatsoever – Clayton Donaldson had no protection from being constantly assaulted by Forest Green left back Liam Kitching, as well as multiple cynical challenges going unpunished, despite both Danny Devine and Hope Akpan being booked for identical challenges.

I don’t like to criticise referees too much, we all know they are severely lacking in quality and it’s often a cop out for a bad performance, but today’s official deserves a special mention for allowing the game to become an absolute farce.

Make no mistake, Forest Green came to Valley Parade for a fight. The officials fell for every trick in the book and the away side got exactly what they wanted. It’s a tactic used many a times when we were in League One and it’s highly likely that every other side will come to Valley Parade and do the same this season. We learnt absolutely nothing from the Cambridge game and ultimately failed to score at home. Again.

We won’t be lucky enough to come up against such a disorganised side as Oldham were every week, so this needs addressing Mr Bowyer. And fast.

Back to the game and the second half was equally as infuriating to watch as the first half. Jamie Devitt replaced the anonymous Danny Devine and we lined up 4-5-1. At home. With Clayton Donaldson playing left midfield officially, although he spent more time in the left back area. Such negative and defensive tactics in a game we should be targeting to win is baffling.

Forest Green, a possession-based side, were allowed acres of space in midfield to walk past us at will. Rovers keeper Joe Wollacott, on numerous occasions, dribbled the ball completely unchallenged as far as the halfway line, to pick out a pass straight through the midfield past the daydreaming Hope Akpan. It happened so many times that it must have been a deliberate tactic. And if so, why? Why let a team who like to pass the ball play to their strengths? Shouldn’t we be pressing them high up the pitch and forcing them to play long? It’s bizarre tactical decisions like these which have got a small minority questioning Gary Bowyer, even this early on.

For all the negatives, City did create a few chances in the second half. First, James Vaughan’s trademark overhead kick went inches wide from Kelvin Mellor’s long throw. Then Clayton Donaldson saw a half volley blocked on the line by an unknowing Vaughan.

Callum Cooke was introduced for his debut replacing Matt Palmer, somehow leaving Hope Akpan on the pitch. He looked bright, as did Devitt. Ideally, both would start next week, but the lack of any sort of ball winning midfielder to partner them makes that unlikely. Sadly, such an addition looks unlikely given the large amounts of central midfielders already at the club.

The decision to offer sub standard players such as Devine and Jermaine Anderson new deals looks more ridiculous with every passing game. Surely the wages used on those two and what is left (if anything) in the budget would’ve been better spent on the one type of player which we don’t have.

As time wore on in the second half, it looked like being another disappointing goalless draw, but up popped Rovers skipper Joe Mills rising above Kelvin Mellor at the back post to head home the winner in stoppage time. A poor goal to concede from a defensive point of view, coming from Forest Green passing it inside and around our box completely unchallenged and ultimately we paid the price.

There was still time for the officials to rule out a Kelvin Mellor goal for offside and a red card for Forest Green centre half Matt Mills, although in truth, we could’ve played all night and not scored. James Vaughan was totally isolated upfront and Clayton Donaldson was too wide and too deep to have a goal scoring impact from open play.

The most irritating aspect of this loss for me was that it was totally self-inflicted. We weren’t outclassed, we didn’t lose to a wonder goal but we beat ourselves. The tactics were wrong, the play was too slow, the creativity was none existent – all things which were the case in our first two games, yet we learnt nothing.

The 4-4-2 deployed last week against Oldham and from the start in midweek at Stevenage worked, albeit against very poor opposition, there was absolutely no need to make such drastic changes to a winning side, purely to accommodate the opposition.



Categories: Match Reviews, Opinion

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26 replies

  1. Gifted them too much respect and space – how a keeper can be left to bring the ball up to halt way every time is beyond me!!! Where was the high press??

    It’s like we were set up to play Barcelona – but we were supposed to be at home!!

    GB this was in you, not the ref, not the disgraceful FGR tactics – on YOU GB!!

  2. Completely agree.

    We beat ourselves. Awful.

  3. Agree with nearly all of this but I think Danny Devine is a decent player and will improve with confidence from a decent run in the team.

  4. It won’t have been missed up stairs the inept tactical changes made today and the imbalance in the team selected, enough said let’s move on and hope lessons have been learned, jury out.

  5. You are spot on in the way we played today. I agree Forest Green were allowed freedom of the park. We hardly challenged them on the ball, whereas, when we had the ball they closed us down. When they had the ball in their own half we had 10 players lined up in our half. It was totally bizarre.
    Jordon Gibson was the best player on the park. Yet Bowyer decided to swap him for a midfielder. He has played this formation 3 times and managed 2 points he plays 442 twice and gets 6 points. We don’t have a ball winning midfield player. We don’t have backup for Donaldson or Vaughn. The latter is nearer suspension.
    I do believe we have a good squad of players but in Drury an Bowyer we have an inadequate management team. The calamitous team selection and tactics are loosing the support of many of the fans. This situation needs to be dealt with otherwise, we will be dragged into the myer of relegation.

  6. You are spot on in the way we played today. I agree Forest Green were allowed freedom of the park. We hardly challenged them on the ball, whereas, when we had the ball they closed us down. When they had the ball in their own half we had 10 players lined up in our half. It was totally bizarre.
    Jordon Gibson was the best player on the park. Yet Bowyer decided to swap him for a midfielder. He has played this formation 3 times and managed 2 points he plays 442 twice and gets 6 points. We don’t have a ball winning midfield player. We don’t have backup for Donaldson or Vaughn. The latter is nearer suspension.
    I do believe we have a good squad of players but in Drury an Bowyer we have an inadequate management team. The calamitous team selection and tactics are loosing the support of many of the fans.

  7. I struggle to see what Hope one of our prominent midfielders offers! Here we are at Valley Parade and yet again we totally fail to emphasise the home bonus by ceding control to the opposition. This is not the first time and is becoming a worrying feature! ‘Hopefully’ there will be a change in formation and personnel!

  8. Just hope the W.O.A.P sends a copy of this to Gary Bowyer, maybe get his reflections of what’s said and discuss why he doesn’t play a decent team to their greatest potential

  9. Those questioning Bowyer already are completely right. I asked Blackpool fans who apparently rated him and they said if we managed to get a goal then it was ten men behind the ball for the rest of the game and his subs are poor…..that’s supporters who like him…..tbft so far he appears tactically inept and I’d rather watch us go for it and get beaten than settle for a draw and maybe get a win, based on the bigger picture that we may see some goals and entertainment…..and thats the crux,…play this way and you HAVE to get results and success otherwise fans will moan and vote withh their feet and quite rightly….

    The ongoing worry is that he has signed players recently to continue with his formation……I agree with the vocal city fans currently saying that they don’t want to watch a season of this …..Negative, worried about opposition football…..

  10. Very baffling

    It appears an injury to our back up right back, who was playing left back, because our back up left back is now playing left wing because he is better than our new left winger (you keeping up) ,has caused all kinds of carnage.

    We kept being told that Jackson longridge was a very astute signing ,good on the ball, confident and scores goals yet he can’t get near the side. Surely it was as simple as putting him in for Henley and it’s job done.

    Not with Bowyer, he’s decided to fiddle about and switch to his favoured formation despite that formation not suiting any of the players he has signed.

    What good is Donaldson on left wing and helping out at left back,? Him being there takes 50% off James Vaughans game as he has to do all the dirty work, gets frustrated and looks a walking red card.

    Palmer is far too slow, I’m sorry but he makes Nicky law look like pirlo, and dont get me started on his set pieces.

    Devitt has been signed to play the tip of the diamond so I don’t see the formation changing anytime soon which leads me to believe scannell will be the next out of the door. That’s a lot of cash sat on the bench every week

    Some big decisions to be made, how many more chances does Akpan get? what’s the truth with longridge, macarten and ismail? How long does Paudie put up with sitting on his backside?

    Bowyer needs to start convincing fans he can back up what he says, he talks a good game but has yet to show in 6 months he can get us to play one. It’s alright this I got Blackpool up from 13th in February, because I reckon im not sure fans would give him that long if it were to be the case.

    Where is his urgency, I’d have rather gone out to win that today late on, a point dropped is nothing at this stage but We ended up dropping the point anyway without remotely giving it a go, it was the same as Cambridge shambles. Definetly a big few weeks coming up

  11. One loss in five and the world is already coming to an end and the knives are already being sharpened. Check out where Scunny are who were on a similar trajectory to us before a ball was kicked. A very narrow defeat to a side who will be top seven and who Mark Cooper admitted in interview were lucky. A team which has been developed over several years. It was not great but we have no divine right to be turning over teams however modest in origin.

    • I don’t think the knives are out Paul, but I do think supporters are entitled to feel frustrated and confused as to why a winning team and system was broken up for this game and it’s disappointing that Gary didn’t allude to this post match.

      We’re a league 2 team not a champions League side. I suspect we don’t have the personnel or skill levels required to chop and change our system from one week to the next. We should be developing City’s style of play based on our DNA and our culture and what we expect from a City side – especially at home.

      • Most managers will adapt formation depending on opposition.Even PP who is far from sophisticated tactically did so. 4/2/4 is not always going to work and as my son eloquently surmised on Satdy we would have got “dicked” if we had turned up on that basis against FGR who load the midfield and play the most possession based game in the division. Very easy for fans/correspondents with a limited grasp of the complexities of the game to sound of on here. Very premature to start to draw any conclusions with regard to GBs qualities as a coach. He needs to be given time and patience not ridiculous statements as above about his position being open to question by Crimbo !!

      • “Very easy for fans/correspondents with a limited grasp of the complexities of the game to sound of on here”

        Wow, how patronising. If we’re all so beneath your obvious high football intellect maybe you should find somewhere else to share your wisdom.

  12. At the start of the came we were second in the league, the way we were set up and then played you would have thought we were second from bottom. We played totally into their hands. This shows he hasnt got confidence in our players to play our style and let the opposition worry about us. Even at half time there wanst much change. Not impressed at all

  13. sorry should have said start of the Game

  14. A very fair overview of a game we should have put to bed by half time.

    The way that Forest Green were set up and played, with or without the assistance of a very poor refereeIng performance, meant that we just had to take the game to them to win and we failed to do this. We gave them far too much respect and far too much room to pass the ball with little or no pressure being applied as they came forward, led by the goalkeeper. Yes, they were crude and sometimes violent in their approach, but we know to expect this approach in this league and should be able to deal with it. This is what the coaching staff and manager are there to organise on a Saturday afternoon.

    I like GB as a person and he has done a great deal of good in repairing the Club mentally and rebuilding the squad but I find his tactical grasp of matches is bewildering. He spent most of the match arguing with the linesman and the 4th official when he should have been working out a way to win. It was as if we were an out of form away team and not the home team backed by 14,000 vocal supporters.

    What a wasted opportunity to go top of the League.

  15. Totaly agree. Wrong tactics, too much respect paid to the oposition, square pegs in round holes a d poor officiating

  16. When we play Akan we are literally play with 10 men

  17. For balance, we only played 442 against Stevenage for the first half hour and the Oldham midfield dominated the 442 in the first half despite us going in 2-0 up.

    Don’t think the problem is solved by going to 442. The balance in midfield regardless of formation hasn’t been right from the start.

  18. In all the time Akpan has been here he really has only had one decent game. At Burton!!!!
    I am.not one to be critical.of players and i had put my head above the parapet aa far aa Doyle is concerned contrary to most fans. I said he would score goals given the right circumstances. Seems i.might have been right!
    But Akpan.offers nothing. I cant even decide what kind of midfielder he is. GB must know that he offers little.

  19. Not to worry there’s 2 decent managers out there not in work at present. This will only be tolerated up to Christmas, if no improvement by then changes will be made.

  20. What worries me is the lack of creativity in midfield we don’t have a ball winner who can then move the ball around.Gary B said it may take a couple of Windows to get the team right my worry is we are looking to build a strong physical team that grind out results.
    The ball playing exploits of 2years ago seem a long way away.

  21. Agree with all the comments re tactics, Akpan etc etc, but GB is a very stubborn individual who will not change is ideas, no matter how many of the 14,000 can see what is happening on the pitch. Donaldson out wide ????, where is Zeli Ismail (have I missed he is injured). 4-4-2 for me all day long.

  22. 1 loss in 5, lets panic, call for the managers head and act like we should be walking this league because we are bradford city lol.

    It was frustrating and akpan getting anyway near that team is baffling but this team, whatever you may think, is last play off spots at best. Always was.

    Devine will be on peanuts, thats why we kept him.

    Anderson is a confusing one.

    Agains stevenage we were out gunned in midfield, so quite clear why bowyer changed tactics even if it did fail but i am willing to keep backing and having faith on someone who managed to get a sorry blackpool back up first time

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