By Dhriti Ahir
The stop-start Bradford City season is moving forwards again after last weekend’s come-from-behind win over Northampton.
Obviously, the scoreline and stats speak for themselves, but there were many refereeing decisions that became very controversial in the closing stages on Saturday afternoon. Zeli Ismail getting sent off for a second yellow in added time was quite frustrating for everyone – but most important of all, three points were gained.
But now we turn our attention to face the Saddlers on their home turf. Their previous game was an away fixture with Colchester United where the game ended goalless. Once again this season, we face an ex-Bantam in Gary Liddle, who made 61 appearance and scored three goals during his time at Valley Parade. He is someone who knows this league well, after two seasons and more than 100 appearances for Carlisle. He has made over 600 appearances in his career. He has been a regular for the Saddlers and played the full 90 minutes against Colchester, which suggests he will start again against us.
Now reviewing what we saw on Saturday, I am glad that we won the game but it was a very lifeless first half. We weren’t exploiting the Northampton defence but they, unfortunately, were able to get through ours – meaning we conceded early when we shouldn’t have. Fortunately we eventually came back. Clayton Donaldson getting the goal claimed as his own means that his tally continues to grow alongside James Vaughan. And I know these two will get plenty more throughout the course of the season.
Defensively we were strong. I thought once again Ben Richards-Everton was very reliable and a good presence in the box, especially when we needed the height to clear set-pieces. Richard O’Donnell was important for us with two late saves that otherwise could have spelled a different outcome.
It is now three wins, two draws and two loses in the league – and certainly all to play for now that the transfer window is shut. We are only a goal off reaching the play off positions, which is the drive to stay pace with as the league table begins to settle down over the next few weeks.
I think that Gary Bowyer will keep the majority of his starting 11 unchanged, but maybe freshen up the central midfield and find a place for the impressive Callum Cooke. Gary Bowyer might also want to bring in Jermaine Anderson or, if Shay McCartan is fit, then he might get some minutes under his belt. Ismail is obviously not available, so maybe Dylan Connolly will again start and Jordan Gibson can come off the bench and make an impact with his pace, or vice-versa.
I would definitely keep the backline of Kelvin Mellor, Connor Wood, Paudie O’Connor and Ben Richards-Everton. The front two of Vaughan and Donaldson needs to be maintained as they are still adapting to each other. I think Bowyer would only switch up the front two only for pace as he has the likes of Armaide Oteh and Omari Patrick, who can get at defenders.
Personally, I am glad that someone like Paudie O’Connor managed to get on the scoresheet, as I believe we should be getting more goals from every part of the team – not just the ones who have the words striker or attacking midfielder next to their names.
I feel like the 4-4-2 formation was effective on Saturday and should be used more often. We were able to get up when needed and the midfield was able to get the ball quickly and efficiently to the strikers and wingers to be able to attack at Northampton’s defence. Dylan Connolly and Harry Pritchard were able to use the width and get crosses in for the strikers to get on the end of.
Walsall are winless since the opening day victory at Northampton – a run that now stretches eight games. They were relegated alongside City last season, with the Bantams’ 3-2 defeat at the Bescot Stadium a pivotal nail in the coffin that saw the end of David Hopkin. Infamously, Walsall were reduced to 10 men just six minutes in and the Bantams took a 1-0 lead, yet still conspired to lose. City’s last visit before then was that memorable August 2017 3-3 draw, where Stuart McCall’s charges somehow surrendered a 3-0 lead.
If City open the scoring on Saturday, recent history should warn us not to assume victory is ours.