Scunthorpe United 1
Ward 13 (pen)
Bradford City 1
By Adam Raj
Well there’s no prizes for guessing who will be happier with that result. Today’s game was a massively wasted opportunity against a poor, poor side, who played 70 minutes with ten men.
Scunthorpe started the game second from bottom, the Bantams in sixth. With others in the top seven playing each other, it was a big opportunity for the Bantams to get within touching distance of that top three. Instead it was a hugely frustrating affair, completely ruined by a totally inept referee.
City started the contest the brightest of the two sides, with James Vaughan hitting the post with an acrobatic volley which goalkeeper Rory Watson knew nothing about. Then straight up the other end, former City loanee Alex Gilliead whipped a cross in from the right, striker Jamie Ward got on the end of it but his shot was blocked by Kelvin Mellor. However, referee Rob Lewis gave a penalty for an apparent handball.
It was a baffling decision, the distance between Mellor and the ball was a yard, if that. How on earth can you give a penalty for contact which Mellor knew nothing about? It appears the referee read the wrong rule book pre-match, we’re not playing Champions League football where any contact with your hand is a penalty.
After quite rightful protests from City, Jamie Ward stepped up and fired home to give the home side the lead. It was a blow, no doubt but this side has shown already that it has what it takes to come back from set backs and win.
The tide then swung in City’s favour. Another former loanee, Matthew Lund over-stretching after a poor touch, caught Matt Palmer late and the referee produced the red card. The City midfielder was hurt from the challenge and had to end his afternoon early – Hope Akpan replacing him.
From then on, City were in control of the game. Well, in terms of possession and territorial possession anyway. Despite the man advantage, City struggled to create anything else of note in the first half apart from a Connor Wood cross which Donaldson managed to head wide, unchallenged from three yards out. The striker, making his 600th career appearance simply had to score.
The second half started as the first ended – City with all of the ball but little to no penetration. Scunthorpe were more than happy to sit back in their 4-4-1 shape and watch all of the play happen in front of them. City didn’t get in behind the defence enough and there was no creativity through the middle of the pitch whatsoever.
Harry Pritchard was largely anonymous from open play and Dylan Connolly was full of running but lacked the end product, before eventually being double marked.
City pressed and pressed and finally got back into the game. Pritchard’s 51st minute cross was tapped home by Paudie O’Connor and a well populated away end erupted. An early goal was just what we needed and was a perfect platform to build on with enough time left to find a winning goal.
However, the tempo from then on was far too slow, I lost count of how many times I screamed “faster” – the urgency just wasn’t there. The game plan (if you can call it that) seemed to be to sling the ball into the area from any angle with little thought as to how to create a clearer opportunity. I don’t think the full back overlapped the winger on either flank once – it was far too much of a cautious approach.
Ultimately, we played into Scunthorpe’s hands with our tactics, it was far too simple to deal with.
Bowyer’s substitutions were also baffling. Connolly, although quieter than last week was still our best outlet, yet was subbed for Aramide Oteh, who I forgot was even on the pitch at full time, such was his lack of contribution. Shay McCartan then replaced Donaldson in stoppage time, no time whatsoever for the attacker to make an impact. Although I’m not McCartan’s biggest fan, he should have been on sooner simply for the position he occupies.
We were crying out for something different in the final third, the gap between Scunthorpe’s back line and midfield was there to be exploited, and pull them out of position, yet we did nothing. In my opinion, we’re far too limited in our attacking approach.
It was a poor result, Matt Palmer’s injury looks worrying, meaning more game time for Hope Akpan and James Vaughan picked up his fifth booking of the season after telling the referee some home truths after awarding his 35th foul of the day.
Ultimately, it’s an afternoon of few, at a push, positives. There’s a lot of work for Bowyer to do to make us less predictable going forward, the defence is well drilled, the midfield is retaining and recycling the ball much better with the inclusion of Callum Cooke, but we’re not scoring anywhere near enough goals and that’s because we’re not creating enough clear cut opportunities in games.
We’re too one dimensional and that has to change.