Friday Focus: Fine margins in Bradford City’s season so far

Image by John Dewhirst (copyright Bradford City)

A new, infrequent, bite-size series looking at the stats behind Bradford City’s season.

By Jason McKeown

How’s the nerves? Over Bradford City’s first third of the season, tension has been a regular matchday occurrence due to the closeness of nearly every match.

Only two of the Bantams’ 15 league games so far have been settled by more than one goal – the August 3-0 romp over Oldham Athletic, and September’s thrilling victory over Carlisle United. And even in the Carlisle game, City only went 3-1 up when Zeli Ismail struck in injury time.

So 13 out of 15 league games involving City have gone down to the wire (87% of matches), with the outcome still on the edge right up to the referee blowing the final whistle. For comparison, in each of the last two seasons (2017/18 and 2018/19), only 9 of City’s first 15 league games were settled by one goal or less (60%).

Break it down into minutes, and the closeness of City’s 2019/20 season so far is even more evident. Against Oldham, City had gone 2-0 up on 32 minutes. It meant the remaining 58 minutes were relatively stress-free, as the Bantams made good on their cushion. In recent games against Morecambe and Crawley, they did establish 2-0 leads that for a period helped supporters relax, only to concede late goals that brought back anxiety. City held a 2-0 advantage at Morecambe for 12 minutes, and were two ahead of Crawley for 32 minutes. They’ve not yet been two goals behind.

Add all that together, and City have been in a position of relative, at-least-two-goals-ahead comfort for just 102 out of the 1,350 minutes of league action. The remaining 93% of the time, games have been on a knife-edge. Given their very promising league position that puts City right amongst the front runners – a late winner against Port Vale on Tuesday, and the Bantams would now be joint top – it is a curious state of affairs.

It is to their credit that City are habitually edging out games, and finding a way to come out on top of close encounters. But it doesn’t do a huge amount for supporters’ nerves. Given the periods of domination that have occurred in most games, if City can put it all together and produce a 90-minute performance against a weaker League Two side, you’d fancy them to thrash someone soon (arguably the only complete 90-minute display came against Swindon, a top side). Because there are still inconsistencies at times, no one has yet been truly rolled over.

Six of City’s eight wins so far have been by one goal – no one else in the division has edged as many games. City are also one of only four teams who have not lost by more than a goal this season – Cambridge, Cheltenham and Colchester are the others. The fact City have not once looked significantly second best is very encouraging.

It underlines the view that many of us supporters hold about Bradford City this season. We’ve been good – at times very good. But there’s still a missing 5% that is holding us back from being more dominant. Maybe, this is the absolute capabilities of this squad, or perhaps there’s that little bit more to come. The smart money right now would suggest we’re going to finish in the top seven, but with a bit more consistency and conviction, the top three looks very possible.

If that extra something can be found, City should start to win matches by larger margins more often – and the closing stages of games will involve less biting of the nails.

Either way, it certainly isn’t boring.

Categories: Friday Focus, Opinion

Tags: , ,

15 replies

  1. There are a lot of positive things to be said about City and their good start to the season. One factor is that Lady Luck is shining brightly on City this season and was virtually nonexistent last year. Three of City’s six one goal wins have involved good fortune. Two winning goals via deflection (Crawley and Swindon) plus a winning own goal at Walsall.
    All good teams have a degree of good fortune, hopefully it continues for the balance of what looks like a roller coaster season. City have shown playoff potential but talk of automatic promotion is in my opinion, premature. The season is still young and City are definitely a work in progress. Hopefully, City can add a couple of players in the January transfer window.

  2. I think it will be a long hard battle and hope for top 7.Bad luck with injuries.
    I don’t understand the Taylor situation. It seems restraint of trade as efl preventing Taylor from working. I suppose if we were a big club it wouldn’t matter.
    Can someone explain why it isn’t restraint of trade.

  3. i always enjoy these articles, but this is another case of “glass half empty”

    is it really worthy of a debate that winning games by one goal isn’t enough now? we’re 4th in the table!?!?

    last moan was we’ve not beaten anyone above us in the table, but that’s gone quite after the swindon game

    target is playoffs, we’re more than in the mix at the moment, injuries are going to be killer – if we keep on like we are surely we’re stretched to the limit already

    • Hi Matt

      “It is to their credit that City are habitually edging out games.” “The fact City have not once looked significantly second best is very encouraging.” – these are positive comments in the article.

      I’m not sure how this article is glass half empty when I’ve put in lots of praise. It is not intended to be a criticism, it is simply pointing out an unusual occurrence for so many games to be so close. Perhaps it is an expectation thing that I feel we might be able to win games by bigger margins (it feels like someone will get a hiding soon). Personally I think City can get automatic promotion, but you say target is play offs. So maybe that’s the difference of opinion?

      “last moan was we’ve not beaten anyone above us in the table” – this wasn’t a moan from WOAP. I’ve always thought it was a silly argument to fret about. When City went up in 2012/13, we didn’t beat any of the top three teams and only achieved 3 wins out of 6 against fellow play off sides. But we won enough other games, so it didn’t exactly matter.

      The wider point on this article is that I’m struggling with the pressures of work and balancing home life to write as many WOAP articles as I would like. So I thought this Friday Focus idea was a chance to write more bitesize pieces which take up less time, and try and do a sideways look at some of the stats. Over the coming months, I planned to talk about areas like pass completion, sources of goals and why Vaughan might not be scoring as many goals as we’d like. There isn’t an intended critical edge to them, just digging deeper into numbers and see what we find. Hopefully some people like them, but if these articles are unpopular I can stop doing them. Just means WOAP output will reduce.



      • Always good and balanced views on WOAP. Poor pass completion ratio worries me at present.

      • Jason, any chance of you expanding on your reasoning for City finishing in the top three. Especially, after the article you wrote today which relied on statistical facts.

      • Erm, I think they are capable based on what I’ve seen over the first 15 games of the season, the league table a third of the way into the season (3 points off top) and the general standards of League Two.

      • City currently sit sixth in scoring and goals against. Certainly a need for significant improvement for a top three finish to become reality.

      • quality reply !

        Motivation clearly was more stat based mate, in that case I totally missed the point

        Just very sensitive about my beloved city and honestly I believe even your indepedent fanzines do have a lot of say nowadays for building expectations

        I thought your first podcast of the season said aim was playoffs also unlucky my memory is wrong, which is possible

        Keep the articles coming, always enjoy them and of course people have different opinions thats football

      • I’m sure we probably did say play offs. I know my expectations have gone up since the Cheltenham away game. I think we have been very good in recent weeks, aided by Cooke, Connolly and Pritchard.

        Anyway we are hopefully podcasting next week, so we can talk about expectations some more! Cheers

  4. I’m happy how things are going.I said on here before,I’m happy with a scruffy game a scruffy goal and a scuffy one nil win at this stage of the season.Things will change for the better we still need a forward so we can change things around up front.

  5. Unfortunately, in my experience luck evens out over the course of a season. What’s holding us back, as a few note above, is availability of contracted squad. Specifically, Donaldson, Pritchard, Connolly, Devitt, Reeves (who was great in his first few matches before his emerging injury) and…yes…Robinson. If we had that lot at our disposal, luck or not, I’d be confident of top three.

  6. Jason thank you for your article. It’s much appreciated on a Friday as pre-match analysis very useful to set our expectations which we all need prior to any game especially as a City fan!
    I understand we have injuries to the Don (much of who’s work is underrated) Palmer, Devitt but I’m increasingly concerned with lack of news on Gibson who has not been seen anywhere for what seems like months now, Longridge who’s had no impact at all for us so far for a variety of reasons and French although he is out with a minor injury apparently. Oh I forgot 1….Reeves….just how bad is his state of mind or fitness that he hasn’t even made a behind closed doors sub bench even? Added to the Lack of communication from the club on Robinson for 12 months. These 2 especially need to be let go if it’s not happening. Can only be wasted money and energy in my opinion as currently not a game out of either of them for over a year. It’s like we can’t even ask or we get shot down by the PC brigade. Anyone got any real answers on what’s happening or happened? Other than that I’m enjoying the ride anything is better than last years disgraceful carry on.

  7. Forget playoffs, I see unity, commitment, desire, high fives to each other in defence …..

    Them roads took time to build, but what did the Romans do for us ? Lol

    Don’t worry about a thing.


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