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.