A joyless FA Cup exit

Bradford City 0

Shrewsbury Town 1
Edwards 66

By Jason McKeown 

Frustration swirled around Valley Parade, adding another layer of frost to an already bitingly cold night.

On what had felt like a really important evening for Bradford City, they bowed out of the FA Cup in joyless circumstances. Shrewsbury squeezed past them thanks to a streetwise edge. It was a dire game of football, with barely anything to set home fans’ pulses racing.

The frustration stemmed from the undeniable conclusion that this was a missed opportunity for City. They were so tepid, barely laying a glove on their opponents. Shrewsbury might now be a division above, but the Bantams have not fallen so far that they should suddenly believe they are inferior. Especially to a club they defeated home and away last season.

They could have done much, much more to win this game. It wasn’t a terrible performance, but a strong City side just didn’t hit the heights. There were sporadic brusts of good attacking play. But in the main, it was too laboured. They were reluctant to sieze the tempo. Waiting, it seemed, for a visitor mistake rather than grabbing the initiative.

Shrewsbury were in no mood to contribute to making it an open encounter. Sam Ricketts’ side were ugly and cynical. They took every opportunity to slow down the play. They waited patiently for a decent opportunity, which they took when substitute Dave Edwards found half a yard of space in front of Anthony O’Connor to poke the ball into the bottom corner. The goal gave Shrewsbury even greater licence to waste time and kill any hope of City finding some momentum.

There was plenty of huff and puff from City, but no real quality. Every home player was six out of ten at best. To a man, they failed to hit the heights they’ve proven capable of this season. Harry Pritchard and Dylan Connolly looked below their sharpest. Callum Cooke’s displays of late have been patchy. Hope Akpan continues the slow slide back towards mediocrity. Nothing particularly fell, or went right, for Aramide Oteh and James Vaughan.

Had City got themselves in front, Shrewsbury would have had to show more urgency, and the contest might have proved more enjoyable. In the first half, Town keeper Joe Murphy made a fine save from Akpan. Early in the second half, Cooke siezed on a loose ball, drove forward and saw a powerful low shot deflect just wide. But this was as good as it got from City. They didn’t really enjoy a spell of sustained pressure.

It was after going 1-0 down with 24 minutes to play that City’s inadequacies grew more apparent. You waited for the fightback. The onslaught. But the charge only came in stoppage time, when a few crosses forced Shrewsbury into some desperate defending. Murphy barely had anything to do in the second half.

And it is these moments that cause you to fall short of giving Gary Bowyer a 100% approval rating. What did we have to lose by throwing the kitchen sink at Shrewsbury? Why did it feel like we held something back? When City forced some injury time corners, Richard O’Donnell gestured to go up but was told to stay back. It is curious why Bowyer didn’t want to take risks.

In Bowyer’s defence, a weak-looking bench, attacking wise, was always going to hamper him if the game needed to be chased. Zeli Ismail was the only forward option available. But even accepting this, watching Bowyer take off Pritchard and Oteh and bring on Kelvin Mellor and Danny Devine hardly filled you with confidence City were going to come back. Ismail was only brought on in the 85th minute. No one can deny Bowyer is doing a fine job as manager. But sometimes he just plays it too safe.

It was never going to be an easy night. But with a clear route to a potentially lucrative FA Cup third round draw having opened up, it grates that City didn’t fully grasp the opportunity. Losing is never nice, but losing meekly stings. A sparse Valley Parade home crowd booed at the final whistle – about what, exactly, was unclear – and now it’s back to concentrating on the league.

Saturday’s trip to Plymouth, followed by a Tuesday visit to beleaguered Macclesfield, means we will quickly move on from this night. It will be the smallest of footnotes when the review of this season is written next May. There are, ultimately, bigger priorities.

But still, you hope lessons are taken on board by Bowyer and the players. We are Bradford City, and we should aspire to be capable of much better than this.

Categories: Match Reviews, Opinion

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7 replies

  1. Really frustrated tonight. Sat there after the Shrewsbury goal was conceded and wondered why we were not freshening up our midfield with Reeves and Ismael, if we lose 2-0 trying to get the 1-1 and penalties all the fans would be happier than seeing Bowyer stalling and hoping that the same 11 that had struggled all eveing would somehow do something different. If he wasnt bothered about the cup then why play the full first team? Really muddled thinking tonight.

    I am only half-joking when I say that I would rather the team play with 10 men than have Akpan in the team, at least with 10 men the rest of the team know there is no one in midfield and play accordingly. So many times he is more of a hinderence to the attacking phase or the defensive shape. I know Palmer / Cooke / Reeves will be the first choice central midfielders when all fit but if Akpan is keeping Devine out then Devine must be truely attrocious on the training ground.

    • I agree with this, especially the incomprehensible subs, I was telling my son at half time we needed a bold sub with Reeves for Akpan at the start of the first half. It looked like Bowyer lost interest when we went behind.

      I wondered if he is so concerned about the current injury count, that he’d prefer to drop out of the cup than risk stretching his resource in anther half hour of play. But for me, it isn’t good for the club to go out this early, even if promotion is priority one.

  2. Excellent report, just wonder who wrote it as there is no authors creds.

  3. Simple way to get over this..beat Plymouth and then Macclesfield..hit top of the league..and then stay there with all players returning by early January. At least a large number of players got a hood physical workout last night which they will need for Saturday not having played a league game last saturday. James Vaughan should be less rusty now and Jake Reeves will undoubtedly come on for time during at least one of the 2 next matches. I predict 2 victories, however narrow, and top at Xmas !

  4. Bowyer is doing the same mistake as when he took over
    Vaughan & Doyle are the same type of players they want balls played through the channels along the floor or crosses coming in that thay can run onto NOT UP IN THE AIR they are not that type of players
    They are not centre forwards of hanson style so why use those tactics every week
    Vaughan will not score more than 12goals this season Doyle will dry up if he comes back
    If Bower wants to carry on with lumping the ball forward in the air i hope he has a hanson type forward lined up for jan 1st
    If not we are going to struggle to score goals

    • I agree with your points and I think that is why if we are to keep the same style up we need Donaldson back ASAP.

      In my book Vaughan is second choice striker in this formation. The problem is him being team captain it makes for tricky handling of dressing room if he is on bench when Donaldson comes back.

  5. I agree with comments on here, but to go on to booing, I think it was more about the ref and ST’s time wasting, I would have been fuming If I was Shrewsbury’s manager, they had settled on one goal and wasted time to show this, If we had scored they could quite easy have lost It, I would have wanted 2 goals to make It safe.
    On the ref, he allowed ST to take free kick’s and throw ins from where ever they wanted and let them wast time all over the field, and he gave both side’s some funny free kicks.

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