Macclesfield Town 1
McCort (pen) 32
Bradford City 1
By Adam Raj
It’s never a good sign when you’re bored at a football match and thankfully I can say it hasn’t happened to myself very often. But today, as I sense with many other city fans, was a painful, drab and lifeless performance.
We had hoped for a response from last week’s poor display, but unfortunately it was a case of more of the same this afternoon in Cheshire, from a City side struggling badly for goals.
Jake Reeves started his first league game in two years as he came into the side for the apparently injured Callum Cooke. Chris Taylor made his debut in place of Hope Akpan and Zeli Ismail came in for Aramide Oteh. Crucially though, Gary Bowyer stuck with the same 4-3-3 shape that had been totally ineffective in recent games.
The game started slowly and scrappy with neither side offering anything going forward. City particularly had no intention of playing football – it was a boot it and lose it approach. James Vaughan was once again isolated, the wingers starved of the ball, full backs reluctant to go past halfway and the midfield was offering nothing going forward. Chris Taylor got stuck in, made a few good challenges and was the standout performer in the opening stages.
City had done absolutely nothing until Zeli Ismail robbed the ball just inside the Macclesfield area in the 22nd minute. He squared the ball to James Vaughan who couldn’t control and eventually put the effort wide. It was a sitter and he should’ve scored. And as it turned out, it was a costly miss.
Ten minutes later and the hosts had a penalty courtesy of a poor challenge by Ben Richards-Everton on Corey O’Keefe. Jak McCourt finished low into bottom left corner and City were left with it all to do.
Now I know they’re somewhat biased, but the official City Twitter account labelled us as having the “best of the first half chances” after going 0-1 down – that was an exaggeration from a dire performance which was starved of any chances. We created absolutely nothing before or after the goal. The one chance we had was handed to us on a plate, rather than thanks to any craft or invention from ourselves. Half time was a welcome event, surely we couldn’t be any worse in the second period could we?
Well, we tried our hardest, I must say. The second half started just as badly as the first ended. City had no control of the ball – it was all hit and hope to Vaughan. The off the ball movement was non existent and we looked utterly clueless with the ball at our feet. Like last week, we looked like a bunch of strangers who hadn’t played with each other before.
Macclesfield forced a few corners and nearly added to their lead. First Adam Henley cleared off the line and then skipper Fiacre Kelleher blazed a header over which he should’ve scored from. Meanwhile, down the other end, City failed to beat the first man from every hopeful cross into the box.
City supporters on the terrace behind Richard O’Donnell’s goal were growing restless, cheering Oteh’s name to try and force Gary Bowyer into a substitution. He obliged and Oteh replaced Zeli Ismail, with City reverting to a 4-4-2 formation. Immediately, Vaughan looked more comfortable with some support. Even though the ball was still being lumped at his head, there was at least someone willing to gamble in behind him.
Ten minutes later and City were level. Harry Pritchard played in a delightful free kick and there was Vaughan with a good flicked header to equalise. Sadly though, City failed to gain any momentum after equalising. The game slowed, City remained ponderous, the hosts had no intentions of attacking and the Bantams had no idea how to attack.
Sixteen minutes of normal time and five minutes of additional time came and went. City failed to have a genuine chance during that period. Not one of the hopeful efforts from 30 yards constitute a chance in my book, no matter how Bowyer wants to spin it. It was truly pathetic. The only incident even remotely interesting was a second yellow card for Macclesfield’s Connor Kirby for a late challenge on Connor Wood.
City failed to throw caution to the wind and have a genuine go at their opponents. The overly conservative Gary Bowyer cost us two points today with his negative and defensive approach. Bowyer says he had watched Macclesfield numerous times this season and knew what to expect. I’d suggest he didn’t. The style of play, formation, instructions were all wrong.
It was clear from the off that Macclesfield were extremely limited. Organised and disciplined, but limited. They had no real intentions of scoring and disappointingly, we still set out not to lose. Today was a perfect way to bounce back from last week. A good away following against a side any team with promotion aspirations should be beating and we simply flopped. A week where we could’ve put more pressure on our rivals, feels like another step back.
A supporter behind me commented that we aren’t the same team as we were six weeks ago. Actually, I think we are. Maybe slightly worse, but essentially, these poor performances have been here since the opening day. The luck has run out and teams have sussed out our only plan of attack and we have no answer to it. The results have, of course, masked over the performances and the boring football can be tolerated whilst the results are still positive. That has worn off now, and we’re now getting the results which match our performances.
We were no better or worse than a crisis hit Macclesfield Town side placed 14th in the league. In my opinion, after watching all games this season mid table would be a more accurate representation of our performances.
I suggested last week that Bowyer still had the shackles on this side and after today I stand by that. And unless they come off, we will continue to slide down the league table.