Risk vs reward

Leyton Orient 0

Bradford City 0

By Adam Raj

A team aiming for promotion sets up for a point away at a side in a relegation battle, who haven’t won at home in two months. Weird statement that isn’t it? Sadly though, an accurate description of Bradford City’s latest performance.

19th placed Orient, struggling for goals themselves, had let in almost double our tally. Yet the Bantams again went into a game with a fear of attacking and a reluctance to go for the win.

Last week’s turgid attempt at football was a hard watch, despite the result being handed to us on a plate by Newport County. But today, was somehow worse.

Gary Bowyer had adopted the ‘never change a winning team’ ethos and named the same starting side from last weekend. Five defenders, three midfielders playing in defensive midfield roles and two isolated strikers left to feed off scraps. The gap between the defence and midfield was tight, the hosts had no space to play in that area. But the gap between the City midfield and attack was embarrassing. You could’ve park a jumbo jet in there. It’s no wonder we can’t score.

City actually started slightly better, with Orient paying us far too much respect. Jake Reeves, impressive again, was finding space to dictate play, but his teammates were sadly not on his wavelength. He’s a class above and it’s painful at times to see it.

The first real chance of the game fell to the hosts. Adam Henley failed to stop a cross and Connor Wilkinson slammed a header against the crossbar. Orient’s game plan was clear by making the most of their two big strikers with crosses and long balls. Sadly I couldn’t tell you what our game plan was aside from making sure we don’t get beat.

City’s only chance of the half came as a long ball by Connor Wood was misjudged by Orient defender Jamie Turley, allowing Aramide Oteh to be through on goal – his shot though, was straight at the keeper. Oteh should probably have gone down and won a penalty, Turley was pulling his shirt off his back and would’ve seen red too. That’s a minor criticism though, and you can’t blame a striker for wanting to score.

City limped through to half time, having seen their early enthusiasm dampened by an Orient team who realised we weren’t that good.

As has been the case in most games this season, the second half started as slowly as the first ended, from a City perspective. Orient definitely ramped it up a gear and took the game to the visitors. Connor Wilkinson robbed Anthony O’Connor of the ball near the corner flag, raced into the box, but dallied and dallied before seeing his eventual shot blocked by Kelvin Mellor.

It was the spark that Orient needed. Cross after cross into our box were resulting in goal mouth scrambles and last ditch blocks, notably from Paudie O’Connor. Admirable defending from City and, on another day, we could’ve easily have found ourselves 2-0 down.

You’re probably wondering what City had in response down the other end. Well, nothing. Not a single effort to trouble the home keeper. Two crosses across the face of goal from Oteh and Vaughan were about as ‘good’ as it got, but typically City didn’t have enough bodies in the box to make anything of them.

Midfielders appear too scared to get in the box, in fear of deviating from their defensive system. Anthony O’Connor, a centre half, was the only City player who was prepared to dribble the ball forwards. His mazy run ended inside Orient’s area after being left with nobody to pass to.

The City crowd had to loudly scream at Adam Henley on the near touch line after he checked back on the halfway line despite having 20 yards of space in front of him. Clearly, like Connor Wood, our best crosser of the ball I may add, he is under instruction not to go past halfway. And when Henley eventually ran into the space? It lead to a free kick in a promising position. Amazing what a bit of attacking intent can do isn’t it?

Sadly that was that. The 1,000 travelling Bantams had travelled in fantastic voice and number across to the other side of the country, an expensive trip two weeks before Christmas, and we did not deserve to witness that. We deserved to lose the game on the balance of chances.

If there was ever a game to demonstrate that stats lie, it would be this. Orient ended the game with zero shots on target but peppered the City goal with efforts. A mixture of heroic, last ditch defending and poor finishing bailed City out of what would have been an embarrassing result.

Why embarrassing? Orient had won twice at home all season, conceded a bucketload of goals and had already been dispatched by our ‘rivals’ Crewe, Swindon, Plymouth and Forest Green with utter ease already this season. Yet Gary Bowyer seemingly plays for a point.

Today’s substitutions were a sign of the manager’s intentions. Every single one was like for like, two enforced due to fatigue. The other, Shay McCartan, got five minutes to try and do something. Zeli Ismail and Dylan Connolly were left on the bench when we were desperate for some pace and creativity.

There was no need whatsoever for City to have a three man midfield of the makeup which we did. One should’ve made way at half time for Ismail or McCartan to play the number ten role, if Bowyer was so insistent with sticking to five at the back.

Remember when Bowyer described what characteristics he wanted in his City team this season? Pace, power and width, I remember were the buzzwords. Today’s team had neither pace nor width. In this system though, the width can and is expected to come from the wingbacks. However, Gary Bowyer seemingly had no intention of allowing either to get forward. Why?

Supporter discontent is growing. Some may not believe it, but when you have a large majority of fans ironically cheering for a shot on target, a limp one at that, in the latter stages of the second half, it shows opinion on Gary Bowyer is mixed. That and the chants of ”boring, boring Bowyer” – it doesn’t reflect well on the manager whatsoever.

It’s strange to me that I’m angry after a performance that leaves us fifth in the table and beyond frustrated at the manager who has us here. But Gary Bowyer is holding us back and I’m frustrated at the thought of where we could and probably should be.

Clean sheets alone don’t get us promotion, it keeps you in the division. Goals win you games, goals get you promoted and quite frankly our attacking play is worrying.

In the last seven games in all competitions, we have scored a pathetic two goals from open play. One of which a defensive howler at Shrewsbury and the other an own goal at Plymouth.

Understandably people will say “it doesn’t matter how we do it as long as we go up.” And I agree, although my biggest concern is that I don’t think this current approach is anywhere near sustainable over the course of the season, it feels as if the wheels could fall off at any second and we could start to receive the type of results that our recent performances have deserved.

Categories: Match Reviews, Opinion

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15 replies

  1. Met up with friends and family for this one several of them ‘exiled’ Bantams. We talked about football in general. A telling comment was that a large London Premiership team has a chant, “Let’s pretend, lets pretend, we scored a goal”, followed by loud chanting singing, to the song ‘your not singing anymore’. We joked that that should be the song for City away from home!

  2. I totally agree with Adam about this match and his weekly reports are telling the same story of how I feel too! Bowyer is boring the pants off us all and if I hear one more time that there’s more to come from this team, I’m going to scream! FFS!! We had a chance to firmly plant ourselves in 3rd position and no we just play it safe! Arggghhhh!!!!!

  3. Absolutely bang on.

  4. WOP I’m really glad you told it as it was. Bowyer’s attitude is don’t lose at any any cost. This attitude stifles open play and not crossing the halfway line without a note from the manager. We cannot move forward with this approach. I remember the premier League days. We identified games where we could get a positive result. That is understandable. In this league we should be brushing sides like Orient away. Bowyer should not walk away with from this match with joy. He should be walking away with a missed opportunity. We have to get 3 points against teams like these.

    What happened today does not sit well with me. We had pace and trickery on the bench. Players who can cross a ball and cause problems to the opposition. Bowyer chose not to use them. Maybe, he should be challenged on his substitutions and his overall tactics. He should consider his tactics and the impact his decisions had on the result today. We are a good side we have decent players but if they are not used correctly, then the blame has got to be at the manager’s door.

  5. Adam, thank you for another honest and good game summary. I watched the game via iFollow and noted during desperate defending by City, midway through the second half, shirt pulling by Taylor which was not called for a penalty. Another show of good fortune to go along with the four one goal margin victories this season due to deflected shots or own goals.

    City currently sit 7 points behind the leaders and the same number above 12th place. Most readers on this forum have an optimistic view of City’s current status in fifth place and would consider the glass to be half full. I on the other hand consider the glass to be half empty because I look at City’s current position objectively and rely on facts/stats. City’s current lofty fifth place position is not supported when their performances for the season to date indicate that they are a mid table club.

    Based on Gary Bowyer’s conservative tactics today against a team that was winless in their last nine games, shows a clear lack of confidence in his squad.

  6. Lets be careful what we wish for and remember where we were at 6-8 months ago as a club. Whilst it does concern me re the lack of flair and attacking intent as it stands I also have great respect for GB and believe he is playing this season in cautious fashion getting us into position for a push beyond Feb to go for it. We have decisions to be made in Jan around strikers, but midfield and defence is solid enough to base a promotion bid on. Today and in fact many of the games this season have been won by an odd goal or drawn in tight affairs. If we had ‘gone for it’ 442 with wingers for example I believe we would have less points than we have now which would have attributed more moans and pressure and been around 10th. Parky got us out in this same manner. If we are playing this exact way in the final 5 games of the season when we have a chance of automatic then clearly there is an issue with GBs tactics but for now I trust him to navigate us to a good position ready fir the run in and then see. January will once again be fascinating. Whichever decision is made around Doyle it could go right or wrong but if either he or others are brought in to improve our goal scoring then it shouldn’t matter either way. Respect to the 1000 who went today 👌

    • We are lucky to be where we are.

      While I agree we needed some stability, GBs personality and style of play

      The football under Parky was bad and boring, but got results.

      Stuart came in and got even better results with a brand of football that was great to watch.
      Win loose or draw we had a go.

      GBs football IS BORING.

    • Well said mate. Realistic and fair minded. ALOT more building blocks to put in place after building from a very low base. You would have thought we had been tonked four nowt reading the report and comments. Look at Walsall if you want to see a real crisis.

  7. No wonder our home match attendances are static. Any casual fan who turns up for the odd game won’t be tempted to return

    As we get deeper into winter even regular fans will be considering staying in the warmth of their homes, rather than venture into the cold and being bored to death by Bowyer’s negative style. While results matter, teams have a duty to entertain and the dross performances that are rapidly becoming the “norm”, are making it something of a chore for me to turn up at VP. How on earth nearly 1,000 could bother making the long trip yesterday is beyond me.?

  8. Good match report Adam. Absolutely spot on. We really were awful to watch.
    We could ha e had the best front two in Europe and would not have scored – so deep and negative were we. Power width and pace are three words that do not describe this team; neither do exciting positive or creative.
    As for “tactics” all those around me yesterday agreed we just didn’t have any.
    It’s going to be a long grim season sadly, and ultimately I fear one of disappointment.

  9. I was not at the game and am,as always, indebted to you for your great diligence and lucidity.
    But I think you are too pessimistic about City and put a sort of golden halo on Phil Parkinson’s tenure as manager. I liked PP but remember much criticism even on social media of his long ball and direct approach.
    City are, I think , doing better in the league at this stage than they were in 2012/13. Mind you the Cup was something else.
    To win automatic promotion you need to win at home, draw away, 4 points every 2 games. At present we have 13 points from 10 away games.. That is a pretty good record.
    We seem to forget that we are not that good. I have seen no match this season where City outclassed their opponents.But I have seen no match where City players have not given 100%. I don’t need smart comments from Josh Wright or his big brother , because they remind me of woeful and pathetic players last season.
    We are in this league because we deserve to be in it, and it will take a lot to get out. If it means dour safety-first performances resulting in promotion, I will take them.
    We are higher in the league now than I thought we would be. I’ll take a draw away from home.

  10. I didn’t go this week, however I went to the Macclesfield game and Newport one. Like you said they weren’t the most inspiring performances but at the end of it we took 4 points from two games. I have complete faith in Bowyer to take us out of this league at the first time of asking. I remember reading at the start of the season how Bowyer’s Blackpool were lingering in mid table in February before they clicked and achieved promotion. Now we’re in a far better position than where Blackpool were 3 years ago.

    I understand the frustration because I also think that City can play better more attacking football and dominate games. However, I’m certain Bowyer knows which formation is better for City than what I know or any other fan in the crowd.

  11. I think it is perfectly fair to say that City are delivering points and positioned well for a promotion attempt (either directly or via play offs),

    I also think it’s perfectly fair to say that many fans feel that the team is being too conservative at times and that this knife-edge between pragmatism and style can see us fall the wrong way just as easily as the right way.

    The worry is that we have not being scoring enough goals recently and some of those few goals we have had have been OGs and penalties. The failure to utilise attacking players either from the start or as EARLY substitutes has fans feeling very nervous and slightly fearful.

    This isn’t about Bowyer staying or going, this is merely about fans voicing their concerns. Ultimately if city won 1-0 at home and 0-0 away and played like this every game of the season I would soon find more fun ways to spend my time off with my son.

    Whilst getting results is important I spend my time at VP to see something that offers s modicum of entertainment and not to be bored to the point of starting conversations with other fans to pass the time! I want some passion at the weekend not tedium… if we draw 2-2 or lose 3-2 sometimes as a result then fine.

  12. I am torn. We do need to be careful with the criticism of Bowyer because he has done an excellent job in building a more positive feeling with the squad and has us ahead of where I thought we would be considering the mess we were in last season.

    I get the feeling he still doesn’t fully trust his defence. A few games ago, Plymouth gave both full backs a lot of problems while they were in a flat back four and since then he has reverted to three at the back with wing backs. I think this is completely at the front of his thinking because we left ourselves too much to do in that game. He’s adopting a mentality where we make sure we don’t concede and hope that we can capitalise on the few chances we get per game. It worked against Newport and could’ve worked against Macclesfield but for a woeful error from BRE.

    The flip side of this is a complete feeling of frustration. I am glad that in his report Adam pointed out the clear uncertainty in Henley’s thinking when he had so much space ahead of him. He was very reluctant to go on that run and needed the push from the fans in the stand beside him. And then knowing that Bowyer was just going like for like with his subs increased the frustration. Oteh has his limitations but any threat we had at Orient came via his pace – knowing that we had Ismail and Connolly on the bench, it felt the fans were primed for their introduction for a push to clinch the win. Instead we were met with like for like substitutions and it completely killed the last 15mins and allowed Orient to push for the winner themselves.

    The dilemma is obvious. We have players to adopt a strong 442 but, as we have found this year, it opens us up to concede goals. We have players to adopt a strong 433 and, at least my opinion at least, we have played our best football in this set up. But it leaves the striker down the middle isolated and limits James Vaughan to a target man. Bowyer appears to be unsure about a flat back four so has reverted to 352 but it is also offering limitations. We have the players to offer much more in attack and Bowyer needs to find the way striking the balance because his defensive thinking could cost us more points as it did on Saturday.

  13. I think Bowyer’s done a good job in helping rebuild the club from the debacle of last season, and constructing a team that plays with some pride in the shirt again, but having done that, you want him to be a bit more positive, by taking the game to the opposition; at the very least against the lesser sides.

    I think he also owes it to be more positive to those travelling supporters who continue to follow the team in their droves.

    It’s like painfully restoring a classic car, then driving around everywhere at 30mph; just take the hand break off man!

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