Bradford City respond in impressive style after going back to basics

Mansfield Town 1 Bradford City 3
Cook 85 Stech (8 OG), Wood 14, Donaldson 69

By Tim Penfold

Bradford City were looking for a response today. A humbling televised defeat to Harrogate on Monday night had drawn some strong and mostly deserved criticism, and the team were looking to bounce back as quickly as possible. In winless Mansfield, they found the perfect opponents for that.

Stuart McCall’s response to Monday’s display was to go back to basics. City lined up in a 4-4-2 formation with Bryce Hosannah coming in for his first start at right back and Callum Cooke returning to central midfield. Dylan Mottley-Henry and Harry Pritchard started on the flanks, with Lee Novak and Clayton Donaldson continuing up front.

It was a mixed start for City – Mottley-Henry’s pressing forced one early chance that he might’ve done better with, but Mansfield wasted a good opportunity when Richard O’Donnell slipped while clearing the ball but managed to recover to deny Jordan Bowery.

Not to be outdone, Mansfield’s keeper Marek Stech managed a much worse goalkeeping error to gift City the lead. Connor Wood’s 8th-minute corner was swung under the crossbar, but under no pressure the home keeper let the ball squirm out of his grasp and, as he flailed desperately, the ball bounced over the line. Connor Wood will try to claim the goal, but it will surely be Stech who will end up with it.

There was no doubt about the second goal though – a fine, flowing move saw Clayton Donaldson feed Harry Pritchard, and his backheel flick sent Wood through to fire a low drive past the keeper. The difference between the two goals was remarkable – one comic, one classy.

Mansfield did try to rally, and managed to force their way through the City defence a couple of times, but while O’Donnell’s kicking was suspect his shot-stopping was the equal of anything the home side could provide.

Eventually City regained control of the game and had a flurry of half-chances towards the end of the half, the best of which was scuffed by Donaldson and cleared from just in front of Novak.

Mansfield’s response at half time was to make three subs and match City’s 4-4-2, but it made little difference. They had one big moment, when Andy Cook’s free header was comfortably held by O’Donnell, but otherwise offered very little.

City’s midfield regained control, with Callum Cooke having his best game of the season alongside the metronomic Elliot Watt. Both fullbacks enjoyed the freedom to go forward at will, and City looked as fluid as they have been for a long time.

A third goal seemed inevitable – Cooke’s low drive was pushed away by the keeper, Pritchard’s shot was straight at him when either side would’ve been a goal, and the impressive Hosannah had one cross deflect just wide of the far post.

Eventually Mansfield could no longer hold back the tide. Watt’s long crossfield ball found Novak in the corner, and he held it up until support arrived. His clever backheel flick set Wood free in the box, and the left back’s cross was crashed into the net by Donaldson.

This was Donaldson’s best performance of the season so far, and he fully deserved the goal. Back in February it looked like he and Novak were a little too similar to work as a pairing, but they dovetailed nicely today.

Novak dropped and linked well with the midfield, while Donaldson harried defenders, ran the channels and stretched the play effectively. His experience was on display in getting behind defenders and winning fouls, which gave City a numerical advantage after George Lapslie picked up a 2nd yellow for bringing him down from behind.

For someone who looked like he would end up as 4th choice only a couple of weeks ago, Donaldson has forced his way back into the starting XI via the Football League Trophy and still has a part to play this season.

Donaldson could have had another one, as he couldn’t quite keep his shot down from Pritchard’s cross, but it was Mansfield who got the game’s last goal – a consolation header from a corner by Cook which made the scoreline a little more flattering for Mansfield.

We can’t get too carried away here – Mansfield were as poor as Harrogate were good in the last game – but this was much better from the Bantams. They looked like a good side today – confident on the ball and creating chances almost at will. The challenge, as always, is to bring that into the next game, and the one after that.

If we can do that, we have a shot at promotion this season.

Categories: Match Reviews

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8 replies

  1. Genuinely I do t understand why it’s so hard for some fans to understand…today a collection of 4 division footballers in claret and amber plated well whilst the opposition played badly. That’s the reason players play at this level..age or consistency. Very little to do with formations, despite what the experts on other forums would have you believe…we have a decent manager and every chance of doing well this season, but it won’t be straightforward

    • Well done lads the first goal was crucial today ,the formation today 442 away from home very positive now let’s try it at home on Tuesday it could be a turning point ,well done Stuart.

    • Couldn’t agree more Martyn.

      I’m a season where Liverpool and Man City, two of the best football teams we’ve seen in a generation, have been hit for 7 and 5 we seem to expect Bradford City to win every game.

      I thought the reaction to the Harrogate game was over the top. Parky’s teams had poor games, Jewell’s teams had poor games, Cherry’s teams had poor games. The only consistent thing about this league will be inconsistency.

      We need to keep the faith, see where we are after 10 games and asses then. This bi-polar reaction to games does nobody any favours.

      Nobody can deny that so far we’re better than last year – it’s certainly easier on the eye. It’s a low bar admittedly but it is progress.

      • Two, year long “streaks” ended this past week. Undefeated at home and winless on the road in League play for close to a year. Quite the achievement for consistency or lack of depending on how you want to look at it.

        If City are to finish above mid-table they need to improve their consistency of play. It was great to see City win but they continue to be very poor at defending crosses. Definitely an area that requires improvement.

      • I knew there was still some sane City fans out there!!

  2. Really enjoyed watching that game! City playing well and looking a decent side. Yes only one game since Harrogate but credit where credit is due – well done Stuart, Kenny & Team! Please kick on from here! CTID

  3. Excellent display from the team. Square pegs in square holes. Cooke way game driving forwards into space. Donaldson doing what we need him to do nd doing it well. DMH using his pace to good effect. Hosannah good engine and confidence on the ball, Novak calm on the ball and clever movement, looks a good McCall type dependable player in the ranks. Pritchard playing in the position he knows best and looked a threat. Clarke and Evans will add great quality when up to speed this season I think personally they are 2 signings that will prove to be the difference on and off the pitch as the season goes on. We all need to remember they are 4th level players and yes they will fall short and miss chances etc that’s why at this level to a degree but even against Harrogate I could still see what they are trying to do even though it didn’t come off- in comparison to GB team then i still enjoyed it so much more. On the front foot we are at our best. I’m not certain we can mix it when needed and that we have enough soldiers for a battle when required but in a footballing battle we have enough to be in the top 10 in the league for sure. I’m happy we have a club that’s seemingly not on the brink, that we have players that obviously care, that we have Rhodes, Sparks, McCall and Black at the helm as a safe pair of hands in these times. Let’s battle together as one without bitching and winging anytime we don’t get what we want from a game (Me included) get through till January and go from there. Rich

  4. Watching the game on ifollow I was quietly optimistic for the next games. I thought there was a fluididty to the team that has been lacking for a while. Full backs getting forward to support attacks, great pressing from the forwards forcing mistakes and hasty clearences. Midfields were excellent, and reasonably solid at the back.

    ODonnell made some good saves. I notice he slipped a few times when kicking out those clearances so I am not quite sure if the ground, boots, our back-passing or just his technique at fault for those wayward clearences to be was puzzling why it was happening so often.

    I would point out that this Mansfield side contains a couple of players that some of our fans were arguing we should be signing over the past couple of seasons. Its worth noting that whilst they were not as impressive as Harrogate, they area side who should arguably doing better than they are…so its a perforamnce worth praise!

    Bryce Hosannah looks like a real gem if he can keep up that level of play across the season.

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