The team that gives up


Bolton Wanderers 1 Bradford City 0         
Deflouneso 13  

By Tim Penfold

There very nearly wasn’t a match report tonight. The Football League’s much-criticised iFollow service failed miserably in the first half, ensuring that I watched about half of the action several minutes behind live on a mobile phone screen, desperately trying to avoid spoilers on Twitter. The rest of the half was spent watching it buffer over and over.

At the weekend, Ryan Sparks wondered why more City fans hadn’t parted with £10 to watch – the poor quality service provided is part of the answer.

The other part of the answer to poor sales was on full display in the first half. City’s performance was, put bluntly, pathetic. The team seemed unable to string two passes together going forward and were cut open far too often when Bolton came forward.

The goal itself was shambolic – Elliot Watt’s weak back header let Antoni Sarcevic in to lob Richard O’Donnell, and as the ball looped back off the crossbar the entire Bantams backline stood there transfixed, as if unable to comprehend what that round thing flying through the air was.

If O’Donnell had been alert, he would’ve had an easy catch. If Watt had been competent, the header would’ve gone over the bar for a corner rather than rebounding off it. If any of the other defenders had been paying attention then maybe Nathan Delfouenso wouldn’t have had the freedom of the penalty area to fire in the rebound.

In many ways, City were fortunate to only go in a goal down at half time. Bolton lacked the quality to create more clear chances, and City’s defence didn’t hand out any more freebies, but the team barely threatened going forward and repeatedly gave away possession sloppily.

There were no changes at half time, but City did improve in the second period, though they didn’t create much. Clayton Donaldson’s touch let him down when nearly clean through, while Bryce Hosannah, the bright spark in the team tonight, clipped a shot just wide having forced his way past the defence. Bolton did threaten on the counter as well, with former Stuart McCall target Ali Crawford placing one good chance just wide.

Finally, City’s pressure told, when a clever through pass from Billy Clarke led to a foul on Anthony O’Connor in the box. Clarke stepped up to take the penalty, but his low effort lacked power and Bolton’s heavily criticised keeper Billy Crellin made the save.

And after that? Nothing. The miss knocked the stuffing out of City, who lacked the mental strength and determination to come back. Clarke’s removal for Austin Samuels took the last remaining creativity out of the team and it was brainless hoof or slow sideways pass from the rest of the team for the rest of the game.

This team lacks both creativity and the ability to take chances. The defence always has the risk of a major error. But worst of all, this team gives up. It gave up on Saturday during the second half, and after not showing up for the first half today it gave up again once something went against them.

Stuart McCall the manager’s team could not be more different from Stuart McCall the player.

The next two games are huge. Newly-promoted Barrow got their first win in the league tonight, against a Mansfield side who seem happy to gift three points to whoever visits them, but are not a strong side. And if we cannot beat Southend, who are relegation certainties even at this stage, then we will spend the winter looking down, not up.

Categories: Match Reviews

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28 replies

  1. Says it all really and, yes, statistics can lie. The only player who looks really, really fit is Hosannah. Poor Samuels must wonder what he’s done to deserve being shipped out to us, only to find he’s fourth or fifth in line to play in this sorry team. As if Covid-19 wasn’t enough!!!!! If the goal hadn’t been against us it would have been funny. It will no doubt circle the world .

  2. Can’t defend the performance but the team that gives up sums it up well.

    We were sliding rapidly down the table when McCall took over. The core of that team is still there unfortunately. I think people forget Phil Parkinson’s first year in charge when he inherited shite and despite being in charge from August he nearly got us relegated from the football league.

    McCall’s recruitment includes Hosannah who looked good, Evans and Sutton who are hopefully the right types. We still have no centre halves (but he had 3 in the building) and we have no strikers.

    We can’t defend the performances witnessed but we can show patience as the club did with Parkinson in his 1st year and after he lost Wells and we won 1 in 21.

    Do I think McCall is a great manager? No that’s why he’s managing in league 2. Would I stick with him? Yes. Flynn has had bad spells at Newport. Who are the good managers at this level? Even Sunderland fans want Parkinson to go…

    • I have no problem with Stuart being manager for the balance of the season. I’m not sure he should be rehired if City fail to finish in the upper half of the League Table. The poor recruitment and in particular the lack of a quality striker fall on his shoulders for responsibility. Remember, 40% (9 players) of the 22 man squad are his signings.

      Re. tonight’s game. City didn’t deserve to lose but then again, neither team deserved to win. The lack of quality from both teams was disappointing.

      • Don’t disagree at all with those sentiments. However our better players have included Hosannah who has only managed a couple of games, watt who has shown some quality but also struggles with it lacking around him.

        Evans and Sutton are yet to really play but Sutton hopefully offer the bite many of us are crying out for and Evans hopefully the leader.

        I have been vocal in criticising Mccall for not replacing Vaughan who if he was here would probably have a few goals to support Novak and we’d be in a healthier position (he’d have at least scored the penalty last night). We have a worrying combination of a fragile defence and not particularly clinical strike force all of which was inherited.

        It looks like we will continue with wing backs – with the obvious strengths of Hosannah and Wood) which will allow for Sutton and Evans alongside Watt if we can’t get the old Cooke back (where has he gone?!).

        Completely agree that we shouldn’t renew if we do have a sub par season but I don’t see the benefits of changing when a new manager comes in to a group of players we are all complaining about and expect him to wave a magic wand.

  3. I had the same frustration with I follow in the first half until it sorted itself out within minutes of the half time whistle.
    My frustration with Ifollow (I have only seen the Newport game) is on a par of that with the team, and Ryan Sparks now knows the reason why sales of the service are low.
    I will be questioning whether to pay for the next game.

    But calamitous defending apart, this was a different performance by City and in the second half in particular the team gave me more enthusiasm and hope for the rest of the season.
    When your lucks out and confidence is low these kind of runs and performances are not uncommon. In my 55 seasons I have seen lots of periods like this. Everything goes against you and that confidence is so very fragile.
    That is where we are at. But it will end.

    I dont agree with Tim in that City changed after Clarke came off. I thought, penalty miss apart, we had a great second half.

    • i agree with you Mark and i don’t know where this giving up after clarkes miss is coming from. It was still all us

    • Problem is even if we play well in parts, with this strike force it is looking unlikely we will get the results we might deserve. Its not like this has come out of the blue!

  4. The most worrying thing about tonight was what Stuart said post match ruling out a top three finish ,he said we want a top half finish and then said we will be around the top seven our budget is obviously mid table as I been saying all season, for a long time our owner his getting his investment back or is selling or trying to sell the club either way the brakes are spending so the big clubs in this league Newport ,Forest Green,Crawley we can’t complete with these huge clubs ,what a joke we are becoming .

    • Let’s remember that in August the ‘ambition’ of BCAFC was being measured against the likes of Bolton, Salford and Tranmere – none of whom are dominating the league as had been predicted with such certainty by the critics.

      Instead we get the unfashionable minnows but what do they have in common? For a start stability in terms of playing squads and managers. As regards Harrogate and even FGR or Newport they have the benefit of momentum and degrees of success / cup runs in prior seasons that have built confidence in the team and among supporters. Contrast all of that with BCAFC and frankly it is hardly surprising where we are.

      And for those currently demanding that Stuart McCall be sacked it certainly isn’t going to get the club any stability. I wish people would cut him some slack and get behind him.

      • It’s not that we are having a go at Stuart most of us are not ,there’s an old saying you get what you pay for,I believe Stuart his as frustrated as we are ,I have never criticised Stuart he can only play the cards he has been dealt , I believe he has not been supported from the higher management and that’s why Stuart didn’t get the players he wanted ,and can not say anything regarding the reasons ,but did let the cat out of the bag during his post match interview ,where do we go from here to get the fans back on side ,it needs one of two people to make a statement showing a way forward ,which will take the pressure of Stuart and the team .

      • My understanding is that Stuart McCall has funds available within the salary cap to recruit but that he has deliberately set this aside to secure (a couple of) players in January. I believe it is untrue to say that the club has not supported him or deliberately sought to derive savings within the salary cap. The manager has had responsibility for recruitment, not the CEO. BTW I am not suggesting that you are being critical of Stuart McCall but there has certainly been plenty of vitriol about him on social media.

  5. Problem is Stuart doesn’t know his best team or for that matter what system to play.
    See Novak is out for a few weeks now so where left with super Guthrie god forbid. Also Clarke should be nowhere near the first team

  6. I totally disagree with this summation. I thought we were far the better side 2nd half and there was some great approach play. I also can’t comment on the 1st half as i didn’t get a feed until the final 5 mins of that. Bryce and AOC both played well down the right and caused problems. The pre season prediction and concern from some of us was though there to see. e.g. we do not have the forward line to mount a challenge. Indeed our best chance landed to non strikers in the main. Bryce had 2, Cooke blazed over, AOC narrowly wide and Claytons touch kept on letting him down. The bolton commentators said “that bradord deserved something from the game” that “bradford pummeled Bolton in the 2nd half and that Bolton rode their luck”. This doesn’t stop some of our fans on social media describing a totally different game and view. In my summation we didn’t give up after the penalty miss and that they were on the back foot still. Funny how people see things differently. Not a great result but 2nd half, and what ifollow allowed us to watch, one of our better halves of the season. However we simply do not have the strikers to turn that into the desired result.

    • Evatt accepted that they were on the back foot the last twenty and had to scrap for the 3 points. Of course this will be ignored by those who think whipping up a social media shit storm is a constructive way to address the clubs problems ( for the sake of clarity I would not include WOAP in that)

      • A draw on the night would probably have been a fair result in what was a poor game of football played by two teams short of confidence. We seem to be still missing a couple of vital ingredients of the cake. Not sure if they will be available as free agents or in the January transfer window.

    • Spot on is that, Danny. I watched the game while listening to the Bolton commentary as well and any of our fans suggesting that we lacked effort or threw the towel in clearly didn’t watch the game. I enjoyed last nights second half more than the Mansfield game and we won that one quite easily. I can only assume that they were unhappy with the iFollow coverage and put the boot into Stuart and players as a result. One bright spot for me on the back of last nights bad result is the fact Richards-Everton didn’t seem to cop any flak. Hardly surprising as he didn’t put a foot wrong all night and was easily our best and most consistent performer over the 90 minutes. But I guess saying that is a step too far for the BRE haters on Twatter.

  7. We still suffer from lack of concentration in defence, which was blatant last season. We haven’t got a striker. Do you remember the days of Mills and Blake who supported one another and had an instinct to shoot at goal. Against Newport we had two-thirds possession; they had three shots and scored three goals. Tonight we dominated the second half and missed a weakly taken penalty. We can only score if we shoot or head accurately. It’s a simple philosophy. Why aren’t we working on this in training. We need to speed up and carry the ball through putting pressure on defenders. When we get within 20 or 30 yards we should be shooting. The shot might not go in but it could take a diversion or come off the post, bar or an opponents leg for someone to follow up and score. This is a league we should be dominating but we lack the basics of passing, pace, and mental determination. We are languishing in the bottom half and losing games we should be winning easily. The whole squad needs to come up to the mark and show pride in their team.
    I’m sick of the iFollow quality. I paid £10, which I hope will be refunded to get no picture, and a disrupted Radio Leeds commentary which at times sounded like a Walt Disney production. All in all no wonder people are disinterested. I have been supporting City for over 60 years, and I shall be tuning in as usual next week, hoping for a quality performance and a professional media production..

  8. I notice some people trying to look for positives by pointing out the second half. But yet again, the damage is done and we’re playing catch up. Bolton could have had more of cushion anyway in the first half like Newport did.

    In 8 league games we’ve gone behind in 5. Managed to rescue 4 points, and one of those was thanks to a penalty.

    We know we aren’t going to create many chances actually, never mind have the quality to finish them, but when we go behind – often to something we can do better at stopping – it makes it even harder.

    We all want Stuart to do well obviosuly, but I don’t think he will. He was probably doomed when he agreed to come back; I don’t know what his exact strengths are as manager but operating on a shoestring when there is expectation (our expectation in L2 should always be to get out of it) is just not one of them. Getting rid or him walking won’t change anything I suspect, as the team is so lacking leadership and organisation on the pitch, nevermind flair, energy and creative quality in our forward play I think most managers would struggle to find something to produce decent consistent form.

  9. The articles and reports on WOAP have down the years been more balanced, thoughtful and well written than most of the other stuff out there on our club.

    Unfortunately these reports have become one-sidedly negative of late. You can sense the influence of the social media hysteria that surrounds every non-victory and an effort to appeal to that lowest of common denominaters. It’s a shame.

    • Hi Jamie

      Thanks for your feedback. I think you make some fair points. Passions are running very high at the moment and there is a lot of frustration, but perhaps what’s needed now is a resetting of expectations. I couldn’t personally watch the game last night as I was working so I can’t really comment on the performance. I think a few days for everything to calm down a bit might help everyone, and we’ll see how Saturday goes.

      I don’t have any desire to publish lots of negative articles over the coming weeks and months. So fingers crossed we start to see better results on the pitch that we can all get behind.


      • Like with anything in life the best way to call something with a balanced outlook. Too much constant negativity of happy clapping can and will take the focus away from what is really going on. To deny what is happening is foolhardy. The width of a post correspondence should allow for both sides of the debate, of which it is allowing at the moment.

      • Those who happily clap are as blind as those who happily hurl abuse at the club’s leadership and not cut them any slack without a second thought.

        I fear that the hysteria on social media and the toxic environment it has created is putting undue pressure on Stuart McCall. For sure we can highlight his limitations but let’s not overlook his strengths and I am not convinced that either the club or indeed a vocal number of supporters are helping him to succeed.

        Stuart’s abilities as a coach are not in question. Whether he has had the necessary support with recruitment is arguable and there is a case to be made that for him to be a more effective manager he needs to step out of his tracksuit.

        As regards the incessant and unforgiving criticism that he faces on Twitter, it has already gone too far and is not helping the situation.

        Al, I agree that the need for a balanced outlook is pretty vital at the moment, or rather a rebalancing of outlooks. Perhaps we all need to encourage our fellow supporters and friends to be similarly constructive.

  10. I guess we all know that Stuart’s sides will always be 3-2 not 1-0, and amen to that I say. The problem isn’t with the goals we give away, though recent ones have been pretty embarrassing, if Anthony O’Connor is in the opposing box he can’t be supporting the defence, it’s with the lack of goals scored. Sorry, I’d like to have a way to finish this post with an option for improving our goal scoring ability but just don’t have one. Anybody ever found prayer at all useful in these circumstances?

  11. We are often told to think “outside the box”. I didn’t see the match last night, just followed it on a live blog. But having just watched high lights on YouTube, why not try AOC in an attacking role. We have other defenders and he did seem to cause trouble going forward. It has been done before. Graham Oates and Joe Cooke come to mind. No doubt there are plenty of others. Might be worth a go seeing as Novak is out for a little while.

    • Thats a fair shout in the circumstances. He’s more mobile than the other strikers we have, reasonably strong in the air and ok on the ball. He hit a good shot just wide with his wrong foot v Bolton too.

      We could do worse than give it a try.

  12. First of all, thank you for the time and effort in putting this article together Tim.

    I have always argued that it’s the goals that are the most important statistic at the end of a game because that is the only objective measure used for awarding points. However, we had a manager in Gary Bowyer who delivered points and a high position in the league table for a significant period of time -a year ago this coming Saturday we were 2nd place in league 2- but was severely criticised by many for his approach in getting those points. To be honest, I found GB’s football delivering some of the worst sporting entertainment I had ever endured. But endure I did. In fact I defended Bowyer’s approach for as long as it delivered the points. It was obvious to everyone I would think, that if the accumulation of points couldn’t be sustained that GB’s chance of completing his tenure until the end of the season would come under extreme pressure.

    For me, Stuart’s football is far more entertaining even if we are struggling to get the required number of points and I think that IF City can stop giving away soft goals and start taking advantage of the odd, very good, scoring opportunities that come their way then they will look a very decent team, picking up points and then thus changing the perception -by some- of not being ‘professional footballers’, ‘not trying’ etc etc. The margin between winning and losing can be very narrow.

    Of course, again, it’s goals that count. But the match analysis for the Bolton game shows City -the AWAY team- with 60% of the possession and 11 shots to Bolton’s 15. City had 2 on target to Bolton’s 3. City 6 corners to Bolton’s 2. City had an 83% pass completion to Bolton’s 73%. 18 tackles to Bolton’s 21. 29 crosses to Bolton’s 13. Both sides made 5 successful interceptions. City had 31 throw-inns to Bolton’s 15 and Bolton had to make 30 clearances to City’s 15. (

    An analysis of the data for the Newport game -where the performance of the team was criticised by many in an unnecessary over-the-top manner IMO- gives a similar opportunity to consider a less emotional knee-jerk response and insight into where we should be looking for areas to improve our chances of picking up a more deserved points tally:

    City had 64% of the possession, with 10 shots (5 on target) to Newport’s 14 (6 on target).
    Pass success percentage: City 75% – Newport 63%
    Crosses: City 23 – Newport 16
    Tackles: City 14 – Newport 11
    Aerials Won: City 18 – Newport 20
    Clearances: City 22 – Newport 31
    Interceptions Made: City 14 – Newport 16 (

    The above data doesn’t present a picture of a team that has ‘given up’. Far from it, and I think that statement is unjustifiable and to focus time and resources on that as a contributory factor in our ‘average’ start to the season would be wasteful.

    It has been recognised for many years in industries that operate a ‘route cause analysis’ methodology for dealing with process issues, (‘everything is a process’) that human perception is notoriously unreliable -by itself- for identifying the route cause of what is going wrong with a ‘process’. WOAP has a record to be proud of in its dealing with various ‘crises’ down at VP over the years. The expressing of emotion and subjectivity with objective argument has been what sets WOAP way above other social media sites. I can understand how difficult it is for supporters to control their emotions during recent games but please, can we get back to articles that provide that balance between the emotions, perceptions and opinions, with the use of objective and available counter/supporting evidence.

  13. Or even BRE with Clarke and Samuels trying to figure out where ball might go. Staunton could come back into back 4/5. Worth a try.

    Now here’s a gloomy prospect:
    – Barrow game postponed ‘cos of weather – no points
    – Southend on Tuesday…a banana skin of huge proportions if ever there was one – no points

    C’mon City rise to the challenge and with AOC or BRE up front stuff them 3-0

  14. I think that if the increasing calls to stick a big centre-half up front was to be successful then to justify this decision we are accepting that we are going back to relying on hoof and hope football. I can already hear the screaming and whining after every ‘flick-on’ gives away hard earned possession. I wonder how long it will take the players to get settled in that change in approach. No doubt a lot longer than the mountain of abuse from any delay in instant success.

    If the experienced forwards we have were/are struggling to score or make a big impact then why should anyone think a centre-half playing as an attacker would do any better? IMO, the problem with our ineffective forward line stems from the inability of the midfield to create enough decent chances for them. Possession in midfield should result in the ball being played forwards as soon as possible, rather than square or backwards. This requires other midfield players, wing-backs, attackers and even, well timed, over-lapping centre-backs to find space to receive a pass in a ‘forward-of-the-player-with-the-ball’ position.

    Lets not take any of our much improved defenders out of defence for now. Not after all the criticism some of those defenders have been coming in for recently. Let their confidence continue to build. Going from playing in the last line of defence to playing in midfield is one thing -you are usually receiving the ball facing your opponent in those roles and you can get away with putting your foot through the ball in a ‘fifty-fifty’ situation. However, going from back-line defending to receiving passes to feet or chest in order to hold possession until you can pass to an available player whilst holding off a big physical opponent who is right up your jacksie, and nudging you in the back is a big difference.

    The formations that Stuart says he is going to stick with for the foreseeable future means that the numbers in our midfield are going to increase. I believe this will increase our effectiveness in possession by increasing the number of positive/forward passes. How? Well if we have sufficient numbers in the midfield there should be at least one of the players who can move forward into the space between the opposition’s two lines of defence to receive the ball, get his head up and then play a pass either to the feet of a forward, play a ball over the top or between the defenders for an on-running attacker to get on to, or just run at the defence and see what space that opens up for a forward to run into. Without the numbers in midfield it is difficult to escape being closed down almost immediately you receive the ball and with little chance other than to play a square or backwards pass. This obviously allows the opponents time to get goal-side and organise their defence.

    We don’t have to win balls in the air that are hit 50 yards up the field from our 3rd of the field. We do however, need to win the ball after the opposition defenders head it -which they do the majority of the time anyway, unless you have a James Hanson or Andy Carroll playing for you. If we expect defenders to win the ball around their six yard box then we need players anticipating where the ball is likely to drop and be ready to attack it.

    We can put our big defenders to use when we get corners and free-kicks, which, if the (limited) statistics I have looked at are to be trusted, have a much better statistical chance of leading to a header assisting a goal than from a header (flick-on) assisting a goal from open play.

    Anyway, I think it’s well about time the midfield started to contribute some goals to take away so much reliance and pressure on the attackers.

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