|Barrow 1||Bradford City 0|
By Adam Raj
In fitting tribute to Halloween, City managed yet another lifeless performance, scarily as bad as anything served up over the past few seasons. On this occasion, it was Barrow who put City to the sword in what was their first home victory back in the EFL.
Typically, City were their usual charitable selves. Bolton’s first home win since February? Tick. Barrow’s first home win in the EFL? Tick. Barrow’s first clean sheet back in the EFL? Tick. If you want an easy win, look no further than Stuart McCall’s men who continue to resemble anything but a team. It’s all set up for struggling Southend’s first win of the season on Tuesday night at Valley Parade.
McCall stuck to his recent promise of keeping a settled system in place for this afternoon’s game. However, the Bantams boss couldn’t resist further tinkering to the personnel and made three changes from Tuesday’s defeat. Austin Samuels, Levi Sutton, and Reece Staunton replaced Billy Clarke, Elliot Watt and Ben Richards-Everton respectively.
From the first minute, it looked a bizarre team selection. McCall confirmed in his post-match interview that leaving Watt on the bench was a tactical decision. Our best midfielder and most composed player on the bench on an afternoon that saw City deploy a kick and rush mentality. The conditions in Cumbria made for a tough contest, with City playing against the wind in the first half.
Naturally, the mentality would be to keep the ball on the deck as much as possible but City, for reasons still unclear to most, thought the best way to play today was to boot it long at every chance. For the most part, any long ball barely reached halfway, with Barrow managing to win the ball back instantaneously. An inability by the forwards to win any aerial duals or display pace and athleticism to run in behind, made any long ball a fruitless exercise.
Yet, City still thought this was the way to go and continue to allow Barrow to pen them into their own half. It was an awful watch and City continued to look like a side devoid of any ideas.
Inevitably, the hosts took the lead. That is now the fourth consecutive game where City have conceded the opening goal, and the eighth in the last ten. It is an appalling record and a massive concern that City continue to start games so slowl
Today’s opener came in the 18th minute through left wing-back Connor Brown following more passive City defending. Allowed the freedom and space on the edge of the area, the Barrow defender struck low into the bottom corner.
It is a reoccurring theme that opposition players continuously find themselves in acres of space around City’s box. Nobody seems willing to hustle and harry, to close down and force the issue. It continues to be this outright lazy defending that is the reason we are shipping goal after goal.
The hosts really should’ve doubled their lead on the half hour mark. Slick play from start to finish, and in complete contrast to City, the hosts sliced through their visitors like a knife through butter only to see forward Dior Angus thwarted by a decent Richard O’Donnell save. From the resulting corner, Clayton Donaldson lost his man to allow a free header at goal which was somehow cleared off the line by Bryce Hosannah.
Meanwhile, it continued to be a ‘nothing to see here’ scenario at the other end of the pitch.
Seven minutes later and City were down to ten. Levi Sutton was sent off for a two footed lunge on Barrow midfielder Jason Taylor. It would be kind to call it a stupid tackle from a player who had done nothing to justify his starting spot. Most fans, including myself saw the game being over after the goal, but this ended any faint hopes of a City comeback.
City limped to the break in the hope of a second half revival but unsurprisingly failed to deliver yet again. The second half was uneventful at both ends but Barrow had the best chance to double their lead when Angus was set through on the break, brushed aside Finn Cousin-Dawson but was once again thwarted by an O’Donnell save.
This Bradford City side is not a team. It is a collection of individuals lacking in everything from ability to desire. We have no goalscorer, ineffective wingers, no ball winning midfielder and a defence who continue to gift goals.
The body language of the players today summed up the apathy many supporters feel towards them. Plenty of moaning and waving arms around but nobody actually behaving like a leader.
This Bradford City side is bang in trouble. A combination of an impotent front line lacking in every department, a lack of creativity and a leaky defence is a recipe for disaster.
Upfront, Donaldson was beyond poor today and not for the first time. Lazily being caught offside twice in the opening five minutes set the tone for his own personal performance. Samuels continues to look like a panic signing, with no obvious qualities and it is hard to say that Lee Novak or Kurtis Guthrie add anything either.
Creativity is a big problem. In fact it is non-existent. McCall can kid himself into believing that the red card changed the game and we would’ve got something with eleven men. But for that, we would have to create a chance. And considering the ability of our frontline, we will have to create umpteen chances to score a goal.
It is the third successive blank that City have racked up and the truly worrying aspect is that they haven’t looked like scoring. Even on Tuesday against Bolton, for all the territorial pressure we had, we failed to create a clear cut chance aside from a penalty. The failure to adequately replace the only goalscorer at the club in James Vaughan, is already, as many predicted, coming to bite us on the backside.
The outcry on social media of impending relegation fears is not without some merit. It is of course far too early to be concluding that City will be in a relegation battle, but this squad is so unbelievably poor, that these concerns are understandable.
In comparing this squad to that which Phil Parkinson had at his disposal in the 2011/12 season that just about managed EFL survival, this looks worse in a number of areas. Jon McLaughlin, Luke Oliver, Andrew Davies, Ricky Ravenhill, Nahki Wells, Kyel Reid and James Hanson all get into this squad. Some walk into it and some fly into it. That squad has leaders and some real quality. This squad has neither.
McCall is understandably under pressure given the recent performances and results as well as the fact that his recruitment isn’t looking great. But would a change in manager actually bring about a change in fortunes? I’m not so sure.
Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola would struggle to get a tune out of a squad which is lacking in even the basics of leaders, passion and desire. And that’s before you even contemplate the glaring lack of quality.
Categories: Match Reviews