Bradford City 0
Carlisle United 1
By Adam Raj
23rd out of 24. 91st out of 92. Their lowest league position since 1966. Bradford City today dropped to a new and unimaginable low. Defeat to Carlisle saw City fall into League Two’s bottom two. A game in which the hosts failed to manage a single solitary shot on target was a fitting way to enter the drop zone.
Only financially stricken Southend United save City from the humiliating title of being the worst side in the country. The untimely “We. Keep. Fighting” tweet from City’s official account yesterday was understandably met with much backlash by fans who are yet to see their players start fighting. And today’s performance doesn’t suggest they were wrong in their responses.
Today’s visit of Carlisle United, a side boasting a number of former Bantams, proved another step too far for a City side lacking in everything from footballing intelligence to ability. Despite some promising efforts in the first half against Cheltenham in midweek, City reverted back to type in both formation and performance.
Stuart McCall made two changes from the defeat to Cheltenham with Harry Pritchard and Austin Samuels being given the nod over Kian Scales and Dylan Mottley-Henry, with City reverting to a 5-2-1-2 formation.
Carlisle started the better of the two sides with Omari Patrick going close twice. A long throw from Rotherham loanee Joshua Kayode was met well by Ben Richards-Everton, but as per this City side’s spectacular inability to win second balls, Patrick met the loose ball with a half volley which was well saved by Richard O’Donnell. Patrick was then allowed to come inside, too easily, on his left foot and hit a good low strike which O’Donnell again had to get a hand to. City, in contrast, could only manage a half-hearted penalty appeal.
The Bantams did manage to fashion a couple of chances as the half wore on. First, Connor Wood’s clever corner routine was met by Elliot Watt with a low strike that was goal bound, but cleared off the line by Carlisle centre half Rhys Bennett. Then, on the stroke of half time came City’s best opening. A long ball into the area was headed back across goal by Paudie O’Connor to Samuels, who only managed to scuff the volley wide for Carlisle to clear.
Six yards out, unmarked, wide.
City had managed to get to half time level in what was, in truth, a scrappy affair. City’s ball retention in the first half in particular was appalling with the half time iFollow statistics showing a measly 56% pass accuracy for the Bantams. But, they will have been content at still being in the game and Stuart McCall had to inflict some life into this performance at the interval.
However, as has been a common occurrence this season, City started the half as if they were still in the dressing room. This time, it was the visitors’ turn to miss a sitter. Centre half Aaron Hayden lost Clayton Donaldson at the back post and got his head onto a deep cross. But fortunately, his header lacked any power and it was an easy claim for O’Donnell. As was the case for Samuels, he should have scored.
Carlisle didn’t have to wait long for their opening goal, though. Twelve minutes after the restart and City were predictably behind. Anthony O’Connor chose to try clear an in-swinging cross with his wrong foot, only to completely miss the ball. The rest of his Bantams’ teammates were sleeping and Bennett snuck in at the back post to prod home.
A poor cross met by even worse defending and City were behind. They’re the sort of mistakes that are all too common in a relegation threatened side and the exact sort of mistakes you can’t afford to make when you’re in a team that can’t afford to fall behind.
It was a goal that signified the end of the game. City were utterly clueless as to how to score a goal, from minute one. The hope that we could hold onto a 0-0, just to stop the rot, was over and City, once again, had no answer to falling behind. If someone had tuned in late and was unaware of who was 1-0 up, they would have thought it was us. Eleven men behind the ball, strikers falling into midfield, booting the ball high and long, they were the hallmark signs of a side clinging onto the lead, not trying to find a way back into the game.
It was a totally unacceptable response to falling behind, but one we’re all too accustomed to.
Carlisle could and probably should have added to their lead. Shot after shot rained in on the City goal and if it wasn’t for O’Donnell, City could have been on the end of another hiding. And we’ve said that far too many times already this season. Carlisle, unlike their hosts, weren’t afraid to shoot. Danny Devine in particular seemed determined to score on his return to Valley Parade with a couple of long distance efforts and Patrick alongside substitute Gime Toure should have scored on the break.
City’s measly response was the all too familiar instruction of sending a centre half upfront and hoping for the best. After Richards-Everton’s failed cameos in recent games, today was Paudie O’Connor’s turn. Needless to say it produced the same result.
This City side is too easy to work out. It would not surprise me if the tactics board in the away dressing room doesn’t get wiped, week to week. “Press them high and they don’t have a clue” is likely what it says. Yet City continue to persist with long, aimless balls forwards that continue to return no success. Long punts are just an instant turnover in possession, playing right into the opponents hands. We don’t have the hold up play or pace capabilities for long ball football.
I’m still confused as to what our game plan is to score a goal. It may sound silly, but I don’t know what type of team we’re trying to be. Even under Gary Bowyer last year, it was a case of lump it forwards in the hope Dylan Connolly can force a mistake. We don’t even have something as basic as that.
City look every inch relegation fodder. Leaking goals and an inability to create chances every week only ends up one way. McCall has been adamant that players returning from injury will make City better. However, he seems to have more confidence than most of the fan base. Lee Novak will help in the fact that he is no worse than his fellow attackers, as will Billy Clarke, in that his inclusion seems to make sure that the ball spends more time on the floor. But that’s it as far as I can see.
We still lack pace, creativity, flair, mobility, athleticism and leadership. And that’s only with regards to the attackers. Which player returning from injury is going to help close the floodgates at the other end? McCall tonight sounded like someone who has said “they should make us better” so many times that he’s even starting to doubt it himself.
It’s encouraging to hear McCall mention a “third party” will be coming on board next week to assist with scouting and recruitment. It is unclear whether it will be in the shape of a Director of Football type role or someone purely on a consultancy basis. Either way, it’s a welcome and much needed addition.
The recruitment and methods of it have been shambolic since McCall’s last spell. Recruitment this summer was of his own control and again, it has been way short of what’s required. Players who have been signed or re-signed are not of the standard required and crucial areas and personality traits have been recklessly neglected.
It is the main area of emergency surgery off the field, and it is crucial that this addition is the correct one – to make sure January goes as well as possible.
Otherwise, Bradford City will lose its Football League status.
Categories: Match Reviews