Battling Bradford City once again show their grit but issues remain going forwards

Bradford City 0
Port Vale 0

By Tim Penfold

Bradford City’s recent revival under the newly-announced interim management duo of Mark Trueman and Conor Sellars hit a slight bump as they could only manage a 0-0 draw against a dour Port Vale side

The only real surprise in the team selection was the presence of Sam Hornby making his league debut for City against his former club. Richard O’Donnell missed out through injury, while Gareth Evans and Clayton Donaldson dropped to the bench with Harry Pritchard and Callum Cooke returning in a 4-2-3-1.

It was definitely a night to be indoors, and much as I have missed being at Valley Parade I didn’t miss it quite as much this evening. The pitch showed the signs of the overnight snow, and it made for a scrappy and low quality game.

Vale started the brighter with a couple of early half-chances, but City came into the game as they defrosted. It took a while for their first shot, but when it came it took a decent save from Vale keeper Scott Brown to deny Callum Cooke. But it wasn’t really a half for quality, for ball-players like Cooke and Billy Clarke, despite their attempts to make things happen. The City player who really stood out was Levi Sutton, all energy and running, flying down the right then popping up to steal possession in the middle and move the Bantams forward again.

For all the promising build-up play, there wasn’t anything clear from City. It was a half of nearly chances – Eliot Watt’s corners nearly found a City head, Harry Pritchard nearly got on to a through ball, Connor Wood nearly got free down the left. All the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order.

Stand-in keeper Hornby was mostly untroubled, except at one point towards the end of the half where he was caught by Vale striker Devante Rodney and stayed down worryingly for a moment.

The second half continued in much the same vein as the first – City mostly dominant in possession and territory but unable to break down a stubborn Vale backline. Vale had occasional moments, but foundered against a backline well-marshalled by the O’Connors.

Again, it was a half of “nearly” chances – a City corner made its way to Billy Clarke whose fizzed ball back across missed every City player. A Connor Wood cross went past everyone. Lee Novak almost got through at one point but his chest control forced him wide and he overcompensated, dragging his shot across the goal.

Vale, meanwhile, did very little apart from a long-range effort that nearly caught Hornby out, until they suddenly had one big moment. Devante Rodney and Sam Hornby went racing towards the ball on the edge of the box and it seemed like the City stand-in caught the Vale forward, but the officials were unmoved. Trueman and Sellars, for all of their qualities, have been slightly lucky managers as well as good ones so far.

The penalty shout seemed to spark City into life. Cooke fired over from inside the box, then substitute Gareth Evans went on a run down the left and his cross eventually found Finn Cousin-Dawson who shot wide under pressure. Then came City’s best chances – Cooke’s first time shot from outside the box was parried, but as Clarke reacted a Vale defender took the ball off his toes. A couple of minutes later Levi Sutton wriggled clear down the right and his cutback to Evans led to a blocked shot, but that was the sum effort of City’s attacks.

This game did showcase the improvements that City’s interim managerial duo have made defensively, as the Bantams were tough to break down and conceded no clear opportunities. But it also highlighted the issues that they still have to solve. For all of City’s improved form, it’s been based on wonder-goals going forwards rather than creating lots of good chances. Tonight’s pitch made the intricate interplay that Cooke and Clarke thrive on difficult, but the front line is still lacking in pace and movement, and there wasn’t enough on the bench that Trueman and Sellars could turn to.

Still, that’s something that can be solved with some time on the training pitch and the right recruitment in January. And a run of 11 points from 15 is better than we could’ve dared hope when Stuart McCall was sacked. City are still looking upwards rather than over their shoulder, despite the occasional blip along the way.

Categories: Match Reviews

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3 replies

  1. Cheers Tim , acutely reported as always. It was a parky sort of night both in solidness with the hope of a goal here and there and parky weather wise! Not one of the players had a poor night and we played as a team with a plan once again. Neither have we been able to say for the majority of SM team unfortunately this season. On another day could have been 1 or 2 goals but I’m happy to settle for a point at this stage. When you look at what we’ve got in the bag lately and the new management team in place for this ‘interim period’ it is a million miles away from 3 weeks ago. I include the foresight to get the recruitment side of the club sorted which although 3 years too late at least it shows to me that Mr Rupp has decided to do the right thing and invest in infrastructure behind the scenes. I myself had reached the stage of calling for a change of ownership and potential protest options only a few weeks ago but I’m happy to see this in place well timed to approach a transfer window with plan of attack and on the back of a solid mini run, it bodes well. Impressed with Lee Turnbull’s interview on the City website. Also impressed with some comments from players on the forward thinking coaches sending clips of the players they are up against in the next game really drilling down on each detail. It’s what moves clubs forward this sort of joined up thinking and fresh approach, you can’t fail to feel very hopeful that the freshness of the new team Ryan , Scott , Mark and Lee could have a synergy to attract the players we need to drive us forward once again. As a City fan of 35 yrs I’m reserved in my hopefulness but know it’s a damn site better than the way I felt at the start of this month. Well done MT and CS and thank you for giving us some BCFC performances with pride back. In these times it’s been a blessing. Rich

  2. Excellent report Tim. I think this was the first game where we were slight favourites. PV set up to be very tight and compact and although the conditions played their part, it exposed our shortcomings in breaking down teams.
    If we continue this run more teams will arrive at VP with the same game plan. So the January transfer window is a big one.
    The one massive slice of luck was the Hornby pen appeal. It looked like a clear one to me but thankfully not to the ref!
    This does feel like two points dropped rather than a point gained. Especially as PV are one of the teams around us at the bottom.
    Despite all the very premature talk of play offs, we’re still dangerously close to the bottom. All those below us, who played last night, with the exception on of Southend, picked up points. So we can’t be complacent.

  3. As I write this, we are clinging to 18th and our margin above the relegation has whittled back to 4 points. This is of course because we didn’t play yesterday, but we don’t have a game in hand against most teams.
    On the plus side, our tracking form over the last 5 games (ie the new Trueman/ Sellars have managed) is joint second best in the league, with 6th placed Crawley, and behind only 7th placed Morecambe. Interesting to note that 2nd placed Newport & 4th placed Cheltenham have had dire runs over the same 5 match period. The upshot of all this is anyone can beat anyone in the lower leagues, and form can shift at any point.

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