Danny Rowe offers the big personality to lead Bradford City’s climb back up the Football League ladder

Bradford City 2
Rowe 5, Cooke 49
Barrow 1
Quigley 37 (pen)

By Jason McKeown

Sometimes you find a player who seems like they’re born to play on the Valley Parade stage. Danny Rowe might only be at the end of his first full week as a Bradford City player, but after netting another goal and inspiring his new club to back-to-back victories, the self-assured way he has slotted in and elevated the team is mightily encouraging.

Just five minutes into this, his home debut, Rowe latched onto a Paudie O’Connor through ball from a wide position, he cut inside and raced past Barrow’s Tom Davies – who fell to the floor – before picking his spot and planting an angled shot past Joel Dixon. A truly terrific goal. The 32-year-old seemed to pass the ball into the back of the net. Less of his trademark brute power, just devastating accuracy.

Rowe’s early strike was the personal highlight of another accomplished performance leading the line. It proved the catalyst to a second victory in a week. One which all but puts to bed any lingering relegation concerns.

That Rowe has so quickly stamped his personality on the team is hugely impressive. You can see the positive effect he is having on those around him. The way in which team mates are quickly adapting to his style of play, and thriving themselves. Callum Cooke, who got the second half winner, is flying. Gareth Evans also delivered a match-clinching assist, to add to his two midweek goals.

Far bigger, more celebrated names than Rowe have taken on the task of playing up front for Bradford City and struggled badly. Rather than be inspired by the grand old surroundings of Valley Parade, they wilted. But the new arrival exudes confidence, clearly relishing the biggest opportunity of his career.

“I was actually quite shocked when I turned up,” Rowe said this week of his first impressions of Valley Parade. Just over 12 months ago, he was playing away games at Bromley and Boreham Wood, and the prospects of making it in the Football League appeared to be fading. You get the feeling that the hard yards he’s done over the last decade mean he won’t let this chance slip through his fingers. That he’ll be loving every minute of this.

There are echoes of Gary Jones about Rowe. Nine years ago, the veteran Rochdale midfielder was brought to West Yorkshire and not a great deal was expected, but he instantly lead from the front and visibly inspired those around him. Not only did Jones produce terrific performances full of energy that defied his advancing years, he clearly made those around him play better. Jones was deeply loved at Rochdale, but flourished playing in front of the larger, passionate Bradford City fanbase. Relished the late career chance to play on a bigger stage.

Rowe got City going at Roots Hall on Tuesday, when early in the second half the team looked lost. His impact was less striking here, but no less pivotal. The way he comes deep hunting for the ball, and the clever positions he takes up in wide areas, almost makes it seem as though he is doing the job of two players. Cooke, Evans and to a lesser extend Billy Clarke have been strongly encouraged to get forward and support Rowe. With the base of Levi Sutton and Eliot Watt providing the back four suitable protection.

The set-up is clearly working, even though the performance here – like aspects of Tuesday’s win at Southend – was generally average. Sometimes the psychological impact of scoring so early can cause teams to struggle, as they wrestle with the dilemma of whether to attack with the same intent or prioritise preserving the slender advantage. The intensity can drift out of the performance. It definitely happened to City here.

In the first 20 minutes, they had threatened to run riot. Rowe’s early goal was followed by several good chances, with Cooke running past the last man and latching onto a brilliant Watt pass, only for for his shot to travel straight at Dixon, who palmed it away. Clarke also got in behind the defence from a wide area, but with team mates charging into the box his low cross narrowly failed to reward Evans with a tap in goal.

Yet from the mid point of the half, Barrow came back into it. The 5-4-1 formation adopted by Michael Jolley suggested the visitors would be conservative, but the midfielders broke forward well in supporting lone striker Scott Quigley. They had much less of the ball, but looked equally threatening in the final third.

Josh Kay smacked a shot against the post when he got free of Paudie O’Connor. Minutes later the same midfielder had an effort well blocked by Anthony O’Connor, after Clarke had weakly lost the ball in midfield. Quigley broke through one-on-one on a Barrow counter attack, with the former Halifax Town forward beating the on-rushing Sam Hornby but pushing the ball too wide. With an unguarded goal, he could only shoot the wrong side of the post. If he’d looked up, he’d have seen other Barrow players rushing into the box that he could have squared the ball to.

But Quigley did get on the scoresheet soon after, after he was pulled back in the box by the arms of Anthony O’Connor. It was poor defending by the City centre half, who looked short of his best all afternoon. It’s a regular pattern over O’Connor’s near-three years at Valley Parade. He has had some excellent games in a City shirt, but every five or six matches his standards seem to fall. Today was that day.

Quigley beat Hornby from the spot, and the Bantams went in at half time in a similar position to the Southend interval on Tuesday – drawing, whilst looking increasingly unimpressive. But though Barrow – just like Southend – began the second half sharper and created some decent chances, the Bantams crucially got back in front.

It was Rowe again involved, winning the ball on the edge of the box and laying it back to Cooke. The City number eight played it out wide to Evans, and charged into the area to meet the return pass, from which he powerfully struck the ball into the corner. Another lovely City goal. And once again, it was the result of players getting further forward because of Rowe’s intelligent play.

City had chances to extend the lead, with Connor Wood – who didn’t have the best of games – charging through the middle, beating two men, but shooting just wide. Rowe also had another powerful low effort that was blocked by Dixon. It was curious to see Rowe taken off with 12 minutes to go and his presence was missed, although his replacement – on loan debutant Andy Cook – was full of running.

Barrow again came on strong, but unlike in the first half they posed less of a goal threat. Defensively City were once again fine, with Finn Cousin-Dawson probably enjoying his best game for the club so far and Paudie O’Connor producing several good blocks. If, over the latter part of the first half, questions could be raised again about the team’s mentality, the determination to get through the final minutes without letting the lead slip again was evident. After winning one important tackle, Cousin-Dawson bashed his fist on the turf in celebration.

So that’s seven points from the nine available this week. The gap to the relegation places has increased to 10 points, with two games still in hand. Remarkably City are now closer in points to Newport – who’s season seems to be collapsing – in the last play off spot. Nine points is the gap. Food for thought.

The club are looking up. Dreaming bigger. A measure of the progress made is that there is some disappointment in this performance, despite winning yet again. There’s a buzz about Bradford City once more. A growing belief from supporters in what the club is trying to achieve.

There’s all sorts of reasons for this resurgence – first and foremost, the great work Mark Trueman and Conor Sellars, which at WOAP we will discuss in more detail this week – but Rowe is adding an extra layer. He has the charisma, confidence and charm to keep the wind blowing in the right direction. He is the talisman the Bantams have desperately needed all season. And, in fact, have missed for several years.

Danny Rowe looks made for Bradford City, and his early beginnings suggest he can inspire the club to greater things.

Categories: Match Reviews

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16 replies

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed the last couple of games. Moving the ball about well abs Rowe seems so laid back but effective and strikes whenever the opportunity presents itself. He seems unfazed and confident whenever in front of goal. Great swagger about him. Onwards and upwards. As a fan who lives too far away to attend games regularly ifollow is an indulgence.

  2. The problem is that a lot of people were saying, it’s all good and well how fantastic Trueman & Sellars are doing, but how will they respond to failure, well I will tell you how, they will win ugly pulling out all the stops to get the points, 8 games unbeaten 5 wins 3 draws, any manager in any league would take that any day, we are on the crest of wave just picking up points when we could easily draw or lose, pause for thought.

    Trueman & Sellars are now the 1st managers at City to be unbeaten in 8 not bad for the youth development duo, is there still people out there wondering how they will cope or are they the Real Deal?

    I just wonder what they could do with more money, would be interesting for what they have brought to table so far, my only concern now is not them losing a game, but the Vultures coming knocking and upsetting the Party.

    Who out there reckons any other known manager like Paul Hurst would have been unbeaten in 8, answers on responding to this article, I will PMSL if I get a thumbs down, come on keyboard warriors now is your chance to bring some negativity to the table on any evidence you have from the above or should we get below done?

    Ryan, call Stefan and tie the Dynamic Duo down so at least we have insurance……..

  3. A strong start to both halfs and City could have been 3 up in first 20 minutes. To Barrows credit they continued to playe football and probably deserved a draw.

    We lost our way in the 2nd half and resorted to long balls and giving the ball away too cheaply. Great result and 8 games unbeaten under the dynamic duo. I think any lingering relegation fears are receeding fast.

    If 70 pts will be enough to sneak a play off spot thats 12 wins and 3 draws. Its possible but if it proves a too bigger ask then next season will be the one.

  4. Jason, I think you are right to highlight the influence of Danny Rowe on our game. Of course, it’s early days and he could fade but he’s certainly galvanised our attack. Not only that, his link-up play is a cut above most in this division. However, the way he strikes the ball-exceptionally hard and usually on target-means every team must fear him anywhere near their box. When he hit the bar against Southend, he reminded me of Podolski for the ferocity generated from a low back lift. Cause for optimism!
    Kenneth Brown

  5. Why think about the playoffs – we’re only 11 points from automatic promotion with a game or two in hand!!

    Great result today – but let’s just take it one game at a time. We have a tough run of fixtures coming up – including good teams like Exeter and Cheltenham away. Let’s see where we are come March then who knows!

  6. I just wish our 12th man ie the crowd could have been there today to see Danny Rowe,s home debut goal , he,d have relished that roar of the Valley Parade home crowd today , C,mon City.

  7. Rowe has brought admirable swagger, and a rocket shot. Most amusing are the 6 (my estimate, in 3 matches) players he has just shoved over!

  8. Having a goalscorer in the team sure makes a difference.
    A few weeks ago we had BRE giving away a goal a game and no way of getting goals back.
    The defensive problems have been reduced and we have a player whom opposition fear.
    Thats making life a lot easier for all.

  9. I can’t argue with any of the praise being heaped on Rowe, and as Jason said, we have been missing his sort of character for some time now. There is a downside though: since Rowe has led the line (incredibly well), starting with the second half at Southend Trueman and Sellars have instructed the team to play long. At every goal kick do the players automatically about-turn and troop upfield to battle for possession in the long ball lottery. Invariably the ball comes straight back, and often our defence is caught-out having to chase back to cover, making last-ditch tackles (or conceding a penalty).

    The long ball obviously has its place when used selectively, but I just don’t get it as a mandated tactic. Aside from being terrible to watch, and so often gifting the opposition possession, it seems so opposite to everything that has been working so well, and for which the management duo has rightly been praised, in making us much more solid and harder to beat, and allowing our creative players to thrive on measured possession from the back. OK, in terms of results it may have worked in the last two games, but it very nearly didn’t – Barrow must consider themselves really unlucky not to have equalised today, and against stronger opposition we are bound to come seriously unstuck if we keep playing that way.

    • When you have a centre half like Paudie O’Connor who is so accurate with his passes, then why not play the long ball? It’s not like we are playing the McArdle long ball to Hanson hoping he’ll get his head to it (which 9 times out of 10 he did). I’d love to know the stats on how many goals have come from Paudie’s passes this season. Playing the nice fluid one touch football doesn’t always work when teams pack the midfield or park the bus, as Liverpool have found out this season! Sometimes it pays to go direct, and having someone like Paudie at the back, and Danny Rowe up front, is invaluable

      • I agree, and as I said: sometimes it works and makes sense. It seems strange though that no one is making the connection between playing it long relentlessly and a ‘scrappy game’, because scrapping to *regain* possession from our goal kicks is almost entirely what we did. Barrow, in contrast, were playing the ball out from the back, keeping possession, and putting us under pressure – on another day they could easily have scored again. Incidentally, the long balls were going over Paudie anyway, towards Rowe.

    • I thought Barrow played well, physically very strong and on that evidence should turn their season round. Their success was that we did resort to long ball a little too much but I don’t agree that we did at Southend.

  10. Will look out with interest for the analysis from the WOAP Wise Heads on Trueman & Sellars. The league 2 tracking form for their 8 games in charge is 2nd best in the league. Too early really to be properly comparing them with other City manager records, but the early evidence is clearly off the charts. How long do you think it will be before other clubs start offering them jobs, possibly even from higher leagues? Is it time to be giving them a clearer future?

    And I’d be keen to see a discussion on what the implications are for the youth academy roles they left behind. We look to be reaping the benefit of that with the youth coming into the first team squad this season. Are we robbing Peter to pay Paul?

  11. 3 points are all that matters at this stage ,i’m sure Trueman and Sellers will hope for better performances going forward.
    Early doors ,but the way that Rowe struts around the pitch ,knocking over those that get under his feet ,the calmness under pressure, the shoot on sight policy and assured finishing, for me he resembles the great Bobby Campbell and its a great shame 15,000 plus fans are not there to laud him ,i’m sure many fans get that buzz every time he gets into an attacking position.
    Long may it continue.

  12. Another very valuable win. Well done. Still very optimistic as I was at the end of December. Surprised too (pleasantly)
    By the end of February we will know for sure if we are genuinely challenging for promotion, looking at finishing in mid table or back in a potential relegation fight.
    We have some tough games in February but I am looking forward to them rather than fearing them. With an eight game unbeaten run and some fresh faces round the place, the lads should be looking forward too.
    I’ll check back in on 27th February…. CTID

  13. Your view of Anthony O’Connor mirrors my own.

    There are times when he looks a really good player, able to play out from defence, great header of the ball and able to read games beautifully.

    Then there are games when he looks lightweight, slow (both mentally and physically) and is bullied all over the park.

    Why is that do you think? Is it fatigue, the system, players around him or the opposition center forward – I just don’t know but I wish he would show more consistency – especially given the relative youth of his playing partners. He really does need to lead that back line.

    On a lighter note is it just me who gets confused with our player’s names? We have

    O’Donnell, O’Connor, Connor (Wood), Connor (Shanks), Cooke and Cooke.

    Our team sheet reads like. Dr Seuss book!

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