|Scunthorpe United A|
|Bradford City A|
By Jason McKeown
Well, at least they tried.
A fixture that was widely assumed would be postponed managed to defy the gloomy forecasts by actually making it to kick off. But it took less than five minutes for the first flakes of snow to ominously fall onto the carefully cleared Scunthorpe United pitch. And less than 10 before the ball was switched from white to yellow.
The snow only got heavier and heavier, and by the 24th minute referee David Rock took the players off so the markings on the pitch could be cleared. It was a futile attempt, as no sooner did the game restart then those lines were covered once more. Barely five minutes later, Rock told both teams to go back to the dressing room and they’d give it 15 minutes for the pitch to be sorted. They would not return, with the game officially abandoned at 7.46pm. There remained no sign of a break in the deluge of snow.
Rock deserves credit for doing everything he could to keep the game on. But the heightened risk of player injury, coupled with the poor visibility, ultimately left him with no choice but to give up. It helped, also, that no team had made the breakthrough. The fixture will have to be rescheduled for a second time.
Quite when the game will be squeezed in is a concern down the line. City don’t have a single Tuesday night off now until the 16 March – five weeks from now. Scunthorpe already have a rearranged fixture that night, suggesting the Tuesday after – 23 March – will be the date this game is rescheduled for. April is a write off already in terms of finding space to add in another fixture.
Assuming the game is moved to that 23 March date then, it means City will now have just one blank midweek until the start of May, when there’s a seven day gap in-between their final two matches of the 2020/21 campaign. Or to put it another way, starting with Saturday’s visit of Salford City, it will be 20 games in 77 days (a match every 3.9 days). That’s going to represent a real test of the revamped squad’s depth.
Momentum will be massive if City are to make further strides up the table and climb into the top half. The abandonment of the game at Glanford Park has seen the Bantams drop down to 20th again. Shock wins for Southend and Stevenage are slightly concerning, albeit the points gap to the relegation places remains a comfortable eight. Only Carlisle United have played fewer games than City, suggesting that as games in hand are eventually completed the Bantams’ league standing will significantly improve.
Still, it would have been nice to have had the opportunity to quickly bounce back from Saturday’s defeat to Exeter. Especially with some tricky games coming up.
From what we could see through the iFollow lens of Glandford Park’s winter wonderland, this was a disjointed Bantams performance for the best part of the half hour. It was a scrappy affair with neither side showing much quality. Scunthorpe were enjoying the first decent spell of pressure from either side just before the weather stoppages, but created nothing of note beyond a wayward cross that risked catching Sam Hornby out. Ryan Loft also headed a half chance well wide.
Mark Trueman and Conor Sellars had rejigged the forward line, with Andy Cook brought in for a full debut and Gareth Evans fit again to return on the left. After playing as a striker on Saturday to limited effect, Charles Vernam was pushed back into a more familiar wide role and showed some promise with a couple of good runs forward. There was still no Danny Rowe, who – having felt ill at the weekend – was probably being rested up for Saturday. Cook might rue the premature end to this game, as it denied him the chance to stake a claim for the starting berth.
In contrast Eliot Watt will have wished the game never began, given he picked up a sixth yellow card of the season for a late challenge. That booking will apparently still be added to his tally, meaning he is edging closer to a suspension.
At the back, it was slightly depressing that Finn Cousin-Dawson was effectively dropped after one poor game. Of course, there are very good reasons for giving the young defender a breather – and his progress over the last few weeks has surely exceeded everyone’s wildest expectations – but it has been great to see the youth coaches show such faith in an academy product over recent weeks. The fear is that Cousin-Dawson might struggle to get back in now, especially with on-loan Leeds right back Bryce Hossanah reportedly due back from injury soon.
Idealism would see Trueman and Sellars keep faith with Cousin-Dawson when he does struggle – and let’s not forget, he was not the only member of the back four who under-performed at St James Park on Saturday – for the rewards of his long-term development. But you can absolutely understand the thinking behind the decision to move Anthony O’Connor to right back.
Idealism won’t secure the pair the job on a full time basis. They need to keep getting results – especially by showing they can get the team to respond quickly from defeat. So pragmatism reigns for now, leaving Cousin-Dawson on the bench.
It will be interesting to see how it pans out. Anthony O’Connor is evidently willing to do a job for his team by playing in an unfamiliar right back role, but he might watch on at the progress of Niall Canavan with a slight fear that he could also join Cousin-Dawson on the sidelines. If Canavan and Paudie O’Connor form a good central defensive partnership, where will that leave Anthony when Hosannah returns?
For City, such potential selection headaches are a good indicator of progress. Stuart McCall’s downfall was ultimately the lack of adequate options when injuries and suspensions struck. As the logjam of fixtures looms over the next few weeks, options like squad rotation could prove pivotal. You want to have players sat on the bench who deserve to be starting. But keeping everyone happy could prove a challenge.
In the meantime, the focus quickly turns to Salford City’s trip to West Yorkshire on Saturday. Salford have pulled off the result of the night by thrashing league leaders Cambridge United 4-1. The Ammies remain unbeaten on their own patch, but on the road it’s a mixed bag with seven defeats from 13. They’ve been defeated more often away from home than the Bantams.
When City march out against Salford at Valley Parade on Saturday, it will be exactly 12 weeks since they were weakly hammered 3-0 at Moor Lane. That afternoon proved to be the beginning of the final slide under McCall. The recovery has been excellent since, but with a first defeat under Trueman and Sellars on Saturday and now this abandonment, there’s an urgency to get back to form quickly. To not lose the good feeling that has emerged, following the eight game unbeaten run and excellent transfer window. So Saturday is huge for City.
At least the Bradford weather forecast suggests there’s no danger the game won’t go ahead.
Categories: Match Reviews