Slow starting Bradford City battle back for a point but struggle to find a higher gear

Stevenage 1
Norris 15
Bradford City 1
Donaldson 27

By Tim Penfold

After resurrecting their play off hopes on Good Friday (a few days too early to use a cliched Easter metaphor) Bradford City stumbled again today, drawing away at an in-form Stevenage side in a game that could be placed in the dictionary next to the definition of “frustrating”.

City named an unchanged team after Friday’s impressive display, but any hopes that they would pick up where they left off were thwarted almost immediately. The game had barely started when the defence misjudged the bounce of the ball and Elliot List ran through, only for Richard O’Donnell to pull off a fine save, deflecting the ball on to the bar and over. City then switched off at a quick free kick only for the Stevenage header to loop tamely to the keeper.

Slow starts have been a problem for the Bantams recently, and this one was eventually punished. City, as they have a habit of doing, gave away soft free kicks in their own half and faced a barrage of set pieces as a result. Eventually Stevenage got themselves a corner which was swung in to the crowded six yard box. Nobody from the away team went for it, with O’Donnell seemingly stuck to his line and the defence slow to react, and this left Luke Norris with a close range header that went in.

O’Donnell has taken some deserved criticism for his ability to command his area recently, and it was clear that Stevenage were targeting this at set pieces. There were a couple of further worrying moments, with Connor Wood swinging his foot wildly to clear a ball that O’Donnell was coming to get at one point, and the defence did seem unsettled by this. However, it’s not clear that swapping back for Sam Hornby would’ve done much good today – for all of Hornby’s greater ability to claim a cross, City would most likely have gone a goal down earlier without O’Donnell’s shot-stopping skills.

Conceding a goal didn’t seem to wake City up much. They couldn’t seem to get on the ball and play, with Elliot Watt’s radar a bit awry and Anthony O’Connor looking like a centre back in midfield. Stevenage were happy to disrupt things, helped by a referee who loved the sound of his own whistle, and it was looking like a frustrating afternoon until suddenly the visitors produced a moment of genuine quality.

Watt managed to navigate a tight space in midfield and get the ball out to Connor Wood on the left flank, who produced the sort of cross that has been missing from his game for too much of the season on to the head of Clayton Donaldson for the equaliser.

The goal did lead to an improvement in City’s game for the rest of the half, but it still remained scrappy, and the half-time break didn’t change a huge amount either. Stevenage looked like a Phil Parkinson side on a bad day – direct, functional and doing the simple things fine, but not particularly good – and City couldn’t get going. The pattern of midfield scrap, referee’s whistle and another midfield scrap was occasionally broken by a speculative effort from the otherwise quiet Andy Cook, but those efforts generally tested the ability of the cameraman to track the ball as it sailed over rather than the home keeper.

Just after the hour mark the first subs were made, with Billy Clarke and Charles Vernam coming on for Gareth Evans and Kian Scales. Clarke went close almost instantly, getting on to an Andy Cook flick and looping a shot wide, while Vernam went on to the left and linked up quite well with Connor Wood only for Wood to slice the cross behind. Further subs followed, with Cook and Donaldson replaced by Oli Crankshaw and Danny Rowe, swapping the entire front four around in search of that extra spark.

It nearly happened – Vernam’s scuffed ball across was inches away from Crankshaw, and City started to get on top and apply pressure. At the other end, Stevenage had a shot or two blocked but were lucky to keep eleven on the pitch when their sub Matty Stevens appeared to elbow Paudie O’Connor in the face. The ref, so happy to whistle for everything, seemed to have misplaced his red card though, and Stevens got away with a yellow.

In the end, the breakthrough didn’t arrive. There were half-chances – Anthony O’Connor mistimed his jump and headed a Clarke cross wide, Vernam took the ball off Clarke’s toes as he prepared to shoot and Finn Cousin-Dawson, deep in stoppage time, couldn’t quite keep his header down at the far post – but the lack of creativity that has been an issue for much of the season, particularly without Callum Cooke, meant that City weren’t able to get the winner.

City still remain in the chasing pack, albeit five points behind seventh after Newport won against Bolton, and there is still a decent chance due to the sheer inconsistency of this division, but they will need to step up their general performance from today. They cannot afford to give teams a head start, and just aren’t creative enough going forwards to break down teams that sit back.

It’s been a fine run from the bottom to mid table. But to break into the play offs, City will need to go up another gear.

Categories: Match Reviews

Tags: , , ,

22 replies

  1. Still need 6 wins from 8 games, got to the stage where draws are no longer any good really…

    • 5 wins and a draw will do it giving us 71 points that has always been enough to get 7th place.

      • just feel this season is different and we’d need more than 71 points for that last slot…’ll take 2 wins just to make up the gap, and can see Newport, Morecambe and FGR all winning more than 3 of their last 8 each…hence we likely to need at least 6 ourselves

  2. Very frustrated with the number of free kicks given away early in the first half.

    By the time the Stevenage goal came we had given away 9 free kicks most of them allowing Stevenage to loft the ball up in to our are; indeed their goal came from a corner that was earned from one ofthose free-kicks which was headed out by our defence.Some will blame defenders or keeper for the goal but ultiately they need to stop giving away needless fouls and they wont need to be testing themselves in the box as much!

    Vernam taking the ball off Clarkes feet (just as he was about to shoot) when Vernam was running AWAY from goal was just infuriatingly schoolboyish!

    However I dont think either team deserved all three points

  3. It was always going to be tough today. To be honest I would have taken a draw once we went behind. We were the better side second half and maybe we should have had a winner. Still in the mix and we have winnable matches coming up. Not too upset about the draw. Look what’s happening at Bolton. They are having a wobble and so are Forest Green Rovers. There are opportunities still open to us. Onwards and upwards.

  4. Goals change games and they have been in short supply this season, today we should have put Rowe and Cooke together for the last twenty minutes and gone on the attack ,one point gained and two points lost in my opinion the lack of Goals in the team needs to be addressed next season, the next two games are at home and six points will give us a chance of the playoffs ,so come on let’s go for it ,attack attack ,attack, get the six points and see where we are.

  5. This was not a ‘stumble’ as the author states.
    This was a good away point bearing in mind all the circumstances.
    Once we equalised after a shaky start there was always going to be one winning team.
    Anything can happen.and usually does!!!

  6. All considered it was a well earned point against arguably the best defence in the league. I also agree with Tim that if City are to reach the playoffs they are going to have to step it up a gear.

    City have had a impressive turn around but Stevenage are having an absolutely stunning reversal of form. Just look what they have achieved, finishing last season bottom of the league and only one player signed for this season. A very impressive recruitment job!!

  7. It’s Testament to how far we have come under Trueman and Sellars when an away draw to an inform team on an 11 game unbeaten run is not seen as a good point.
    Is it that T&S are now victims of their own success and anything less than a win is now seen as failure..
    Maybe we need to remember where we were in early December and how bad it was.
    I would love us to win every game and make the play offs and hopefully we will but we are going to stumble and maybe loose or draw but whatever happens the future is so much brighter than any of us could have expected and if we don’t make the play offs this time, what good foundations we have for next year.

  8. Stevenage looked a decent side, well organised and capable, unlike us at times, of passing to each other. I thought Andy Cook was strangely anonymous. Another great performance from the Don in what will surely be his last season for us. Billy probably wouldn’t have scored even if Vernam hadn’t taken the ball off him, bless him.

  9. Whilst I’ve always been an avid reader and promotor of this site I have to say that it seems overly negative at the moment. I may have formed, and be harbouring, that perception and I accept my perception may be wrong. To see words like struggle and stumbled after a credible draw against a team on an unreal run do seem to back up my thoughts though, I have to say.

    I don’t feel this management duo are being given the credit they deserve at all.

    A tweet from the brilliant Bantam Pete tonight referenced the promotion teams of 1996 and 2013. That got me thinking and I started to have a look at the stats- it’s back of a fag packet stuff so if slightly wrong then please correct me.

    The relative win percentages of those teams against T&S tenure is as follows:

    T&S played 22. Win 12 = 55% win percentage.

    1996. Played 46. Win 22= 48% win percentage.

    2013. Played 46. Win 18 = 39% win percentage.

    A poster above reflects on goals scored.

    1996. 71 goals. 1.54 per game.

    2013. 63 goals. 1.369 per game

    T&S. 30 goals. 1.363 goals a game.

    So on absolutely any view we are in promotion position form. I genuinely don’t remember (again I may be wrong) PP receiving such scathing reviews with what we would all admit was a far superior team (is there one member of that team that wouldn’t walk into this team now?).

    Sadly T&S have been severely hampered by having to start our season after a horrendous start. The fact that every match is a must win to obtain a play off spot was unimaginable when Stuart was sacked- indeed they were must win games to avoid losing our league status. The fact we have must win games for a play off spot are only down to their about turn, and the necessity to win every game is as a result of having to play catch up.

    If we don’t go up this season it won’t be down to T&S but more the man who went before them. Perhaps this deserves just a tad more respect?

    • Ben, your statistical approach is not correct since your comparing Trueman and Sellars win rate based on 22 games (partial season) to 1996 and 2013 full seasons of 46 games. It’s not a fair or statistical correct comparison.

      • Hi Phil,

        That’s why you apply percentages, as otherwise you’d never be able to contrast and compare two sets of data unless they were exactly the same.

      • Hi Ben, my problem with your post is comparing Trueman and Sellars current half season of results ( winning percentage) to complete seasons in 1996 and 2013. Statistically speaking you are assuming that because they have a win percentage of 55% over half a season that for comparison purposes you are assuming that over a full season of 46 games they would maintain the same win percentage. That’s a big assumption to make because it may not be true. With regards to T&S you are assuming the future will be like the past and that may happen over a full season but I feel you are doing an injustice to the achievements of 1996 and 2013 (full seasons). In my opinion, you have “inadvertently” implied that Trueman and Sellars are better managers than Phil Parkinson after a mere 22 games. Time will tell if your assumptions become true.

    • Was with you all the way until your last paragraph throwing all the blame on the previous manager.

      Perhaps if he’d had the players back from injury that were available to T&S and the considerable assistance from Turnbull and a January window with a decent budget he wouldn’t have left them so close to the relegation places?

      • Agreed. I would like to see how T and S would fare with the squad Stuart had during his poor run. They lost Cooke (as did stuart) and we had a ‘dodgy’ run of results. Well at least they had 3 forwrads and not just Claytone to choose from. Indeed look at the bencn on Monday and the one the previous manager had to choose from. Stuart struggled but he had far less resources to choose from yet still the stats showed they created far more chances than the current side but just didn’t take them.

      • I fail to understand what fans still don’t get about Stuart’s reign and subsequent results. His squad build was poor. By his own admission he left cash in his back pocket thinking his squad was good enough. He put his faith in BRE and Guthrie, saying the latter would get a double figure haul. For the record he just scored his first goal in 14 games for Port Vale. Stuart was offered plenty good players in the summer but didn’t take them.
        His tactics were also all over the place – he had the same back 5 as T&S with Cooke, Watt and Sutton in the middle but simply could not organise the team.
        These two are way better than Stuart at team shape, organisation and tactics in my book.
        On a closing note I think this site is now pandering to City’s ever negative and critical fan base. When was a draw away to a stingy team on a terrific run ever as disappointing as you describe.

      • Hi Martin

        I can assure that on this site there is no pandering to anyone, negative or positive. We have for many years and will continue, no doubt, to be criticised for both being too positive and negative, usually at the same time.

        All we ever offer is an honest opinion of how we see things. There is no agenda and never will be. We have no need to chase hits or try to appeal to certain people over other people. It is a non profit hobby.

        Naturally when you offer an opinion, some people will agree and some will disagree. We will get some things right and some things wrong. All we can do is be honest and call it how we see it.


  10. I agree today was a very good point against a team in fine form only conceding three in eleven no wonder chances were in short supply. Unfortunately due to our start to the season we have no margin for error. But we are still in there with a chance we need to win this next to or hopefully the next three

  11. It so much nicer to be talking about the points we might need to get 7th, than the points we might have needed to avoid second bottom.

  12. Stumbled?! Good point in my view. Could have won it and maybe would have with another 10 minutes but they are a decent side on a decent run, so although we wanted 3, 1 was a decent outcome. Other than that one word, fair enough report.

  13. 0/0 or 1/1 was alus the most likely result with two well organised and not particularly expansive teams. Good result. Moving forward you worry about the goalkeeping situation with so much emphasis in L2 on set plays and long throws being slung virtually under the bar. Needs sorting.

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