|Bradford City 0|
|Tranmere Rovers 1|
|P O’Connor OG 45|
By Adam Raj
Tranmere winless in seven. Harrogate winless in seven. Crawley winless in seven. These three sides all have one thing in common. Their winless runs end the moment they play Bradford City.
Tonight is a third successive defeat and the second of which to end with a nil on the scoreline next to City’s name. It was another limp and lifeless performance, one which has been all too common in recent weeks.
City ended the night without a single shot on target which just about sums up their attacking deficiencies that have been evident since the 2020/21 season kicked off. In a must win game to keep alive their ever fading play off hopes, it was unbelievably poor, both on the pitch and in the dugout.
Ollie Crankshaw had injected energy and drive in his cameo on Saturday and earned a start this evening as one of three changes from the defeat to Harrogate. Gareth Evans and Sam Hornby were the others.
And it was that man again who showed the only promising signs in a City side devoid of any attacking intent and ideas. Crankshaw looked to get on the ball, drive at his man and put the defender on the backfoot. It was this intent and energy that produced City’s only real chance of the evening. Crankshaw got in behind veteran Peter Clarke who tried to take him down, but he rode the challenges as he drove into the box. Sadly, his finish was wild as his effort sailed harmlessly over the bar.
From then on it was a game that lacked quality from both sides. Tranmere certainly didn’t look like a side who were fifth in the league. But maybe it’s another one of those where it shows just how poor this division truly is.
It was typical therefore that the only goal of the game was a deflected cross. A quick release from keeper Joe Murphy to one time City target Danny Lloyd saw the winger advance into the City half at pace. Finn Cousin-Dawson failed to close down the Tranmere man who sent in a low cross which deflected off Paudie O’Connor and past a helpless Sam Hornby. On the stroke of half time, it was the worst time possible to concede.
Unusually for Trueman and Sellars, half time brought about a positive substitution, Billy Clarke was replaced by Charles Vernam. The Irishman was a passenger once again and wasteful in possession when he did become involved, so it was of no surprise to see him hooked.
The change sadly had little effect. Vernam has faded badly since his bright early start in City colours but we have seen little of him on his favoured left side, where he excelled for Grimsby last season. We’ve seen him mainly on the right but also in the number ten role and also down the middle. Maybe it’s time to play him in his preferred position?
The second change saw another ineffective attacker in Evans replaced by Callum Cooke. It was a much welcome return for the influential midfielder who this side has badly missed since his freak injury at Newport. In only half an hour, he showed his ability at breaking down a packed midfield area with some incisive, forward passing.
But despite those two positive changes, it was the absence of the obvious one that has sparked much discussion. Danny Rowe was once again left on the bench without even a hint of making an appearance. In two successive games, City have found themselves chasing a goal in the dying stages and have left arguably their best finisher sat on the bench. It is a truly bewildering stance from Trueman and Sellars that I’m not sure many fans can understand.
With their preferred one upfront formation, it is understandable as to why Danny Rowe starts on the bench. But as he showed with his substitute appearance against Bolton, he can rescue a point out of nothing. If City had a difficult chance in the dying moments, there’s only one man in this squad who you would want on the end of it.
The fact that Trueman and Sellars preferred to throw Clayton Donaldson on in stoppage time was even more curious.
Trueman stated that City had dominated this evening’s game by way of possession. The stats certainly back up that picture with 57% of the ball in City’s favour. Whether that constitutes ‘dominated’ is a matter of personal opinion, but City certainly had the better of it. The problem is, possession doesn’t win football matches and moreover, possession in the defensive and middle third of the pitch certainly doesn’t win you football matches. Creating chances and scoring goals win you football matches, and City do nowhere near enough of either.
As it stands, City are now seven points adrift of seventh place with only four games left. It is highly probable that City’s faint play off hopes are now over. The last few games have seen City go out with a whimper which has been majorly disappointing.
It has been very underwhelming to see City continue in their safety first approach, only throwing caution to the wind after going a goal down.
Andy Kiwomya made a very important point in the post match discussion that should not be overlooked by anyone at Bradford City. “The fans have been at home for a year. They need something to get excited about.” As the City faithful showed last season, safety first and boring football is not something that will be tolerated, irrespective of results. I must say, if there were 12,000 fans inside Valley Parade tonight, it would not have taken until the 92nd minute to see two strikers on the pitch.
Trueman and Ryan Sparks have talked about ending this season with momentum, going into a pressure filled season next. Like all fans, we can take losing, even if we hate it. We can take losing if we see a City side playing with an attacking intent and mentality, taking the game to the opposition.
What becomes really hard to stomach is performances like tonight where the opposition don’t even have to break sweat to leave Valley Parade with all three points.
The last three games and the relative form of the opponents have meant that City have had the added pressure of needing to start fast and on the front foot and the need to impose themselves on the opposition. They’ve failed and failed pretty miserably, blanking twice. It renders concerns ahead of next season, where City will be expected to be the side in the ascendancy every week.
With this being said, it will be particularly interesting to see if Trueman and Sellars change their conservative approach and allow this City side to demonstrate more attacking flair in the remaining games, especially as there is now nothing to lose.
Categories: Match Reviews