A familiar story as Bradford City’s play off dream is all but over

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

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26 replies

  1. Shocking performance tonight. The writing has been on the wall for weeks now. Danny must’ve wondering why he came to city as we don’t appear to want to win. I cannot see fans paying to watch this next season

  2. Even if they change tact and GO for it now i am finding it hard to see a positive in it. If we did and then got positive results we will be left still questioning why they didn’t try it earlier. Indeed i am lost as to why they have not gone for it a few games ago. They has already got themselves some decent support and had nothing to lose by going for it. They have failed really badly imo in this regard and if they are not prepared to go for it with nothing to lose whats happens when they do? WOAP called this right so many weeks ago with their expected goal stats. They have refused to address this. Leaving Rowe on the bench is mystifying. I would also add that in the post match interview to say that Hornby was chosen over ROD was tactical based on the opposition is bizarre to me. Not that the change was wrong just that their reasoning was strange. They are sticking to a now failing system and changing players around to fit it. IM this rarely works and the best managers play a system that suits the players than try and fit wrong pieces in the wrong holes…e.g.Peter Taylor….bradford city fans struggle with pragmatic managers, even despite parkys success many questioned the style of play. We seem to like it it if we have a go and will excuse the result if we do. We have had some fans excusing displays by saying it doesn’t matter as long as you get the 3 points. Well now are not getting either entertainment nor 3 points…which neither bodes well nor ends well. A missed opportunity imo

  3. Unfortunately these two managers are not for the future.With 6 games to play they should have taken the shackles off and changed formation 442 352 any thing but the boring formation that we have to watch week in week out.These games were ideal to show something different, had we lost trying so be it,we’ve already lost not trying One track poneys come to mind.Thanks for all you’ve done in the past,but it’s time for change.

  4. I’m bewildered by the tactics and total lack of ambition shown at this stage of the season. If we had showed any ambition over the last 4 games we would’ve been in a play off spot now.

    After securing city’s survival the management team have stuck rigidly with a formation that lacks any intensity and creativity. Its a difficult watch and is the safety first approach that won’t be tolerated by the fans on a return to VP if the duo are still at the helm come the start of the season.

    Why pay money for a striker who doesn’t fit in with your style of play and not try another formation such as 2 up front to accommodate him?

    I don’t understand what they are scared of? It’s a free pass to go for it at this stage of the season. Nothing to lose. Nobody would criticise them for going for it. Bizarre end to the season and a opportunity missed.

  5. I wonder when will City’s dose of Good Fortune will return? Hopefully, in time for the start of next season.

    • I must admit the thumbs down tally is better than my usual number. Which begs the question, where are the supreme optimist posts? After last night I could do with a good laugh.

  6. Embarrassing the club is going nowhere under our present ownership he just dose not want to invest the sort of money needed to get the club on the right path and his threading water not wanting to be here ,in my view the management structure his very inexperienced and it needs to be addressed immediately and this is not a reaction to the last few game’s I’ve have been saying it for months ,the football is horrible to watch and is all about not losing which will not be acceptable to the fans, so instead of waiting for ten game’s to pass next season to make a change, do it now so it’s not another wasted season which is killing our club,good management is about been able to see what is going wrong and taking action to put it right .

    • Well, to be fair to them, they saw what was wrong in November and put that right.

      People have their views on the owner and whilst the situation is not ideal he’s a lot better than many out there as the events of this week has illustrated. I’m as disappointed as everyone else over recent results but surely T&S have earnt the right to take us into next season.

      I’m a big fan of Rowe and think he’s a better all round footballer than Cooke. I’m as dissappointed as the next person over the the lack of intent the team shows. I didn’t catch the post match interview but assumed that the Rowe situation wasn’t addressed. Given that Stuart was pulled over the coals and pushed to defend his decisions to pick BRE and let good strikers leave the club during his last interview I’m at a loss to understand why similar questions aren’t put to T&S.

      They shouldn’t have to justify every decision they make to the supporters but I do think it would help if they explained some of the rationale behind not picking Rowe and the system they have deployed over the last few games – but lilke I said – I didn’t catch the interview.

      Always end on a positive. I think we all saw what we have been missing when Callum Cooke came on. Reminded me of Gary Jones in some ways.ell.

    • I think your assessment of Rupp is incorrect. Including the over valued price he paid to purchase the club plus buying Rahic out, and general support of the club since now equates to £10m approx. (Club source).
      He has not interest in the game, Bradford, or indeed the UK and would gladly sell tomorrow if someone was to offer what he considers to be the right price. Or does he stick with us, costing even more, until we achieve promotion and have a higher value??/
      Stick or twist??

  7. Disgusted with the performance, formation and tactics last night. I must have been watching a different match to Connor and Sellars. City had more possession but that was all! They were poor all over the pitch. They could not keep possession. Losing the ball in key positions. Very few crosses. Speculative attempts at goal from distance.
    I am grateful for what the 2 young managers have achieved. Taking us from the threat of relegation to mid-table safety. However, questionable tactics, team selection and in game decision making regarding substitutions by the managers makes me wonder if they can move forward with this team. Players out of position are less likely to perform as well and has long term negative impact on there overall game. Confidence is important and City are lacking that in abundance. The substitution in injury time was a joke and embarrassment. How they expected Donaldson to make a difference in 3 minutes is beyond me. Totally bizarre!
    The problem we have is that Connor and Sellars have done a remarkable job but they have been found out. Supporters are frustrated and it’s showing through social media and that will be damaging when it comes to season ticket sales. Momentum is important going forward. We have lost ours. The form table indicates that we are in relegation form and that generally carries forward to the next season. Something needs to happen otherwise its will be a struggle going forward.

  8. It is outrageous that there is no comment from the club management about the continued omission of Danny Rowe.The last two games have cried out for someone who can actually shoot and he has been left on the bench. It would appear that there is more to his absence than is being disclosed.

  9. I did not want to jump on the bandwagon complaining about our inexperienced (or arrogant ) management duo but if the club don’t see your dissatisfaction they won’t act on it. T & S wheels have well and truly fallen off same players but very different performances and results just can’t believe what we are now having to watch.As for Danny Rowe what as he done wrong not to get a start!! From a very disappointed fan of 50 years+

  10. Where on earth do we go from here? Surely, we can’t keep on replacing managers every six months? However, having listened to that car crash post match interview with Trueman, I had to pinch myself. Was that performance I’ve just watched merely a dream because Trueman’s can’t possibly be talking about the same game? I’ll go back to my second sentence, “surely we can’t keep on replacing managers every six months”? Well, based on that interview alone, in this instance, it’s a resounding YES.

    We’re well and truly back to square one!

  11. In the match report after Crawley, I said that “the managers have nothing to lose by going for it” in the next few games. I was wrong and want to revise what I wrote. “The managers have nothing to lose by going for it. They will only lose if they don’t.” And what they are starting to lose is the goodwill and confidence of the fans at quite a shocking rate.

    It’s not that we have lost three in a row, no one has a right to win a game and all teams lose. However it’s the context, the opposition and the performances that mean these three games are not acceptable. We’ve been in with a good shout of the playoffs, against teams out of form, and have barely looked like we were setting out to win. It is not unreasonable to think that we could have got 6/7 points from these games and been in the playoff zone now (with the only team to fear being an in-form Morecambe).

    Trueman’s post match interview was delusional (my Dad used to say that it’s when the delusion sets in that you know a manager is finished). It’s easy to see how you can mistake comfort for dominance, only it wasn’t our comfort but Tranmere’s. Passing the ball around in your own half, with the other team all behind the ball, might look good in the possession stats and in the pass accuracy stats, but it’s not threatening the other team (and is certainly not dominating). In fact it’s counter productive because it sucks the tempo out of our passing and allows the other team to sit in the space. If you can’t go through the middle, you need to go around the outside Only Wood and FCD have no one naturally hugging the line with them to do that. And on those rare occasions when we do, as with Crankshaw last night, our one or two men in the box are crowded out by their four or five.

    I won’t try cover Rowe because it doesn’t need saying again, but throwing Donaldson on in injury team and moving Paudie up front when the game is already out of reach???

    I often think about how games would differ if fans were in the ground. I’m glad they weren’t for the end of McCall’s spell, because it would have been really ungratifying to see fans turn on him. But on the other hand maybe McCall would have been more atuned to what we were all seeing and thinking and it wouldn’t have dragged out as long as it did. For T&S, we would not have stood for the approach against Crawley and I believe last night the chants for Rowe would have started at 60 minutes. I honestly can’t imagine Rowe not coming on last night if there were fans in the ground. In both Crawley and Tranmere, Rowe comes on and the crowd lifts. The players react and there’s some energy, maybe we create some chances. But in both games, at 1-0 down, we kept going through the same motions.

    As I’ve also said before, the beauty of T&S when they first took over is that they did the things that the fans could see were needed (such as playing players in correct positions, keeping the tactics simple). But since survival has been assured, they’ve failed to keep doing that analysis. They’re stubbornly sticking with what got them that initial success, refuisng to change style and formation, and it makes you wonder how long they can maintain the confidence of the players doing that (you could see there was a lot of frustrated body language out there last night).

    Sparks will be thinking long and hard about what this run indicates for him. As I say, it’s the manner not the outcome. With Turnbull as chief scout, he must be thinking why is he bringing in players like Rowe, Crankshaw and Vernam if the managers are not playing them/playing them in their correct positions. It’s not that we’ve not got in the playoffs, it’s that we don’t look to have really tried to in the most open and average of seasons.

  12. Decent effort in the first half albeit without creating enough. Puzzling for MT to suggest we “controlled” the second (Hill made the same claim with more justification) when TR were perfectly happy to let our CBs have the ball and sit tight. They saw the game out in comfort. Staunton will be a big plus and give us a chance to play through teams. Poor night I thought from the midfield and it took Cookeys introduction to gain a bit of bite and impetus. Very little in terms of quality ball into the box so it was clearly not just a case of the seconds not falling to us again as suggested by MT. Not great but too early to be considering the boot

  13. Ok so I was on here last match saying you have to back the managers and I stick by that. They have done an incredible job – too good a job in fact, because expectations of finishing safe became playoffs at least. If we had a few wins and draws amongst a number of losses and gradually got ourselves safe, then I don’t think there would be this criticism.

    However, last night was hugely disappointing. To be honest it was simply boring. Two very poor sides and I have no doubt that if we had fluked the opening goal, we would have won 1-0.

    I agree with MT that we were the better side, that we had more possession and that we needed a bit of luck but when it’s not happening they had to change it. Those asking why Rowe didn’t start – I would have thought that was obvious – he offers virtually nothing in this system unless he plays instead of Cook BUT surely with 15-20 mins left, you throw caution to the wind you switch it up. More than Rowe though, I was more concerned that Donaldson didn’t play (3mins isn’t playing) as he has been our best player for most of the recent games and can play in a variety of positions.

    Hugely disappointing but T&S have to be given the chance to get it right and learn from their mistakes.

    • Personally, I think Rowe should be given an opportunity to play in the number 10 role. I think he could be quite competitive with Cooke for the position.

      • Wasn’t Danny given the opportunity to play in the no 10 role, during Cooke’s absence. As I recall it was an underwhelming performance and I’m sure he was subbed.

        He doesn’t have the same energy, or inclination, as Cooke, and that’s just for starters.

        As a result of our recent performances,and his omission, some fans are building this “badly done to” image around him. He does have some good attributes, but there’ll be a good reason he’s not been called upon. Jamie Raynor can press the joint managers as much as he likes, but he’ll not get the answer!!

  14. I keep hearing about Rowe being left out. He has done little to say pick me his body language has shown he doesn’t really care.
    When we signed him I wondered why he had spent nearly all his career in non league and why Oldham left him on the bench so often now I know why

  15. T&S initially did well, getting a tune out of the squad and the players seemingly buying into their methods. However, I genuinely can’t remember the last time I witnessed a performance of any note regarding quality and progress. As others have mentioned ball retention is admirable, but only in parts of the pitch where you aim to hurt the opposition. We consistently fail in our attacking third either by trying audacious 30/40 yard passes or balls lumped up, which is meat and drink for most L2 defenders. Where’s the running into channels, balls played down the side of defenders on the floor or running at pace at defenders?
    Ultimately VP should be a fortress. Not a place for the opposing team to be allowed acres of space in midfield to run with the ball, gaining confidence from the offset.
    Things need to change and quickly!

  16. Mark Trueman is the first manager I have ever heard make the claim he has changed goalkeepers for tactical reasons. A keeper’s tactical involvement is specific to the position not to the patterns of play. He is just about the only manager who patently fails to understand the concept of bringing on extra attackers. He thinks you can only bring one on if you take one off. He is dour and emotionless in victory and speaks nonsense when under pressure. I cannot imagine he is capable of an inspirational team talk. It would be a kindness to invite him to return to the Juniors. If he stays on it will get unpleasant.

    • Trueman has a tricky little problem of the damned either way kind. If he brings back Rowe who scores and we win, the manager gets blamed for too little, too late. If he continues as he is and suffers another loss, he gets blame. If however we win without Rowe, people will again say too little, too late. I’m afraid the truth is now that whatever Trueman does is too little, too late. The boat has left the harbour. It’s been well and truly missed. The tide has turned. Most of the crew are going to be paid off very soon.

  17. Whilst I share the frustration of appearing ‘not to go for it’ in a very average division once such a promising position had been achieved, I can reluctantly accept safety given the way we were closing in on non league, probably made easier by watching from afar.

    What I find more concerning is our recruitment that is supposed to be more professional now we have a dedicated person in place who we are told works closely with the joint managers (and CEO?) to make sure the players we recruit are fit for purpose, not just technically but also character wise.

    Why do we sign Danny Rowe if he does not ‘fit the system’ or, as has been alleged, has a ‘poor attitude’……where was our due diligence there?

    Vernam and Crankshaw, both appear capable wingers but have hardly been given a decent run in their favoured positions so difficult to tell, why sign them if we did not intend to use them in their proper positions?

    Jordan Stevens, can only think this was a timing issue having signed just before we managed to land Vernam and Crankshaw.

    Rumarn Burrell – your guess is as good as mine; surely our management duo have spent the previous few years working with a team of younger players that included strikers who could be introduced to the fringes of the first team for our own benefit or do they only do centre halves?

    To provide balance Andy Cook has been a good loan signing in terms of graft and goals scored whilst I would class Niall Canavan as a real success in terms of both ability and desire to be at the club; we have needed a no nonsense centre half for quite a while…..I thought BRE was going to be that so shows what I know.

    I really hope all the present incumbents prove to be successful next season, the opportunity presented by so many contracts expiring needs to be met with a coherent recruitment strategy because at the moment I am still not convinced we have one?

  18. We live in an age of spin, fake news, truth as you see it and your lived experience. Which of these, I wonder, best describes Mark Trueman’s mystifyingly creative summing up of the loss to Tranmere. If we play like that we’ll win more than we lose, he says, glibly. Problem is we’ve played like that and lost the last three matches. We could not afford to lose one. I’m still seething, not because we lost but by the way we casually threw the thing away. Then to come out and try to put a positive spin on it was just an insult to the fans’ intelligence. I would like a public clarification of why Danny Rowe was not introduced. I’m not going to single players out for criticism but there were at least three on at the end who I would have subbed if that were possible. We went down with all the indifference to the loss of a pre-season friendly. This was it: our cup final and the managers showed no passion, no acumen, no cojones to win if. I always remember seeing Mancini trying everything in his power to get Man City the win against QPR to get his team the Championship. He was exhausted by the end: he gave his all, tactically and emotionally. We come off and seemingly congratulate ourselves on another tight defeat. ‘Well played lads, good job we didn’t play two up top or we’d have lost by more. Great effort!’

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