Plenty of encouragement as Bradford City begin the season with credible point at Exeter

Exeter City 0
Bradford City 0

By Adam Raj

518 long, long days have passed since we last saw Bradford City play in the flesh. It’s been a dour experience following on iFollow, but it’s finally over. The fixture computer wasn’t kind to us whatsoever though sadly. Just the near 600 mile round trip to start arguably the most eagerly anticipated season in the last decade. But that didn’t deter the Bantams faithful. By all means possible – planes, trains and automobiles, the near 700 City fans found their way to Devon. The travelling Bantams were back!

After yesterday’s announcement that Niall Canavan will skipper the side this season, Derek Adams had to answer the other hotly discussed pre season question – Richard O’Donnell or Sam Hornby? The former was the one to get the nod between the sticks as Adams favoured the better shot stopper and more experienced voice. You would assume Hornby would get a chance to stake his claim in midweek’s cup tie at the City Ground.

The remaining spots in the first XI of the season were fairly straight forward picks. Lee Angol was rewarded for his promising pre season form ahead of fellow new signing Abo Eisa in the only real other selection dilemma that was hard to call.

And Angol’s performance backed up his manager’s decision. Playing alongside Andy Cook in a front two ahead of what looked to be a diamond midfield shape, the striker was a handful for the Exeter defence throughout. Many City fans questioned his signing when he first joined the club, myself included. Angol’s goal scoring record since his Peterborough days isn’t something to get the juices flowing. Even the player himself admits he has a real point to prove here.

The striker has bags of talent, that much is obvious. But it’s not hard to see why he has struggled for goals in recent seasons. That composure and confidence in front of goal isn’t really there, and that is the challenge for Adams. Get that back and he will be some player at this level.

City’s first half performance was especially promising. Elliot Watt played a delicious ball in behind for Angol who put too much on the cross across the face of goal for his strike partner Cook. It was an early sight of goal that signalled the Bantams’ intent.

Callum Cooke’s free kick was headed back across goal by Cook only to see it cleared off the line before Angol could tap home. Then Cooke saw a deflected effort well saved by debutant Cameron Dawson in the Exeter goal after some neat interplay by Cook and Alex Gilliead. Angol forced an even better save from Dawson on the rebound when it looked easier to score, but the offside flag saved his blushes.

The home side meanwhile, offered very little. They liked to cross the ball but often without a target in the box to aim at and their play was often in front of the City defence who looked comfortable throughout. O’Donnell wasn’t called into action until stoppage time when he saved well from Jack Sparkes.

The second half was much of the same. Exeter having plenty of the ball but City looking the more dangerous going forwards. They did, at least, make O’Donnell work a bit harder in the second period. Ex City man Timothee Dieng forced a comfortable save early on and then the midfielder hit a rasping shot from outside the area that the City number one did well to deal with.

At the other end, there was plenty of action in front of the travelling army, albeit frustrating. Charles Vernam was a half time substitute for the injured Oscar Threlkeld and made an immediate impact. The winger picked up some really intelligent positions and saw an early left footed effort deflected wide. He then broke with pace down the left flank before teeing up Angol who frustratingly miscontrolled. The striker did well to rescue the situation, beating his man before he sent his shot into the side netting.

Threlkeld’s departure meant a move to right back for Levi Sutton, who had a solid game in both defence and the centre of the park. His superb run into the box saw a strike across goal just go wide past the panicking Dawson.

Sutton’s performance at right back certainly offers encouragement should Threlkeld’s injury be a serious one. He was energetic both in attack and defence and sound in the tackle. You’d probably say he was ahead of Finn Cousin-Dawson in the pecking order in that right back slot now. The young defender failed to even make the bench this afternoon.

City huffed an puffed as the game wore on and started to force the issue at times. They still managed to force some good crossing situations but that finishing touch just wasn’t there this afternoon. Alex Gilliead the guiltiest of that in the closing stages as the ball fell to him on the edge of the six yard box but he failed to connect properly and the hosts managed to scramble away.

City were nearly made to pay as Sparkes’ corner found its way to Nigel Atangana at the back post who somehow missed the ball from two yards out with the goal gaping. It would’ve been extremely harsh if City had lost this one.

Overall, to be disappointed in going away to one of the promotion favourites and only managing a draw on the opening day can only be a good thing. City need to be better, of course, but there were plenty of positives to take from this afternoon’s encounter. Adams’ tactical decision to overload an experienced but leggy Exeter midfield with the diamond shows his tactical nous. Both Dieng and Atangana were booked as they couldn’t live with City’s energetic combinations.

City’s build up play and composure on the ball was good as was their game management. These are all promising signs.

A trip to Nottingham Forest proves to bring a different and much more difficult sort of test on Wednesday, but you can be confident of this City side competing from start to finish. One thing is for sure, it’s great to have football back again and it’s like we’ve never been away!

This match report is the 2,000th article we’ve published on WOAP since our launch in December 2011 – thank you for your ongoing readership and support.

Categories: Match Reviews

Tags: , ,

9 replies

  1. Firstly, congratulations to the Width of a Post team for writing 2,000 articles.
    As for the choice of goalkeeper, unless O’Donnell had had a poor pre-season, I think that Adams was always going to start with him in goal today. It will be interesting to see how the goalkeeping position progresses this season. I’m also going to keep a close eye on the opportunities given to Staunton, Cousin-Dawson and Scales this season.

    • I worry about Staunton.

      I hope we can find a way to fit him into the system. It would be a real shame, both for him personally and the club if his career stalls now.

      He’s a talent and I hope he develops to his full potential in the professional game.

  2. A very entertaining game to watch and promising start for City. I consider Angol to be the key player for City’s success this season. He definitely is a rough diamond who needs a bit of polishing in order to attain a double figure goal tally for the season. In particular, I thought City played with tempo that was never on display last season. Top marks to Adams’ management skills.

    I noted that City didn’t dress any of it’s Academy graduates. So, is Watt considered to be “home grown” because of his age re. EFL rules?

  3. You’re not wrong about Angol. He looks decent but he has been quite wasteful throughout pre-season and why he tried kicking the ball instead of simply heading it into an empty net suggests he’s got ‘bottle’ issues. Ultimately it’s cost us three points. Del might have to make do with 98 now.

  4. I really enjoyed the whole afternoon – it was like the last 18 months had never happened!
    A word of warning….. I spoke to a few Grecians who were very pessimistic about the team’s prospects this season. The player churn over the summer seen by many as a cost cutting measure and they feel they will not be competitive this year. Given that I’m remaining cautious – but it did seem a decent City performance.
    I also enjoyed the Exeter experience. A fan zone, craft ale, good pasties – I can see what Ryan’s trying to do now! Great of the Grecians to hand out coupons to City supporters for free teas!
    This maybe a little off topic but there was an interesting chant about O’Donnell.
    Anyone know what that was about???
    Also – how the hell does WOAP publish the match reports so quickly. Do you type in the car on the way back??!

  5. Decent performance by City today, should have scored in the first minutes, if only Angol had been more accurate with his cross! Exeter had limited opportunities to score, aside from Sparkes’ shots (one of which came due to Threlkeld struggling with his injury). Have to say City’s interplay in Exeter’s half was very pleasing and our play was varied between playing it long to Cook, playing it on the ground with quick pases and then looking to catch Exeter on the break on occasions. We attacked well and showed intent, have to say it was pleasing to see Ridehalgh overlapping later on, after so much defensive football last season

    Angel really impressed me today, worked hard, held the ball up well, showed some good feet, skill and quick touches. Although think he may be the player who does a lot well until it comes to taking chances (hope I’m wrong of course).

    Also, a shout out to Canavan, who was solid and didn’t put a foot wrong.

  6. Satisfied with the point. Happy(enough) with the performance. My conclusion from just this one game: We know how to pass, can create chances and can keep a clean sheet.
    Point about Exeter’s standing and quality completely acknowledged. There were I think six debutants in their team today which made the fans and followers a bit nervous. You might argue that’s absolutely normal in league 2 and in fact not a massive turnover on the grand scheme of things. As the saying goes we won’t know til later in the season if this was a valuable point gained or two dropped.
    Looking forward to the next game.

  7. Congratulations on the 2000th article. It’s so much appreciated.

    Will take a 0-0 to start with. Whatever happens next Sat at home it will be a memorable moment in history seeing us walk out and experience the noise once again – after everything that’s gone on over the last 18 months.


%d bloggers like this: