A bad day at the office as below-par Bradford City suffer first league defeat of the season

Leyton Orient 2
Sotiriou 66, Smith 82
Bradford City 0

By Adam Raj

Well that was one to forget. A disjointed and uncharacteristic Bradford City performance in East London saw Derek Adams’ side handed their first league defeat of the season. I say uncharacteristic, because today’s performance fell way short of the standards that Adams has set.

Leyton Orient, off the back of a midweek home defeat to Harrogate, recalled former Bantam Connor Wood to the side although the hosts lost centre half Dan Happe in the warm up. City, off the back of last week’s late winner at Mansfield, remained unchanged.

On paper, the O’s were there for the taking. Injuries, a lack of form and some bad luck saw City given a golden chance to record four wins on the bounce. Unfortunately, football isn’t played on paper. The cynics amongst us know this is entirely the sort of game that City make a habit of losing. And so they did.

The first half in East London was more like a ping pong game than a football match. For the most part, keepers Laurence Vigouroux and Richard O’Donnell spent the half smacking the ball at each other. There was little quality from both sides and neither side ever had a controlled period of possession. Orient offered nothing in the way of a goal threat and City didn’t either. That was until the last ten minutes of the half where City seemingly woke up. Niall Canavan had a header cleared off the line before Charles Vernam forced Vigouroux into a good save.

But if City were awake by the time the whistle blew for the interval, then they’d had one too many cups of Horlicks by the time the second period kicked off. The visitors were second best to everything. Striker Harry Smith was winning too many long balls, City’s midfield couldn’t get their foot on the ball and Andy Cook was fighting a losing battle, isolated against Omar Beckles.

And Adams was far from impressed.

The City manager cut a frustrated figure on the touchline, often with his head in his hands. It was of no surprise therefore to see a double substitution on the hour mark. Finn Cousin-Dawson and Elliot Watt made way for Caolan Lavery and Ollie Crankshaw.

The changes in personnel, though, caused confusion both on the pitch and in the stands. There was confusion as to who was playing right back, or if we were even playing with one. At times, Paudie O’Connor was playing there, but at others, it looked like a back three. And Orient capitalised on City’s confusion and indecision a matter of minutes later.

Ruel Sotiriou chased down a long ball in the City penalty area, worked half a yard on Canavan and lashed a thumping volley into the roof of the net from a ridiculously tight angle. Given the ball squirmed in at the near post, it is a goal that will go down as a keeper error but I’m not sure there was anyone inside Brisbane Road who expected the striker to have a shot there.

Sotiriou, bizarrely decided to celebrate in front of the City fans, despite having two stands full of his own supporters to choose from. Predictably, the City fans weren’t particularly impressed and a few unsavoury scenes in the away end ensued. A few objects were thrown towards Smith who spent the rest of the half winding up the City fans at every opportunity. There’s some players who thrive off abuse from the stands, and he’s certainly one of them.

It was a lead that the home side had deserved, through their energy and commitment more than anything else. City, as they did all afternoon, really struggled to get in the game from then on. The Bantams lacked composure in possession, resorting to far too many long balls that Cook was beaten to more often than not. They never looked like getting back into the game.

No surprise therefore that the hosts doubled their lead ten minutes from time. And even less of a surprise that it was Smith who found the net. The only surprise was that, unlike his strike partner, the number nine decided to celebrate with his own fans.

O’Connor lost a 50/50 with Theo Archibald midway inside the City half, the loose ball dropped to Smith, who took a touch to settle and strike low past O’Donnell. A good finish, but a desperately poor goal to concede from a defensive point of view.

And that was that. City limped to a first defeat of the season without really having a sniff. However, it is to be hoped that this was just a bad day at the office. And judging by this season’s previous performances, it probably is.

It wasn’t a game where City were outclassed or there was an alarming gap in quality between ourselves and the opposition. The game was a bit of a scrap, an average League Two game, where neither side looked much cop. The side who won the physical battle would be the one to win the game.

City simply lost too many individual battles and ultimately lost the war. The back four along with Watt and Yann Songo’o were too frantic in possession and were lacking in energy and composure, meaning City’s attacking quartet was starved of the ball throughout. Vigouroux won’t have many easier afternoons.

To compound matters, O’Connor was forced off with an injury after the second goal. It was just one of those days. That injury concerns me more than the result or performance. I’m not sure the depth is particularly strong in the centre half department. It is to be hoped that his injury is nothing serious.

As with every defeat, it’s how the team responds that will be the question. Next week’s visit of Walsall will see the return of Oscar Threlkeld, Levi Sutton and (hopefully) a new striker. A much needed boost for the Bantams who have missed both of those players and certainly Lee Angol today.

It’s to be hoped that today’s level of performance was just a blip.

Categories: Match Reviews

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4 replies

  1. Poor not to defend the throw in for the first goal (but a Super finish) and you could argue didn’t close down and get tight enough on second.
    Maybe a bit of mental fatigue creeping in using same XI?
    Orient do look a good strong side so maybe it’s not the end of the world losing to them at their place.
    10 points from 5 games. Still a very good start
    On to the next.

  2. Ten points from five matches is a 2 point average so far, and an excellent haul.
    The next five have three at home, so repeating that points total is completely possible and would almost certainly keep City in the top 3. Indeed winning the home matches and drawing both the away fixtures would exceed it. Much to be optimistic about but we do indeed need back up for Andy Cook by Tuesday, and Threlkeld and Sutton back in the side. At least the other sides in the top three also stumbled.

  3. Probably a bit of complacency crept in after our recent good results, some of the players thinking that they are better than they are and just had to turn up to win. That and a combination of Orient being fired up to win after their midweek defeat to Harrogate. Hopefully City will be equally fired up next Saturday against Walsall and make up for yesterday’s performance. Still nicely on target with an average of 2 points per game.

  4. The game was a bit of a scrap, an average League Two game, where neither side looked much cop

    This sums up the game perfectly, consistency at this level is never great. Let’s move on to the next game.

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