|Salford City 1|
|Bradford City 0|
By Adam Raj
It feels like we’ve been here before. A late sucker punch delivered by an ex City player, masterminded by an ex City manager and delivered at one of our (many) bogey grounds. It just feels all too familiar.
The game itself following a similar pattern. As has been the case all season, but more consequential over the last week, erratic finishing, goalkeeping brilliance and a momentary lapse in concentration was the order of the day – yet again.
To add to the sombre feeling this evening, skipper Niall Canavan missed the game with a muscle injury and is set to miss three weeks of action. It’s another injury to an influential player after the pre season injury to Yann Songo’o and the recent muscle injuries to attackers Lee Angol and Abo Eisa. This is on top of Oscar Threlkeld and Levi Sutton just returning from their own spells on the sidelines.
It’s a worrying trend this early into the season to have had six players injured, two of whom are long term casualties. Ryan Sparks talked about improving the fitness and medical departments at the club over the summer, but the early indications are that many more improvements are still required.
Canavan’s replacement in Fiacre Kelleher made his first league start in City colours. The prospect of the Irishman up against Ian Henderson, who has five goals in his last four games against the Bantams, was slightly worrying. But to his credit, Kelleher performed well with a number of key interceptions and tackles. The replacement centre half was the only change to the side which was frustrated at Valley Parade last weekend.
The first half was a bit of a snore fest. The highlight of which had to be reminding Gary Bowyer of how soul destroying his attempt at football was whilst at the helm at Valley Parade. And to his credit, he took it well. On this evidence, he hasn’t changed much in the time since his sacking. City’s best and only real moment in an attacking sense saw Alex Gilliead find Andy Cook with a precise cross but the striker sliced his header wide. He should’ve scored.
Zero shots on target from both sides at the interval summed the game up. Both sides had cancelled each other out and created next to nothing.
The second half was a better watch. In typical Bowyer fashion, Salford seemed to drop off a few yards and City had control of the game. Charles Vernam was seeing plenty of the ball and beating right back Liam Shepard with relative ease. And it was via that side that City’s best chance came. Vernam cut inside and fed Gareth Evans on the overlap. He dinked a ball to the back post where Cook outmuscled Ibou Touray and powered a header towards goal only for Welsh international Tom King to pull off a fabulous save to keep him out.
Then, King again denied Cook with a more routine save after the striker hit a half volley towards the far corner from Threlkeld’s cross. King doing his best to frustrate the visiting supporters after one or two managed to steal his towel and launch it around the away end.
But aside from Cook’s efforts on goal, City failed to create anything else clear cut. Threlkeld and Liam Ridehalgh failed to beat the first man far too often when crossing, Vernam saw a number of cutbacks failed to be attacked, whilst Callum Cooke and Gilliead spurned good opportunities to pull the trigger, opting to pass instead.
Caolan Lavery’s late replacement of Cook was a particularly strange move and the Canadian failed to make an impact again. That change took any remaining momentum out of City’s play and the long balls forward failed to stick. Theo Robinson came on even later to replace Gilliead, and within seconds saw a left footed curling effort go narrowly wide.
Ultimately though, it was the deadline day signing’s lapse in concentration that cost City a point. Josh Morris’ in-swinging corner was prodded home at the far post by Matty Lund who drifted away from Robinson way too easily. Just as Bowyer celebrated with a low-key fist pump, City fans began to head for the exit door.
Following another goal shy squad last term, a big question surrounding this City squad over the summer was “where are the goals going to come from?” And aside from Andy Cook, I can’t come up with an answer.
Alex Gilliead is a fine footballer but he has less than ten goals in his last 150 games, Vernam’s stats aren’t much better either. No doubt City have missed Angol, but he’s a player whose link up play is a bigger miss than his finishing. The same criticisms can be said of Cooke too. Lavery and Robinson have yet to impress either, albeit their minutes have been limited, especially in Robinson’s case.
It all leaves City with the problem of relying on only one man to score the goals. When Cook isn’t scoring, nobody else is stepping up. As a reference, Derek Adams’ Morecambe side had four players hit double figures last year. Cook aside, you struggle to see who is going to hit those numbers in this squad.
It may still be early in the season, but there’s a nagging thought and worry that City could pay heavily by failing to add enough goal scorers to the squad, in the striking department especially.
Promotion sides are ruthless and have a killer instinct. At this moment, City are a long way away from being paid that compliment, and that’s a real worry.
Categories: Match Reviews