Law of the ex

Salford City 1
Lund 90+2
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

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9 replies

  1. Adam, I doubt many on this forum will agree with you that goal scoring is “a real worry.” It’s usually good for a couple dozen thumbs down when I’ve expressed similar concerns since the beginning of the season. Interestingly enough, they are quite happy to believe everything that Sparky spouts. Go figure??

  2. Unfortunately the longer this indifferent form continues, the fans will start to demonstrate their feelings. City have some decent players but they do not feature. For example, Watt and Sutton complemented one another with there different skill. Sutton has not featured since his return from injury. We are not scoring goals but conceding soft goals on a regular basis. We control the game but fail to take advantage. We lack goal scorers. Too much reliance on Cook scoring is not enough. He needs support up front. It’s no good bleating about missed chances and we should have won. We didn’t because we failed to score. The team lacks goal scorers. I agree with your point that Morecambe had a number of players with double digits of goals. All teams need to do is snuff out our main threat and the game is lost.
    The football City play is refreshing but the end product does not match the build up play.
    I’m sure Adam’s has the ability to turn things round but I’m afraid the recruitment up front does not match the clubs ambition. We need to try 2 up front and play Watt and Sutton in midfield.

    • I have previously questioned what the club were saying pre season with the actual quality and depth of the squad. (got plenty of thumbs down for my troubles :)). Buts its obvious. And goodness knows if Cook gets injured, what will happen, and even he is missing too many chances of late.. The midfield are not confident when shooting, only Verdan really is regularly prepared to take a shot. It was clear from the outset where our weakness was and we did nothing to change that. I dont know what our budget is this year but it appears lower than lasts season and look where we ended up. Adams comments about clubs budgets could be interpreted has him tempering expectation whilst letting fans know where we are with ours

  3. Before the first ball of the season was kicked the concern was can we score enough goals? First few games seemed to answer that emphatically.
    I’m trying to convince myself that at least we are creating chances so eventually they’ll start going in.
    The slight concern for me is that I don’t think Salford or Walsall are that good.
    A bounce back against barrow is what we need now.

  4. This club cannot be fixed in one season. I am sure Adams recognises that we need more strike power but no-one knows the real reason why it has not been forthcoming yet. Give the guy a break; we are just a few games in and recognise that we may not get promoted this season. Real progress should be assessed after 20 or so games and if we look like things are getting better, then we should be patient. I know everybody is sick of being in the League, but Adams is not a miracle man.For me, the biggest threat to the club now is if Sparks resurfaces his trigger happy stance and fires the Manager prematurely. Nothing to do with his age; if you are good enough, you are old enough. My question would be; is Sparks good enough?

  5. After every game the manager’s comments are the same we are missing loads of chances and you don’t win games without putting the ball in the net .His he saying, I’ve done my job but the recruitment of forwards his not what he wanted and his reaction to the news of Theo Robinson signing said it all and if you look at the stats of goals scored by the new players he has a point .Could it be down to lack of ambition by the owner not to invest the money needed to get the goals which is needed to get promotion or jist poor recruitment.

    • imo we may get out of this division with Rupp in charge but we won’t be getting any further, He apparently wanted to sell so he simpy isnt going to invest/risk any money. We need new owners with ambition in truth

  6. As fans we can talk a lot about owners and investment and “ambition”
    I’m not saying we shouldn’t want more but please look around at the 91 other current league clubs. There are very few with enviable ownership models. I like how Burnley do things, Brentford, Sheffield United to be honest. But they have all had a medium to long term plan that they are executing. It didn’t happen “overnight” for any of them. And we need to be realistic. Some of the mega rich foreign owners are not looking at us like they did Man City or Chelsea. It ain’t gonna happen for us!! if Newcastle can’t get a new billionaire owner I think we’re a long way down the shopping list.
    I don’t have a strong opinion either way on rupps ownership to be honest. And although you may say that’s a cop out I am pleased we are run very well as a club and are not in danger of financial ruin. The changes and improvements we have seen in the close season deserve to be remembered. there are SO many things that needed to be, and still need to be, invested in just to stop the rot. So perspective is key. It is going to take time.
    If we are totally average come December and in with no chance at all then yes that’s a big problem for us. But we are not there yet. The team is an improvement on recent seasons and we are still creating chances (I know that’s a thin thread to cling to) but it’s better than looking clueless. This team does demonstrate purpose on the pitch. Chances will turn to goals at some point.
    Keep the faith for now.

  7. Fair article Adam. What ticked me off about the game was the selection of Evans as a starter over Sutton. You could see the whole tempo and dynamic of the team shift when Adams finally made the switch. One other observation, is that we should ditch the idea of a so called “striker”, as goal scorer, the only source for goals. To me this creates too much pressure on one or two individuals and in a sense lets the rest off the hook. Sure you need a Centre Forward, as we used to call it, but he’s not the only one who should be scoring. Everyone should be a goal scorer on a football team, I’d like to see the emphasis placed on that mind set. Shoot when you get the chance.

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