|Crawley Town 2|
|Ferry 39, Tsaroulla 73|
|Bradford City 1|
By Adam Raj
During the week, the City media team tweeted a rerun of our last victory at the People’s Pensions Stadium – a 1-3 victory under Phil Parkinson in August 2014, with some excellent goals scored, including a Billy Knott screamer. Unfortunately, it seems Derek Adams and his players were sent a copy of the January 2020 horror show defeat under Gary Bowyer. Today’s result and performance felt like déjà vu.
Performance and result wise, this was dire. Long gone is the high press, high energy and intense brand of football that we saw in the early weeks of the season. Back is the safety first, pedestrian and unimaginative style that seems to have plagued the Bantams since the play off final defeat in 2017.
Of course, there are some mitigating circumstances, namely injuries to key players. As was the case last season, when City lost Lee Novak and Reece Staunton, the depth was and is not there to cope. The difference, this season, is that Ryan Sparks promised that this wouldn’t be the case and that City would have a strength in depth when the inevitable injuries strike. As it was, as soon as the news that Charles Vernam would miss today’s game, any remaining enthusiasm dissipated from the fanbase.
Today’s viewing was entirely predictable.
Whilst not blameless, you have to feel for Adams. Whether or not he wanted to drop the underperforming Alex Gilliead, play another striker alongside Andy Cook or change the game from the bench – the options at his disposal dictate that he can’t even ask himself these questions.
One option that Adams does have the luxury of choice in is the partner to Paudie O’Connor. Adams has chosen the experience of Fiacre Kelleher over the youth of Reece Staunton, but it is looking an increasingly questionable decision. Since his sound debut at Salford, Kelleher has struggled. With all due respect, he looks every inch a player who was released by a National League side.
And it was his strange positioning that led to the opening goal this afternoon. Having lost out on the initial dual with striker Sam Ashford, Kelleher followed his man over to the left back area and that’s where he remained, despite Ashford releasing the ball to Jake Hessenthaler and Liam Ridehalgh being in position. Because of this, City were left short in the box as Hessenthaler crossed for Will Ferry to tap home.
The goal wasn’t all Kelleher’s fault of course. Oscar Threlkeld and O’Connor were fast asleep as the ball came in. For all the publicity surrounding City’s goalscoring problem, they’re leaking goals like a sieve. One clean sheet all season, coming on opening day at Exeter, is extremely poor.
Meanwhile, City struggled to create anything from open play. Whilst that hasn’t really been an issue in recent weeks, the absence of Vernam meant the City frontline was full of underperforming or out of form players. The Bantams, therefore, had to rely on set pieces and Callum Cooke’s delivery. Two Cooke free kicks were the closest City would come in the first half, with Cook powering a header over the crossbar and Yann Songo’o forcing a good save from Glenn Morris.
The second half was more of the same painful viewing from a City perspective. Especially as the distinctly average home side doubled their lead. The ball was worked from right to left where Nick Tsaroulla drove at the City backline. The left back was faced by Oliver Crankshaw, Songo’o and Threlkeld, yet all three failed to engage Tsaroulla, instead choosing to back off.
Under no pressure at all, Tsaroulla picked his spot in the far corner of the net past the diving Richard O’Donnell. It was a desperately bad goal to concede, but one that feels all too familiar.
It was actually somewhat of a surprise that City managed a consolation in a game where they looked anything but threatening. Crankshaw’s tricky run into the box saw his deflected cross fall to Cooke who finished well past the defender on the line. With ten minutes plus injury time to go, City looked to have set up a grandstand finish. But as is to be expected these days, that didn’t happen and instead the game fizzled out.
It marks the fifth defeat in seven games in all competitions, and the third successive defeat on the road. After such a promising start in terms of both results and performances, City are in reverse. The Bantams keep losing, the performances are getting worse and the injuries keep mounting.
Post-match, Adams stated, “a manager can only deal with the cards he’s been dealt.” This is after he inferred in the week that he was happy with only 16 of his 25 man squad. That’s a considerable amount of players that he doesn’t think are good enough.
Whilst Adams seems to be a manager who doesn’t take much responsibility himself, I can’t really disagree with him. The fact that we’re not even in October, and the January window is being looked at as yet another salvage mission, is tiring.
For a season that was sold to the fans as being one that broke the never-ending cycle of underperforming, it feels every inch a repeat of seasons gone by. A poorly assembled squad (specifically beyond the first XI), a mountain of injuries, a goal-shy attack and a fragile defence.
It seems like little has changed, if anything at all.
Categories: Match Reviews