Lifting the clouds

Bradford City 2
Gilliead 37, Cook 75 (pen)
Rochdale 0

Written by Jason McKeown (images by John Dewhirst)

The rain never stopped but the storm never came. After a week of fierce criticism and heavy soul-searching, this felt like a pivotal, pressure cooker of an afternoon for Bradford City. But against grim weather they survived the risk of slip ups to earn a huge three points. And with it the pressure eases.

The look on Andy Cook’s face, as he raced towards the Kop to celebrate scoring a 75th minute penalty that sealed victory, betrayed the true feelings of the players. It was a look of angry defiance, mixed with relief. A world away from the care-free days of August, where Cook and team mates were full of cheeky confidence.

This goal mattered to Cook, and this win clearly meant much to all his team mates. Questions have been asked and the gauntlet laid down to this squad. Derek Adams’ decision to publicly lambast the players after last week’s defeat to Crawley was always going to make this an interesting public viewing of their response.

Are they playing for this manager? Are they committed to this club? They showed real steel here in answering these questions. And it’s not often, over the past four years, we’ve been able to say that about Bradford City players.

In truth, it was not a wholly convincing recovery. Rochdale – managed by Robbie Stockdale, three years after he turned down Edin Rahic’s overtures to become head coach of the Bantams – brought plenty to a watchable contest. Dale’s 3-4-3 formation presented plenty of challenges to City defensively, and the margins between victory and defeat were tight. Not for the first time this season for the Bantams, this was partly a story of missed chances.

35 minutes into the contest, and with Dale having enjoyed a decent five minute spell on top, a good visiting move left them with an overload in the box and Abraham Odoh with an easy chance. He somehow scooped the ball over the bar when it seemed easier to hit the target.

Moments later, City scored.

Charles Vernam – who was excellent on his return from injury – got away from his marker and cut inside. He fed the ball to Levi Sutton, who sent a powerful low effort at goal. The Dale goalkeeper, Joel Coleman, could only palm the ball away, and Alex Gilliead was on hand to smash home his first Bradford City goal since rejoining the club.

In the second half Rochdale missed even more presentable opportunities. Twice Danny Cashman was left with a clear sight of goal. Twice he blew it by shooting wide of the goal. Jake Beesley also headed over a good first half chance. Rochdale would record 15 shot on goal, but only one on target.

It’s a story Adams will be able to relate to.

City missed good chances too, but crucially added a second late in the second half when Sutton broke into the box and was illegally hauled to the floor. Cook netted the penalty for his first goal in over a month, and suddenly Valley Parade is a happier place to be again.

Adams will take a lot of positives from this. He got a reaction from his players, who showed their desire and bravery to succeed. He instigated a slight tactical shift that saw Vernam given greater licence to get higher up the park to support Cook, and it succeeded largely because Callum Cooke was instructed to provide cover on the left to make up for Vernam vacating that space.

He also got two honest performances from players who have struggled for opportunities. Yann Songo’o replaced Fiacre Kelleher at centre back and did well. He was not brilliant in the air, but offered what Kelleher has been lacking in terms of good distribution on the ball and an excellent reading of the game in judging when to make a tackle. He also supported attacks by pushing into midfield at times. It was a strong performance that helped City achieve their first clean sheet since the opening day of the season.

In front of him, Sutton was excellent with a whole hearted display full of box to box running. Sutton’s passing can let him down at times, but his energy drove City on. His performance made a mockery of Adams’ previous persistence in picking Gareth Evans in front of him.

These players slotted in well alongside regulars who improved their game on recent weeks. Elliot Watt’s man of the match award from the sponsors was curious, but he protected the back four well – he just needs to learn when to play it calm rather than seemingly always looking to attempt a Hollywood ball. Paudie O’Connor was also much better, going some way to ease concerns he becomes half the player when he’s not lining up alongside a more senior central defensive partner.

Cook and Cooke again didn’t hit the heights of last season, but both will get better. Cook is lacking service and seems to be coming deeper for the ball compared to how Mark Trueman and Conor Sellars tactically lined him up last season. You want to see him in the penalty box more often. Hopefully that will come.

The two full backs – Oscar Threlkeld and Liam Ridehalgh – had it tough. Rochdale’s 3-4-3 saw them repeatedly doubled up on, as the blue shirts found lots of space behind Vernam and Gilliead. At times it didn’t look clever for both full backs, but they stuck at it and got through the game undamaged.

As did the whole team. They will probably play better and lose this season, but with confidence low and pressure high they found a way to win and for that they deserve huge credit.

They couldn’t afford more slip ups and to concede further ground on the early season pace setters. And so the storm clouds pass, at least for now. Whether this victory is a turning point remains to be seen. But it is certainly a big improvement on recent weeks, and that at least is a start.

Categories: Match Reviews

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23 replies

  1. Although I’m not one of the Evans haters amongst City fans, facts have to be faced. The selection of Sutton brought more energy, determination and threat to the team.
    The continuation of chances created but not taken convinces me more each week of the need for more firepower.

  2. So glad Sutton is back in the team, I feel his energy and instinct to surge forward with the ball from central midfield is something we have lacked; something that contributed to both goals. Definately my man of the match!

    Glad to see a clean sheet though how that shot before our penalty was blazedover by Rochdale still beats me.

    However I hope we have turned a corner and will put toegther a string of results, despite our poor run we are still only 2 points off the automatic spots so still everything to play for. I live in cautious hope 🙂

  3. A very entertaining game with both teams having their moments in front of goal. After recent performances the 3 points were crucial for both the gaffer and the team and all City fans should hopefully be happy with the win.
    We are still short of where we need to be as a team, but with the imminent return of some key players coupled with the desire shown today, there’s lots to be positive about.

  4. Man of the match performance from Sutton. When on the ball he looked dangerous. He was involved in both goals. His shot rebounded to Gillead and he won the penalty. It will be hard to shift him with that performance.
    Defensively City were suspect. Rochdale found a lot of joy on the left side. I was surprised Adams didn’t Shaw up the defense, particularly when we scored the second.
    Very pleased with the overall performance. Once we start getting the injured players fit I believe we can really get back on track.
    Well done City and especially Sutton. On wards and upwards.

  5. A really good game of league two football that I enjoyed thoroughly. Rochdale playing a massive part in the enjoyment of the game. Their number 18 looked to be a really good player and it was a shock, and a relief, he was taken off.

    Adams tactics were absolutely spot on today and the CB pairing of Songo’o and Paudie were brilliant. Sutton added much needed energy to the team and was a good watch as he committed himself to the game and endeared himself further to the fans.

    It is evident we are a work in progress and rely heavily on the tactical nouse of Adams to get the best out of the players. That’s why I personally feel the assault of the last week was totally over the top and a complete over reaction.

    Unbeaten at home in the league, out of the play off spots due to the alphabet only, 3 points off an automatic spot, only three teams have scored more than us. There’s a lot of positives. We have also been missing some key players and they are close to a return.

    The fact we got rid of a player who rarely had a good game- to a non league side (which speaks volumes in itself) hardly constituted the meltdown of this week.

    Up the City

  6. Ben.
    The reaction to Crankshaw leaving was more about the situation.than the player.
    His ability or perceived lack of ability was secondary.
    Same with Luke Hendrie and Danny Rowe.
    Not the ability but the message given.
    In Crankshaws case his record for a 23 year old is mediocre and he was doing little to merit a place in.Adams thinking.
    But like Rowe he has chosen to drop a division to.non league to develop???
    Like Rowe he may find he will never get an opportunity to play in the EFL again.
    At 23 compared to Rowes 32 it’s a very risky move to.make.
    I would have been more impressed if he had said ” I have had an opportunity to go to another club but I want to.stay and fight for a first team place”.
    But then I guess the security.of and a longer contract has an appeal

    • Mark, if your face doesn’t fit with the manager, you’re better off out. Following DA’s unjustified post match comment after Crankshaw’s substitute performance at Crawley I can’t blame Ollie for taking the hint.

      I would imagine Levi Sutton has been thinking the same, after being overlooked, whilst watching a serial underperformer being a virtual fixture in the side. Well, yesterday he made a mockery of Adams’ judgement.

      Sutton made all the difference yesterday, but we’ll not hear Adams admitting he should have selected him sooner.

  7. I think some of fans must have been watching a different game to me. They had 60% possession 15 shots on goal and if they had there shooting boots on we would have been well beaten. And you could tell that from the subdued atmosphere the fans where not happy. But it’s about results and we had the rub of the green ,let’s hope we can some key players back soon ,we need them.

    • A high percentage of games are like this one yesterday where neither team were better than the other, just a case of which team takes their chances. The result was more important than the performance which overall was fairly standard. Sutton showed why he has to start, bringing attributes to the team no one else does. No other player could have made the run for the penalty for the second goal.
      Hopefully a good run ensues off the back of this.

    • Absolutely agree. Another day and we’d have been well beaten. It’s a game of fine margins.

      Can you imagine if we’d have lost though?!

      We need to keep a lid on our euphoria after games like this but also try not to get too despondent after results like Crawley.

      The frustration for me is that the hysteria over the last week was of DAs own making. Those post match comments – especially towards Ollie was uncalled for. By all means have a rant at the team, but there was no need to have a go at an individual – especially one that came on as a sub. If he wanted Ollie out he could have done it in a more professional manner, behind the scenes.

      Still, I guess we all like a manager who wears his heart on his sleeve and it did make for interesting radio. Let’s just see where we go from here. Never an easy ride with City.

    • I think your right you must have been watching a different game. According to the BBC report on the game we had 16 shots to Rochdale’s 15 and we had 6 shots on target to Rochdale’s 1. So you could say that if both teams had their shooting boots on we would have still won. As far as possession goes the BBC had it 58 to 42 in Rochdale’s favour. But we have been here before discussing the relevance of possession.

      • Rochdale had five clear cut chances versus City with none is the primary stat to be noted. The other stats were quite balanced and indicated no advantage for either team.

  8. Hi Mark,

    I really don’t get your point or how it relates to attacking our club and an overreaction. You’ve admitted he wasn’t very good and had a pretty unimpressive career. He’s therefore dropped to a level to suit him. We got a small fee for a player we don’t want. It’s all very good for our club really.

    Equally, we are not privy to training days, lateness and attitudes. If he didn’t fit our managers ethos then he’s better off out of the door. It’s a win win for me. What’s the point in him saying he will stay and fight for his place when he’s neither good enough or wanted?

    Have a good night.

    • My point was twofold.
      A question.about the character of a relatively young player who sees a drop.into.non.league as an opportunity to ‘develop’.
      As I said he is unlikely to ever play in the EFL.again.
      I would rather he had rolled his sleeves and forced himself back into Adam’s plans.
      The other point is we keep being told we try to.sign players with the right attitude.
      Crankshaw and Rowe are hardly shining examples of this so without attacking the club we have to ask have we not identified the right character in these players?

  9. It’s not difficult to identify areas where the team needs to be strengthened and yes, we should acknowledge that Rochdale missed a couple of chances that should have been converted. However we deserved to win the game today because we had the better side and the most effective tactics. And given that key players were absent with injury, there is every reason to celebrate the result.

    If that is not enough, the performance this afternoon was also a display of character and the players could not be faulted for their approach. City fans can be pretty difficult to please but surely the positives were there to be seen and enjoyed instead of focusing on the negatives and being miserable. Onwards and upwards.

  10. Much needed win. Clean sheet is a big positive. Regardless if we rode our luck a little. All teams need luck.
    Some solid performances all round and just what was needed
    Hopefully this is the start of a more positive run of results as more players start to come back.
    On to the next

  11. A massive match for both and City prevailed, not least because they showed a mental resilience lacking for much of the last 4 seasons. Our home results are actually very good now so it is imperative we follow up today with an away win as soon as possible. Get that under our belt and we really will be fully back on track.

  12. Very much agree with the comment about Watt going for the Hollywood pass too often. He probably gave the ball away more than any. Overall i thought it was an even game, with city better in the first half, but struggling to find good passes due to Rochdale’s pressing in the second. Winning was all that mattered after a poor run.

  13. A few more results so however gained and the storm in an eggcup created by Adams comment post match a week ago and a player leaving will be forgotten history within weeks.
    He ( Adams) needed to sound alarm bells .
    He has whst he wants now in folk he ca work with looking for players in place and must have needed to shout to move someone recruiting for him he had no influence in appointment.
    Always difficult if you find yourself working with someone you do not agree with and his reaction last week said as much with Turnbull gone.
    A good win to cap a difficult week.
    These things get far too much drama airing.
    Players come players go we just hope the chemistry mix going forward is right .
    Time will tell by Xmas.
    No panic.

  14. I don’t normally comment on here unless I’ve been at the game , but as a seasoned City fan i know all too well the hopes and dreams of supporters ,maybe we did get a bit carried away with the start ,like with T&S last season, but the league’s not over till April/May. There will always be ups and downs and as a football manager myself , i know only too well the impact of losing players through injury.
    Lee Angol didn’t appear to be the answer when he signed but I must admit him and Cook were a handful for defences and I think we’ve missed the pairing. Canavan again is a big miss ,like last season , and I think Paudie needs experience along side him.
    Like him or not Adams is going to do it his way , every game we watch there will be different opinions on tactics ,substitutions etc ,that’s why we love the game.
    We’re in League 2 and Adams has had success at this level. Some didn’t like Parkys football ,Stuart’s could be nice to watch but a bit predictable , even Paul Jewell had his detractors.
    My point to all City fans is don’t panic ,look at the bigger picture and the prize at the end of May. We’ve seen some dross at VP many times over the years and this is far from it.
    Until the dip i hadn’t been so engaged in City for a good few years now.
    Keep your heads up ,keep singing and give the team and manager all of your support.

    • Thanks for the positive post. So many of us all want and crave this to be the season. I hope results on the pitch continue to improve. That is my number one priority.

  15. Phil W, you are incorrect, ‘the primary stat to be noted’ is that City scored 2 goals to Rochdale’s 0 which resulted in 3 points.

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