|Swindon Town 1|
|Payne 78 (pen)|
|Bradford City 3|
|Lavery 16, Sutton 40, Robinson 75|
By Adam Raj
Let’s be honest, who saw this one coming? The mood around Bradford City after Tuesday night’s horror show was low and confidence in their ability to compete at the top of this division was seriously questioned. Understandably therefore, pessimism, rather than optimism, was the general attitude to today’s trip to Wiltshire. The mood did anything but lift with the arrival of Derek Adams’ lineup which was missing both Charles Vernam and Callum Cooke, the latter of which not even making the squad.
City chose to line up in a 5-3-2 shape, with Alex Gilliead occupying a central role and Caolan Lavery slotting in alongside Andy Cook for his first start in City colours. On the face of it, a more conservative side than we’ve been used to under Adams, but the City boss spoke midweek of changing how his side approached away games. Less flair players, more grafters was the basis behind his comments. This certainly tied in with those remarks and was certainly understandable given how Swindon Town approached the game.
The home side was certainly an attack minded one and consisted of the likes of former Bantam Jack Payne, Ben Gladwin and Welsh international Jonny Williams. Flair players, technically gifted players, but you struggled to see where their defensive cover in the centre of the park was coming from. City had clearly done their homework. Gilliead and Levi Sutton, either side of Elliot Watt, were given license to break forwards and support the front two and managed to break through the middle of the pitch on numerous occasions. City looked dangerous on every transition – a strength that had been highlighted by Town manager Ben Garner.
But it was the more physical approach that managed to break the deadlock in the 16th minute. Oscar Threlkeld’s long throw was flicked on by Gilliead and Lavery fired across goal on the volley to net his first City goal. It always did seem the sort of game that would require City to score first. With Swindon enjoying over 70% possession, chasing the game would have been a hard task. The side Adams selected was designed more for protecting a lead, frustrating the home side and hitting Swindon on the break. Go a goal ahead and it’s set up perfectly.
Swindon were forced to rush attacks, often overhitting crosses and misplacing simple passes. To coin a popular phrase, City had ‘done a job’ on them. The home side were devoid of ideas as to how to break down a stubborn and well organised shape.
And it got even better for City just before half time. Matty Foulds’ chip into the box caused havoc as centre halves Mathieu Baudry and Romony Critchlow tried their best to wrestle with Cook, only for the ball to ricochet off the post and straight into the path of the onrushing Sutton who had the easiest task of tapping the ball into an open net.
City were in dreamland. Out of form and blanking in the previous three away games, but two goals to the good before half time away to a side who sat third at the start of play today.
Perhaps, even more impressive, was the way City managed the second half. Most would’ve expected Swindon to come out all guns blazing and for City to be under the cosh somewhat. But the Bantams never allowed it. They sat behind the ball, were aggressive and hard in the challenge and crowded out the home midfield. They fouled when they needed to foul, they bought fouls when they needed to relieve pressure and they admirably slowed the game down so much so that Richard O’Donnell was booked for timewasting.
And it should’ve got even better for City. Gilliead drove through the centre of the pitch, set Cook away, who turned Rob Hunt inside out before toe-poking the ball over the crossbar. Having done all the hard work to set up the shooting opportunity, the City number nine will be frustrated with himself for the poor finish.
Still, City were to get their third of the afternoon eventually, and again from an unlikely source. Seconds after coming onto the pitch, Theo Robinson spun on the corner of the 18 yard box and unleashed a fabulous right-footed curling effort into the far top corner. One touch to set, and one touch to strike. An immediate impact that the forward has threatened to do in a few of his previous cameos.
City as well as League Two’s Twitter admin may as well not even run the goal of the month poll for October.
The only thing missing was the clean sheet. Having looked untroubled all afternoon, Paudie O’Connor inexplicably handled from Gladwin’s cross when the ball was seemingly running out of play. Up stepped Payne to dispatch expertly past O’Donnell who was inches away.
With twelve minutes plus stoppage time still to play, it had the potential to be squeaky bum time. After all, this is City we’re talking about. But refreshingly, City managed the game well and aside from Harry McKirdy forcing a comfortable save from O’Donnell, the hosts failed to create anything.
A comfortable and well-deserved win.
Categories: Match Reviews