|Scunthorpe United 1|
|Bradford City 1|
By Adam Raj
“We have to win that game. There’s no other way.”
They were the pre match comments from City midfielder Levi Sutton. His comments were only echoing what the rest of us were already thinking. Scunthorpe, sat rock bottom of the Football League, boast the grim accolades of the worst defence and second worst attack in the division. Winning this game was the only acceptable result for a City side falling further and further away from being realistic promotion contenders.
But win they did not.
The Bantams were backed by 1,700 strong travelling fans. But despite being battered by wind, sleet and rain in the midst of Storm Arwen, the travelling faithful were not rewarded on the pitch.
City started the game in typically lethargic and passive fashion. The early season intensity and high press has gone and is still yet to return. The visitors were nowhere near second balls, struggled to clear their lines from crosses into the box and failed to create anything of note at the other end. It was every inch a performance you’d expect from a side struggling for form, confidence and quality.
With the wind to their advantage, the home side sought to make the most of the conditions as well as Richard O’Donnell’s hesitancy in dealing with crosses. Alfie Beestin’s in-swinging free kick was met by the sliding Manny Onariase on the six yard line. The centre half somehow volleyed over the goal and out the ground when it looked easier to score.
But City didn’t learn their lesson. Minutes later, they failed to stop the cross from right back Ross Millen and striker Aaron Jarvis bullied Paudie O’Connor to plant a header into the far corner. Let’s be honest, it was inevitable.
As the ball hit the back of the net, there was a lack of anger from the away end, more a feeling of resignation that this would be yet another disappointing Saturday afternoon. The anger and frustration eventually boiled over as the Bantams were booed off at half time. That was not before Abo Eisa, making his first start of the season, pulled up with yet another hamstring injury.
City continue to boast an embarrassing injury record, the majority of which being preventable, soft tissue injuries. It is evident that Ryan Sparks’ reshuffle of the medical department and the appointment of Greg Stebbings, who Sparks brought in from his previous club Featherstone Rovers, has far from worked. A hamstring injury for Lee Angol is no real surprise, given his rotten record at his previous clubs. But when players like Eisa pick up their third hamstring injury in the space of three months, despite having no prior record of such absences, the problem seemingly lies at the club and not with the player.
Eisa’s replacement, Theo Robinson, was at the centre of a lively start to the second half. Callum Cooke’s in-swinging free kick was knocked forwards by Niall Canavan into the path of Robinson. But the City striker missed badly from two yards out. Robinson, head in hands, was in disbelief that he’d missed. The City fans, however, groaned at the fact that City’s ‘miss of the season’ compilation has yet another entrant.
But still, it was better from City. Sutton blazed over from the edge of the area and a few Liam Ridehalgh crosses caused discomfort for the Scunthorpe back line. It wasn’t much, but it was finally a bit of pressure on the home side.
City started to pick up second balls and at least compete in the game. Yann Songo’o was finally getting a grip of a midfield battle that he was way off in the first half. Sutton embarked on a few trademark runs through the Scunthorpe midfield and Cooke was seeing more of the ball in dangerous areas. And it was that man who helped drag City back into the game. His corner was nodded in by Songo’o at the near post ahead of keeper Kieran O’Hara.
This felt like the game that Songo’o finally arrived at Bradford City. Whilst he was way off it in the first half, he delivered a captain like performance in the second period. The former Morecambe man has suffered for form and consistency since his highly anticipated arrival in the summer. He’s often looked a poor midfielder and a decent centre half – but a centre half who has a mistake in him. Today’s second half performance could be the catalyst he needs to become the player that we’re expecting to get.
But Songo’o couldn’t win this game by himself. Sutton and Cooke delivered similar second half performances by really taking charge and leading by example. But those three were alone in that conversation. Yet again, the Bantams are carrying too many passengers. Too many players who are ineffective or who make more mistakes than positive contributions. It’s not a recipe for a promotion winning side.
In what was left of the second half, Gilliead struck against the post, Angol fired over, Cooke saw a shot fly just wide and Threlkeld put in a great cross that nobody anticipated. The intensity that was missing in the first half was certainly present in the second period, but the lack of quality could not be rectified. For all City’s improvement in the second half, it was still nowhere near good enough.
Derek Adams’ post match interviews bemoaning his side’s finishing is becoming tiresome. Tiresome for him to keep saying it and tiresome for us supporters to keep hearing it. His comments are also losing credibility by the week. Ollie Crankshaw’s hat-trick for Stockport this afternoon takes his tally to seven in nine league games for the National League side. It’s quickly becoming another Eoin Doyle scenario, with City, yet again, on the wrong end of it.
Adams’ comments about winners is something that rings true. Songo’o’s reaction to scoring his first for the club was not to celebrate, but to drag his teammates back to the centre circle to get the game restarted as quickly as possible. That is the winning mentality that is needed throughout this football club. There are too many players either used to mediocrity or used to losing.
But Adams himself needs to take accountability. He was the one who signed players deemed surplus to requirements at clubs such as Scunthorpe, Walsall, Port Vale, Tranmere and National League Wrexham. He knew what he was getting. To pile the blame solely on the players is unfair. You wouldn’t buy an orange and then moan it wasn’t a banana.
There’s serious work to do. Adams needs to improve, the medical department needs to improve and there needs to be real investment in January to drastically improve a squad lacking in quality throughout. As it stands, there’s too much standing between City and promotion, and all of it of their own making.
Categories: Match Reviews