|Bradford City 2|
|Angol 8, Cook 49|
Written by Adam Raj (images by John Dewhirst)
‘New year, new me.’ I’m sure that inside the walls of Valley Parade, there wasn’t a more apt mantra to adopt for a City side who have continued to fail on the pitch during 2021. We’ve all heard the cliché and maybe even seen ourselves fail at the first hurdle for our own proposed new year resolutions. But there are hopes that City’s resolution is serious and they have started this year as they mean to go on.
As another cliché goes, a win is a win, three points is three points. Today’s victory was certainly far from convincing and City needed a rather fortunate intervention from referee Sebastian Stockbridge to deny the hosts an equaliser. But three weeks on from City’s last action of the league campaign, it was perhaps reasonable to not expect the most fluent of performances, especially as many of the squad are still feeling the after effects of Covid. Not to mention striker Andy Cook’s first action in two months after his recovery from injury.
Cook’s mere inclusion on the team sheet sparked a raise in hope and expectation among a fan base who were understandably less than confident given recent form. He’s the best striker that Derek Adams has at his disposal, by some distance, and his absence has been felt more strongly than some maybe expected. For the direct style that Adams seemingly wants to play, a number nine, as Cook wears on his back, is absolutely vital. And for a goal shy side, it certainly helps that the top scorer is back and available.
But as much as Cook’s inclusion was a much welcomed sight, his performance was somewhat overshadowed by that of his fellow Geordie Alex Gilliead. The much maligned winger had arguably his best, but most certainly his most productive game of the season.
Gilliead has rightly come in for criticism this season. For an attacker who finds himself in the starting line-up more often than not, Gilliead’s goal and assist statistics are nowhere near good enough. But to his credit, he really turned it on this afternoon with two assists which were very different in nature.
The first came early in the game. Eight minutes on the clock and Gilliead embarked on one of his trademark twisting and jinking runs through the Barrow midfield and played a perfect through ball to Lee Angol who made a good run in between right back and centre back. And Angol, who has spurned his fair share of good chances already this season, made no mistake as he prodded past keeper Paul Farman.
The second came early in the second half. A long throw into the box appeared to be running out of play but Gilliead showed great determination to hook the ball from the shield created by centre half Marty Platt. And there was Cook, in the right place at the right time to take it past Farman and slot into an open net. Cue jubilant scenes in the away end and an ecstatic celebration from the City number nine. You could see the relief on his face that he was not only back, but back with a goal.
Two Gilliead assists and a goal early in both halves. It really was a day of firsts.
In between those moments, there was not much to talk about. The game was rather flat, both sides looked disjointed and didn’t play with any degree of intensity. But it was rather refreshing to see City finally look clinical in front of goal.
But in typical Bradford City fashion, they had to make it hard for themselves. Three minutes after going two up, the hosts clawed one back in what was a desperately poor goal to concede. Under no pressure, Oscar Threlkeld played a terrible square ball straight to Barrow captain Ollie Banks whose long range effort was deflected wide. From the resulting corner Josh Gordon headed Tom Beadling’s cross home.
From then on it was one way traffic. Barrow were camped inside the City half and the Bantams struggled to grab a foothold in the game. Matters weren’t helped by the fact that both Lee Angol and Andy Cook were substituted, changes that Adams admitted afterwards were enforced rather than tactical.
Their withdrawals saw Adams decide to shut up shop and deploy a 5-4-1 to see the game out. It was a risky tactic to say the least, no more so given the fact that City have conceded late on a number of occasions this season.
Barrow ramped it up a gear following Dimitri Sea’s introduction and Liam Ridehalgh had to make a brilliant block at the back post to deny Connor Brown. Then hearts in mouths time as Sam Hornby spilt a cross into the back of the net. Relief ensued as the referee’s whistle blew for a foul by Josh Gordon. From the away end, it was hard to see whether or not there was a foul, but I don’t think anyone of a claret and amber persuasion was complaining.
Whilst not a particularly enthralling spectacle, City demonstrated the type of gritty, bodies on the line victory that many thought they were incapable of producing. Credit must go to the players, many of whom Adams admitted wouldn’t have played during normal circumstances, for grinding out three points.
I don’t think anyone is in denial that performance wise, City must go up several gears from today if they are to achieve anything this season. But given the circumstances, it was three points at any cost, irrespective of performance. It was vital to start the year with a win, in a year that City’s new year resolution must be to produce many more of them.
Today was a good start, but unlike our personal resolutions such as quitting smoking, eating less chocolate or getting fit, winning games of football is something this football club cannot give up on or let drift by after a few weeks.
Categories: Match Reviews