New year, new City?

Barrow 1
Gordon 52
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

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13 replies

  1. Thank you for being so quick and for writing such a good report. It means a lot to people like me who have to sit at home and fret at home whilst watching twitter etc.
    I just think it was a great win with a squad not fully fit.
    As a matter of interest I have watched highlights. Can you please tell me why there was such a low cap on numbers of city fans when the area next to them seemed half empty?
    Don’t clubs want revenue from spectators or am I missing something?

    • My guess is that when Barrow gained promotion back to the FL the club had expected much higher crowds given the achievement of regaining membership after nearly 50 years. Likewise, given the location of the town it was a fair bet that few other clubs would be bringing as many fans as City. I also suspect that scope to flex the accommodation for away supporters was rejected by the police given the reputation of the home fans (ie witness the heavy police presence at Holker Street after the finish).

      The attendance of 3,463 yesterday was the highest for a league fixture this season and with average home support of less than 3k it looks like Barrow will have the same struggle for survival that it faced prior to losing League membership in 1972.

  2. I don’t want to start an anti Hornby thread but the disallowed goal seemed to be another example of what Odonnell was consistently slated for. Hornby gifted Sutton their second goal in the last match and now as you put it he “spilt a cross into the back of the net”. Many fans hammered odonnell for less than this.
    In my opinion City have an excellent keeper in odonnell and an excellent back up who soon (next season?) will step up to first choice. Criticism of odonnell this season has been unfair and at times hysterical.

    • They are both pretty standard keepers at L2 level.
      As such they will make mistakes and will make saves.
      Like every other position if they showed a level of consistency they would be playing at an higher level The days of Downsborough, Liney, Robert’s, Smith, McManus, and Tomlinson are gone.

    • I don’t think there is much difference between the two keepers both have their stronger points. I think one of O’Donnells weaknesses is his reluctance to command his area any further than the goal mouth. Hornby seems to be much more ready to make runs to sweep up or narrow the angle by closing down the striker and I think he deserves a run to see if over 10+ games he can deliver to a higher standard than expected. He has sat patiently enough seating his chance and we need to see what he has got. Admittedly if OD was in outstanding firm he wouldnt get that chance, but he isn’t so it’s a moot point.

  3. Hearty well done to the team to grind a result out this afternoon. Not a pretty performance, but the result matters more. I’m not sure how many players are suffering from after effects of covid, but research shows it can be a long recovery to shake it off in athletes and sportsmen/women. I wouldn’t regard O’Donnell as an excellent keeper, just bang average. I also think that Hornby isn’t any better, so of course the answer maybe to target a better option in the transfer window, along with the other positions that need strengthening. As I wrote here last week, this window is crucial to our future and determines weather the club and owner has the willingness to move us forward and back Derek Adams with a sizeable backing or we stagnate further, signing the Kurtis Guthrie’s and Rumarn Burrell’s of this world. We need players much better than we have at the moment in quite a number of positions to finish this season strongly and to build with over the summer for next season. I wait in hope.

  4. I listened on Radio Leeds, and by the final whistle I was as exhausted as the players. We are still in the habit of giving balls away, and lacking concentration when it matters. But the players need to be congratulated for coming away with a victory, after a difficult few weeks. It hasn’t been easy for them, but its the boost they need, and can act to give them much needed confidence for the rest of the season. There’s still plenty of games left, and the opportunity to move up the table. Best wishes to everyone.

    • Signing a right back should not be as difficult or as expensive as a goal-scoring forward and midfielder. We need one as a matter of urgency.

  5. For a squad that had been hit by Covid that was a good result and the best start to the new year in terms of building confidence.
    At half-time the water sprinklers were used to spray the half of the pitch that City would be attacking into in the second period, undoubtedly a tactic to impact on our front runners and drain their stamina. Barrow had been vulnerable to counter attacks and this was clearly an issue for the home side. That said, it didn’t stop the second goal but definitely made things harder for tired legs.

    • I don’t doubt you John. But surely something like that is against the rules.
      You cannot be allowed to change the nature of the pitch during a game.
      Can you?

      • City have often watered the pitch at half time, I doubt there’s any rule against it. Was it Graham Taylor or one of his imitators like John Beck who insisted on the grass being left longer on the wings so the diagonal hoofs would hold up?

  6. Hi John, There is nothing within the EFL competition rules to say that you can’t water the pitch before the match or at halftime. It’s perfectly allowable. So long as the pitch is within the parameters laid down in the rules., and that the pitch is the same measurement currently given to the EFL for the season. ( You have to have dispensation to change it mid-season etc) Some clubs leave the grass longer in certain areas to suit their playing style, also not against the rules, so long as the pitch is deemed playable by the match officials. Remember that Phil Parkinson used to have the pitch watered after 1430 on some matchdays. John Beck, Dave Bassett, etc all used to do this type of thing, some managers like it watered to make the ball zip off the surface to aid a quick passing game, like Pep Guardiola. The pitchside also has to have a minimum run off, and be free of obstruction, such as advert hoardings, to enable corners and throw ins to be taken properly, and prevent injury to players. This info is from a relative who works for the EFL in a director capacity. ( I know the lady who measures the pitches, dressing rooms and lord knows what other technical stuff to make sure clubs are compliant with the rules as well) Hope this clears it up for you.

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