|Carlisle United 2|
|Gibson 45, Patrick 87|
|Bradford City 0|
Written by Adam Raj (images John Dewhirst)
Cast your minds back to Boxing Day 2019, where Gary Bowyer, in typical fashion, served up a dire 0-0 result at Brunton Park. It was a cold winter’s afternoon, Bradford City were backed with a large travelling support, despite a season that had brought about underachievement and frustrations with those in the dugout and in the boardroom.
Fast forward 25 months and today’s trip to Cumbria feels like deja vu. Zero goals, zero shots on target, a defeat and 14th place in League Two. It doesn’t make for encouraging reading does it? Last week’s performance against Barrow wasn’t particularly great, but City showed grit and determination to win the game in testing circumstances – characteristics you can applaud.
But today, the 1,200+ travelling faithful didn’t even get that. The bare minimum City fans expect, or fans of any club for that matter, is hard work, determination and pride for the shirt. If the players cannot produce what should be a prerequisite of any City player, then we have a bigger problem than we thought.
Last week, I commented how a New Year’s Day victory posed promising signs for a new version of Bradford City in 2022. Today, it was very much a case of the same old Bradford City that we have come to expect over the last five years of regression and failure.
What started off as a relatively bright performance, rather typically descended into a comfortable afternoon for the hosts. Oscar Threlkeld should’ve scored within the opening minutes after Lee Angol squared 10 yards from goal, but the right back decided to shoot with the outside of his right foot and blazed over the crossbar. Yann Songo’o then had a goal ruled out for a ‘foul’ on the Carlisle keeper Mark Howard, which looked particularly soft. Although it may have been disallowed for offside.
Aside from that, both sides looked like the goal-shy sides that they are. A lot of neat build up play but then the inevitable breakdown in the final third. For City, matters were complicated when Andy Cook had to be replaced after only 29 minutes due to a dead leg. You could sense the enthusiasm dissipate out of the away end as the City number nine hobbled down the tunnel. There is no replacement for Cook, there is nobody who can step in no fill his boots or challenge him for a starting spot. At least one striker needs to arrive at Valley Parade and quick.
I suppose it was inevitable that a side riddled with former Bantams would have at least one on the scoresheet. On the stroke of half-time it was Jordan Gibson who decided to get one up on his old side. He was afforded too much time and space just inside the box before unleashing a fantastic curling effort past Sam Hornby to give the hosts the lead. Whilst the finish was unstoppable, the fact Gibson was even in that position in the first place was symptomatic of City’s off the ball approach under Adams.
The 30 seconds preceding the goal was very much a case of Carlisle patiently driving the ball forwards and interchanging short, sharp passes without a sniff of a City challenge. The line of engagement is far too low.
What I mean by that is City are too passive in their defending. They don’t attempt to make a challenge high up the pitch, instead preferring to drop off and back off and fall deeper and deeper. The end result is exactly what you see for the opening goal today. Eventually, if you allow a side to pass it around your back line and midfield in the final third, without applying any pressure or making a tackle, then they’re going to punish you.
From an attacking perspective, City were just as hopeless. The front line is simply too static and offer no option to the man in possession. On one occasion in the first half, Elliot Watt had possession midway inside the Carlisle half and Cook, Gilliead and Angol were virtually on top of each other. Watt had no options and had to go backwards. The groans from the crowd were aimed at Watt, but when he needed his teammates to show for him, they were hiding behind one another.
Watt is seemingly a player who divides opinion amongst the fan base. He copped a lot of stick for his performance today, and whilst he was poor, it seems as if he’s becoming a bit of a scapegoat. His midfield partner Songo’o has been just as poor, if not worse, since he arrived at the club and it’s somewhat unfair and inaccurate to single out Watt for the current midfield’s failings.
Songo’o received cult hero status when his much anticipated signing was confirmed in the summer, seen as City’s and Adams’ major piece of business. That popularity has maybe clouded some fans’ judgement as his performances haven’t received the same amount of scrutiny, but in reality he’s been distinctly underwhelming.
Whilst Songo’o was a high profile arrival, it’s fair to say Fiacre Kelleher’s signing was met with confusion and scepticism. The defender was released by National League Wrexham yet managed to secure a two year contract in a division higher with a club who had supposed aspirations of promotion to the third tier.
Three minutes from time, Kelleher displayed why he was deemed surplus to requirements by the ambitious Welsh side. Another former Bantam, Omari Patrick, won his 50/50 duel with the Irishman, left him on his backside in a foot race and raced through to slot past Sam Hornby.
Patrick, along with Gibson and Kelvin Mellor then ran the length of the half to celebrate in front of the City fans. It’s a shame they didn’t show that level of effort or quality when they were wearing Claret and Amber. But it’s more past employees of Bradford City who go on to be successful elsewhere and then laugh in our faces whilst we’re still at rock bottom. I for one am sick and tired of it.
If it wasn’t already, that was game over. City wouldn’t have scored if they were still playing and Carlisle had gone home.
The scenes at full time were unsavoury. The players (at least those who had the bottle to approach the away end) were met with chants of “you’re not fit to wear the shirt”. I hope you’re listening Ryan.
*If* City thought they could relax somewhat in the transfer market after last week’s victory, today’s result and performance should be a stark reminder that this squad needs serious work.
And much like that day for Gary Bowyer, Adams received his fair share of criticism. The much used “Gary Bowyer, your football is ****” chant was replicated, this time directed at Adams. I hope you’re listening too Derek.
Although, in typical fashion, Adams showed no appreciation for or acknowledgement towards the travelling fans and headed straight down the tunnel. The City boss isn’t helping to endear himself to the City faithful and it is perfectly understandable that some still feel frosty towards him. And that’s before you discuss his ability as the manager of this football club.
The cold truth is that we’re a side who lacks quality, quantity and character. Of the back four and goalkeeper that started today, only two are good enough. Those two being Paudie O’Connor and Liam Ridehalgh. The fact that when Threlkeld went off injured, Adams favoured left back Matty Foulds over Finn Cousin-Dawson tells you what you need to know with that situation. As well as a striker, right back absolutely has to be second on the shopping list.
We have a central midfield who are incapable of dictating a game, wingers who don’t produce enough goal contributions, a strike force where only two members are good enough but are injury prone and next to no options to change a game from the bench.
But whilst we’re in January, there’s not a lot more you can discuss and dissect. You can only hope the club are capable of recruiting three or four players of real quality. Not squad players, players who walk into the starting eleven. Because at the end of the day, it is fine margins. As bad as City were today, Carlisle weren’t any great shakes and a better side would have won that game at a canter. We can only hope that come February 1st, City are in such a position.
Categories: Match Reviews