Ugly, but effective

Walsall 1
Miller 57
Bradford City 2
Daly 37, Cook 88 (pen)

By Adam Raj

Walsall boss Matt Taylor must be scratching his head at how his side has lost this game. I’m still scratching my head as to how we won it.

When Derek Adams was appointed back in the summer, tonight’s performance was the very type of performance I expected to see more often than not. Think back to November 2017 when Adams brought his Plymouth Argyle side to Valley Parade, his side were dominated from start to finish but rode their luck and stole three points. City’s own performance at the Banks’ stadium was very much the same. Perhaps we should’ve known what was in store as soon as Niall Canavan won the toss and chose to change ends.

Things could have been very different, however, if former Bantam George Miller could sort his feet out when he’s six yards from goal. The Barnsley loanee looked nailed on to score, in the third minute, after he found himself in acres of space and the goal at his mercy. Instead, he took a swing and a miss, as the ball hit his standing leg and was cleared to safety. It was a major let off for City, who started the game ponderously, whilst the hosts seemed to be bang up for it in a bid to rectify their own poor run of form.

But minutes later, City could’ve been in front themselves. Jamie Walker rolled in Liam Ridehalgh who struck a fierce first time shot across goal. His effort was saved by Carl Rushworth and the keeper did well to save the rebound from Alex Gilliead.

But it was then City’s turn to be indebted to their man between the sticks. Debutant Alex Bass already looks like some catch. His fingertip save from Joss Labadie’s strike was spectacular in itself, but the Portsmouth loanee’s save on the stroke of half-time was out of this world.

Sandwiched in between those saves, another January acquisition made his mark. More good work from Ridehalgh saw his deflected cross fall to Matty Daly, whose side foot finish deflected off Jack Earing and loop in over Rushworth. The finish may have been fortunate, but Daly’s intelligence to jink in then out of the box saw him create the space he needed to get a shot away.

It was largely another difficult night for the Huddersfield loanee, who struggled to get involved in the game. But that can be said of all four attackers, in what was far from an attacking performance.

Back at the other end and Bass had his entry for save of the season. Haydn White’s diagonal was headed back across goal by debutant Donervon Daniels and into the path of Conor Wilkinson for what looked like an easy tap in. But Bass leapt like a salmon to miraculously block the Walsall number nine’s header from two yards out. Without doubt, City had their keeper to thank for going in ahead at half time.

But there was nothing that the debutant could do about the hosts’ equaliser. Twelve minutes into the second half and Walker’s rash challenge resulted in a free kick for the Saddlers. The initial cross was cleared as far as left back Zak Mills who volleyed towards goal, from the edge of the area. His strike was going harmlessly wide until it deflected off Miller and nestled into the far corner of the goal, leaving Bass wrong footed.

It was a blow to concede so early into the second period, but nothing less than Walsall had deserved on the balance of play.

But for all their possession, the hosts couldn’t use the momentum from their equaliser to create another clear cut chance, certainly not on the level of those in the first half. Walsall were camped inside the City half and the Bantams were chasing shadows at times but City managed to limit the Saddlers to long range efforts, aside from one Wilkinson header than trickled past the far post.

As City looked to be heading for a 13th league draw of the season, a moment of madness from Walsall defender Mills handed the Bantams the victory, three minutes from time. Callum Cooke’s free kick seemed to cause chaos in the penalty area as the referee blew his whistle. Nobody seemed to know what for, the City players didn’t appear too animated and the referee looked like he was pointing for a goal kick.

As the players from both sides took up position on the edge of the box, the whole ground realised City had been awarded a penalty and the delayed celebrations in the away end ensued. Looking at the replays, Mills must have forgotten that he was an outfield player, as he dived and saved (literally) the ball from reaching Canavan at the back post. It was a fantastic spot from the referee.

Andy Cook was first to grab the ball and slammed it down the middle, past the diving Rushworth. Absolute chaos erupted in the away end, with bodies flying everywhere. You really can’t beat a late winner away from home.

City managed to negotiate the final three minutes plus injury time without any major drama and secure a rather fortuitous win.

It was far from a vintage performance this evening and it was probably unnecessarily more negative and ugly than it needed to be. City didn’t look like they had come to the Midlands to play football tonight, rather they came to scrap and frustrate and credit where credit’s due, they did it very well.

It’s hard to argue that similar performances would yield the same result as tonight. After all, if it wasn’t for a horror miss, a wonder save and a moment of madness, Walsall would’ve come away with at least a point and City could not have complained.

No doubt, City must improve. Their ball retention was really poor and the lack of attacking intent was worrying at times. It wasn’t a performance that ranked particularly high on the entertainment spectrum either.

But it’s a win, a win on the road and we’ve not had too many of them to celebrate this season.

Categories: Match Reviews

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8 replies

  1. Well a win is always welcome.

    Prior to last night City were placed at 6th out of all 72 EFL clubs in terms of fewest defeats.

    So whilst we tend to focus on the poor displays and lack of wins we also need to recognise how opponents may see us and that is clearly as “difficult to beat “
    Yes we need to find some sort of attacking fluency, but let’s be thankful we do seem to have some collective grit that sees us fighting for results where teams from recent previous seasons would have seen us fold quickly after the first goal.

  2. Personally, I only ever analyse draws and defeats. I just enjoy wins. Great result. End of.

  3. Turning Bantam draws into wins…
    …we like that.

    Now let’s move onto back to back wins…. C’mon City !!


  4. With Forest Green, Harrogate and others to face the biggest question after a recent improvement in results, is do we have it within us to lift it?
    The results rather than the performances have lifted us to a place where a run.of consistency would at least get us in to the play offs.
    Then we would have to combine performances with results.
    Do we have it in this team?

  5. We find ourselves in a similar position as last year. T & S had done a great job in easing relegation fears but seemed unable to shake off the shackles, roll the dice, and have a real go – despite the fact they had a free pass to do so.

    Seems to me that Derek faces the same crossroads.

    Will he set the team up to attack in the next couple of games to try and win a playoff place or will he continue with a safety first approach to position us to do that later at the death should teams above us fall away? Or will he ignore the play offs, have an eye on next season and just concentrate on getting the players to buy into his methods and getting the mentality right for the remainder of the season.

    We’ll see in the coming weeks I guess, and there’s a lot riding on it, especially in terms of supporter sentiment and season ticket renewals. Ending on some sort of high would be great.

  6. Baffled though I often am by Derek Adams’ squad selections, I do agree with his analysis that a number (maybe 4-6?) of our autumn performances that we drew deserved to be wins…so to me last night was the laws of probability evening out.

    It is a worry though that we seem to have largely lost our early season fluency & confidence. What will it take to get that back…surely the current tracking form should lift the team to achieve that?

  7. What puzzles me is Adams team selection. In the last few fixtures Sutton (best player we have imo), finds himself on the bench. There is clearly a problem in midfield so why doesn’t he start? Distribution last night was not good. Cook found himself isolated without the support of wingers. It was the same before Angol got injured. He too was isolated up front.
    The win last night was very welcome but hardly deserved. The balance of the team does not seem right. We give the ball away for fun. The football is dire and frustrating to watch. I only hope that confidence will return and the new signings settle in. It would be nice to watch city in a comfortable position and 2 or 3 nil up. Currently, watching city is a very stressful pastime.

    • Agreed totally. Listened to commentary with Gary Jones repeating the Carlisle commentary saying we aren’t close enough to them , Zero press and letting them run the midfield, that along with the consistency of “ …… gives the ball away again” is just beyond shocking to hear, the same nonsense week after week. For the first time in years and years I couldnt listen to it as it was annoying me and stressing me out so I checked the score on app every 10-15 mins only to be shocked at 89 mins!! I will dig out Threkeld this week he is clearly struggling and probs wants a breather himself. not only am I tired of his distribution but it is clearly now his own teammates that are – Songo for the second game running giving him a load of stick on the pitch. What an earth do the other players think when a player who is approx 5/10 every week keeps getting a game? We won’t get into the play offs not a chance when DA insists on this shocking decision around a few of his almost ever presents. You are only as strong as weakest link. We have 2/3 that will bite us on the arse. By the way Liburd was a bit random at times to say the least but he had some magic in him every now and then and never a dull moment watching him stride forward with his locks flowing! Please give Foulds a few games DA at least to give OT a break ….and is all!

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