|Harrogate Town 2|
|Bradford City 0|
By Adam Raj
Hark back to the 2014/15 season, on FA Cup fourth round weekend, Bradford City were creating history by triumphing at soon to be Premier League champions Chelsea. In contrast, Harrogate Town were away at Solihull Moors in the National League North. Stamford Bridge v Damson Park, quite the difference.
Fast forward seven years and on FA Cup fourth round weekend in 2022, the North Yorkshire side were handing out a routine fourth division defeat for the Bantams. I say routine, as today’s defeat was City’s third successive loss against Simon Weaver’s men in the basement division. The club who City used to send the reserves to for a pre-season friendly have put five past City in those three games, with the Bantams only managing a solitary goal.
Witnessing how easily the Railway men brushed City aside this afternoon, should serve as a stark reminder and embarrassment at how far City have fallen in that period.
Still, Derek Adams at least seemed to go into the game with the right frame of mind – “we have to get the three points” were his words pre match. Whilst I have questioned Adams on his general approach to games, even he knew that pretty much every game at this point is a must win, if we are to keep up those fanciful hope of promotion.
But to most of us, those hopes are long extinguished.
Adams proudly gleaned “the shackles are coming off” in his interview with club media midweek. Quite why those shackles were on in the first place is anyone’s guess. It’s not like they have done us any good so far is it? But, on the surface, at least, Adams seemed to be keeping to his word as the team news rolled in. Veering away from his favoured one striker formation, Adams brought Tom Elliott into the side to partner Andy Cook. As a trade-off, five defenders were named, with Liam Ridehalgh returning to the side.
For the first half at least, City played moderately well. They certainly played the conditions better than their hosts and managed to look slightly more potent than can be said of recent weeks. Elliott went close as his attempted lob was smothered by keeper Mark Oxley, whilst the former Southend United stopper made a good save to keep out Jamie Walker.
In comparison, the hosts were relatively subdued as City ended the half with five shots on target compared to the zero for Town. It was certainly an improvement, even if it wasn’t particularly attractive. But as has been the story of the season, a failure to convert promising opportunities is arguably this side’s biggest downfall. It should not really be a surprise however, as that sort of issue is to be expected when you have four non scoring strikers at the club.
Aside from a brief flutter of corners and a Cook header that was well saved in the opening stages of the second period, City produced a performance that came as no surprise. 17 minutes after the restart and Sunderland loanee Jack Diamond’s low cross deflected off Oscar Threlkeld, over Alex Bass and into the back of the net.
Irrespective of the fortuitous deflection, the defending by Threlkeld was so poor. He never once got tight to Diamond and despite being inside the 18 yard box, he still stood a good five yards off the winger, allowing him to get enough power behind the cross to ensure any block was far from clean. Given Adams’ public criticism for Finn Cousin-Dawson’s poor defending last week, I wonder if the City manager will afford Threlkeld the same treatment tonight? I think we all know the answer to that one.
And as sure as night follows day, Harrogate went on to double their lead shortly after. Ten minutes after contributing to the opener, Diamond picked up the ball just inside the City half. He drove towards goal unchallenged and struck from just outside the area into the bottom corner.
City had capitulated in the second half. Again. Answers on a postcard for what Adams says during the interval each week, because to be a complete contrast of the side you were in the first half is some achievement.
In the midst of the goals flying in, Nathan Delfouneso same on to replace the ineffective Elliott for his City debut. Theo Robinson also came on for Callum Cooke, but the most surprising change saw Cook replaced by Alex Gilliead. To take off the only goalscorer in the squad for arguably the most ineffective attacker at the club is puzzling, especially when you’re two nil down in a must win game. Adams had chucked the towel in and with that change, the away end began to empty.
Harrogate managed to see the game out with little fuss and with that came the obvious and expected dissent towards Adams. Even he couldn’t ignore it today as he walked straight past the City fans to get down the tunnel.
His post-match interview on BBC Radio Leeds was quite the listen. Not quite the emotional struggles that we heard from Stuart McCall last season, but Adams is certainly a man who is feeling the pressure.
I don’t imagine Ryan Sparks would have been impressed with Adams’ not so subtle digs at the club as well as the fans. Words to the effect of “the club would be immature to sack me” do absolutely nothing to build bridges with a fanbase who have largely run out of patience with the Scot. It also creates a potentially interesting phone call between manager and CEO this evening after the former has just called out the latter as well as Stefan Rupp on local radio.
And this is the dilemma facing the club, in particular Sparks. The gamble with appointing a manger like Adams is that the results have to be consistently good, because if they’re not, then patience dissipates very quickly, even with those who are averse to managerial changes. Aside from the opening month of the season, which I think we can safely say is the exception to the rule, the football quality is dire and entertainment value is next to nil.
Can we honestly say that any player has improved since Adams’ arrival in the summer? At best, I can only mention Charles Vernam. But that is more than likely to do with playing on his favoured left side, a position he rarely played under Mark Trueman and Connor Sellars.
Along with Adams’ style of football, this is another piece of evidence to go against the ‘we have to give him time’ approach. In order for fans to be willing to be patient, there has to be a satisfactory level of entertainment as well as improvement. It is safe to say, Adams is failing on both counts.
As a person, Adams seems to have a ‘you’re lucky to have me’ ego which comes across every time he talks to the media. Simon “I’m a Championship manager” Grayson showed that that attitude doesn’t wash with us. Bradford City is not lucky to have any manager, it is a privilege to manage this club and Adams would do well to remember that.
And that is arguably the biggest problem for the City hierarchy. City fans have not warmed to Adams whatsoever and don’t like Derek Adams the man enough to afford time to Derek Adams the manager.
Prior to today’s encounter, Adams stated that now is “go time” for City’s promotion push and after today’s result, many City fans are left repeating that very same comment. But they’re not repeating it in unison with Adams, they’re repeating it at him instead.
Categories: Match Reviews