|Bradford City 0|
|Exeter City 1|
By Jason McKeown
Derek Adams isn’t working. After this dismal loss to Exeter – a third defeat in five games – Valley Parade turned on the Bradford City manager, deriding his style of football and angrily demanding his sacking.
It is unusual for Bradford City supporters to openly chant that a manager should leave, especially at a home game. It cannot be dismissed as faceless social media fury. Dissatisfaction was expressed very publicly, and very loudly. It’s reached a level where it’s difficult to imagine how the situation can be salvaged – and where any kind of happy ending for Adams and Bradford City could be possible.
It was the manner of the defeat that will send shockwaves around the club. This was a 1-0 mauling, with an impressive Exeter City dominating the match and looking a cut above their opponents. You couldn’t really look at any Bradford City player and accuse them of not trying, they just couldn’t get near their counterparts who combined a regimented backline with an attack full of purpose and creativity.
Over the 90 minutes Exeter would out-pass their hosts and comfortably win the shot and corner count. They struck the decisive blow just before half time, when Kieran Phillips nipped in behind the Bantams’ defence and lifted the ball past the onrushing Alex Bass. The visitors’ biggest regret is they wasted several good opportunities to make the outcome more certain. Still, the final score of 1-0 flattered only Bradford City.
Adams just cannot find any momentum. In City’s position of chasing a play off spot they desperately need to go on a run, and Tuesday night’s victory at Stevenage offered a springboard for a belated charge up the table. But after this body blow, they still haven’t won back to back games since August. And the positives gleaned from the midweek win are in tatters.
Adams had gone with a 4-3-3 then and it worked – so understandably kept with the same approach here. When Bradford City put their opponents under heavy pressure in the first five minutes, it briefly looked like they really did have a way forward. Kicking to the Kop and with strong wind seemingly swirling in their favour, the Bantams were direct and it helped them press Exeter back.
It didn’t last. Minute by minute, Exeter got a foothold. They slowed the tempo to the point they began to control it, and they never looked back. They were quick on the counter attack and their forward players linked up well. City were chasing shadows at times.
Levi Sutton did have one good first half opening when Nathan Delfuenso sent a low pass into his path and he struck a powerful shot that flew just wide. But the chances and final third action were largely coming at the other end. Phillips eventually scored, and Bass made a big save to deny them a second just before the half time whistle sounded.
Any hope for a strong City second half response quickly faded. Another decent Sutton shot from distance aside, they couldn’t lay a glove on their opponents. Yann Songo’o made a brilliant last ditch block after the excellent Jevani Brown had gone through on goal and rounded Bass. The City stopper made another superb save from a corner. And late on Brown missed a sitter after good build up play saw a low cross directed into his path.
“Exeter, especially in the second half were better on the ball,” admitted Adams. “They were more composed, they made better choices than we did and that was throughout the afternoon.”
From City there was little beyond a Tom Elliott header cleared off the line. Elliott and Theo Robinson had been introduced from the bench on 64 minutes – the withdrawal of Jamie Walker sparking the first vocal anger from the crowd towards Adams – but rather than giving City the initiative, the double change seemed to make them weaker. Callum Cooke – unjustly left out again – came onto the field far too late.
Adams later revealed Walker was taken off due to fitness issues, and added about the crowd’s reaction, “It’s difficult when you make a substitution. Supporters then slaughter you for making that substitution but don’t understand why that substitution was made.”
There was just no rhythm or cohesion to City’s attack. They couldn’t get the ball to Cook in areas where he could hurt Exeter. Everything was too narrow. The full backs Luke Hendrie and Matty Foulds let no one down but needed more support when they went forward. There just isn’t enough width in the team – and given City were getting no joy in the central attacking areas, it left them looking toothless. At no stage in the second half was there any sustained home pressure that suggested a goal might be on the way.
When they have failed to win in the past, Adams has so often argued that his team dominated games and deserved greater rewards. That the only thing holding them back was missed opportunities. There was no chance he could make any such claim here. The simple fact is his team was completely outplayed and he had no answer.
All of which removed any lingering illusions that City are somehow unlucky to not be in the top seven. The difference in quality between the two sides showed just how far off the Bantams really are. And it means they now find themselves eight points behind the play off pack, with all but three of the 10 sides above them having at least one game in hand. And this for a club and manager who had embraced the pre-season crown of League Two favourites.
If Adams harboured any hopes of keeping supporters on his side, he didn’t show it in a frankly embarrassing post match interview with BBC Radio Leeds. “If they’re going to get a new manager in, they’re not going to get as successful a manager as myself through the door,” he told the excellent Jamie Raynor. “If they want to do that, that’s up to the football club to do that.
“I came to Bradford City from a League One club to a League Two club to try and get them in League One. I’ve taken a risk coming to this football club. You’ve got to understand when a football club has been down on its luck for years, it’s a difficult thing to turn quickly.”
Adams was then critical of the reaction of fans, “When supporters, some of them, act the way they do, they’ve got to be careful that they don’t be [long pause]. The word is [pause], I don’t know what the word is but some supporters are not extremely nice and they’ve got to be very careful.
“You’ve got to understand that feelings and being disruptive and using language the way they [did], they’ve got to be careful and I think that from my point of view, we’re here to try and make Bradford City successful.”
The uncomfortable truth is that Derek Adams is not the right person to manage Bradford City. For all the talk of stability, of the three year deal suggesting City were prepared to let him build something, everything was set up in the short termism that the Bantams had to get promoted this season, and anything short of a top seven finish is failure. Adams embraced that expectation and so can have few complaints when he is criticised for not delivering what he vowed to achieve.
But this is not just another sad story of a Bradford City manager struggling to live up to lofty expectations. Adams is a guy who has made no attempt to form a bond with supporters. He plays a style of football that is grim to watch even in victory, and therefore offers no positive qualities for fans to take consolation from in defeat. It is absolutely boring and joyless to watch.
Derek Adams has a great track record in football, but has offered us supporters nothing that would enable us to warm towards him. He is aloof, arrogant and difficult to like. And it now feels like a matter of when, not if, he puts the club in a position where it has no option other than to sack him.
In fact, we may have already reached that moment. A big week of soul searching is surely facing the powers that be at Bradford City.
Categories: Match Reviews