|Forest Green Rovers 0|
|Bradford City 2|
|Cooke 64, Cook 90+5|
Written by Adam Raj (images by John Dewhirst)
Well, how good does that feel? I’ve almost forgotten what it feels like to win.
After a wretched five game long losing spree, Mark Hughes grabbed his first three points as Bradford City manager in arguably his hardest fixture to date. Robbed of at least a point in last week’s late defeat, City came out this afternoon in determined fashion to pick up a result that matched the much improved performances so far under the Welshman.
It would’ve been easy for City to approach the game at The New Lawn conservatively, given the respective league positions of the two sides. One would suspect that if Derek Adams had still been in charge, that’s exactly what would have happened. Refreshingly, City attempted to take the game to their hosts. Some neat passing play, a good, disciplined structure and plenty of energy off the ball saw City pose a much sterner test than Forest Green maybe expected.
Despite the diamond formation working so well last week, Hughes opted for a 4-3-3 shape this afternoon, with Dion Pereira handed his first start and first minutes in a Bradford City shirt.
Caolan Lavery can feel unlucky to have been dropped after his promising performance last week, but a return to a shape with width to provide support for full backs Luke Hendrie and Matty Foulds was understandable given the creativity provided by Rovers’ wing-backs Kane Wilson and Nicky Cadden.
It was a difficult afternoon for Pereira. The winger had some promising moments and demonstrated glimpses of his ability, but he did struggle with the pace of the game and looked well short of full fitness and sharpness. Managing to get 60 minutes under his belt will hopefully see him be able to play more of a role in the coming weeks.
It wasn’t a dominant performance by the Bantams by any means. The hosts had their fair share of opportunities, but City demonstrated a desire and commitment to keep the ball out of the back of the net that has been missing for too long.
The first half saw Hendrie clear off the line twice from corners that were met first by a Rovers’ head whilst Cadden and Dan Sweeney wasted good opportunities by firing wide of Alex Bass’ goal.
City didn’t create an awful lot in response, with Gareth Evans and Andy Cook seeing shots blocked from just inside the area after some neat build up play being the closest to troubling the home goal.
As half time arrived, you wondered if it was going to be another hard luck story – promising play with little cutting edge and quality where it mattered.
But City stuck at it. They continued to compete well, continued to have their fair share of possession against a decent footballing side and started to create more opportunities, in turn working Luke McGee in the Rovers’ goal.
And City’s persistence finally paid off. A sweeping move that featured Hendrie, Cook, Evans, Foulds and substitute Levi Sutton saw City’s left back whip in a tricky cross that was half cleared by Sweeney only as far as Callum Cooke on the edge of the box. The City midfielder took one touch before volleying past McGee with the aid of a slight deflection.
The test now for City was to ride out the inevitable barrage that Rovers would throw their way, especially after conceding so quickly after scoring last week against Swindon. But their task was made easier 12 minutes later as Udoka Godwin-Malife received his second yellow in the space of ten minutes for a high boot on Jamie Walker.
A man disadvantage didn’t seem to deter the hosts’ gung-ho approach as they continued to push men forward in search of the equaliser.
But City stood firm. Bass produced a great save from a stinging Cadden effort whilst Yann Songo’o produced similarly important last ditch blocks. The sight of Paudie O’Connor dragging Songo’o back to his feet after the Frenchman’s latest block left him struggling, epitomised the dedication and commitment on show from the men in white. They deserved their clean sheet.
And the game itself was wrapped up in stoppage time. McGee had gone forward for the game’s last corner, but Walker cleared up field for Cook to burst clear of the chasing Wilson, take a touch and roll into an open net. The relief on Cook’s face was patently evident as he leapt into the sea of City supporters on the terrace. The strikers first goal in ten games clearly meant the world to a player who has the weight of his side’s goal scoring responsibility firmly resting on his shoulders.
City were certainly good value for the three points in Gloucestershire. Their general performance was much more positive and complete than I expected and their desire and commitment to fight for the result was refreshing. Mark Hughes has undoubtedly got the City fan base believing again, during times where many were staying away.
But what is most noticeable is that the players are clearly buying into what he’s trying to implement. They seem to believe in what they’re being asked to do and it’s evident in their performances for the first time since August.
Long may it continue.
Categories: Match Reviews