Dismal defeat underlines the urgency for Bradford City to build a strong squad this summer

Colchester United 3
Kenlock 16, Sarpong-Wiredu 32, Sears 75
Bradford City 0

By Tim Penfold

They say you learn more from a defeat than a victory, and Mark Hughes will have learned a lot today. Unfortunately, what he will have learned is that quite a few of his fringe players are not really fit for purpose.

Hughes rang the changes after City’s outstanding display on Friday, resting and rotating after the sheer amount of running that the side put in. There were six changes – two enforced as Elliot Watt was suspended and Liam Ridehalgh absent after the birth of his child, but the likes of Gareth Evans, Caolan Lavery and Oscar Threlkeld got rare starts in a 4-2-3-1 system.

The game started slowly, with City having plenty of possession but doing very little with it. Without Watt coming to pick the ball up off the back four and move it forwards, the ball went from centre back to Threlkeld, to centre back, to Evans, to centre back – it never went further forward than that.

When Colchester did get the ball, they threatened in behind City’s full backs but their final ball let them down until suddenly it didn’t. City were slow at a throw in, the ball got hooked across the box and every City defender was dragged under the ball. It came to home left-back Myles Kenlock, who had all the time in the world to control it and fire it into the far corner. In fact, he probably had time to do a couple of keepie-uppies, grab a quick cup of tea and read a book, such was the lack of pressure from Threlkeld, whose eventual attempted block managed to simultaneously obstruct the keeper’s view of the shot while not actually managing to protect any of the goal.

The situation didn’t really change much following the goal. City had a lot of the ball around the back line, but did absolutely nothing with it. Evans lacked the vision of Watt, unable to find a bit of space, turn away from his man and move it forwards, but it was Threlkeld who really summed up City’s problems. He had 69 touches of the ball in the first half, but it was all sideways and backwards. The ball never went over the top, or to the feet of the winger, and only went to Callum Cooke when he got frustrated and dropped deep to get hold of it.

We could accept these struggles in possession from a full back if he was solid defensively – after all, Stephen Darby had his limitations going forward. But Threlkeld showed no qualities here either, and was badly at fault for the second goal. A set piece was floated in from deep, and centre back Tommy Smith had the freedom of the box to head the ball back across goal for it to be finished off. And who was it who had lost Smith completely as the free kick was taken? Yes, Threlkeld again.

Of all the disappointments of this season, Threlkeld has to be very near the top of the list. The worry is that he has another year on his deal, and who would take him off our hands?

It wasn’t solely Threlkeld that was the problem though. He was hooked at half time, and there was a reorganisation, with Levi Sutton going to right back and City switching to a diamond, but the sloppiness continued. Cooke moved deeper but there were still some issues with progressing the ball, and too many players made sloppy errors.

It was Bass, slicing a clearance out of play. It was Evans, getting caught in possession. It was Cook, not looking up and laying it off. It was O’Connor, letting his man slip past him and pulling him back for a silly booking. Mark Hughes must’ve wished he could substitute everyone.

In the end, it was Lee Angol who came on and sparked a bit of life in City’s play. He forced a good save from home keeper Shamal George after Levi Sutton had won the ball back and charged forwards, then fired the resulting corner over the bar, but despite this City seemed determined to shoot themselves in the foot. Evans got caught in possession, resulting in Freddie Sears dragging a shot wide when clean through, before O’Connor completely killed the game as a contest.

Noah Chilvers wasn’t really going anywhere – heading towards the corner flag, and the threat was minimal. But O’Connor decided to lunge into the tackle from behind, and picked up a particularly stupid second booking. No extenuating circumstances this time – just stupidity from the captain.

Fiacre Kelleher – another uninspiring fringe player – was summoned from the bench to fill the gap in defence, but the Bantams weren’t getting back into this. Eventually Colchester got a third, again robbing City in midfield before Sears slammed one home from outside the box, and that was that.

This display will have made the decisions on new contracts much easier in some cases. Evans’ brief revival is over, while Cooke has gone from being almost a certainty a month ago to being halfway out of the door. It’s clear that Elliot Watt is now vital to the way this team plays, and if we lose him in the summer then his replacement is the most important signing that Hughes will make. Only Lee Angol really boosted his chances today, and even he has question marks over his injuries.

Today just shows the size of the rebuild job awaiting the club in the summer. Ten years ago the team was in a similar set of circumstances – some promising players, and some who just weren’t good enough. In that summer we managed to get every single signing right, and it’ll take something like that to turn this team into true contenders.

Categories: Match Reviews

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13 replies

  1. Rupp has stared into the abyss twice and eventually made the right call. Once when he finally realised his mate Rahic had to go and once with the Jan signings last year. If he doesnt make a similar big investment next year it will be National League for us.
    Rupp out chants by October and a struggle to finish above barrow and Stevenage…?

  2. Plenty of teams succeed and get promoted without the massive investment from the chairman city fans think we need / deserve.
    Look at FGR
    We need a solid group of players without carrying injury prone players and last minute panic signings.

  3. Best result possible today, sorry to say it but MH needed to see from his own eyes just how poor some of our lower league journeyman are. I know this will get many a thumb down + Vat but if we are serious about moving on resetting our identity Paudie OC isn’t the answer as guaranteed starter to a promotion winning team. We need to be looking at players who aren’t scarred by the last 3+ years disgrace and/or those that can go up a level with us on a journey. He is lauded by many for his blood and thunder and ability to win free kicks etc but quite simply he has a lack of pace and can’t control himself when needed. He would get run ragged in div 1 and above – as would Watt to be fair. If we are considering building a team around these 2 then the last 2 games have hopefully revealed to MH to think again! We will debate for weeks and months over who to keep and sign etc but please note athleticism and professionalism are the 2 common factors in the teams that have rolled us over this season. EW and POC simply don’t have the legs we want them to have . On that note we surely must have fielded one of the least athletic 11s ever today!! Is it all over yet 😳

  4. Summed up excellently. I feel for the fans who travelled 100s of miles and those watching on Ifollow. It was as bad as you described. I gave up and went for a pint. At least Mark Hughes now knows who he’s keeping and who to get rid of. I agree that Watt and Angol needs to be kept.
    What disappointed me the most was the lack of interest shown by the City players. It was very disjointed affair. I will say this and I will be marked down. Mark Hughes needs to hold his hands up as well as those he gave the opportunity to perform. The supporters gave up time and expense to watch this game. They were badly let down. They expect to see players if fit to play. Not a practice type match.
    It’s wrong in my eyes.
    Those players added should now know what to expect. I cannot see them being given a second chance. End of rant.

    • Got to disagree CB about the MH comment. Mark picked a team of professional footballers who (in theory) were signed because they could play at this level.
      The fact that that they collectively failed to do so is down to our abysmal recruiting. We have barely 11 players at this club who have any ability and desire and some of those were missing today.
      At least the performance and result doesn’t hide the dross we have.
      As well as those out of contract we need to pay up the remaining contract on some of those who still have another season. Threlkeld is a prime example of someone draining a wage out of this club with absolutely nothing in return.
      We need to recruit smarter not just spend more money. The biggest signing maybe our new head of recruitment.

    • A mark down from me! Hughes indicated he would be making changes so no one should have been surprised that it would be a weaker team representing the club at Colchester.
      Despite seeing his players every day in training the best way to assess them is in a match situation so after a performance like that none of the replacements can say they weren’t given a chance to perform. If he didn’t know before then he certainly knows now that none of them should be included in his plans for next season.
      So 3 points lost but more clarity for next season’s promotion push.

      • Indeed. The season is over and we are looking forwards to the next season. Its unfortunate for the fans who travelled but a necessity for the club which will ultimately benefit those fans.

  5. One or two players have shown in glimpses over the season that they’ve the ability to perform at a decent level of L2 football ( Vernam at Mansfield for example).
    However I wouldn’t be too disappointed if all of the ‘players’ out of contract this summer were released.
    It’s a shame that the club still has to burden a mediocre lot still contracted to 2023 !

  6. I think the telling summation of the quality of our squad came from Felipe Morais after the stirring performance against Tranmere. His comments about having to show that level of commitment and skill week after week and not just in one-off games really hit home whilst watching Monday’s dross. Wracking my brain to think of anyone in this current squad who matches that required level.

    • We can blame whom we like for poor recruitment in the past but no manager willingly signs poor players. He tries to get the best he can for the money available. Unless Mark Hughes is allowed to spend good money to sign a top striker, the best we can hope for is he uses his contacts to bring in good loanees – but they can be unpredictable. We are hoping he can snatch a bargain in a crowded market. My fear is that the club will be over-reliant on the manager to pull strings to sign players. He needs backing. For once we have someone who can break the cycle of failure – but not without the resources. Let’s hope the ‘competive’ budget allows him to genuinely compete in the market.

  7. My comment is a variation on the same theme as all others. The idea (not suggested in this article or in comments above) that our team “have nothing to play for” really annoys me.
    Try the wages they get paid. Or pride in the shirt they wear. Or respect & commitment to the fans who paid hard earned income to watch 23 decent matches & have only seen 4 wins from 21 of them.
    I strongly believe in doing the best of the job in front of me, whether stacking the dishwasher or a major work project. I’ve tried to instill in my kids the same attitude; including the “Fergie time” approach to their football, to never stop trying until the final whistle, irrespective of the score line. To leave it all out on the field.
    I’ve lost patience with this whole squad, who can’t muster any consistency. We’ve had 2 decent managers who haven’t been able to get a consistent tune out of them. So I fully endorse all the other comments here about the need for a total re-build. No doubt there will be quite a few still here next season, but I wouldn’t die in a ditch to keep any of them.

  8. Adam Henley, a better player than our registered number 2, now plies his trade with Chorley, in the National League North. Just trying to put the problem in perspective.

  9. The sad thing is that end of season is yet another copy and paste job. Clear them out, not good enough, sign a load of players, they aren’t good enough, clear them out….and so on.
    It’s about time we started to get things right and get a squad that can grow and improve for the next 3-5 years.
    We need to trust Hughes and his vision.

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