|Sutton United 1|
|Bradford City 4|
|Vernam 16+77, Songo’o 85, Cook 90|
Written by Adam Raj (images by John Dewhirst)
In a week where newly crowned La Liga Champions Real Madrid had the pleasure of borrowing Bradford City’s transport for their Champions League fixture at the Etihad, today’s emphatic victory in South London suggests City had been taking inspiration from their European counterparts. The scoreline, performance and swagger was akin to what you’d expect from the Spanish juggernauts.
The Bantams were superb in the big smoke, from start to finish. Well, almost from the start. The hosts began the game in the same fashion as City had done last week, with winger Will Randall striking against the post in the opening minutes. But City soon settled and began to exert their greater quality on their high flying hosts.
Sutton keeper Dean Bouzanis was being kept busy in the opening ten minutes with Charles Vernam, Dion Pereira and Jamie Walker testing the Aussie with long range efforts. City had Sutton penned into their half and some of the interplay between midfield and attack was fantastic, aided by Lee Angol’s technical ability up front. The forward quartet, looked to be playing with real freedom and flair, visibly enjoying the role that they had been given.
Vernam especially, was causing all sorts of problems for right back Dan Barden, who had a torrid afternoon. It was no surprise that the in-form winger was the one to break the deadlock.
A 35 second passage of play that was played almost exclusively in the attacking half and featured a touch of every outfield player aside from Alex Gilliead, saw the Bantams take a deserved lead. At the culmination of that move, Walker fed Luke Hendrie in the inside right channel and the right back hung up a teasing cross to the back post where Vernam was lurking to head home his seventh league goal of the season.
There have been early indications of what a Mark Hughes side could look like with a full summer behind them, but arguably none more so that the opening goal this afternoon. Patient, possession football, resulting in a fantastic team goal.
It was a dominant half of football. A particularly impressive half given the hosts found themselves in the top seven at the start of play. Even more so given that Sutton boasted the best home record in English football, being unbeaten in their last 19 games at Gander Green Lane.
It was expected therefore that Sutton would be much improved in the second period. Despite how good City were, Sutton had made it far too easy for their visitors in the first period.
The hosts came out of the blocks with more energy and more aggression in their play, which made their very direct tactics cause a few issues for the City backline. A long throw was flicked on first by Omar Bugiel and then Donovan Wilson before falling to Alistair Smith inside the City area. The midfielder struck a fierce, left footed, half volley into the top corner, leaving Alex Bass with no chance.
That goal lifted the hosts and lifted the crowd. City began to misplace passes and take heavy touches out of play. The momentum had well and truly shifted and it was a test of character and resilience as to whether City could ride out the pressure or whether it would be a case of déjà vu.
There were some hairy moments, but City stood strong and weathered the storm. The introduction of Fiacre Kelleher and the move to a back three helped City deal with Sutton’s constant aerial bombardment but also allowed Vernam to get back into the game as he was given a free role alongside Angol and then later Andy Cook.
And it was that man again who restored City’s lead. Six minutes after Hughes’ tactical change, Yann Songo’o played a smart chipped ball into Elliot Watt centrally who then fed Liam Ridehalgh. The left back swung in a delicious cross and Vernam was at the back post yet again, to volley back across goal and into the far corner.
The City number 15 was the best player on the park by a country mile and is proving, under Hughes, what a terrific player he can be at this level in an attacking setup.
Strangely, it’s probably the wrong time, for City at least, for Vernam to be in such red hot form as it will only make the challenge harder to keep the winger at Valley Parade. But keep him, City must do.
The Bantams continued to rack up the chances with Angol scuffing a good chance straight at Bouzanis and Cook having a goal ruled out for offside from Watt’s free kick. But City finally got the two goal lead they deserved. Watt’s low corner was flicked on first by Paudie O’Connor and then Cook as it worked its way to Songo’o who was unmarked at the back post to tap home.
The linesman’s flag was raised yet again, this time to deny Vernam what would have been a deserved hattrick and fantastic hattrick goal. Bass’s long ball was plucked out of the sky effortlessly by the winger and his left footed shot was neatly placed out of the reach of Bouzanis but he was adjudged to be offside.
But City soon had their fourth goal. Sutton, now down to ten men after running out of substitutes and seeing centre half Ben Goodliffe having to hobble off injured, were still pushing forward in the nine minutes of stoppage time. Walker’s persistence resulted in a poor clearance from the Sutton defender, Vernam fed Watt who fooled everyone by playing in Cook and the City number nine finally had his goal as he showed some neat footwork and slammed the ball into the top corner.
It capped off a fantastic and well deserved victory, where the Bantams had to show different sides to their game, utilising different formations and needing to play in a different style at times, against a very direct opponent. The very type of game that City have struggled in on too many occasions. City could have wilted at 1-1 but instead went on to win the game and win it in style.
It’s demonstrative of a mentality shift since Hughes walked through the door and is hopefully indicative of the side he will build over the summer.
Categories: Match Reviews