It’s a new season, but the same old story

Bradford City 0
Doncaster Rovers 0

By Tim Penfold

A record League Two crowd saw Bradford City take on Doncaster to open the 2022/23 season – but they didn’t see a game of football. One side did try to play, but the visitors turned up for a point and came away with one, aided by a compliant referee and a toothless home attack.

City lined up in a diamond midfield, with Richie Smallwood at the base, Emmanuel Osadebe on the right, Ryan East on the left and Jamie Walker in the hole behind the strikers. This system gave a lot of freedom to Walker, but also meant that they were almost entirely reliant on him for creating chances. However, Osadebe started brightly, committing defenders and causing problems – until Doncaster took him out of the game.

Liam Ravenhill’s tackle took the ball, but the follow-through broke Osadebe’s leg in two places, and should’ve been a red card. It definitely fit the definition of serious foul play – excessive force and endangering an opponent – and in those circumstances it is irrelevant if Ravenhill got the ball or not. However, the referee failed to correctly punish this – something that would become a running theme throughout the afternoon – and Doncaster got away with it, with Ravenhill subbed shortly after to prevent a red card.

The home side dominated possession and territory, with the visitors happy to sit back and absorb pressure, slowing the game down both legally and illegally. However, this didn’t really turn into clear chances. City were too slow to move the ball, and the arrival of Sutton in place of Osadebe meant that the midfield balance was suddenly too defensive. Vadaine Oliver went close with a snap-shot, but otherwise it was a half of frustration until halfway through the nine minutes added on.

Doncaster conceded a free kick, and Lee Tomlin stood in front of the ball to stop it being taken quickly. He then knocked the ball back a few yards, and the referee finally deigned to punish a player for time-wasting, booking Tomlin. Remarkably, Tomlin then kicked the ball away again, and was in the process of being warned by the ref when he took a spectacular dive, attempting to get Walker sent off for standing on his foot. Tomlin was, inevitably, dismissed for his stupidity – he could’ve gone for kicking the ball away a second time, even before his bellyflop.

Against ten men, the second half was much like the first. The passing from City was too slow, too sideways, and then it was a hopeful cross into the box. Doncaster picked up two more bookings for time-wasting, and tried every trick in the book to slow things down further. It was particularly frustrating to see them faking head injuries almost every time a header was contested, and a competent referee could’ve booked visiting keeper Jonathan Mitchell for pretty much every goal kick. Their complete lack of ambition was summed up in stoppage time, when they viewed two corners as an opportunity to time-waste further rather than to sneak an unlikely winner.

It was just too slow from the Bantams though. The game was crying out for the introduction of pace and width, but only Harry Chapman from the bench could provide that. When the ball was wide, the fullbacks never got to the by-line. When it was central, the passing was cautious and the movement lacking. The closest City came was a free kick from Smallwood that struck the post, while Matthew Platt headed narrowly wide from a corner, but in the end the keeper wasn’t tested enough. The game was played in front of Doncaster, and was too simple for them.

The full time whistle saw a bout of handbags – frustration boiling over from Kian Harratt, who picked up a silly red card for slapping the visiting keeper. Naturally, this reflected badly on a referee who had failed to crack down on Doncaster’s antics, but it was also stupid from Harratt.

The loss of Osadebe is a blow both to the club and the player, who would do well to contact Gordon Watson’s lawyers. The squad already looked a wide player short, and while the club will be hoping that Luton decide to loan out Dion Pereira – an unused substitute today – we might need more urgency in bringing someone else in. There were some bright spots – the defence looks solid and we’ve got a platform to build on – but we are going to need to learn to break teams down if we want to be successful.

Categories: Match Reviews

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18 replies

  1. I think it was Jamie Walker who briefly stood on Tomlin’s foot rather than Ryan East. It was a very odd way for Tomlin to behave though.

    I really enjoyed the game up until
    Osadebe’s serious injury. After that it was a frustrating afternoon and I didn’t enjoy it.

    One bright spot was Crichlow’s performance. I thought he was class.

    Thoughts with Osadebe. Hope he makes a full recovery.

  2. Good match review. Thought we generally played well today, despite the fact we couldn’t get the goal we needed for the three points.
    Crichlow looks excellent, Smallwood showed his quality and I thought Oliver, Angol & Cook all demonstrated we’ve got some really good options up top. We definitely need to bring in another winger though.
    I’m sure I’m not the only city fan who will think this, but the big difference for me is that last season (and others before) we would have definitely have lost this game by conceding a late goal…
    When these players start to gel, I think we could be in for a very good season. Lots to be optimistic about anyway!

    • I listened to Jones on radio Leeds and he was screaming for City to get the ball forward quickly. It was so pedestrian. This gave time for Doncaster to get organised. Regarding Oliver and Angol – atm they do not combine well together. I felt both were ineffective. Crossing was poor. A lack of service. If possession stats gave points City would have won easily. Yesterday they never looked like scoring. Very frustrating! It’s early days but I’m convinced that Hughes will get it right. Doncaster should be brought to task in the way they conducted themselves. It was a shocking style they played. Sadly, nothing will happen. Best wishes to Osedebe and a quick recovery.

  3. I think it’s a slightly harsh review. First game of the season, defence looked solid, and if Smallwood’s freekick or chance near the end had gone in it would have been a different story.

    Solid performance and it will take a few weeks for this team to gel. IMHWT

  4. Same old, same old. My number one concern all preseason. Where are the goals going to come from?? City were far too static and direct with only one shot on goal with the man advantage. If City have multiple layers of quality it certainly wasn’t on display today.

  5. We really didn’t ruffle their defence until cook came on
    I hope the rumour of him moving on isn’t true

    • First game a point with the away side enploying the dark arts and over joyed with a point . Get used to away sided packing out there defence. Its up us to break tactics like this down. And you do it with space and a fast tempo yesterday there was to much passing side ways and a slow build up .we are in need of a wide man and i am sure we are waiting on Luton to make up there mind, lets hope we have a back up plan , i am sure we will improve as the team gel together. I still have a concern regarding who will get the goals needed .

  6. I am absolutely heartbroken for Osadebe. To be so seriously injured on your debut (after a bright start by him) really made my heart go out to him and his family. A season out is a long time and potentially end his career or set it on another trajectory in a downward spiral. I hope with all my heart he can overcome this.

    The tackle definitely left some players visibly distraught, like young Critchlow, and I think it certainly affected the team in both mental state and tactically as Sutton works hard but isnt as accomplished as Osadabe who looked really good on the ball.

    Critchlow was outstanding, and arguably as good as if not better than Burke our previous classy centre back loanee. Whilst defensively we were not hugely tested today, the ability of the centre backs to play out comfortably was a huge factor in our constant ball retention and dominance and that is the main take away from the game today.

    Attacking wise a few tweaks are needed and maybe a bit more time on the training ground to get a few of those clever slick moves to pay off with goals in future.

    Whilst it was a shame we couldn’t convert the dominance in to a win today it was a hugely impressive performance and I was happy to see that the recruitment and preseason work has fashioned a potentially exciting team.

    Odd fact…

    If I recall correctly the last time Miller came to VP (with Walsall) they had a man sent off around HT and held on for a 0-0 draw, and history repeated itself today.

  7. One game in and the tone is set for the poor refereeing we will have to endure once again.
    The referees have been told stric on tackles and on time wasting.
    Obviously Mr Madden didn’t get the e mail!
    A yellow card for the kind of tackle that has effectively ended a players season and robbed City of a squad member was followed by a booking for totally innocuous contact by a City player.
    It made a mockery.of the punishment for the tackle, or assault on Osadabe.
    Doncaster were time-wasting from the very early stages but realised Mr Madden was not going to punish them.
    So it was on with the black arts of the game which effectively gave them.a point.
    They did not deserve a thing. Only one team tried to play football and entertain.
    I would be embarrassed to take that point back to South Yorkshire.

  8. Excellent summary of the game. In full agreement!

  9. Where was Giiy ? He is a fine attacking player who likes to have a dribble and entertain ,

    • Gilly is injured at the moment

    • Afraid to say, but Gilly is not an attacking player. Something like 1 goal and 1 assist in 80 games for us? But he has turned into a half-decent defensive midfielder, it seems.

  10. The quickest and daftest pair of yellow cards I’ve seen since Nigel Pepper’s brace at Fratton Park!

  11. Thank you for a great review of what seemed like a very eventful match (I’m a Bradfordian in exile, & rely on internet & WOAP alot). To focus on City’s performance,
    80% possession, 23 attempts on goal, including rattling the woodwork, against a 10 man negative Doncaster. Yes, I feel 2 point were dropped, but I can’t blame that on our performance which overall on day one of a new season was very dominant display from begining to end. Football is often a game of very small margins, & if Walker’s free kick had hit the post & gone instead, or if East had met the ball a little bit cleaner, then we’d have been rightly bouncing. To use the boxing term, City won the match unanimously on points. What a great starting point to build on, get a little sharper in front of goal, & to start blowing teams away.
    As far as Ravenhill is concerned, I can’t imagine he’ll be welcome back at Valley Parade any time soon. I really do wish Osedebe a swift, & very full recovery. Up the Bantams!

  12. Reasonable start and something to build on.

    Let’s not forget Lewis made a worldy of a save to keep it at 0-0 or it could have been an embarrassing start for us. Well played that man.

    Feels like these are the games where we will miss Vernam. Getting a player to up the tempo and get teams turning and facing their own goal. This is what lower league defences hate and many are very good at defending what’s in front of them (head it, kick it away). Maybe Chapman is that man but he always seemed to want to come inside.

    Critchlow seems a class above. The way he dealt with Donny’s one other chance where they looked to get through and he got his body in between man and ball and turned out with it keeping possession. League 2 VVD.

  13. Same old Doncaster. In 84-85 Mark Fletcher effectively had his career ended by a horror tackle from a Rovers player. Hope Osadebe . make s a full recovery and City take their revenge like they did in 84-85 by making Donny look like chumps in the return match.

  14. Bit harsh there woody at least your not pulling Sparks to bits for a change !!!

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