The Cook show

Hartlepool United 1
Ferguson 17
Bradford City 3
Banks 5, Cook, 65 90+2

By Adam Raj

As the clock ticked over into four minutes of stoppage time at the end of the second half, and with the score still in the balance at 1-2, you can forgive a few moments of panic for those not fortunate enough to be present at the Suits Direct Stadium as the Sky Sports ticker flashed ‘goal’.

Fortunately, today’s injury time strike was from the men of Bradford City, and one man in particular, Andy Cook. The big number nine netted his second of the afternoon and fifth of the season, when only this time last month, many were questioning if he would even be donning the Claret and Amber come the end of the transfer window. Such discussions now seem ludicrous for a player who has rejuvenated his City career despite the club heavily investing in fellow striker Vadaine Oliver during the summer.

The confidence of Cook, chopping inside of centre half Alex Lacey and firing into the top corner of Ben Killip’s goal with his supposed weaker left foot was reminiscent of his goal at Valley Parade against Forest Green in 2020/21. Just like today, he bagged a brace on that afternoon, in what was arguably his best run of form since joining the club. He would go on to be City’s top scorer despite only joining in January of that year.

But it’s also important to remember that Cook started last season on top form too. A perfect hattrick against Stevenage at Valley Parade and a late winner at former club Mansfield days later, eventually proved to be a false dawn, and whilst Cook once again was City’s top scorer, his form tailed off heavily, arguably because his competition was nil.

But this season seems different. Cook has made a concerted effort to get visibly in shape over the summer break and with the arrival of Oliver and Kian Harratt, as well as Lee Angol remaining at the club, Cook knows, for the first time since he arrived at Valley Parade, that his place is not guaranteed.

His performance this afternoon was superb in every respect. Cook won his duels, ran the channels, defended from the front and of course, scored twice.

The part that Harratt had to play in that performance shouldn’t go unnoticed either. As a 64th minute substitute, the Huddersfield Town loanee set up Cook with what was his first involvement since entering the field of play. Richie Smallwood’s clip over United’s backline set Harratt away and two touches later Cook was burying his low cross into the bottom corner.

The very style of that goal was particularly encouraging. City had been their usual, possession based self in the first half, with everything being played in front of the Hartlepool defence. But the Bantams mixed their style up, made the Hartlepool back line turn and played the ball into space. Mark Hughes had bemoaned his side’s inability to adapt to in game situations and mix their style on occasions. Today was the first real indication of the players displaying that initiative that Hughes has been craving.

Not that City had played particularly badly in the first half. They actually started in fantastic fashion with Scott Banks opening his account for the club. Harry Chapman’s pass found the Crystal Palace loanee on the edge of the box, he drove infield on his favoured left foot, before curling a low shot beyond Killip in the far corner to give the Bantams a five minute lead.

But that goal seemed to wake up the hosts, who started to win more lose balls in the centre of the park and exploit Smallwood’s tendency to drift out to the left flank as Angol veered more centrally. It made for a very end to end game at times, with Hartlepool’s final ball letting them down on several occasions.

They did however, draw level in the 17th minute through left back David Ferguson. Jake Hastie had been afforded too much time by Liam Ridehalgh (who struggled again this afternoon) to swing a deep cross to the back post where the United number three headed home from six yards out. Banks, for as well as he did for his goal, was culpable for not tracking his man here.

But in terms of genuine chances, it was all City. A Banks corner failed to be cleared and Cook hit the half volley straight at Killip, whilst Alex Gilliead somehow managed to do the same from the rebound, despite being only five yards out.

Knowing that Hartlepool had the longest winless streak in the entire EFL (13 games, including last season) any City fan who had read this script before could take a good guess at how this one was likely to end. Thankfully, it was City’s turn to rip up the script and produce a real professional victory.

There’s still lots to work on, of course, not least so City’s decision making on when to release the ball (every outfield player was guilty of this at one point), but the positive signs most certainly are there, from Cook’s form, hunger and determination, to how this City side is starting to gel and mature both tactically and as a team.

Categories: Match Reviews

Tags: , , ,

10 replies

  1. I think everyone has forgotten that in Early December last season Andy Cook had double hernia operation? He was out for 3 to 4 weeks if memory served me correctly. Maybe he played with it for a while and his goals and formed suffered. Maybe after, it took him a while to get going again. Anyway , he certainly looks fit now , unfortunately Oliver doesn’t or he expecting pinpoint crosses on his head. Maybe he forgot we in League 2 when he signed 😂

  2. Very important & impressive win, Hartlepool never an easy place to go!
    Standout performance from Cook, amongst a fair few others this afternoon. Sparky must take more than a little credit for Andy Cook’s recent top form I think. Hughes is putting his faith in him, & making him believe in his own talents, it’s great to see the lad playing with such confidence. Got to mention Gilliad today as well, playing in centre midfield, & putting in a very convincing performance too. Blackburn Rovers up next, bring it on… Up the Bantams!

  3. I think Hughes has the ability to get the best out of players such as Andy Cook. He seems to be able to point out that all players have a part to play and will be important assets over the season.
    He has made the point that Gillead is an important player and growing into the role he wants him to play.
    Contrast that with Adams who criticised players in public such as FCD and Canavan. I know who I would rather have in charge.
    I was in the home stand as I live in Hartlepool and only come back to Bradford for home games which gave me a unique perspective.
    Their supporters thought the first half was theirs, and when I woke up earlier in the day I looked out and thought the wind would plays its part.
    City used the wind to their advantage in the second half. Hartlepool did not in the first half.
    The Hartlepool fans cant believe that we have not used Odusina yet and really rate Calum Cooke. I thought that when he failed to get a shot away when well placed in the first half was typical of him.
    The Hartlepool manager and the Assistant had a blazing row with fans behind the dug out and maybe the second managerial change of this season will be at the Suits Direct Arena.
    Pools were poor but we took most of our chances and it was better.
    Good to see MH bring Songo on late on to increase the defensive aspect of the closing minutes.

  4. Everyone forgets that Cook was second choice behind Rowe when he came. He’s used to fighting off challengers

  5. One of the most dominant number 9 displays in the 2nd half since Big Jim bullied L****S in the league cup win.
    His work rate was outstanding along with Kian H (hard not to like this lad) when he came on that’s what got us over the line, fitness and determination. I also sat in the main stand was brilliant to watch our fans celebrate inc Charlie who was on top form!! Agree with Songo – think MH realised he should have put him on on Tuesday night late on also. Word for Oliver, the lad hasn’t had a pre season, go easy on him until he gets up to speed he will be important this season I’m sure. Credit to Rupp and Sparks where it’s due for not selling Cook on and keeping 2 number 9s in the squad. I’m absolutely sure they would have considered selling Cook on at one point given what they spent already. We got relegated to this league largely due to not having a number 9 in the building (amongst other things) . Cook is a leader in the squad and understands BCFC and it’s fans. Great to see.

  6. Angol dribbled nicely on the left flank and went for goal but a short pass inside to a player in a much better position should have been the option .

  7. Tidy performance by City. I thought Hartlepool played OK. City had more shots on and off target but looked like there were goals in them. I also thought Angol did OK. The dribble and shot late on was superb and I think he is getting better. Cook however, was a real handful all match. I believe City have strength in depth now. With several players unavailable, there is still more to come.

  8. Good analysis of the game and good write up. I agree that the potential competition has made Cook work harder, even without the ball.
    Hopefully the future is bright… the future is claret and amber #CTID

  9. I have to admit that I was never a Cooke fan. I always thought Rowe was a better all round option…

    …..which is exactly why I’m not a football league manager!

    He seems to be just fitter, sharper and hungrier than last season. I can only think he finished the previous campaign jaded and tired which is completely understandable.

    I winder if he’s also surprised MH too.

    Whatever the reason for the uptick in form long may it continue. He’s a great lad and one who I suspect is great to have in the dressing room if he’s firing on all cylinders.

%d bloggers like this: