Winning ugly but winning all the same – Bradford City grind out three important points

Bradford City 2
Cook 41, Young 45
Walsall 1
Daniels 57

Written by Tim Penfold (images by John Dewhirst)

They say that the sign of a good side is winning when they aren’t playing well. If that is the case, then on the evidence of today, Bradford City are an excellent football team.

Walsall, unlike the majority of teams to have visited Valley Parade in the league this season, came to attack and were the better side for much of the game. For once, though, it was Bradford City – mostly down to the outstanding Harry Lewis – doing the sucker-punching.

Lewis was called into action very early, as Walsall won a penalty with their first attack. Romoney Critchlow, who struggled badly all afternoon, was caught out by the pace of Tom Fellows and dragged him back in the box. Lewis, however, threw himself to his right to parry a weak penalty, and City had got away with it.

Not that this sparked the home side into life. Lewis was called into action again a few minutes later, and the visitors caused problems. Mark Hughes had changed the midfield structure, fielding Richie Smallwood as a sole holder behind Levi Sutton and Harry Chapman, and it didn’t really work.

Smallwood lacked the awareness in possession to play as the sole holder, and gave it away cheaply too often. Chapman, meanwhile, ended up dragged too deep to have much of an impact going forwards.

There were sporadic threats from the Bantams, but no clear chances – the closest being when Liam Ridehalgh burst into the box on the overlap, but his pullback was taken off Andy Cook’s toes. At the other end, Walsall continued to create. City’s defence was wobbly, and they weren’t closing down crosses or tracking runners enough. This caused Walsall’s best chance – a striker left free in the box but denied again by a brilliant Lewis save.

Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, City struck. A well-rehearsed move set Brad Halliday free down the right, and he pulled it back to Cook. The City number nine’s shot had power, but was directed at the visiting keeper, who will have been disappointed to see the ball burst through his hands and hit the back of the net.

It was a completely undeserved lead, but it somehow got better shortly after. A long Lewis kick wasn’t properly cleared, allowing Jake Young to cut inside and send a screamer swerving into the net from the corner of the box. It was a brilliant goal from a player who has made a habit of scoring stunners, and City were two ahead at the break.

It still needed a better second half, however. Hughes made a tactical adjustment, dropping Sutton deeper to support Smallwood and reverting to his 4-2-3-1, and it did seem like City had more control in the early stages of the second half. Matty Platt could’ve made it three, looping a free header over the bar.

Unfortunately, City then went and shot themselves in the foot. A Walsall free kick was floated into the box from deep and fell between several City defenders, all of whom seemed to think the others were going to deal with it. Nobody took responsibility, and Donervon Daniels poked the ball into the bottom corner. The first league goal the Bantams have conceded at home this season.

Momentum began to swing Walsall’s way again, so Mark Hughes turned to his bench. Tyriek Wright made his debut, and Dion Pereira got a tremendous ovation for his return. It nearly worked instantly, with Wright bursting in behind his full back and fizzing a ball just behind Pereira, but despite the boost in the atmosphere Walsall continued to press.

City’s defence was lacking in composure, and Critchlow in particular was making a habit of giving the ball away cheaply, but they made up for it in bravery with several key blocks. Harry Lewis made one more outstanding save, getting his fingertips to a long ranger that looked to be heading in off the post. Walsall were still pushing, but City were hanging on.

Hughes used his bench again, switching to a very counter-attacking 4-4-2 and a classic big man-little man pairing of Vadaine Oliver and Kian Harratt. Harratt should really have scored having been put in by Smallwood’s clever quick free kick.

Meanwhile, Yann Songo’o replaced Sutton alongside Smallwood and the hosts immediately looked more solid. They managed the game better, and eventually just about held on through five minutes of stoppage time.

City will need to play better than this to get promotion – but if we do manage to climb out of League Two next May, it will be games like this that we look back on as ones where we ground out important results, fought hard, and got the points that provided the bedrock to success.

It was an ugly win, but it was still worth three points.

Categories: Match Reviews

Tags: , , ,

15 replies

  1. Quite a few of the goals we have scored this season have clearly been rehearsed in training. We never used to score such goals. This is a good omen. Well done.

  2. Two learning points for me today
    1. We are totally naive with the ref compared to most teams. We need to learn how to make it easier for referees to give us fouls and harder to give them against us. It also looked to me like Flynn told the ref to book Young?
    2. There are seven spaces on the bench – surely two should be defenders? Assuming Hendrie or Foulds was fit enough for half a game. We dont need 5 attacking options on the bench

    Still – its great to have such strength in depth

  3. We were poor today but got the points. Worryingly we’re not seeing much fight in league matches compared to cup games. This points towards players attitudes and not formations and tactics etc.

    We need to compete on a more consistent basis and win more of the personal battles to get out of this league. Talent and technique will only take us so far, we need more effort from the boys. We got away with it today via some brilliance from Harry Lewis.

    • Whilst I’m not sure I agree with this, I do know what is being driven at. It’s very hard to articulate but I think we’ve built a squad that would fair much better in the leagues above than league two- as the cup games have shown. When teams play better football against us we play so much better.

      Whilst Walsall were good today and made for a cracking advert for the league, it was very industrial and reliant on their big lads. Today, our attacking class won out. But in previous games it hasn’t.

      If we can get out of this league, and keep roughly the same team, I think we’d fly in league one also.

      And also, credit to MH and his team for trying to build the foundations of proper football at this level with a view to taking us forward and up the leagues.

  4. Whilst we were not at our best today I do think Walsall are a good side and will be right up in the top 6 at the end of the season – their recent slump after a good start isn’t reflective of their quality compared to all the other opponents we have played in L2.

    Yes they were quick to go down but they were also very sharp and didn’t give us any time on the ball, and looked full of ideas. When we play good sides we are not going to have it all our own way, but they showed the character to not buckle and collapse. Certainly not the way we want the rest of the games to play out, however if we play good sides and keep winning that’s a great sign!

  5. You could tell by the players reaction at the end, even they thought we were lucky to win, 3 points is 3 points

  6. Great article Tom, thank you.
    On the same page as Ben above. We won against a team who wanted a game of football, as we have shown is the case already this season. This might not be the best Bradford City team I can ever remember, but we’ve got a good team, & one that’s improving in my opinion. That can only be a good omen as the season progresses. Buzzing tonight, very good 3 points!
    Up the Bantams

  7. We were far too open and gave away too many cheap free kicks particularly against a team of giants (twenty four shots, sixteen in the box!). The game was crying out for a more effective screen in the second half (Songo) from the 46th minute. We will be punished for similar performances moving forward.
    That said the positive subs at the end did the trick. Here is hoping Gilly is back soon because his work off the ball is a big miss. As for Harry it is good to see there is a years option as his signing is looking increasingly like a real coup as every game passes

  8. The view that we were lucky to win is pretty universal. But it ignores the reasons why we were successful. This came about largely because we had an exceptional performance from our keeper and our second goal was exceptional. These are not aspects of chance: they come from having good players. We must also credit the manager for optimal use of subs. It wasn’t luck that won the day – but keeping the ball out at one end and sticking it in at the other.

  9. Odishino and Hendre were not even on the bench Saturday. The former had a superb game on Tuesday night as did Hendrie. No mention why the were not selected. Whether it would have a difference to the game yesterday I don’t know. Maybe in the case of Odishino, it could a height issue. No explanation given by management for there omissions. Love to see them both playing again though.

  10. Great comments, just get the midfield sorted and we will be right up there,we are to open and give the ball away far to much.

  11. Good report but I think you are a little harsh on Crichlow. He was a little shaky in the first half and got done for pace and conceded a debatable penalty. However I thought he defended well second half

  12. Crichlow is going to be a tremendous centre-half, he has however a lot to learn, and will make errors time to time on his journey. Therefore I can’t understand why we’re developing someone else’s player week by week, when we’ve got a very good more experienced player contracted to us in Odishino. It may well be that Odishino isn’t yet fully match fit, but if he is, then it doesn’t make sense.

%d bloggers like this: