Defensive solidity as Bradford City end a good week unbeaten

Grimsby Town 0
Bradford City 0

By Adam Raj

If someone offered Bradford City fans four points in the last week from difficult fixtures at Salford and Grimsby, it’s fair to say most would’ve taken it in a heartbeat. Throw in two clean sheets and you’re hard pressed to argue that this hasn’t been a good week for Bradford City in League Two.

With two home games to come within the next seven days, City have given themselves a solid foundation to mount another unbeaten run of form following the defeat to Stockport County.

This afternoon’s encounter was poised to be an intriguing one. Only two points separated City and their Lincolnshire hosts, with both displaying excellent form on the road. Grimsby sat second in that form table, with City in fourth and looking for their fifth straight victory on their travels. A far cry from the last few years where you didn’t know where the next away goal was coming from, let alone point.

Mark Hughes made only one change from last week’s victory at Salford. Ryan East was desperately unlucky to be dropped for the returning Alex Gilliead who once again partnered skipper Ritchie Smallwood in midfield.

City continued their pattern of high energy, intense starts – forcing Town’s backline into hurried and shanked clearances. Unlike last week, City’s opponents today had no intention of playing out from the back, so City’s high press was less effective in winning the ball in the final third.

The first chance of the game saw Harry Chapman get in behind Grimsby’s defensive line, but instead of getting a shot away, the forward got the ball stuck under his feet and his plan B attempt to dribble past keeper Max Crocombe was unsuccessful.

This was minutes after Chapman fed Tyreik Wright to go one on one with Crocombe but was flagged offside. City’s energetic and lively forward line were getting plenty of encouragement in the opening stages.

Wright along with Dion Pereira seemed to have won the psychological battle with their opposition fullbacks who allowed the City wingers time and space to attack them. Fortunately for the home side, the final ball was lacking and whilst City got into a lot of promising positions, they did fail to create many clear cut chances.

Good work from Wright and Matty Foulds saw the former deliver a deep cross from the left flank which was picked up and recycled by Brad Halliday. Cook swung and missed the right back’s low cross and Chapman’s follow up effort was blocked. From the resulting corner, Crocombe had to be at full stretch to keep out Cook’s goal-bound header.

Wright was having a lot of joy against right back Michee Efete and his good work should’ve been rewarded when Halliday headed his cross back across goal but no one in claret and amber was there to tap home.

At the other end, Romoney Critchlow made a superb interception to prevent Ryan Taylor heading home from Otis Khan’s cross and Halliday had to make a similarly excellent block to deny Gavan Holohan’s effort.

It was proving to be an entertaining game, with both sides committing men forwards and creating good openings, but with defences ultimately coming out on top.

The closest either side came to breaking the deadlock was when Kieran Green’s thumping effort evaded Smallwood’s sliding block and slammed against the post.

Thankfully (from an entertainment perspective) the game continued to be end to end, but with Harry Lewis the busier of the keepers. That said, the best chance of the game fell to the Bantams. Seven minutes into the second period, Chapman spun inside the box and his left footed drive was palmed away by Crocombe into the path of Pereira who couldn’t control the aerial ball and fired over from few yards out. It was a bad miss for a player who hasn’t got going since his return to Valley Parade.

Pereira didn’t do anything wrong in the game (that miss aside) but went long periods without having much involvement. More is needed from the on loan Luton Town man, especially with Scott Banks breathing down his neck.

Lee Angol was an early second half change to replace Pereira, forcing City’s wide men into a reshuffle. Chapman was moved to the left wing, with Wright switching to the right. Whilst Angol’s contribution was sound, it did seem to negate that of Chapman and Wright. City lost their attacking edge somewhat and allowed the home side to pile on the pressure.

Town substitute Lewis Richardson was a lively introduction and forced Lewis into two good saves to his right, whilst the City keeper did well to smother at the feet of Holohan.

What is pleasing to see is that City have improved tenfold in their ability to ride out the storm of the opposition. It was a personal criticism of mine following the victory at Tranmere last month, but City’s decision making in defensive situations over the last two games meant that pressure from the home side is short lived and doesn’t translate into goals.

A big part of that solidity is the form of Matty Platt, who was once again outstanding at the heart of City’s defence.

It allowed City to be rewarded with their second successive clean sheet and a valuable point on the road. It could have been all three in stoppage time if not for a bewildering decision by referee Martin Coy. Wright’s free kick was met by Platt who headed back across goal and as it fell to Gilliead, the official’s whistle blew to end the game. A cynic would say Gilliead wouldn’t have scored anyway, but it did leave a sour taste after what was a thoroughly entertaining game.

Next week’s Valley Parade double header against the two Towns of Swindon and then Crawley provide the Bantams with a fantastic opportunity to progress further up the table. And they must take it.

Categories: Match Reviews

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9 replies

  1. Entertaining game to watch. In my opinion, the referee cannot be faulted for blowing his whistle when he did. The game clock was 45 seconds beyond the additional 5 minutes. In retrospect, the free kick should have been a direct shot.

  2. Think the ref was Andy Haines.
    An entertaining game with both teams going for it. Rom is playing well but 2x slips ups yesterday were not punished as they may have been on another day. The one at the end of the first half where sloppy playing it out from the back nearly backfired was plain lucky not to be a goal. For me – I find it frustrating watching the passing back and forth with the keeper and backline. But they know what they’re doing I suppose. Swindon at home isn’t a banker!

    • We play out from the back. Not sure why you frustrated. You prefer the hoof ball stuff? We trying to play proper football?

      • It’s not the playing out from the back that frustrates me, it’s the passing (p!ssing) about that frustrates me and as I said – we nearly got done by it yesterday. Only their player will know how he missed on the stroke of halftime!

  3. Lots to be impressed with the determination and clean sheet mentality at present. I would urge fans to bear in mind the turnover of players since last season and that it’s highly likely that MH will see what we see and plug the gaps / limitations we have in January. Nobody would have realistically assumed that 1 transfer window was going to make us the perfect team overnight given the dogs dinner he took over.We have some great talent and know how in this team so far and clearly our recruitment DNA is correct and we are looking in the right places at long last. I for one am enjoying the ride. Love listening to MH he sees it like we do which is a rare thing as we know!!

    • The January Transfer Window may also see a number of loanees depart. Some gaps may be filled but new ones possibly created. All due to the joys of having 6 loanees in the squad.

      • Maybe if we have only 3 or 4 you will finally let that bee out of your bonnet Phil!!!?

        What would be next to nit pick over?

        Give it a rest lad

      • It will be interesting to see come the end of January and beyond how beneficial it is to build a team around 6 loanees, the most in L2.

  4. Spot on, Mboro Rich.

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