An afternoon of vocal frustration puts the spotlight on Bradford City’s philosophy – and their promotion prospects

Bradford City 1
Pereira 55
Crawley Town 1
Tilley 61

Written by Jason McKeown (images by John Dewhirst)

This was always going to happen at some point. Late on in the first half, after one too many sideways passes, groans turned to boos, and frustration boiled over into vocal dissent, with the Valley Parade faithful registering its dissatisfaction at Bradford City’s ponderous play.

It’s always dangerous to generalise a crowd reaction by attributing the boos to one single, unifying reason. Some say they booed because of the slow nature of City’s performance, others at the low level of risk on show from a team near the top of the league playing at home to a team near the bottom. But the fact the discontent spilled out during a moment of playing it out from the back was significant. For it showed that some fans are becoming disenchanted with Mark Hughes’ approach.

Up until this game, the murmurs of disapproval about City’s slow, patient passing style had been just that – murmurs. Internet white noise that forever exists in the background, put forward by those who are rarely satisfied. Most of us accept the ideals behind playing out from the back, do our best to support the philosophy, and perhaps bite our tongue on the odd occasion where it becomes slightly tedious. But it’s always been an issue hiding beneath the surface, waiting to come out on days like this.

Hughes for his own part was keen to defend his approach and address the crowd reaction after the match. “There was a little bit of anxiety but that’s understandable. Everyone should understand that’s how we play. Don’t get too panicked. We know what we’re doing. On occasions we will get it wrong. But there’s thoughts and processes behind it.” That’s true, and the manager is right to stick with a plan he and his coaching staff have spent months instilling, but it won’t win him any popularity contests this week. Especially as the playing out from the back approach contributed to a Crawley second half equaliser and two more dropped points.

And it puts his players in-between a rock and a hard place too. They must have also known this moment was coming. A few weeks back Harry Lewis talked about the challenge of playing the way the manager wanted whilst knowing that some supporters found it exasperating. “I can hear them shouting, ‘just kick it’, but that’s how the gaffer wants us to play – and I do as I’m told,” he said. And that’s the dilemma. The balance of doing the right thing by Hughes, and ignoring the grumbles in the crowd.

The boos posed a mental strength test for every player in claret and amber. Do you keep rolling the ball sideways, looking behind as much as in front for passing options, knowing that you’ll attract the ire of the crowd? These are the times where you truly find out what these players are made of, and whether they can handle the unique challenges of playing for a League Two club attracting Championship level attendances.

Not that Hughes would have been offering pats on the back at half time. The crowd reaction was the result of a first half performance where City were slow in tempo, too passive in taking control of a game against weaker opposition, and tentative in getting forwards. They created problems for themselves by looking pedestrian in the opposition half. They tapped gently – rather than knocked loudly – on the door of a Crawley side set up with two banks of four, who squeezed the space and found joy on the counter attack.

City lacked that usual solidity. There were gaps caused by Crawley goalkeeper Ellery Balcombe knocking the ball long to strikers Tom Nichols and Ashley Nadesan, who were given too much room by City centre backs Romoney Crichlow and Matty Platt. The backline sat too deep compared to central midfielders Richie Smallwood and Alex Gilliead. It gave Crawley a base camp to get players forward and launch attacks, whilst City took longer than usual to regain the ball.

And of course, in contrast to Balcombe, Lewis played it short to his defenders to start attacks. An approach that invites Crawley to press. City’s aim is to play through it and exploit the gaps left by Crawley as they come forward. But players like Tyreik Wright, Dion Pereira and especially Andy Cook were left too isolated. The fact the backline was so deep meant Smallwood and Gilliead dropped too far back to link up. They all just needed to operate a few yards higher up the pitch, a point that Hughes delivered to the team at the interval.

Maybe the match would have proved completely different had Cook not missed a sitter just two minutes in, when he was played through on goal by Harry Chapman. But at 0-0 and with the onus on City to come forward, their laboured approach made for a tough watch. “We will persevere with it, we know it works,” argued Hughes. But it’s clear that not everyone in the stands is convinced.   

Indeed, this was a game – and, for that matter, a week – where City were meant to kick on. The lure of back-to-back home games always invites the promise of six points that can catapult the Bantams up the league. It rarely works out that way, and Swindon’s late equaliser on Tuesday increased the pressure to beat Crawley, in what was on paper City’s easiest home game of the season so far.  

Instead, this tepid display only invites questions about City’s approach. The 4-2-3-1 set up is clearly effective on the road – the Bantams have the sixth best away record so far. But at home, it’s not working as well. The draw here means City’s Valley Parade record, after nine games, reads W3 D5 L1. The 11th best record in League Two. And if you want to invite an unfortunate comparison, this is the exact same home record that City had under Derek Adams after nine games last season.

Hughes rightly pointed out that City did improve significantly after half time. But even then, what are becoming familiar failings were on evidence. They started the half strongly and were rewarded on 55 minutes when Wright sent Pereira away and he lifted the ball over the onrushing Balcombe and into the back of the net for his first goal since returning on loan. It was a great moment for Pereira and follows his assist midweek, suggesting he’s getting back to his old self. Still, there is a way to go.

With that platform, you wanted to see City kick on but they didn’t. Once again, scoring a goal seemed to be followed by a switch off. Lewis made a terrific save to keep it at 1-0 and Crawley forced a few corners. Then came the equaliser, caused by playing it out from the back. Gilliead had possession and was being closed down, he turned and played the ball back, not realising that Nichols was behind him and was now through on goal. Gilliead had little choice but to bring him down on the edge of the box for a free kick. And James Tilley delivered a brilliant curling effort that flew past Lewis.

In the post match inquest, Hughes will ponder if the City wall had been set up well enough to prevent Tilley’s effort getting past them. On the Gilliead mistake, and fact it came from playing out from the back, Hughes stated, “We will make mistakes. We play in deeper areas. There are occasions where we will get it wrong. I believe it’s the right way to play. We get more benefit from it than negatives. And when we get it right, we open teams up.”

The goal brought City back to life and there’s no question they were the dominant force from there on. They attacked and attacked at the Kop end. In the first half the Bantams had five shots on goal to Crawley’s nine, and 61% possession. In the second half they produced 18 shots to Crawley’s five, and had 70% of the ball.

There were chances, perhaps the best falling to substitute Scott Banks who was played through but shot early when the ball was still slightly under his feet. But equally it never felt convincing enough to suggest City deserved the three points. Hughes added, “In the most part I was pleased with the performance.” Given his level headed approach since taking charge, these comments are understandable. But I’m not sure that, deep down, he will really feel this way.

This was the week where the positive mood has changed a little. And reading the various Bradford City related social media platforms over the weekend, there’s a new level to the grumbles that might be over the top, but risks sending us down a familiar route. Hughes was never going to be untouchably popular forever and criticisms will always come eventually. In 25 years supporting Bradford City, I’ve never seen any manager avoid it – and that includes those who have been long celebrated for their achievements in the Valley Parade dugout.

But that doesn’t mean the disgruntlement isn’t completely without foundation. Up until this week, all the indicators of Bradford City’s prospects have been positive. Great manager, strong squad, strength in depth, promising results, attractive football. Well now, on the dashboard we can see a yellow flashing light. One that warns us that it’s four home games without a win, one victory in the last seven (league and cup), and just three goals in the last six (league and cup).

Andy Cook has scored in just two of City’s nine home league games this season. His record has been superb this season, but there has to be serious thought given to sharing the workload out, rather than the growing over-reliance on him to score the goals. Teams know Cook is the dangerman and are working out how to stop him, especially visitors to Valley Parade. Cook has scored 10 league goals so far, and the rest squad combined have just 11. That’s a real problem.

Are two holding midfielders needed in every game, especially a home match like this? The idea of 4-2-3-1 is to give you that extra option in the middle of the park against teams playing 4-4-2. But Crawley weren’t the first team to successfully counter it. Smallwood looks a good player but too much is expected of him. Here, many overhit or badly directed long passes from the City skipper showed he is not the playmaker that Hughes is looking on him to be. Alongside him Gilliead looks much more effective compared to playing outwide, but he can play too deep.

Chapman is a player who can hold his head up high here. In that mental test of doing what is asked of you, even when the crowd is wanting you to do something different, Chapman showed bravery and never hides from the ball. The suspicion remains, however, that his best role is out wide rather than as a number 10. Pereira, for all his signs of improvement, has spells where he is too quiet and needs to follow Chapman’s example better.

There is a worry – which WOAP is hoping to explore in more detail this week – that the previously strong-looking squad is starting to look unbalanced, in terms of the opportunities some players continually get, and the lack of chances others are receiving. It’s human nature that, if your best efforts don’t even result in a place on the bench, your enthusiasm levels start to dip.

Are those currently in the team feeling a little too comfortable of their places, because others in the squad are no longer breathing down their necks? And again with Hughes, doesn’t he have options to change formation mid game rather than sticking with a 4-2-3-1 that wasn’t working brilliantly? Even in the closing stages he stuck with just one up front.

But before we talk ourselves into a crisis, we should really pause here. City are sixth in the league. They’ve only lost one of their last 12 League Two matches. They might be struggling to score enough goals, but defensively they have been largely excellent. Lewis had another superb game here. Crichlow and Platt are a strong partnership. Matty Foulds gets better with every game – Liam Ridehalgh surely isn’t getting near the starting XI when he recovers from injury. A special mention to Brad Halliday too, who recovered from his Tuesday struggles to put in an excellent shift here.

I think, more than anything, this has been the week where City have not looked like the automatic promotion contenders we were hoping they would prove to be. That the ability and level of performances shown by this team is more play off finish level. Perhaps not even quite that. And it’s always disappointing to downgrade your expectation levels, even if only for a short time. Especially as it leads to soul searching questions that come out as criticisms of those involved.

And boos.

But, nailing colours to the mast, I’m right behind what Hughes is trying to do. It’s not perfect and I’d like to think he’s seeing that too. There have to be questions about whether the formation and starting XI is growing a little stale. But with 600+ games as a manager, Hughes will know that too. He’s used other recent cup games as a chance to experiment slightly, and you’d like to think he’ll use next weekend’s FA Cup game with Harrogate as a chance to freshen things up.

But I really like the intent to play good football. I like us playing out from the back. We’ve got players who can clearly do it very well, and when they’re on form it’s really good to watch. I’ve grown really tired of negative managers like Gary Bowyer and Derek Adams treat the City job as one where avoiding getting beaten is the priority. I want to turn up at Valley Parade feeling confident of being entertained, watching good players express themselves.

It hasn’t worked as well of late, no question, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. I agree that at times we should be more direct and not be afraid to mix it up. But I like the technical approach we’re trying to implement, and it feels like it will in time fully click and make City unstoppable.

So I hope the players carry on playing it out from the back. I hope Lewis continues to display footballing skills you don’t associate with a goalkeeper, especially at this level. I hope every member of the City squad follows the manager’s lead in maintaining a level head. Because however bumpy the road has felt over the last few days, this still looks to be the right path.

Categories: Match Reviews

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29 replies

  1. This splendid piece, frank, fair and full of insight, marks a welcome moment of reflection and objective appraisal. It gives food for thought. My thought has not changed in a week: we don’t score enough goals to be automatically promoted. I am hoping the sheer size of our squad will allow us to finish the season strongly and we can power our way into the top three and prove me wrong.

  2. From the kop , sat with my brother and son , i questioned the wall also, i said watch this 1all here ! 2 crawley in wall ,hard drive towards their 2 players in wall they step aside and balls in back of the net , and it happened! Why oh why didnt city put 2 players behind those 2 Crawley players . ?

  3. Fair assessment as always from your match reports.

    Im enjoying going to the games again this season, under the Adams era it felt like a chore. I do wish the team could mix it up a bit more though, it can be a bit frustrating passing around at the back at home against poor opposition when we are not winning the game. If you are 2-0 up then fair enough, be patient and keep possession.

    I just think sometimes teams are happy to let us pass it around at the back with no urgency because it always them to get organised and into position.

    We have still got some important players to come back from injury such as Jamie Walker who hopefully will give the team a boost later on in the season.

    Overall I’m pretty happy with how things are going this season, onwards and upwards.

  4. Frustrated is the word I’d use.

    Frustrated with the crowd around me.
    You’re being generous Jason, it was 13 minutes when the boos started. I sit in Block D main stand, so if you’re the bloke who keeps standing up and shouting 4-4-2 down at Hughes or the one who constantly shouts ‘launch it’, grow up. Do you realise that getting on the players’ backs doesn’t help? Do you think they’re likely to want the advice of a 70 year old who probably played a little bit of football when he was at school or the manager with 600+ games behind him? I know it is frustrating, I was getting inwardly irate as Platt never seemed to look forward but you have to back the players in the right way.

    Frustrated with the refusal to mix it up.
    I’m not a footballer but I can see what they’re doing, they pass it around and try and pull the opposition out of their defensive set up. Then Wright, Pereira, Chapman are fed and they drive into the space. This was evident in the first half when Chapman (who for me is the spark of this team) three times got clear. Once he set up Cook and it looked a shocking miss for him and twice he got hacked down resulting in yellow cards. For me the second one should have been a red, no attempt to play the ball and taken out high – shocker of a challenge – and the fact Chapman staggered around for the next 5 minutes summed it up. However just occasionally they could play it early – not launch it but an early pass, I think we have skilful enough players to create. However the problem yesterday was the woeful crossing.

    Frustrated with the lack of goals. I don’t think we played well yesterday but it was a ridiculous error that cost us and we did plenty enough to win the game but we cannot finish- Cook, Wright, Pereira and Banks all missed gilt-edged chances AND if Chapman could hit the net surely he’d be playing a higher standard.

    I was a bit despondent at the end yesterday but it doesn’t take long to reflect and realise that we are in a good position with a good team and a management team who know what they are doing.

    Back the team and my advice is to not read the rubbish on social media.

    • Regarding Platt, he’s told to pass to who is available. His main out ball is halliday but he has no line ball due to us being weak down the right so it invariably goes back to Platt. he then looks for Gilliead who ended up berating him first half for passing to him. So he goes to Critchlow, who kept giving him it back. Not gonna knock Platt, he’s played well this season and put a lovely ball through for Banks effort second half. Hughes is right to stick with his methods, he’s gonna have to get that central midfield sorted out because they were both poor yesterday. Both are capable of better.

      But then if Cook and Wright had their finishing boots on it would have been immaterial anyway. We’ve got a lot to be positive about, we’re not that far off being a decent side.

    • Whole heartily agree. Crawley was at us from the set go. As soon as Lewis passed the ball to a defender, the Crawley player was on him forcing a misdirected short pass which they snapped up. This was happening all the time. If like you say they received a pass kick it long if there is pressure otherwise keep it short. It’s the predictability that concerns me. Regarding the goal, Gilliard gave away an unnecessary fee kick simply because if a misdirected pass by him.

  5. I agree generally with comments in the article. Too many people in the kop were just screaming for us to get rid of the ball rather then playing it from the back. I commented at the time that that’s how we play and how the team has been instructed to play by Hughes. Just launch ing the ball forward with only Cook up top would not work . Agree that a freshen up for the cup game and perhaps a 442 as we at home, might be the way forward and, give other players in the squad much needed game time.

  6. I used to shout with frustration in previous seasons at endless long balls. One afternoon I did a mental calculation of what percentage ended up with the other team and coming straight back. So I have no problem with mostly playing it out from the back.

    My issue is lack of tempo, and too much crab football, with side ways or back passing, which seems to invite pressure and ends up the sort of goal we conceded.

    A bit more variety in approach when things aren’t working would be welcome.

  7. Agree with most of the report from Jason and also with a couple of comments so far.

    I would like to see them mix it up a bit without necessarily doing away with the system Sparky has opted for. Every now and again, go long perhaps. Even if it doesn’t work it will put doubt in the opposition about what is coming next. A formation change, maybe utilising the same players and also briefly, perhaps, would add to the doubts from the opposition.

    Walker coming back is vital, I think but I also believe that bringing in a new striker and/or a creative midfielder in January would be great and would show real commitment from management and owner.

  8. I’m fine with playing it out from the back. Most teams in L2 play that way now, but why do we have to beso rigid in doing it every time? Why can’t we mix it up and play the occasional long ball up to Cook. Crawley played a ball in the first half from their keeper and it landed right at their players feet in the right wing!
    Secondly, we are really slow in our build up play. When a player gets the ball they almost stop whilst looking for their next move. We should be constantly moving forward, especially our centre halves whilst looking for a pass. And i noticed yesterday other players were guilty of not making space for themselves which made it particularly hard to make this pass.
    Finally, the 4-2-3-1 formation is causing an issue. Smallwood who has been good this season but not fantastic, often looks isolated. He was very poor yesterday and looked tired. I think he would be better in a larger midfield. Chapman (as mentioned) should be out on the wing. He was coming too deep yesterday which often left us short up top. Hughes needs to mix this up and look at the teams we are facing. They will all come to us to stop Cook scoring and put pressure on our two centre halves playing from the back. Why not try 4-3-3 or 3-5-2. We have a large enough squad. Stop sticking to the same players andformation

  9. Agree with a lot but completely disagree with a couple of the points.

    1. We did enough over the 90 minutes to win this game comfortably. We had clear chances for Banks, Chapman, Wright and Cook in addition to a brilliantly taken goal from Perreira. There were multiple half chances too for the likes of Oliver.

    2. I’d argue Smallwood is exactly the player Hughes wants him to be and signed him to be. He dictates tempo, he makes himself available, he spreads play well. He’s a real leader. Just spend 10 minutes in a game watching him off the ball not on it. He’s like a conductor in an orchestra not the violinist.

    Many are asking for us to play 2 up front but many of these people are also wanting Walker back – a number 10. However, a number 10 who you would hope is likely to contribute more goals.

    It’s not the system at all we are just lacking that killer instinct. And Hughes can’t put the ball in the back of the net. Ironically I believe both of our last 2 games we’ve created more than previously but haven’t got the points

    It might feel slow at time but it’s unrealistic to think you can play at 100MPH for 90 minutes. So at times we keep the ball and that negates the opposition threat. Otherwise you’re just turning over the ball and giving the opposition an opportunity to attack. All possession teams do the same look at how many passes Dias makes in a game at Man City.

    The first half wasn’t good at all. But second half we were excellent.

    We have more points than the history makers in 2013 after 16 games, I imagine more points than 98/99. This is a good team, coached well. Add in that killer instinct we will be in the autos. Without it probably playoffs

  10. I prefer the playing from the back approach and not the Route One stuff that we’ve had in prior seasons. Quite simply the most effective tactics for an away team to use against us at Valley Parade is to get men behind the ball and not give us time on it. You don’t need to be a tactical genius to work it out which is why we are seeing it on a regular basis. Our narrow pitch suits this approach and opposing managers know that it is the best way to frustrate the home crowd and in turn unnerve our players. I’d argue it demonstrates the importance of City taking the game to the visitors before they can settle and become comfortable. Had the sitter not been missed we’d have undoubtedly seen a better outcome.

    It’s not difficult to criticise the performance but on the other hand it’s not difficult to see progress being made and I’m confident that there will be learning from all of this. I remain confident that barring injury to Andy Cook we’ll be in a strong position in the new year with a strong squad and players returning from injury. Above all, we’ve got a manager who knows his game and deserves our trust.

    • Optimism is wonderful if it’s built on a solid foundation. In City’s case, I would question how solid that foundation truly is. No club in L2 have more loanees than City and that I fear will possibly be City’s Achilles Heel. January is likely to be a month filled with uncertainties due to an over reliance on loanees. Ultimately, I hope City don’t become another Swindon and a brief joy of sunlight.

      • The loanees arguments is over emphasised in my opinion.
        We could easily afford to allow three of the existing loanees to return. The key is to try to be in control of the ones you want to keep which is I think where your concerns lie.
        Honestly one might argue a January shake up can benefit us. So let’s wait and see how it goes.
        League 2 is not and has never been the place for long term or even full season squad stability. Beggars can’t be choosers I’m afraid

      • Karl, I appreciate your comments and you make some good points. However, if City are truly looking long term why do we have 6 loanees? It makes no sense other than short term joy and saving money. City and Grimsby Town both have six loanees and lead the league in loanees. Surely, there is something wrong with that picture???

  11. Firstly credit to Jason for summarising the match, with an objective ‘warts and all’ report.
    I looked at the ‘stats’, which are very impressive. However whatever they say, the game didn’t ‘feel’ like a dominant display.
    We stuttered badly and despite the reported 23 shots (really), we never really seemed to trouble their keeper.

    Moving on to the subject of ‘Booing’. This is a simple expression of disappointment. However I am not sure it relates to one simple issue.
    My thoughts are that it can include, ‘Booing’ the result, some of the opposition players, in some cases the referee/officials (who in this match put in an neutral performance in my view), rather than just our performance, a particular City player, or the Manager.
    The structure of the game, doesn’t allow supporters to express their dissatisfaction, during the game, in a more constructive manner.
    So personally I wouldn’t put too much on booing, that can be changed quite simply by putting in an attractive performance and importantly winning and scoring more than one goal.
    Next Saturday is an opportunity for the team to kick on against local ish neighbours who are having a poor run. A win and a good one at that will help to restore the mood.

  12. Our tactics are predictable, and the substitutions have also become predictable.

    Earlier in the season MH was giving opportunities to Young and Harratt, who offered a bit of a spark up front. Now, he’s generally bringing on Oliver, an Angol, playing well within himself, or, if he’s in the squad, Sutton. I’m sure Huddersfield didn’t loan us Harratt so he could do a few laps of the pitch before games. I guess some players have already given up the ghost.

    MH has persevered with some under performers and it was a travesty when East was promptly dropped, after a good performance, to allow new dad Gillead to return.

    MH’s comments after yesterday’s game had a touch of the “Deluded Derek’s” about them. Fans will tolerate any style of play, providing a team is winning. Yesterday was another demonstration of how turgid and tedious the MH style can be, when players at our level are attempting to copy it.

    Talk of automatic promotion looks a pipe dream.

  13. My frustration with yesterday, was that despite the promise of Tuesday, the players seem to have forgotten how we went about that.

    Namely Crichlow or Platt striding 20 to 30 yards forward into the open space that was again present, carry the ball, commit a man, then the ball goes wide to the fullbacks much higher up the pitch. The short, round the corner channel ball to Wright and Dion is then on all day long, and we’re “playing” in the right areas.

    How many times yesterday after 4 sideways passes, did we feed the ball into Gillead, back to goal, deep in our half and under pressure? Passing is great, but not without purpose.

  14. You cannot afford two misfiring centre mids in our set up. Both are too good for that to become a pattern. Interesting that Lewis’s go too out ball to the full backs was cut off by Crawley. That left the centre backs to get out but they were given far too few options. Bit of a reality check this week and we were all getting a bit ahead of ourselves. It is still a big improvement on last season

    • That pretty much sums up yesterday in one paragraph. Crawley closed down the two centre midfielders. Unfortunately both are very similar in style, and with both being integral if we want to pass out from the back i’d wonder if Hughes can trust East enough to be the midfielder to make that pass and move happen.

  15. Good perspective Jason, for me it’s glaring goals for column that shows where the problem lies. Set us up at home to create more chances and this squad will perform, winning games creates confidence.

  16. I don’t think any supporters are wanting us to play ‘long ball’ instead of trying to play from the back, but there’s frustration that we’re ponderous and predictable, and that is starting from the back.

    Mix it up is exactly right. We do the same thing every time from the back, even when a quicker or more direct option is on. That kind of dogmatic approach, where responsibility is taken away from the players just so they can rigidly stick with what the manager asks reminds me of under Bowyer, when he wouldn’t let the players cross the half way line. If the break is on, go forward. If Crawley have pushed up, make them turn.

    Doing the same thing every time is easy to defend. Crawley stood off our centre backs, knowing the ball would eventually find its way to Smallwood or Gillead and that’s when they pressed to win the ball. It happened – successfully for Crawley – about four or five times in the first half and happened for the free kick for their goal.

    The constant sideways passing is counterproductive if it doesn’t move Crawley’s shape. Our forward players stop making runs because they know the ball won’t come near them, so when we do get over the halfway line our forwards are flatfooted and are easily matched up by the opposition. The number of times we break the lines, only to then turn back and allow them to get back into position, is incredibly frustrating.

    One thing on supporters expectations. I’ve said on here before that Hughes doesn’t just have the weight of this season to bear, but the previous five too. For City fans who just watch home games, we’ve been short-changed for years. So far this season we have three home league wins from eight games which is the same as Crawley. And we’ve even looked a little uncomfortable in a couple of those wins. We think we have a good team, a strong squad and a top manager, but we’ve clearly not properly clicked yet. Hughes saying he isn’t going to change his approach, as if his approach shouldn’t be questioned because of past success is wrong, because we haven’t achieved anything here yet. Our current position is the minimum a lot of us would accept from this season. And over passed seasons – under Bowyer, McCall and Adams – this is the time when everything starts to deflate and we have try cling to positives like “we’re not that far off the top 3/top 6” while we lose ground. We’ve seen it before and we know the signs, and that’s a big reason why we’re frustrated.

  17. MH won’t change his style, I always moan we bring everyone back for a corner, then clear it and have no outlet. Hoping Ryan East gets back in the team at the expense of Gilliard. He brings more passing and can take a corner/free kick and don’t have to realie on Smallwood who frequently over hits his corners and free kicks. Can’t wait for Jamie Walker to get fit, he’s the missing link as Chapman is more of a winger for me. Where creating chances but other than Cook we need more from the rest of the team.

  18. Give Lewis the go to mix it up and have a few long balls to set up a quick attack .

  19. Our biggest problem is Cook’s lack of mobility. It’s essential that the front man in 4231 moves the defence around to create the space for others to play in. Just look at Harry Kane. Never stops moving, often on the halfway line getting involved in the build up play and then arriving in the penalty area to finish them off. Cook does none of that, nor does Oliver. Angol can but he is playing so much within himself that his effectiveness is greatly diminished. Until we get a mobile front man Hughes’ system will continue to frustrate us all.

  20. Remember how all the complaints about our goalies used to be their long kicks not finding anybody. No longer a problem – we have no idea if Harry can kick the ball at all!
    Lots of thoughtful comments above but nobody seems to have commented on the sheer number of our passes that went straight to the opposition IN OUR OWN HALF! Some were interceptions but most were simply misdirected.
    The view of our little group in the NW Corner is that the players we have are not skilful enough to play out from the back all the time. Gilliead’s aberration for the goal was an accident waiting to happen – he is not a central midfielder.
    If we had got the six points this week, we would all have been much happier but, realistically, we deserved two draws.
    I said to my friends after our goal, ‘Can we contain these when they come out and attack us?’ – and the answer was no! One great save, a couple of corners and a double cock-up with the free kick and then the wall. We could see the gap through to the left corner and the lad exploited it perfectly.
    Against Swindon, we gave away a penalty in the last-minute for the second year running. We sat back against a good team and git punished. It could have been worse – look what they did to Mansfield!
    This feels like 2016 and 2017. Staying in the play-offs all season but not having that spark to get us over the line at the end. Hope I’m wrong.

  21. This Result proves we’ve hit the buffers a little bit. But let’s keep things in context. More draws than we would like is better than a load of defeats. performances are still good and chances are still being created.
    It feels like a good time to shuffle the squad a little bit with some injured players now available and some of the established xi needing a rest / dropping to shake them up a bit.
    We’re very fortunate to have that option.
    One third of the season gone. 7 wins 6 draws 3 defeats. Sat in 6th position (I think at time of writing)
    So all in all I’d score that a 7 maybe touching an 8 out of 10
    Now we move into the the next crucial phase of the season. The winter period. Let’s hope with some shuffling of the starting xi. Some players getting their chances to contribute and maybe even a few comings and goings in January we continue to build on this start and can end the second third of the season sat in 3rd.
    it’s crucial that we start to share the goals out. I’d personally like to see more contribution to results from Oliver Walker pereira.
    Looking forward to the next part of the journey

  22. In the week Lewis ( in a T&A interview) said he hears all the fans saying kick it long but HIS manager tells him not to.
    Guess who he is going to listen to!
    We are still a ‘Work in progress’ as a team/squad and probably need a couple of the right players to complete the team.
    Losing Osadabe on the opening day was a major blow to the plans. Walker is still to come back and we know little of what Eisa can.offer until we see him for a few games.
    It’s better to watch. Not.perfect by any means but light years better than this time last year under Adams.
    I think MH is heading in the right direction and although maybe not this season he is slowly building a team.

  23. Just one final point on this, having read a lot of subsequent comments. We must recognise that there is more nuance available in Lewis distribution than “kick it long” or do what he is currently doing which is square it to Crichlow 5 yards away. There’s a quick underarm to a full-back, a short overarm bowl to a free man 30 yards away. Variety and speed of distribution keeps opponents guessing and unable to set.

    Crowd dissent is often a collective desire for tweaks, not a complete reversal of approach. As I’ve mentioned, even within what we are doing, a bit more bravery in ball-carrying would get us up the pitch and playing our passing football in safer and more fruitful areas of the pitch.

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