A professional job as happy travellers Bradford City win on the road again

Sutton United 0
Bradford City 2
Cook 37, Banks 51

By Adam Raj

What is it about Bradford City on the road? As the travelling Bantams left South London with yet another win on the board, Mark Hughes’ side are two points away from the top three and top the away form table. Six wins and a draw from the last seven on their travels, and with three clean sheets in the last four. It makes for impressive reading.

Over the course of the last two fixtures, City have demonstrated the different facets that are present in every successful side. The first half at Mansfield showcased City’s high tempo pass and move football as well as their ability to dig in, scrap and time waste their way to three points in the second period. Whereas the visit to Sutton showcased City’s ability to stand up to an aerial bombardment and produce a professional and disciplined performance against very awkward opposition.

This afternoon’s encounter had the potential to be a real banana skin. Sutton were on a wretched run of form and had just been dumped out of the FA Cup by non league Farnborough. And that’s before you look at their injury list that meant their back line contained a winger at right back, a right back at centre back and a 35 year old midfielder at left back. In years gone by, City fans wouldn’t have had much optimism. But this Bradford City side is different.

Despite being without ever-presents Matty Platt (suspended) and Tyreik Wright (injured), City’s squad stood up to the test of losing two influential players. Yann Songo’o came in at centre back whilst Abo Eisa got the nod on the left wing in what were Hughes’ only two changes from the victory at Field Mill.

In the first half at Gander Green Lane, City looked very much like a side who had played 103 minutes on Tuesday, 35 of which with ten men. It was a very sluggish affair, with little quality from either side and City seemed to fall into Sutton’s trap of giving them exactly the type of game they wanted. Sutton were very much the stereotypical league two outfit – long balls, long throws, playing the percentages and launching the ball into the box at any opportunity. In other words, the exact sort of game in which you wouldn’t want to miss your biggest defensive aerial presence.

But step forward Songo’o and Romoney Critchlow. Both were excellent and MOTM contenders. Critchlow especially seems to have vastly improved in his physical game. He was always a defender who was comfortable and assured when defending on the ground but struggled with winning aerial duels, especially from long balls. Today, he didn’t miss a header and defended his box superbly. Similarly, Songo’o, after an early booking for a rusty challenge, was everything you need in this type of game – strong, physical and aggressive.

And at the other end, when you have someone in the form of Andy Cook, you only need a half chance to turn a game in your favour. And so it was of no surprise that City’s number nine, with his 15th goal of the season, broke the deadlock. Eisa faced up Enzio Boldewijn, cut inside and scuffed a shot towards goal that was deflected into the path of Cook. The City striker managed to stab a toe at the ball and redirect it into the bottom corner.

That goal sparked the Bantams into life. Harry Chapman had an effort cleared off the line by Rob Milsom moments before wasting an excellent chance to square for Cook. City were suddenly sniffing blood, meanwhile the hosts were glad for the half time whistle.

Whilst the game was still in the balance at 0-1, another goal was always going to wrap up the three points. Sutton didn’t look to have one goal in them, let alone two. And in very untypical City-like fashion, the Bantams made life easy for themselves with an early second half strike. A short corner worked its way from Chapman to Scott Banks, who hit a sweet, curling strike into the top corner of Jack Rose’s net. The Sutton keeper had completely lost his bearings, but Banks’ strike was the very definition of postage stamp. I’ll let you decide if it was a cross or shot.

Just as they were on Tuesday, the goal celebrations were special. Banks’ especially, in front of the 750 strong travelling faithful was superb, as City’s goal scorer was joined by his teammates, knee-slide after knee-slide. The atmosphere that followed in the away end was one of party mode, helped in part by some very joyful stewards who even got a rendition of “Sutton get battered, everywhere they go” going. The game was done, the players knew it and so did the fans.

On the pitch, City killed the game very effectively. They allowed their hosts to pass the ball along their back line, without needing to exert themselves in a press, knowing full well that Sutton didn’t have the quality to pass through them.

As you would expect, Sutton piled bodies forward in search of a lifeline but that just allowed City to counter attack, which really should have yielded better outcomes. Banks nearly doubled his tally with a jinking run that was eventually saved by Rose, but Eisa, Lee Angol and Vadaine Oliver late on wasted some good opportunities.

After the manner in which City exited the FA Cup last weekend, the last two fixtures have been the perfect response. Back to back wins, both of which fully merited, as well as impressive performances in two tough looking away fixtures means that City have established themselves as serious automatic promotion contenders.

Next weekend’s fixture with Northampton at Valley Parade already looks like a blockbuster matchup. A note of some confidence is that the league’s top scorer, Sam Hoskins, will be suspended after picking up his fifth booking of the season in the Cobblers’ win at Gillingham this afternoon.

As for City, their next hurdle is to improve their stuttering home form and next week provides no better opportunity to do so.

Categories: Match Reviews

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7 replies

  1. The away form is brilliant , now get the home form going ,its a massive game next Saturday against Northampton ,win it and we are in the mix for the top three. So the players and supporters need to be up for it.

  2. I give credit to Sutton, they were without key players. Saying that, City were missing players as well. First half, I thought Sutton competed well but didn’t have great ability in front of goal. Teams like Sutton are a banana skin for Bradford but we competed well and scored in both halfs. I hope that we can find a good result against Northampton next Saturday. They will be without their top scorer but we can’t take them for granted. Win next Saturday will be a game changer for the rest of the season. Onwards and upwards. Good look lads for next week.

  3. Excellent performance. Clearly Mark Hughes is instilling confidence and a winning mentality into the team. I believe the players enjoy playing away from home as the opponents tend to attack more and this enables city to play their football more. Teams coming to valley parade tend to ‘park the bus’ and most of the time city don’t have the creative players to break them down.
    Ps good report. Keep up the good work.

  4. Excellent report Adam!! Well balanced. Glad to see two away wins have silenced the madness I was reading on multiple social media sites just over a week ago! Unbelievable tripe! Thank you Mark Hughes! Keep it going!

    • 1) No way was that a cross. He’s tried that a couple of times at VP and it’s almost come off. Banks is a real talent.
      2) I think Gilly deserves a mention too. Covered every inch of the ground and definitely one of his best games in that role alongside Smallwood.

      • I’ve only the iFollow to go on.
        1) I agree – defo a shot – as you say, he’s tried that a few times, it had to work sometime.
        2) I struggle to see how Cook was onside, but I couldn’t tell there was a deflection.
        3) What crap video – was it filmed by someone on (an old) phone?

  5. After the outpouring of despair from last Saturday, 6 points is a great achievement from the difficult away double. Wasn’t there but sounds like a comfortable win once we were ahead – 2 big games coming up in terms of top spots and we should be rightly full of confidence. Up the Bantams!

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