|Leyton Orient 3|
|Kelman 24, James 32, Sotiriou 85|
|Bradford City 0|
Leyton Orient 3 Bradford City 0
Written by Adam Raj (photos John Dewhirst)
I realise I may take some stick for this, but that wasn’t as bad as it looks. Sure, we lost 3-0, and so something must have gone badly wrong, but this was far from the one sided, 90 minute battering that it looks like.
Don’t get me wrong, back to back defeats to arguably the two best sides in the division at this moment is a problem and highlights the many deficiencies this side still has, but I agree with Mark Hughes’ post match assessment – we’re not that far off.
As City usually do, they started very brightly – forcing mistakes from the Orient back line and working the ball into some really dangerous areas. There were three appeals for a City penalty within quick succession with clumsy challenges on Scott Banks, Tyreik Wright and Andy Cook. The Banks one looked to be the most blatant when centre half Dan Happe swung an arm straight into the face of the Scot. Accidental, no doubt, but as is evident from the World Cup fixtures so far, it is something that referees are starting to punish. Darren Drysedale had a different view, of course.
Wright then got the better of Omar Beckles in a foot race and went down after the centre half looked to stumble into the back of him – again no penalty. No doubt, Wright was looking for it, but you’ve certainly seen them given and Orient couldn’t have complained too much if it had.
A strong City press led to Cook robbing the ball off Happe inside the area and in an attempt to rectify his mistake, the Orient number five had his hands all over the City man, yanking and pulling him so that he wasn’t able to lay the ball off. It was one of those where the City striker was probably too honest and would’ve been better served going down. That didn’t stop him complaining to Mr Drysedale, although he probably carried on a bit too long as moments later he scuffed wide from Banks’ pass whilst still distracted by his protestations.
It was a really promising and positive first 15-20 minutes. In addition to the penalty calls, Banks spurned a good chance when he fired low at Vigouroux and Chapman, in similar fashion, danced his way between two Orient men before firing well wide. Even Richie Smallwood’s set pieces were better. He didn’t massively over hit them although they didn’t pose much of a problem either as City failed to put their heads in where it hurt, obviously.
But then comes the sucker punch. In what was their first real attack of the game, Theo Archibald played a lovely reverse pass for Charlie Kelman to take the ball beyond Harry Lewis and finish into an open goal. In real time, it looked to be an obvious offside. But regardless of that, City’s defence was stood still and Kelman was the only one who reacted.
Just like last week – City start the better side, fail to score in their period of dominance and then concede with the opposition’s first attack.
The reaction to going one down here was at least better than it was last week though. City should’ve equalised when Cook was inches away from meeting Smallwood’s terrific free kick at the back post.
But then out of nowhere, it’s 2-0. Tom James was afforded far too much room on the edge of the area from George Moncur’s corner and the fullback curled an unstoppable strike into the top corner. Why he was afforded that much room is anyone’s guess. Maybe it was arrogance in that he is only a fullback, however one look at this lad’s goal compilation shows you he’s as deadly as any attacker from that range.
Or maybe, it was down to the setup. There’s a lot of talk about how City defend corners and their lack of an out ball in the form of a Wright or Banks, strategically placed on the halfway line to launch a counter. But it’s clear Hughes has no real interest in this.
I can see both sides. From a defensive corner, the objective is to not concede and given that we’re not the biggest of sides, we choose to mark zonally, which requires more players as opposed to man for man marking.
In the zonal system, you have the four aerial targets in Matty Foulds, Timi Odusina, Matty Platt and Cook lined up on the edge of the six yard box and then three or four players acting as blockers or man markers for the opposition attackers, preventing them from getting a free run at the ball. Then you have two men marking the short pass (if it’s on) and Hughes also likes both posts covered too. All of these roles add up and you can see why it’s all hands to the pump. And to be fair, our set piece record since Hughes came in is pretty good.
However, leaving a man up front prevents at least two opposition players from being involved in the attacking phase and also limits the likelihood that the ball will be recycled back into the box. Maybe we can sacrifice having both posts covered to leave one man up?
As good as James’ goal was, it was a sickner to concede. Frustration in the stands and visible frustration in the body language of the players. The game was up and everyone knew it. That’s the most concerning thing for me.
Our powers of recovery, or lack of them, is a big problem. We look a competent and even sometimes pretty good side when the score is level or we’re ahead in the game. But when we’re behind, we look pretty dreadful.
City are rattled too hard when they fall behind, especially in the last couple of games where it has been against the run of play. Everything suddenly goes from being too slow and ponderous to being too rushed and messy. City don’t have the confidence and conviction to stick to the game plan and play their football, instead having the mentality that they need to hit back straight from kick off. It all means that the long, aimless balls come out, the sloppy passes become more regular and the drop in confidence needed to press high and aggressively is flicked on like a switch.
If memory serves me right, City have only come from behind once this season to take a point and that was Vadaine Oliver’s last minute goal against Wimbledon at Valley Parade. Coincidentally with Darren Drysdale as referee too. That’s nowhere near good enough for a side aiming for promotion. The cynics may say that we rarely fall behind in games to recover from, and whilst that may be true, the game cannot be as good as over as soon as you fall behind.
And so Orient were able to manage the game perfectly with a two goal cushion. The statistics backed up what the eyes had witnessed in a first half decided by a controversial offside call and wonder goal – without wishing to go all Derek Adams, the expected goals read 0.75-0.72 in favour of the hosts at half time. Orient clinical, City wasteful as usual but a fairly even game nonetheless.
The second half, however, was City at their worst. Nothing was created aside from Happe nearly scoring in his own net but the Bantams were indebted to Harry Lewis for keeping the score down. Odusina, who generally had a decent game, sold himself as Kelman was played through but Lewis made a good save with his feet to deny the striker a second.
The introductions of Jamie Walker, Lee Angol and Abo Eisa had no impact and it was anyone’s guess as to what Alex Gilliead’s role was. It was reminiscent of my own six a side career when you’re having a bad game and just throw yourself up front for the giggles. Reminiscent of last week, the discipline went out the window.
And then came the third. Archibald’s corner was drilled to James on the edge of the box (again) and his scuffed effort fell perfectly for Ruel Sotiriou to tap home from close range. City should’ve cleared their lines but the bounce of the ball was incredibly fortunate – as good a summation of the game as possible in truth.
It all leads to a conundrum for Hughes. On the one hand, if we had deservedly taken the lead in the opening stages, nobody could have complained and this would’ve undoubtedly been a different game. But on the other, the way in which we fold when we concede first is alarming. There are pressing tactical issues to sort, especially in midfield where Gillead and Richie Smallwood were anonymous. City’s midfield was outnumbered both positionally and numerically and when you can’t control a midfield, you can’t control the game.
Some will say that we were outplayed by both Northampton and Orient. For me, we were the better side in both games until the first goal and then we hit the self destruct button against two sides who are very good at controlling and managing a game. We look naïve and immature at times when we’ve had a setback which transitions us from looking like a threat to looking like a pub side.
That wasn’t a rotten performance today. In fact we played worse at Brisbane Road under Bowyer and Adams. We didn’t actually do an awful lot wrong, but ultimately football is fine margins – both Northampton and Orient were clinical, we weren’t and they made fewer mistakes in key areas than us. That’s what the best sides do.
At the moment, we don’t really have that cutting edge in either box and coupled with a poor mentality when we go behind, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot for the good work that we do at the start of games.
A lot of that is down to the makeup of the midfield. Oh for a Josh Cullen who was not only a fabulous player, but was someone whose head wouldn’t drop and had the intelligence to speed a game up or slow it down on his own. Whilst that wouldn’t solve all of our issues, it would go some distance to doing so and a player of that ilk has to be number one in the list for January. A midfield combination of Gilliead and Smallwood won’t get City promoted.
Categories: Match Reviews