Clinical O’s dampen Bradford City’s bright start.

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

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22 replies

  1. City have been found out. Stockport were the first to apply the high press and results have since been modest at 3W-3D-6L with 8 goals scored and 16 against including the October 8th game. These modest results reflect poorly on Mark Hughes and in particular his inability to change tactics or rotate players. City have a relatively easy schedule for the balance of December. Going into January I expect City to maintain a playoff spot but automatic promotion is likely unattainable this season. The January transfer window is going to make or break City’s playoff hopes.

  2. I think Gillead is poor (most of the time) and therefore puts Smallwood under too much pressure. As reported we need a Josh Cullen. We’re always swamped in midfield

  3. We all know where the problems are ,the squad is large and lacks balance and quality,thats why Mark dose not use them.Its tells me he did not pick them .We need a clear out in January,i just hope the club supports the Manager ,we are still in good position to move forward its time to invest in January .

    • So many aspects don’t make much sense. Why have a big squad but not use it more fully? Why give players at this level three-year contracts – and not play them? Why keep employing the same tactics when they are not working? Why not admit they are not working when they are not working?

  4. I could point out that on a points accumulation basis, against an 85-point target (normally enough), we’re only one win behind the curve. However, there is a problem with automatic promotion now in that we’ve just played two sides clearly better than us. Not just “on the day” better, but more clinical, will almost certainly finish above us, better.

    It makes it tough, and going up automatically is tough.

    I have started to despair of the reaction to falling short this season and think it could be something of a watershed. If we end up with say, 80 points and a playoff place, with clearly the best side we’ve had in 4/5 years, there are some questions we have to ask ourselves:

    Is that really a failure?
    Are home games going to continue to be tense, and at times toxic affairs when things don’t go our way?
    Is that the way we want to enjoy/consume an above average season?
    Will the tiresome singling out of Gillead continue. Where good performances againt Swindon, Sutton and Mansfield are barely acknowledged, but he’s piled on in subsequent games?
    Will even Mark Hughes himself start to come under pressure, 12 months into a project that was realistically always gonna take 2/3 years?
    Will the ridiculous clamour for 4-4-2, (like its 1996) continue, despite the fact no-one else plays that way?

    Let’s see.

    • Well said Richard. I’m tired of all the doom and gloom. So many people in these days of “Pop Idol” instant success throwing their toys out of the pram because it didn’t go our way. 20 games in at 6th and the world is caving in! Makes my blood boil! Agree with Adam – it wasn’t that bad! A decent January window with in & outs would make a difference for sure. Lastly, blame and criticism of Stefan & Co I’ve read elsewhere is completely unfair as they’ve backed Mark to the hilt. Hitting out at them is scandalous!

    • Really? You didn’t see the French formation yesterday then.

  5. I watched the game and enjoyed the strong start snd competitive first half but lost interest in a predictable lacklustre second half which felt like going through the motions.

    I just wanted to highlight what the opposition radio coverage thought. I had the Leyton Orient radio commentary and on and just before the first goal even their commentators were saying the O’s were very lucky not to be 1 or 2 goals down and they seemed to feel the penalty appeal for Wright being brought down was a very strong one. At half time they even said that City had been their best opponents all season and one of the chaps said it had been the most best halves of football he had ever seen in the 4th tier (probably a bit overblown in my opinion) however it does give an outsiders perspective in our club.

    It’s gut wrenching that we lost so heavily as we did play better than we have in most games over the past two months, however after so many poor performances recently there is no “free pass” from us fans for any blips because the trend had been going on too long with no sign that there is any recognition of the issues and therefore any will to change the predictability that is so evident to anyone watching City.

    • A Leyton Orient friend of mine said the same in regards to we are the best team they had played this season Stuart although I wasn’t sure he wasn’t saying it to make me feel better about the result 🤣

    • The first half hour was a very good display of fottball and we looked good. Once Orient scored they imposed their control on the game and by the second it was obvious there was no way back. Ultimately the turning point in the game was about failing to convert chances. Orient showed how it should be done and maybe if we’d gone ahead we’d have held the lead. The second half was virtually a non event and particularly disappointing after such an encouraging and confident start.

  6. Fair match report as usual from this site. The result doesn’t overly concern me, it was always going to be hard going away to the team that’s top of the league.

    What is a bit worrying is how predictable Adam (and most people) find the way we play. When you can’t mix it a bit you become predictable and that makes the oppositions manager and players job easier to stifle you. I also think the best managers can change the team and tactics to take depending on the team they are playing to take into account their strengths and weaknesses.

    But I’m much happier in where the club is in every aspect compared to 12 months ago. Hopefully Mark can make a few changes to the squad in the January transfer window and the team can improve further.

  7. It is becoming as highlighted, that our midfield is not good enough, no good pointing out a minority of good games. Unfortunately, they are not quick/mobile enough and lack physicality. I believe that the report highlights clearly the issues that management have to quickly resolve, and believe that they fully understand, without players to fit these positions. Orient player Moncour yesterday, showed this in his play yesterday.

  8. We have just decisively lost two six-pointers. The best way of reducing a large deficit is to win such matches. Draw and the status quo is maintained. Lose and you go farther behind. So important are they that I expected us to go to Northampton and show the sort of fierce determination not to lose we frequently see from the away side at VP. Far from it, we wilted the moment we came under real pressure. Having lost that match I expected us to go to Leyton Orient with even more determination and a better plan. As Ferguson used to say – good teams don’t lose two on the bounce. But no, the plan and execution and result were very similar, as was the pre- and post-match rhetoric.

  9. I think you are right Adam, in respect of corners. We conceded two goals from corners yesterday. So the packed ‘team in the box’ isn’t working. Having a pacy player around the halfway line takes out two of the opponents. You wonder if their left back James would have been in that position if Wright or Banks had been up field.
    The failure of our second line of attack to score goals is starting to tell. Chapman has a single goal all season, which simply put is not good enough if we only have a single out and forward in Cook (or Angol/Oliver).
    We need to retune this team, as we are not getting the best out of it.
    Focus has been on the two League defeats, but lost in reporting is the fact that the team has also lost at Salford in this run, so three straight defeats is becoming concerning.
    Having played two of the top three, we now face two of the bottom three. If we have a hope of promotion, we really need to ‘get the show on the road again’, by gaining two convincing victories. Simple as.

  10. I am picking up on the point Adam made about corners. The system of pulling all the team back virtually into the penalty box, just isn’t working.

    The first goal from a corner was absolutely tremendous (from where we were in the ground you could see the trajectory).

    The second goal game from the ball ‘pinging’ around following their corner. The crowded box could have contributed to the inability to clear the lines.

    Having either Banks or Wright near the half way line would take two of their players away from the corner. I would think that their left back James, wouldn’t have been in the area he scored from, if we had a player up.

    Rather than assisting in defending corners, having the whole team back, seems to be assisting the opposition.

  11. I feared what today’s article would say but I am pleased as it is so well balanced. No more to say really as I agree in full – we looked really good for half an hour and Chapman had to score when 5 yards out and failed to even touch the ball! Very disappointing 2nd half but we weren’t totally battered like the commentators and twitterati would have you think.

    An interesting point about the commentary and I may start listening to the opposition commentary if Kiwomya continues to be involved.

    • I don’t think there is too much wrong with the style of football we play and the tactics we employ. The issue is, especially recently, we are lacking the key players to complement our tactics.

      Building from the back requires technically proficient defenders. We can break their press when we have the likes of Critchlow, but without him we move the ball too slowly and predictably. Equally, its why we lack with Gillead in midfield. We don’t have a Watt-esq, Cullen-esq player who will drop between there lines and create an option to open them up.

      Football is a game of fine margins and two decent signings in January can be the difference between the Play-Offs and Automatics. There are examples every year of teams who seem to go on miraculous runs just after January and end up getting promoted. In reality, they’ve been great teams all season but have just lacked one or two key positions.

  12. Absolutely deluded if you think we are anywhere close to Northampton and Orient!

    We are miles off!!

    We have a completely lightweight midfield and back 4 – midfield especially!!

    No pace to us at all, way off any 2nd ball all the time and distribution is appalling!!

    Need I go on more??

    Gillingham not score in 7 games and only scored 6 all season so far – this is an absolute MUST win game for the future of MH simple as!!

  13. You couldn’t fault the way that City started the game at Orient – the players definitely had the determination of a team wanting to prove itself. The attitude could not be faulted. The high intensity and quality of football in the first half hour was also as good as I’ve seen us play all season. Ultimately we didn’t seize the chances or have the luck and hence lost the initiative.

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