A respectful and battling point for the ten man Bantams who continue to flounder in front of goal

AFC Wimbledon 0
Bradford City 0

Written by Adam Raj (images by John Dewhirst)

Well that was certainly not a classic. Not a stereotypical 0-0 by any means, but there was very little for either set of supporters to shout about in South West London.

That was aside from the home fans baying for blood in the 44th minute when Jamie Walker flew into a challenge on Huseyin Biler. Strong, hard and very late, but the City number ten was probably saved from a straight red card by the lack of studs on show.

Still, the home fans got their wish on the 60th minute when Walker went in late on Wimbledon skipper Alex Woodyard. A challenge that probably didn’t have much contact between the players, but the type that always results in a booking. For an experienced player like Walker, this was a crazy challenge to make and put his teammates right up against it.

Thankfully for Walker, City managed to see the game out without too much concern. In fact, the Bantams came the closest to scoring when Vadaine Oliver had a header cleared off the line by Biler. At that point, the game had passed with little fuss, but City were beginning to creep into the ascendancy. So the timing of Walker’s dismissal couldn’t have come at a more awkward time.

It changed the game. City were far from good up to that point, but neither were Wimbledon. The hosts expectedly ramped up the pressure and restricted the Bantams to even fewer opportunities, but in truth, never looked like scoring. Harry Lewis had to stretch himself only once from Ethan Chislett’s free kick but failed to be tested outside of that.

Richie Smallwood nearly won it in the closing stages after he pounced on a loose ball inside the box. His shot was heading for the top corner, but Nik Tzanev produced an excellent save to tip it round the post.

Ultimately, it’s a little hard to judge this City performance. Up to the red card, the contest was a typical League Two affair with neither side taking control of the game. At the time of the red card, City were beginning to get on top and for the last 30 minutes, there was a lot to admire about how the Bantams defended resolutely to restrict the hosts to no real clear cut opportunity.

Matty Platt and Romoney Critchlow were outstanding. Lewis – faultless as ever. City’s attackers did struggle to make much of an impact in the game, however. Oliver did fairly well and did have City’s best chance to score but Abo Eisa and debutant Dara Costelloe were quiet. Eisa didn’t look convincing in the number ten position and Costelloe looked like a player who hasn’t had much time on the training pitch with his new teammates.

It would have been nice to see City return to a 4-2-3-1 at some point this afternoon, as there was a distinct lack of width. Brad Halliday and Matty Foulds struggled to have an attacking influence on the game, which meant very few crosses came into the box – counterintuitive with a striker like Oliver.

Andy Cook was curiously left on the bench again this afternoon as speculation remains as to whether City will look to offload their top scorer this month, with Mark Hughes seemingly valuing Oliver’s all round game over Cook’s poacher’s instinct.

Oliver certainly has a better influence on the team in terms of his hold up play, but Cook’s goals are proving increasingly impossible to find elsewhere in the squad. It really is a tough dilemma for Hughes as it’s clear as day that playing both together is not a viable option.

But on a day when all other play off sides won, City failed to fully capitalise on a Northampton defeat. The gap to third remains six points but it is hard to ignore what feels like a wasted opportunity in the last two fixtures.

And that is half the problem with this City side – they are consistently inconsistent. A fantastic attacking and entertaining performance against Salford was followed by a dismal effort against Rochdale and then by a very bland and boring first 60 minutes this afternoon.

It means that City just can’t seem to get any momentum. And with very difficult looking fixtures against Carlisle, Stockport, Mansfield and Stevenage to follow, we can’t afford to be wondering what version of the Bantams are going to turn up.

Categories: Match Reviews

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24 replies

  1. Same team will turn up as has all season ………..Mid table also rans at best .Just not good enough and not up for it aka the last 5 years

  2. They used to say any point in London is a good away point. It’s especially good if you have a man sent off with 30 minutes to go. This is not the match to be critical about, as some have been on social media. The Rochdale match was the must win. This, on the other hand, was the must not lose. At least we have prevented Wimbledon moving within a point of us. It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that had we not been a man down we might have lost this. That’s how football is. We take a point and intensify our determination to beat Carlyle. The crunch comes if we don’t!

  3. This has been a frustrating week to say the least but with regards to yesterday’s game, in the final event a point was a good outcome. It wasn’t pretty to watch but Wimbledon have a decent home record and are not an easy side to play against. Thankfully they don’t resort the same cynical tactics of the 80s which didn’t win them any friends. They have a good team spirit / work rate and our likely game plan was to wear them down and hit them on the counter-attack. Had it not been for Walker’s sending-off I think the introduction of Sutton and Cook would have turned it in our favour but once we were down to ten men a point became the likely best case. There were a number of duels where City players came off worse and I suspect that Walker’s cards reflected a degree of frustration in the team. Frankly, Critchlow’s booking in the second half was for a much worse tackle and in the final event it will be player discipline and focus that will be decisive in our promotion ambitions. I think Costelloe has promise and will provide the sort of pace that we need upfront but he struggled to find his feet in the game yesterday.

    Like Brisbane Road, the new Plough Lane ground is overlooked by flats although tellingly I didn’t see any residents taking advantage of the view. Wimbledon remains an unlikely suburb to host league football but the average gates of seven / eight thousand are respectable compared to the crowds at the old Plough Lane ground. The new stadium is distinctly gentrified compared to the original which was a dump.

  4. We are still in a great position in the league,but to get to the next level in my view we need to bring in two quality players ,which are oven ready, and not players what need games to get match fit .We will run rut of games.We want to be in the top three ,which is possible if we can get the players in.If not we are fighting to get in the play offs and we are back to cup football where goals are vital and again we will come up short .I just hope we have the budget to get the player’s in for us to get over the finish line.
    And what his going on with Andy Cook how much would it cost to buy a player with 16 goals this season , we need more goals not less ,its a big two weeks for the club because next season it will be a stronger league and much harder to get out of it.

  5. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cook leaving this window. Oliver was probably signed with the intention of being the regular striker but Cook’s early season scoring spree put paid to MH’s best laid plans. However, we wouldn’t be where we are in the league, if it wasn’t for Cook’s goal output so, if he departs, Hughes will need to pull a rabbit out of the hat to find a scoring replacement.

    It was certainly a strange decision to give the inexperienced Costelloe a place in the starting lineup, with him barely on nodding terms with his new team mates, and lack of game time fitness. It was hardly surprising to see his lack of impact.

    I suppose we should be happy with a point, given Walker’s reckless behaviour but the team just doesn’t seem to have a promotion feel about it, up to press.

    • Costelloe has no tone first team goal to his name. We shipped out Young who has proven experience at this level yet are prepared to try the afore mentioned and Nevers? Then there is Cook sat on the bench. This article suggest that Oliver and Cook cannot play together, Why not? Lets try it and see perhaps? All very strange

      • Sign an up and coming youngster on a three year contract. He makes an immediate impact with his goal scoring ability. Cast him into the wilderness for four months (whilst he still remains joint second leading scorer), then ship him out to a fellow League Two club so they can develop him instead.

        Then, as you say, take a punt on two “unknowns”, with less League experience.

        As you say, Danny, all very strange.

      • We’ve had the suggestion that the managerial record of Mark Hughes doesn’t stand up to scrutiny (‘never won anything’). Is it now being suggested that Mark Hughes lacks the experience or nous to make a judgement about a striker / strike force? It would indeed be very strange if he knew something that we didn’t. Very strange that he might actually have good reasons for making his decisions.

    • Surely it would be madness to willingly lose Andy Cook, with 16 goals before we hit the halfway point of the season. I also don’t see the logic to why Cook & Oliver can’t work well together (the latter better as the long ball target man, the former as the poacher outside or in the box, both for a header into goal).

      If they favour different set ups, I for one would like to see sometimes more aggressive/ earlier tactical changes say at half time. McCall, when we had Mark Marshall, occasionally switched him from one wing to the other at half time.

      Adam’s comments about consistent inconsistency is spot on. My overall view at this stage is finally balanced between hope and gloom. I think we COULD get promotion, at a real stretch automatically (if we can pull a rabbit or two out of the hat in this transfer window and keep key players fit), hopefully at least a play off position…but I wouldn’t bet my house on any of these….

  6. Despite having a large squad we’re chronically lacking in goal scorers. Maybe Costelloe will be capable of finding the net when he settles in or Nevers or Banks if he ever gets fit or Walker if he can control his emotions or……..

    But the truth of the matter is that yesterday’s starting 11 have scored only 7 goals this season by 3 players. So 7 outfield players don’t have a goal between them! When you consider Cook has 13 goals on his own it wouldn’t appear sensible to let him go unless there is a cheap/free goal machine out there who’s life long ambition is to play for Bradford City! No, I don’t think so either.

    Without goals from all over the team any notions of automatic promotion is little more than a pipe dream. Even remaining in the playoffs is very much in the balance.

    • Five wins in City’s last eighteen games in all competitions and Hughes considers City superior to most teams in this very poor league. Really???

      • And if you were in his position what exactly would you say to the press? There is no pleasing you, we could have Pep Guardiola as manager and yet you’d still compulsively moan. No doubt you’ll chunter when it comes to the point when Mark Hughes leaves the club. Out of interest who do you propose we get as manager if MH is not good enough?

      • Mark Hughes is a massive disappointment and he is clearly struggling to adapt to L2 football. My expectations for the season have always been modest compared to most City fans. However, if City don’t at least make the playoffs he should do the honourable thing and resign.

      • John, can you honestly say that City are getting value for the money spent this season???

      • I have confidence in Mark Hughes and am prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. With respect he has far more managerial experience than either of us and what tends to be overlooked are the changes being made behind the scenes which will undoubtedly benefit the club. We have to accept that this is not a quick fix and neither is it an option to change the manager every season. Far better to get behind him and stop the incessant moaning.

      • John Dewhirst.. Yes, indeed MH has plenty of managerial experience, around 620 games in fact, and never won a bean.
        And to answer your other point. Who would we have had better than Hughes, well, check out both Orient and Stevenage, both managed by strong candidates for the City club merely 10months ago.
        What a shame MH threw his hat into the ring when he did.
        In a few weeks we’ll be in exact the same position we were under Adams !

      • Chris, So in other words you are saying that Mark Hughes is not good enough for BCAFC but Steve Evans is. Are you seriously suggesting that the club should sack Mark Hughes and revert to the lucky dip? Presumably you were the lone voice last year advising against his appointment.

      • John.
        I’d have Genghis Khan if he could get us out of L2.
        Nope, I wont be advocating we dismiss Hughes, ‘hopefully’ he can develop us a little like Jon Brady. Such a shame it cant be massive turn around in fortunes that clubs are getting under Wellens, Evans and Wilde.
        Hughes is fan and media friendly, comes across very well. However on what Ive seen so far I’m yet to be won over on his footballing acumen. Stoke fans comments come to mind when he took over at VP, he can work well with a squad, but struggles when it comes to building one.

  7. for us oldies, two ‘big’ strikers can work. me and my generation remember bobby and john hawley playing together in a promotion team. we do seem to have had success with ‘big man little man’ combinations since; mills/blake, hanson/wells to name two, but i’d like to see us playing two orthodox strikers up front again. if we can get the supply right, two seems better than one.

  8. Son Matthew and I live in London and were two of the 1,157 City fans at the game – outstanding support again at this level for a club based 200 miles away. On the whole City played well and were unfortunate not to come away with all three points, amazing save by the Wimbledon keeper from Smallwood towards the end. A good match spoiled by yet more poor refereeing, particularly in the second half.

  9. A pint made above is Oliver and Cook can’t play together – I get the logic of that. Anyone remember how Campbell helped Hawley😉?

  10. I just feel Hughes has lost his way a bit.
    Not sure what his best formation is, let alone who should be playing in it?
    He needs to sort it and quick if wr are ever going to try and get 3rd place.
    Playoffs not a given either!

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