Two can play that game as Bradford City’s route one approach pays off

Stevenage 2
Piergianni 26, Sweeney 73
Bradford City  3
Derbyshire 49, Cook 56 (pen), Walker 86

By Adam Raj (images by John Dewhirst)

I think the best way to describe that victory is we out-Stevenaged Stevenage. It wasn’t pretty, far from it, in fact the ball most likely spent more time in the air than it did on the grass. But that’s hardly a great surprise when facing a Steve Evans side.

The hosts are an awkward team to play – they put the ball in the box from all angles and play off second balls with little to no interest in having possession of the football. It’s not particularly the style that City excel in facing.

The message from Mark Hughes to his players all week had been to keep composure when in possession and to have the belief to play their style with confidence – not falling into the trap of matching Stevenage’s route one approach, which City are not set up to do. For the most part, he didn’t get what he asked for. City were very direct and struggled to have sustained periods of possession meaning Jamie Walker, City’s chief creator, wasn’t on the ball as much as he would’ve liked.

But it worked. City were more effective at carrying out Stevenage’s approach than the hosts were themselves. The ugly and fundamental aspects of the game, which have so often been missing from this City side, were carried out excellently, as it had to be against a team who are masters at it. City won their aerial duels (debutant Sam Stubbs was particularly excellent in this regard) and anticipated rather than reacted to second balls.

But it wasn’t all positive. If we’re being honest, the first half performance was pretty bad and resulted in City trailing at the break. The Bantams really struggled to get a foothold in the game and whilst they defended reasonably well, the attacking play was non existent. Aside from one decent opportunity for Matt Derbyshire towards the end of the half, the Stevenage backline was not tested. Although up until Carl Piergianni’s put Stevenage ahead, neither were City’s.

That opener was the centre half’s eighth goal of the season. Meanwhile, City’s entire defence have a grand total of zero. Piergianni showed great determination to meet Jake Foster-Caskey’s excellent delivery from the out-swinging corner, rising in between Stubbs and Matty Platt to power home despite Harry Lewis’ best attempts.

As the half time whistle blew, it seemed like mission impossible. City had not come from behind to win all season and had a disturbing second half record that saw them fourth bottom of that particular table.

But City came out galvanised in the second half. That was particularly aided by Derbyshire’s early leveller which in its own right was an excellent goal. Andy Cook’s flick on was picked up by the veteran striker who cut back inside and hit a sweet strike off the underside of the bar and (just about) over the line.

City suddenly had that extra spring in their step going forwards. They retained the ball better and got Cook, Derbyshire and Walker involved more. And within the space of eleven minutes of the restart City had their noses ahead. Having already been warned by the referee seconds earlier, Dan Sweeney was correctly penalised for blatantly pulling a City shirt as City waited for Brad Halliday’s free kick.

Up stepped Cook who was never going to miss as his pin point penalty was too good for Jokull Andresson, beyond his stretching left arm and into the bottom corner. Cook celebrated in typical Andy Cook fashion, running the length of the pitch to cup his ears at the home fans who had given him stick all afternoon.

City were indebted to Lewis who made another stunning save to add to his growing collection as he somehow managed to claw Josh March’s header off the line.

He was helpless though as Sweeney made up for his earlier error by equalising for the hosts. Another Forster-Caskey delivery was powered in at the back post by the centre half. As City lined up zonally, the back post zone was Liam Ridehalgh’s responsibility and was clearly targeted by Stevenage as the matchup with Sweeney was a mismatch that was only ever going to have one winner.

Hughes had seen more than enough and to make sure it wasn’t a case of conceding a hat-trick of corners, Vadaine Oliver and Ciaran Kelly entered the fray in an obvious effort by the City manager to increase the overall height of his team.

For Kelly, this was his debut and first experience of English football and to his credit, he didn’t put a foot wrong. The Irishman slotted into the left centre back role as City moved to a 5-3-2 following the substitutions with Alex Gilliead filling in at LWB – the role he played in Hughes’ first City game in charge.

It did look a somewhat conservative move from Hughes who will have been content with taking a point. But with the way the second half had gone, there was always a feeling that one side would get another golden opportunity. Fortunately, it was City. With 86 minutes on the clock, Cook controlled a long ball and attempted to slip in Oliver but as that pass was cut out, City’s number nine picked up the loose ball and fed Walker who showed great composure to produce a composed finish past Andresson.

City did a very thorough and professional job of seeing this game out. There was time for another superb Lewis save from Luke Norris’ header but City frustrated the hosts who came up against the strong, physical and resolute defensive unit they are often credited with being.

As the full time whistle blew, the reactions of the players said everything. Cook and Gilliead in particular struggled to hide their delight and there was a general outpouring of emotion all connected with the Bantams with what is a statement victory.

Its always nice to get one up on Evans. Its even more satisfying when his dark arts have seemingly filtered all the way down to the groundsman who deliberately obstructed Colin Doyle from warming up Lewis. He had his five minutes of fame as he was derided by the City supporters, but like Cook, Lewis had the last laugh.

Similarly, following Walker’s goal, a Stevenage ‘supporter’ ran onto the pitch and appeared to be heading straight to assault Cook who was unaware of what was going on behind him. Thankfully a number of Stevenage players got in the way and made sure he ran off the pitch with his tail between his legs, only to be arrested as he made it over the advertising hoardings.

But aside from the off the field antics, winning away at second in the league is a huge result. Even more so as City started to put right the two unwanted records that wouldn’t have given them a prayer of a result at half time.

City must now make the most of the home double header. Next week’s two home games must yield maximum points if City are to make up ground on the automatic places. City are seven points off third with two games in hand so a direct return to League One is not yet out of the question. But with a measly five wins from 14 home games, its clear where the improvement needs to be.

Categories: Match Reviews

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26 replies

  1. A great battling display to get all 3 points, well done everyone.
    My head hurt at the end of the game with the number of headers I had defended, and I was only watching on T.V.
    P.S. worst ever commentators on ifollow.

    • You were lucky John as I couldn’t get iFollow to work last night after getting up at 1.45am (Sydney) to not even get commentary let alone actuality watch it! Not happy but at least we won & got the three points!!

      • Chris, I had the same issue via the Bantams Official Web Page. I was able to get the game via the iFollow web page.

      • The availability of a decent and reliable EFL broadband signal is also an issue in the UK and spoils many a Saturday afternoon’s football. Try and watch the replay if you want to see a battling performance.

  2. City are undefeated in Clayton’s three games. He looks to be just the sitting midfielder we were lacking. This result augurs well for the rest of the season. We have a match in hand on most teams above us, a big squad and we have played most of the big teams. There must be grounds for cautious optimism. Amazing how 45 minutes of football can change the whole complexion of the season. That’s the beauty of the game. Another three points on Tuesday will be very welcome and confirm
    the chase is on.

  3. On the evidence of today, we’ve made good signings in January and we now have much needed bite in the midfield. Matt Derbyshire worked well with Andy Cook who ran his socks off. For a long time we haven’t had a centre forward who covers as much of the pitch as him and it says a lot for his fitness. All told, fantastic work rate and a hunger in the team with much needed urgency. An excellent result which will restore some self-belief and confidence.

  4. Didn’t expect that! 1 – 0, down at half time. I was expecting the worse. What a turnaround. City do not win after going down 1 – 0 at half time. They equalised and went 2 – 1 up. Stevenage came back. Thought we would need to hang on for a draw. Going 3 – 2 up, was the best feeling so far this season. It was a battling performance today and City deserve all the plaudits for this result. We now need to win our next two games which will be difficult but possible. Come on City let’s have 6 more of the best.

  5. If you were fortunate to watch the game you should for a laugh take a look at the player ratings in the T&A. City have 9 players rated 7 or higher. Stevenage have only 4 players rated at 7. City didn’t have a shot on goal in the first half and for the game were out shot 14 to 6. In addition, corners favoured Stevenage by 7 to 3. Outrageous biased reporting.

    • Why do you focus on the negatives. Please WOAP can you stop him posting on you site. It will make so many people very happy.

      • This man was banned by popular demand some time ago under the name of Woody. He changed his user name and sneaked back on.

      • I look at the T&A to have a laugh at the over the top negativity and nonsense. There are all the usual suspects and this bloke Phil W, Woody, Canuck whatever your latest is, you take the biscuit and showed your true colours yesterday. Slag the team off before the game, during the game and then when they actually dare to win and spoil your fun, you go even harder slagging the reporter off too. You just troll everyone. Get a grip man, you told us you’re 76 years old, so grow up. The sad thing is occasionally and only occasionally, you say the odd intuitive thing. Just be happy for the supporters and the club on what was a terrific win.

        Up the Bantams, no-one is winning consistently, so if we can put a run together, we can get into the top 3. Come on City!

      • He’s entitled to an opinion, just like you are.

    • The ratings given are largely subjective. They vary from newspaper to newspaper and from individual to individual. Nowhere have I ever seen published a set of objective criteria – touchstones – describing what constitutes a given grade. They are at best approximations, Personally, I wouldn’t let them worry me or detract from a memorable win. Dwell in your mind on the way Cook’s pen nestled right in the corner, beyond the reach of any keeper; Derbyshire’s power drive from distance with little back lift; Walker’s precision placing for his; Lewis leaping like a salmon to make a save. These are moments to cherish. They are why we love the game. Who cares a fig about a set of numbers!

    • And the goal count favoured City by 3-2. It’s a shame that it ruined your weekend.

      • Win, lose or draw. I’m looking forward to the balance of the season. I must admit the second half was quite dramatic. Maybe next game City can perform for 90 minutes.

  6. To Phil W, who cares ii City were lucky, who cares if they only had 3 shots on target, who cares if Parker’s ratings were biased? What matters is that we won at the team in 2nd place and stood up to a team with the best home record in League 2.. For once be a City fan and congratulate a superb team effort. If that concept is beyond you go wake up a grizzly it will surely welcome you with open jaws. CTID

    • Another good WOAP article. Sadly I couldn’t get anything from the city ifollow broadcast and could only read the minimalist bbc text. However it was a great result and one to kick on from.

  7. Well done City a fantastic result , and could be telling at the end of the season .Hopefully this result will now send us on a run which will take us all the way .The new players have added steel and experience to the squad which as been missing all season so well done now lets mess up on the next two home game’s which are crucial to where we end up .

  8. Good win against arguably the form side in the division. Need to follow it up on Tuesday now.

  9. I just want some of whatever Sparky put in their tea at half time. After the first Stevenage goal it seemed like it was going to be a dismal afternoon. How wrong can you be?

  10. A difficult place to go and, trailing 1-0 at half time, I didn’t give much for our chances.

    It’s time referees got to grips with the shenanigans at corners and it was a clear penalty.

    A spirited comeback, and three excellent goals. Especially sweet to see the dark arts get their just deserts! Well done, and Tuesday presents a good opportunity to feed off the “feelgood factor” the second half display has provided.


  12. Martin, get a grip. You’d think City had gained promotion with their sixth win in 21 games. Hopefully, this win will renew the club. However, we’ve had lots of false dawns in recent years. If City have truly turned the corner with one meager win and 45 minutes of good football then that’s a fantastic development. Personally, I’m a show me guy. Seeing is believing!!

  13. That was enjoyably unexpected second half!

    Big shout out to Cooky for his two assists, having Walker and Derbyshire in the team is really going to help him.

    It looks like the window has given Hughes a lot of flexibility, we now have the personal to comfortably operate in a 433, 532 or diamond, that has to be a good thing for the run in.

  14. Again, Phil W you miss the point. Maybe in the long run this win will be academic or crucial. Who knows? Most of us just want to enjoy it for the moment as most fans do. Until Tuesday, at least. I am absolutely enjoying this victory and I am sure 99 per cent of City fans are. All except you and a few others. Makes you wonder.

  15. In M H’s post match interview he points out how Stevenage sucked us into there style of play in the first half, the pre match tactics from Evans were clearly targeting the getting the ball into the box quickly and and with the keeper unsettled by the pre match tactics it gives them the edge and it very nearly did.
    Credit to him for sorting them out at halftime and getting us to play our game, our quality clearly showed with two good goals and a ref with a backbone. If he had played the younger players we would have lost that game as Stevenage are a very streetwise, bullying team. It needed the experience yesterday and it showed.

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