Professional Bradford City performance puts them firmly back in the promotion hunt

Doncaster Rovers 0
Bradford City 1
Cook 71

Written by Tim Penfold (image by Nick Beanland)

Every time you think that this team is just going to fade out of contention, it manages to force its way back in. It wasn’t the most fluent performance for Bradford City this afternoon at Doncaster, but they were the better side and comfortably did enough to take home all three points – inevitably, via an Andy Cook header.

Despite speculation in midweek that Mark Hughes was considering switching back to a 4-2-3-1 system, he kept the diamond system and didn’t make any change in the much-discussed midfield. The only switch was enforced, with Dara Costelloe starting up front in place of the injured Abo Eisa. Romoney Critchlow was back, but only on the bench, while there was also a welcome and fitting return to the squad for Emmanuel Osadebe.

It was a reasonably bright start for the visitors, with Jamie Walker showing all of the sides to his game. One fierce drive was parried by home keeper Jonathan Mitchell, who then hooked the rebound away from Costelloe, only for Walker to then pick up a daft booking for a lunging tackle, then bend another effort wide of the post. Doncaster, meanwhile, set up to play out from the back and press high in a 3-4-3 system, but seemed most effective when countering City’s attacks.

As the half wore on though, things got flat. City were moving the ball with more purpose than last week but lacked the speed of both thought and movement in the final third at times. The balance of the midfield didn’t quite seem right, and too often Cook ended up on his own while Costelloe wasn’t able to get into the game. Doncaster, meanwhile, struggled to make any real impact of their own, only forcing Lewis into one serious save, and the half time score of 0-0 very much summed up the game.

The second half started in a similar fashion, only with a bit more purpose and speed from the home side. For a brief time it looked like they might end up on top, but City grew into the half, weathering what limited storm the hosts could produce, and began to gain a foothold of their own.

The full backs started to find some joy on the overlap, being fed by Walker, while Costelloe started to find bits of space to turn and run at the defence. With Doncaster trying to push themselves, this wasn’t the impotent sideways passing against a massed defence that we have been wearily used to at home, and openings started to appear.

One header from a Halliday cross looped high and awkwardly, but home keeper Mitchell had clearly learned from watching the disastrous attempts of Tranmere’s stopper and dealt with it. Another opening eventually fell to Smallwood, whose drive was pushed away. The best chance of all fell to Cook, but his powerful header brought the best save of the game. It wasn’t quite City vs Mitchell, but he was the main barrier between the Bantams and a lead.

Then, suddenly, the Doncaster stopper threw away all of his good work. It was his poor clearance that lead to the corner, giving possession straight back to Adam Clayton in midfield. Clayton swung a fine ball into the box and Mitchell, distracted by Sam Stubbs’ run, missed it. Behind him was the towering Andy Cook with an empty net, and the inevitable happened. 1-0.

This is the nature of goalkeeping at this level. Mitchell had been excellent, until he suddenly wasn’t, and that changed the game. It brought memories of Alex Bass from last season back, mixing fine saves and dodgy errors, and highlighted yet again the outstanding qualities of Harry Lewis.

In this case, however, Lewis wasn’t really needed. It was the Bantams who looked more likely to grab a second, with Smallwood’s delicate lob headed off the line as close as they came to managing it. Doncaster’s attacks bounced back off the brick wall of Platt and Stubbs, while Brad Halliday had a good game at right back. A couple of corners was all that they managed, and there was even the chance to give Osadebe a return to action, which was rapturously received by the massed travelling Bantams.

Away from home, it does seem like the diamond’s extra solidity is working. Smallwood still looks a bit of a fish out of water in possession on the left, but broke play up nicely, and there was space for City to move into and attack, rather than the endless sideways boredom. Costelloe had his best game for the club so far, while both full backs contributed going forward.

City remain eighth, but anywhere up to 2nd seems to be up for grabs with Stevenage’s recent wobble. The key thing at this stage is to follow up this win with another in midweek, then another. Because that’s the other thing this team does – it gets itself back into contention when it looks like it’s all going to fade away, but once it looks like it’s got back in, it fades out again. If they can keep themselves there – keep getting the results, keep performances high, keep the form going – then this season still has the potential to be a very good one.

Categories: Match Reviews

Tags: , , ,

40 replies

  1. In theory, it should be easier for the manager to get the home form sorted, having made us formidable on the road. Lots of teams play with different personnel and systems home and away. I hope we seriously consider it. But, let’s first get the improving Gillingham out of the way. We need to continue to savour these away wins. They are the mark of a good team.

  2. City versus Doncaster was arguably a contest between the two weakest offences in the top half of L2. A convincing win for City but the game itself was a display of ineptness in the final third by both teams.

    If City are to gain a playoff spot they must become more productive when it comes to scoring goals. By the way, does anyone truly believe Hughes’ long standing prediction of City thrashing a team?

    • Ineptness! Just a troll.

    • Jason can’t you out Woody back in his box plz for all our sake ! Thought he was banned a few years ago. ? relentless BS and negativity come rain or shine. Not wanted or needed. The end..

      • I wasn’t aware that a prerequisite to posting an OPINION on this forum is that only opinions with a positive slant should be allowed. My post is based on facts. Why don’t you point out what I’ve misrepresented?

    • A post that smells o fa certain WoodyBC, posts complete nonsense on the T&A site under numerous names, think he may have found this site.

    • Wins are to enjoy not analyse. There is no point enduring the bad times otherwise. No offence Woody but several thousand miles and a few decades have dulled your sense of what it feels like to follow your team in the flesh. We can all have a moan after a turgid performance but just bask in the afterglow of a win !

      • Paul, excellent post. I’ve taken note of your first sentence. Very true and obviously something I’ve forgotten.

  3. The WOAP report from the Barrow game seemed to take it as validation that Hughes tactic are ineffective and we must change to be successful.

    We are now 3/4 of the way through the season and still very much in contention for both the play-offs and the automatic spots.

    It may not be the most exciting but over 30 games this team has proved themselves effective and capable over a much greater sample than any 1 game.

    Over the last 6 games we are a play off side, over the last 10 games we are a play off side, over the last 31 games we are a playoff side.

    15 games left, I personally don’t think we will show the consistency of Stockport, Carlisle to sneak a top 3 but I’m more hopeful we will be 1 of the next 4.

    Teams create very little, we create little more but we are more often than not doing enough. Hopefully come May we have continued to do just enough.

    • I love playing with stats and can’t resist giving an alternative perspective to show how tight and potentially fragile City’s current position is in the Table. Next game, City play Gillingham who are boasting 6 wins and 1 draw in their last 8 games. Anything but a win will see City projected to finish the season with 68 or 69 points and outside the playoff spots. Note, the last time a team made the playoffs with less than 70 points was City in 2012/13 season. Please don’t shoot the messenger, it’s just another way of looking at the stats. Regardless of your perspective, City are far from the sure thing.

      • Sorry, I just double checked my numbers and nothing but a win equates to season ending 73 or 74 points and tenth place based on last year’s season ending Table.

      • As you say if they don’t win 73 or 74 but that mark has been enough to see a team into the playoffs six times in ten years including 12/13 but excluding covid shortened season
        This league looks tight all the way in to the end. so many teams still in with a shout. Interestingly barrow won again yesterday in a game with only three shots on target and a really poor spectacle.
        Let’s hope city can put a better run of wins together through this last third of the season and give themselves every chance to say we did what was within our control. Maybe that will be enough to finish 3rd? Maybe 8th…..

      • Karl, you bring up a good point about 73 or 74 points being often good enough to make the playoffs. Currently, we are roughly 2/3 through the season and the numbers currently support 75 points required for seventh place. Last season on February 25th Mansfield were in the last playoff spot with 50 points from 30 games and they finished the season in seventh with 77 points and maintained the same points per game pace that they had achieved prior to Feb. 25th. Interesting to note, Mansfield are again this season currently seventh with 52 points from 32 games and if they again maintain their points per game pace will finish with 75 points. Based on these numbers I would estimate 75 to 77 points required to make the final playoff spot. How accurate, time will tell but it’s based on this season being quite similar to last year.

      • You have in fact further validated my point which is not getting caught up in 1 game.

        We go to Gillingham Tuesday night the form team in the division and I’m not confident, but it won’t change our position as very much be in contention for the autos and the play offs and won’t change the fact we are being effective this season. My point is look at a greater sample size to give a truer reflection of the effectiveness.

        Some teams will go on a run some will fall away and either of those scenarios could still be us.

        As mentioned, my personal opinion, I don’t think Bradford City will be consistent enough for the autos this year and I think that will be Carlisle and Stockport. I’m hopeful, not expectant, we will make the play offs.

        So thank you once again for further validating my point.

    • Last 10 games repeated over a season, would have given automatic promotion in virtually every season.

      Could well be though that only 80 points is needed for 3rd, but 76 for 7th – i.e. very tight.

      I think sometimes we over praise other teams, Carlisle got stuffed at home recently and in reality have barely gained on us since we lost to them.

      But I do think whoever ends up above them, Stockport and Mansfield will get an automatic spot.

  4. Sums it up – a professional performance. Never seriously troubled whilst looking a threat. Excellent all round but Smallwood and Costello were the pick for me. Stubbs is truly commanding too.

    Clearly City need to improve in front of goal. I would like to think we can get a few more attack minded players on for home games.

    As I said last week and it was disliked by many, we are right in there, we just need to string a run together.

    Come on City!

    • Halliday MOM got me, outstanding in second half getting the ball forward. He was helped by Costello who played wider in the second period.

  5. A deserved win, we were the better team. Everyone of the 11 starters had a reasonable game, although I do worry about playing Smallwood on the left side of midfield; a square peg in a round hole. The Doncaster Rovers right back had plenty of space to run in into, going forward in the first half. Pleasing to see Osadebe get some playing time on the pitch.

  6. Great article! For someone who has stopped going to games in recent years for various reasons, this was a good game to follow. It’s good to see the team determined again and a huge away following

  7. Great article! For someone who has stopped going to games in recent years, it’s good to hear a determined team and a huge away following

  8. Great article, thank you Tim. As a lifelong (old-timer) City fan living away, it’s brilliant to get all the info on the games I can’t get to.
    So many positives we can take at Doncaster I think. A massive difference to how we felt after our first match against them on day 1. A positive confident City taking all 3 points, after welcoming back Osadebe, in front of almost 4000 City fans. City are a big club in League 2, but make no mistake Doncaster are too, & this was a very important & impressive win for us, if we are to keep in pace with sides above. Our lads clearly raising their game after their previous flat display. I think Sparky has to take credit for that, & for arranging an important behind closed doors against Everton to better assess Osadebe, Chicklow, & others. Only a manager with high connections in the game could have arranged it I think, & we need to stick by him. We’re 8th, & we’d all like to be top, but we’re in a good position, should we beat Gillingham we could be top 5 & within spitting distance of automatic promotion, so it’s a good place to be, all things considered. It’s the 10th anniversary of our League Cup Final, & at that time we were a mid table side, but still managed to finish in the playoffs that season, & win promotion to league 1. We might not be in the League Cup Final today, but our season still has a good chance of a happy ending.
    Just my thoughts.
    Up the Bantams!

  9. re: Phil W.

    This is a tricky one. Basically there are two approaches that wordpress allows me to manage reader comments. 1) All first time posters require their first post moderating, then future posts can go live straight away. 2) Every single post requires moderating.

    I’ll be frank, I don’t have the time or inclination to manually moderate every single comment. I do obviously read all comments and would act if something inappropriate was added, but I like to think comments can generally be self policing and if you don’t like what someone says, you have the option to respond. There’s a lot of comments that get added that I don’t personally agree with, but it’s about giving everyone a voice.

    A few years back when there was a lot of abuse aimed at Stefan Rupp, Ryan Sparks etc and nasty name calling of other readers, so I had to go back to moderating every post. That was very time consuming. Things now seem better and approach 1 has been back up for over a year.

    With Phil, a few years ago his comments got so tiresome, and I had so many complaints, that I banned his IP address. Unfortunately he found a way around it.

    I think Phil can often make some insightful and fair comments, and I don’t want WOAP to be an echo chamber where only posts you agree with are added. I think Phil can sometimes challenge other people’s thinking and, even if it doesn’t change minds, I think it’s always healthy for us to read alternative views and be challenged.

    That said, I think Phil’s comments vs Stevenage and Doncaster are really disappointing. At moments where the team deserves credit, he carries on being negative. I think that sees the mask slip somewhat and he lets himself down. It’s fine to be critical but it’s all about balance and when you can’t even be positive after a great result, you look like you have an agenda and that makes your other comments less valid/worthy of being listened to.

    So this is where I’m at. When we get complaints and feedback that Phil’s comments detract from others enjoyment of the site, clearly we have to listen and act. So my question to all readers is this – do you want to see Phil banned?

    Please either like this comment to vote for yes, or dislike it to vote no.

    I’m happy to act on the result and explore ways to ban him again if that is the majority consensus.


    • Well done mate, agree with your approach for what it’s worth and I think debate and differences of opinion are important to WOAP.

      Yes he is tiresome and pedantic but it’s a dangerous precedent for it to be policed by what the mass like and don’t and as you say his opinions can be valid too, even if he doesn’t articulate them in a manner conducive to reasonable discussion.

      My advice if you don’t like what he says just ignore it as he wants the attention.

    • I’m on fan of Phil W / Woody whatever he’s called, as his negativity is simply tiresome.

      However, we must have free speech and provided comment is on topic and isn’t insulting anyone – we can’t be banning people because we don’t like their views.

    • I can understand as administrator how time consuming this can all be. But I would personally prefer things to stay as is. Unless there are personal abuses and nastiness being written then nobody should be censored or banned. (Which I don’t believe I have ever seen here)
      If some people are deliberately putting less popular thoughts forward to challenge the narrative that’s a good thing. Nobody has to be in full agreement. It’s healthy for a cup half full and cup half empty view to be aired on anything. I would urge all posters to try be less emotive with one another and be more objective in their comments. We’ve all been called over zealous things on posts like this. Me too. People think I’m also delusional but that’s ok! It doesn’t detract me from writing my thoughts as I see them. Which I’m certain will often be different from the next person. We all have our own lenses to look through.

  10. Jason, as long as a contributor is not insulting or offensive to other posters, I think they should be allowed to keep on posting.

    People don’t have to read Phil’s posts if they don’t agree with his comments. There’s another poster on here, who has the opposite view to Phil and tends to monopolise a thread at times by posting multiple “everything in the garden is rosey” comments. I rarely read his posts but he seems courteous in his responses so I don’t have a problem with him either.

    Don’t forget Phil is long in the tooth so I can understand his negative comments because he’s seen and heard all the noises out of City, and we’re probably in the same league as when he started supporting City all those years ago.

  11. Quality above quantity.
    Trouble with some is they post a usually negative response to every article. It’s another point of view but it becomes wearisome. I think these guys get some sort of thrill about winding up people with contrarian views. From your point of view I wonder if they undermine the overall reputation of your site?

  12. Don’t ban Phil W. Just either don’t read his comments or laugh at them for the deliberate provacatory and intentional contrary view they seek to portray. Not worthy of being wound up by them as they are actually generally irrelevant. Enjoy life, enjoy wins, enjoy City !

  13. WOODY has got personal with people on the tand a forum and trolls on a regular basis. However on here he shouldn’t be banned for just been negative. He as watched his step on here on his return but hasn’t warranted banning on here imo.

  14. Personally, I prefer to comment on the club rather than other people’s comments on it. On internal evidence, I think Phil is probably both Woody and Dubois (‘Of Wood’) of other forums. If true, he is consistent in his views, which is surely better than flip-flopping as some football supporters do. I might not agree with his opinion but I would defend his right to voice it – with the usual caveat about it not being offensive or ill-intentioned. Believe me, it is not always easy to be sunnily optimistic if – like Phil – you have sixty or more years’ experience of watching the club. But maybe this is the season that will put a smile on all supporters’ faces!

  15. I doubt it’s possible but if you could cap the number of comments a user can make per article that would be great. 1 Woody comment is fine, but multiple antagonist comments is a little wearing.

  16. Woody (or Phil W in his other guise) should have a platform for his views even if they appear sometimes to prompt the opposite viewpoint on purpose.
    Fishing maybe?
    As stated several times you can always elect not to read his contributions.
    However particularly as ‘Woody’ on the T&A comments section the thread develops into a series of arguments and the main subject dissappear and the whole thing detracts from its purpose.
    So ‘Woody/ Phil W’ can be he has as much right to contribute as any of us.
    However let’s not get too involved in this kind of discussion and concentrate on the content that matters.

  17. I think on balance I wouldn’t ban yet. Just try to stop trolling. Like someone said there is no need to respond to everyone’s posts. Fine for Jason or the author but post your view and leave it. When I read the post this morning, 5 out of 14 were from him.

    Equally, arguing that something is factual when it is clearly opinion is ridiculous. The original post was spot on that we need to better in front of goal but it was wrapped up in unnecessary opinionated trolling negativity at a time when most were happy!

  18. As much as I disagree strongly with the way Phil W (”Woody”) presents his arguments and his often personal and childish attacks on individuals who take on a tremendous amount of responsibility in running the business of BCAFC and despite the many, many, arguments I have had with him over recent years, I would be very much against preventing him from expressing his opinions.

    I too once felt that it was acceptable to stop certain views from being given the oxygen that might enable those views to spread. I no longer feel that my opinion of that time was correct. The late Christopher Hitchens can do far more justice to some of the reasons for my change of opinion than I. Therefore, I would, respectfully, ask all those who are thinking of voting on whether or not to ban ”Woody” to please watch -if Jason is kind enough to allow me to add the link on this site- the following video on ”Free Speech” first.

    Thank you:

%d bloggers like this: