A missed opportunity to put pressure on those above, as Bradford City waste chances at struggling Crawley

Crawley Town 0
Bradford City 0

Written by Tim Penfold

Just as it looks like Bradford City were back in contention for the automatic promotion slots, they took a step back again with a frustrating draw at Crawley Town. City could, with some justification, say that they deserved to win the game, but wasted too many chances and ended up hanging on after a late red card.

The Bantams lined up in the diamond formation that had been used for the comeback against Grimsby, with Scott Banks starting in a deeper right-sided role than he has normally played and Matt Derbyshire paired up front with Andy Cook. Harry Chapman was back on the bench, while Romoney Crichlow dropped out of the squad altogether.

This system did not work, however. The dominance that it should provide in the middle of the park was negated by a heavy Crawley pitch, while the hosts targeted the gaps that it leaves on the flanks. They had early pressure, forcing a string of corners and had one chance cleared off the line by Matty Platt. Hughes reacted early to this, switching to a 4-2-3-1 with Derbyshire moving to the left hand side, and City gained a measure of control of the game.

Andy Cook had a couple of chances saved, one of which he really should have buried, and City also wasted an excellent free kick opening when Richie Smallwood pulled rank over the better placed Scott Banks and smashed it straight into the wall. There were other openings wasted by poor crosses, with Brad Halliday often chipping it straight on to a defender’s head, before the half stopped resembling a football game at all.

The nastiness started when Halliday, scrambling to retain possession, got the ball trapped under him, and a Crawley player responded by kicking the City right back while he was on the floor. This sparked some pushing and shoving which saw Platt correctly booked, while the home player escaped a red card for his kick on Halliday. Shortly afterwards, Smallwood was booked for a high tackle, and any pretence of football went. There were five bookings issued by half time, and memories of the infamous 2012 brawl were being brought up.

In the second half there was a bit more football and less violence, and City wasted more chances. Banks was finding space but drilled one shot across the face of goal and had another one saved. A Derbyshire flick-on set Cook free but he rushed his shot and dragged it wide when he should’ve hit the target. Cook then skewed another shot wide when the pass to Banks was the better option, which set the tone for the rest of the game as City repeatedly made the wrong decisions in attacking areas.

Dara Costelloe replaced Derbyshire on the left, but his main contribution was to run the ball out of play under very little pressure, while Jamie Walker consistently picked out defenders with his final ball. One opening nearly came when Walker won the ball back high up the pitch but it bobbled out of his control, while the impressive home keeper Corey Addai came rushing out to prevent another.

At the other end, Crawley threatened sporadically and eventually forced Lewis into a good save at the far post, but it was still City – despite their profligacy, and despite their poor passing – that carried the greater attacking danger. Vadaine Oliver was summoned from the bench as Hughes went for a direct 3-5-2, but the pairing of Oliver and Cook has barely worked all season and didn’t again.

Then the wind was taken out of City’s sails completely. A missed tackle left a Crawley forward one on one vs Platt, and the defender’s mistimed challenge brought him a second booking. With a man advantage, the hosts tried to pin City in but weren’t able to create much in the way of clear chances, while on the counter an Oliver flick-on put Cook through only for him to be brought down on the edge of the box.

While it didn’t look like a penalty – it was just outside the area – it was a foul and should’ve made it 10 vs 10 for the final seconds of stoppage time. However, the inconsistent referee saw nothing wrong with the Crawley player going through Cook’s leg to take the ball, and the chance was gone.

Tactically, neither system quite worked. Banks was not suited to the right of the diamond role, and his tendency to drift inside made a narrow system even narrower, but when we switched to the 4-2-3-1 Derbyshire looked like a fish out of water on the left. His replacement in Costelloe was a more natural fit for the position but lacks the quality to make any sort of impact on games.

Going forward, too many players had an off day. Cook missed two chances that he would normally have buried, and the team’s over-reliance on him was highlighted. Walker ran and ran but wasn’t a threat, while Banks had his moments but his decision-making was poor. Crawley’s defence left gaps, but we just weren’t able to exploit them.

City still remain close to the automatic spots – Stevenage dropped points, and we have a game in hand on Carlisle, who have a tough remaining fixture list – but they are running out of games to make an impact, and with Mansfield winning the prospect of dropping out of the play offs is more realistic than we would like.

This game, like so many others this season against struggling side, represents a missed opportunity. At the end of the season, we can only hope that we aren’t looking back on these games as the reason we didn’t go up.

Categories: Match Reviews

Tags: , , ,

15 replies

  1. In familiar football speak, a point away to a team fighting for its life is not that bad, blah-blah-blah, clean sheet and it keeps the unbeaten run going. We take it and move on. Actually this current draw is a bit of a disaster, if we’re being honest. We needed a big win to send a message as much to ourselves as to other teams that we are now on an irresistible charge to the finishing line. Our current haul of 7 points out of a possible 15 is not, make no mistake, the sort of return that is going to propel us to the autos. It’s not even enough to guarantee a place in the top 7. We are now in need of 5 wins from the remaining 7 games. We’ve not done that all season. To me it’s glaringly obvious that one of the chief problems, most easily remedied, is set pieces. We are seriously weak in this key area of the game. Personally I’d have Banks and Walker on attacking free kicks and Halliday on corners. Wars have been lost for the want of a nail. Details make all the difference. We need to get it sorted.

  2. I still think we’ll make the play offs but that in its self shows what a poor league this really is.
    The problem is I don’t think we are capable of playing we’ll enough to win back to back game’s in the play offs
    Too many really poor performances, many average performance.
    You tell me how many GOOD performances you’ve seen out of the 39 game’s so far this season

  3. City are leaking oil and points. The leaking must stop or City will soon be looking on the outside at a playoff spot. Yesterday’s performance shows how over the top the media/fans response was to the comeback win against a very weary Grimsby. Derbyshire and Walker were both missing in action. Draws are no longer good enough.

  4. I have not heard the big lady sing yet, and it looks like we have failed this season from the pessimist comments 🤔🤔🤔🤔

    Other teams around us are in the exact same situation, well if you look deep into it a lot of teams playing each other so someone is going to slip up, yeah you are right maybe it will be us 😔😔😔😔

    I think we should boo a our team on Monday if we don’t get a goal in the 1st five minutes, that should do the trick 🤔🤔🤔🤔

    Why don’t we get behind them and wait until the game in hand on Wednesday 3rd of May to see where we are before we get on their case, for all we know we might only have to win that to guarantee promotion before last game and worst case scenario we are in playoffs.

    I can’t hear her singing yet, come on City.

  5. The only positive i take from Yesterday is the Platt red card towards the end and i hope now Critchlow can come in and help with this style of playing out from the back.
    I’m not a fan of Platt and i understand the arguments that he hasn’t put a foot wrong and unfair to drop him but i feel the style we’re trying to play doesn’t suit Platt at all and it at times slows city down and he does struggle with bringing the ball out.
    I hope with the introduction of Critchlow alongside Stubbs we see more fluency when playing out from the back and hope hughes sticks with that partnership til the end of the season.
    I remember when we last won promotion from League 2 we had Matt Duke in goal for the majority of the season and we all remember is heroics on our cup run to the final but i always felt jon mclaughlin was the better keeper and i remember Duke getting dropped after the red card in the cup final and look what we achieved.
    Here’s hoping to something similar 🤞🏻

    • Got to say, I’ve never rated him either (even though defensively we’ve not conceded too many), and hopefully we gain a better pairing with whoever comes in, (Critchlow/Kelly). He’s just not a “footballer”. I’m not over keen on Halliday either, but that’s 4th division footballers for you.

  6. Currently Mansfield and Stockport are the ones on the charge and look like they’re the ones threatening for 2nd and 3rd. Leaving the playoff spots to City, Northampton Carlisle and Stevenage. With Salford and barrow narrowly missing out. If that were the case I don’t fancy us at all. I think
    Any of the three would beat us over two legs.
    I still think city will get 80 points. I still think it will not be quite enough for third. Unless the others slip up. The top is so tight and it will go right down to the last game
    Better to be up at this end than in 11th or 12th

    • 15 points from 7 games is a tall order. It will need five wins, or four wins and three draws. Not impossible. But I wouldn’t put money on it.

  7. If the season end was a poker game its now we go all in ,no messing go for it .We are so close you can smell it,its all about bottle from the Management , the players and the atmosphere the supporters can bring to the party ,we are in it together .Lets not slip up ,now go for it .

  8. City more often than not, fail against lower opposition. Crawley are a bogey team for City. We seldom come away with a win. I feel it’s in our DNA to perform poorly against unfashionable teams like Crawley. The mindset is never positive. We make hard work on putting in a strong performance against teams which on paper we should beat. We match teams near the top. Stevenage is a good example (we did the double over them). Leyton Orient apart, we have a decent run in but beware of Rochdale who have started to win games. Nothing but victory on Monday will do. Draw again, then I feel City will struggle to get into the playoffs.

  9. The reality is it is not over yet. Seven matches and 21 points left, with other automatic place contenders still to play one another. We could still even finish second, but admittedly Sutton must be beaten ! That will happen, so all to play for !

  10. Friday’s performance summed up our season. As underwhelming as this season has been, such is the poor standard of this league, that, unbelievably, we are within touching distance of an automatic promotion spot. Sadly, that situation proved no motivation for the players, who turned in another mediocre showing.

    If Andy Cook should hit a barren spell at this crucial point of the season, we may even find a play off place goes begging.

    Looking at the the league table, I should be excited but, if we don’t go up, I won’t be too disheartened because the majority of this season’s performances just don’t deserve it.

  11. Oh dear.
    You never got the win that you ‘deserved’.
    Your formation was negated by the ‘heavy’ pitch?
    Presumably you were playing on a different pitch to the one described by Mark Hughes as ‘dry’? You won’t make the playoffs believing you are entitled to a win because the opposition are ‘unfashionable’.
    Just consider: you could have been owned by WAGMI; then you would have something to whinge about.

  12. I completely agree that the diamond formation didn’t work for Bradford City in this game. While it can be a great system for controlling the midfield and creating chances, it’s important to adjust tactics based on the conditions of the pitch and the strengths of the opposition. In this case, it seems like the heavy pitch and Crawley Town’s tactics were able to exploit the weaknesses of the diamond formation.

    However, my question is: do you think that the diamond formation can still be a successful tactic for Bradford City in future games, with some adjustments? Or do you think that it’s time for the team to try a different formation altogether? It’s always tough to balance consistency with flexibility in tactics, so I’m curious to hear your thoughts on how Bradford City should approach their next games.

%d bloggers like this: