So, where are we going?
Last night’s 1-0 defeat at the hands of Bury was the 8th game in 9 that the Bantams have failed to win. More concerningly it was the fifth occasion in that run on which Stuart McCall’s strikers had failed to find the back of the net.
The result leaves Bradford City staring up at the promotion contenders having dropped to 9th place in the table and McCall’s men are now more than a win away from the automatic promotion places where they have been an almost permanent fixture for the entire season.
Last year we spoke of an 8 game winless streak as destroying our season. The two months since Joe Colbeck picked up his injury and the Bantams have faltered look likely to undo the good work we’ve already seen this year.
And make no mistake about it, I firmly believe that it is the injury to the once-maligned right winger which has scuppered all the positives of 2008. Peter Thorne hasn’t scored since the start of November and there is little doubt that the absence of a creative wideman and the cessation of scoring form are linked. Just remember the impact the Joe Colbeck – Peter Thorne partnership had against Lincoln on Boxing Day. It took a matter of minutes for them to combine to give us the lead last season.
In his stead Stuart McCall has signed Steve Jones. In his two months at the club he has won us a couple of penalties at the end of the match. And that’s it. On the other wing Omar Daley has reverted to frustrating form without anything in the way of an end product to show for it. And, at the back, a foursome that had managed 4 consecutive clean sheets has suddenly looked easily breached, shipping 5 goals in three games.
So, where have we gone wrong?
Is Stuart stubbornly continuing with formations and players that are wrong? Last night against Bury he played Barry Conlon and Steve Jones up top with the strategy of Barry flicking the ball onto the Burnley loanee to chase down. It didn’t work. It never looked like working. And it hasn’t all season – name me one occasion when Barry Conlon has won a flick on and it has resulted in a goal. You can’t, can you?
Furthermore, how do you think our promotion rivals, on form built on a solid defence, felt when they saw the team sheet? I can’t decide whether Bury would have been happier facing ‘Super’ Barry Conlon and Steve Jones than they would have been if we had named Peter Thorne and Michael Boulding. That’s not to say that Barry hasn’t at least been doing what he’s paid for but Stuart’s persistence with a formation that wasn’t working says a lot about a manager who once again has questions being asked about his ability to change things in response to events on the football pitch.
We’re now 9th. We started the year in 3rd place and looking well positioned. However this is a worrying wobble. 7 points out of 18 is not promotion form and in a division as tight as ours we need to start picking up points rather than dropping them.
This fortnight contained 4 massive games, 2 ‘easy’ ones and 2 difficult ones. We’ve had one of each and taken a single point. Anything less than a further 6 points by the end of next week and the mutters will gain momentum.
Personally I hope his side come out on Saturday and put all of this to bed. I hope that Stuart goes back to the drawing board and stops to think about what his best XI is. And that is not rocket science. With an almost fit squad (although that Luke O’Brien was kept out of the match with an injury last night is a concern) we can return to the side that played such fluent football at the start of the year.
Peter Thorne and Michael Boulding up top.
Joe Colbeck and Omar Daley on the flanks with a middle of either McLaren and Bullock or Furman and Law (my preference is the latter).
And a defence that picks itself with Matt Clarke presumably looking over his shoulder following the arrival of Zesh Rehman.
Last night Stuart thought it best to play long ball yet continually tells the media that he hates it when we do it. He tells the papers that his side played without desire despite setting them up to fail with a selection that lacked ambition.
We are a good footballing side, we score goals when we attack along the ground. We rarely do so when we play long ball. It’s almost February, we ought to have been able to work that much out by now. Surely?
Eight Disappointing Weeks
So, where are we going?