Issue The Wheels

As told by Michael Wood

Also: Wolves 2 Bradford City 1 – League Cup First Round 2007/2008

Those that saw it said it was typically City to battle with Championship side Wolves head to head for the lion’s share of the game but then give up the chance of a lead with two goals in four minutes at the start of the second half that cut the chance of turning the toughest of away fixtures this first round could throw up into a victory to next to nothing and while Kyle Nix and Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu did their chances of long term deals the power of good by combining for the last goal the Bantams day was done.

Those who saw it gave the Bantams credit but Stuart McCall’s first game from distance read like a worrying City display. Barry Conlon’s spurned header in the second half against Macclesfield Town has set his image in the mind as a target man who does not know where the net it. Those that saw it will tell you that without Conlon City struggle to keep the ball and that his profligacy compared to hold up play is the reason he is not playing at a level higher but the removal after an hour and subsequent benching for Saturday speak much from distance.

Worryingly the speak whispers about McCall too and one hopes he does not fall into Colin Todd’s most annoying feature. Even the former gaffer’s advocates were irritated by Todd’s inability to stick with a forward partnership. As City were going down at Wolves Andy Cooke was getting the injury that would keep him out of the weekend Shrewsbury game against the Bantams. Cooke’s work rate was never questioned and he could have hoped for more of a chance from Todd rather than the constant flux of forwards. On Saturday Nathan Joynes would be partnering Ndumbu-Nsungu.

To McCall’s credit he has already worked out that the best back fours are constantly selected and Donovan Ricketts behind Darren Williams, David Wetherall, Mark Bower and Paul Heckingbottom with Paul Evans sitting on top is as good a back six as will be found in League Two. Wolves was always going to be tough but Williams’s 8th minute foul on Marc Pugh aside – one sometimes worries about Williams’s pace – City did enough to suggest that conceding goals in open play lacks inevitability.

Indeed McCall’s midfield of Evans behind the hardworking Eddie Johnson – hardworking being employed as a term to ignore a worrying lack of creativity from him which Nix seems able to remedy without the graft of the former Manchester United striker – with two wide men seem able to create chances for the forward pairing but worryingly those chances occur too far down field for the liking of those who saw them.

Everything in snapped at because the ball is not delivered into killer areas often enough. City need the constancy of delivery that a Nicky Summerbee gave Dean Windass or a Peter Beagrie gave Lee Mills to build a twenty goal haul for a striker on. Omar Daley is a frustrating joy, Alex Rhodes looks capable, Joe Colbeck gives everything and often deserves more than he gets but none have the repetition of crossing accuracy that builds confidence for strikers and so McCall and Wayne Jacobs must go to the drawing board and behind to look for a way to shift City’s final ball ten yards further forward. Daley’s twenty-five yarders are speculative – his fifteen yarders would weigh in with ten goals a season. Sometime the gap between success and failure is an inch, sometimes it is ten yards and McCall must work at going that distance. He tried by pushing Joynes behind GNN but the Barnsley loanee was starved of the ball leaving the jury out as to his suitability for such a position.

As it was City had enough to take something from the game that was settled by David Hibbert – a cameo player for the Bantams last term – scoring a penalty. Paul Evans had a keeper’s amazing save to curse once again and Paul Heckingbottom struck a post. Nothing that three points against Wrexham in front of a crowded Valley Parade will not cure from a morale point of view and – perhaps – Peter Thorne from a striking berth as the experienced hitman looks to get back to fitness.


With the aid of Roland Harris