From September, 2007
Preview: Bradford City vs Wycombe Wanderers
When asked what the problem with his light blub was Thomas Edison remarked that after some use the Damn thing stopped working but he was sure that American ingenuity would fix that some day. In the years since the everlasting light bulb has yet to be invented.
Likewise ask any football fan what the problem with their team is and the majority would say the word “Consistency”.
Consistency is craved by football fans – consist winning that is – and with City losing 4-2 at Hereford last week and failing to get three wins on the trot Stuart McCall’s Bantams stand accused of lacking it. Indeed no manager ever got a sideways glance for suggesting consistency was required.
Considering the average number of points for a club that finishes top of a league is two a game pointing to a win one, draw one pattern through the season. Dipping down any league shows that most of the time clubs take about one and a half points a game. Inconsistency – I would suggest – is the nature of the beast and the beast is rarely tamed. Ask any man (or his dog) the problem with Liverpool over the last few years and the will say the C word but the 1.65 points a game suggest that they win more than they lose. Even Manchester United’s title romp last season was done with over 25% of games not being wins.
Like Edison one is sure that at some point the perfectly consistent football team will be made but until them we all just pick up the points where we can.
City have two home games in four days with Wycombe wandering into Valley Parade on Saturday and Accrington Stanley coming on Tuesday night. Stuart McCall has already showed his hand backing his defence despite last week’s blundering and one hopes that confidence boost from that may help fix any holes although Darren Williams’s not featuring in the reserves 2-1 defeat to Huddersfield in the week suggests that he may replace Tom Harban at right back alongside David Wetherall, Mark Bower and Paul Heckingbottom in front of Donovan Ricketts. Paul Evans sits in front alongside Eddie Johnson who continues to impress in midfield. One of Omar Daley and Joe Colbeck faces the chop to allow Alex Rhodes back into the side and Kyle Nix is unlucky to not be featuring. Daley gave away goals last week but offers more going forward than Colbeck who frustrates but less that Daley who can beat a man better than Colbeck who can cross a ball and sometimes passes unlike Daley and so on…
Peter Thorne and Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu start up front with Barry Conlon on the bench – Conlon seems to attract a lot of attention for a guy who is not what one would call a first teamer. BfB understands that there is a chance that Willy Topp will be offered a contract and recruited at some point this weekend and should he then he will no doubt feature on the bench.
My concern this season is as to Stuart McCall’s men and if they have the X-Factor.
I’m no Simon Cowell, but I’m sure that the majority of the long suffering City fans will back me up when I say that no manager or a complete team, since Jewell and his men, have had the X-Factor.
Many men have tried: Chris Hutchings, Jim Jeffries, Nicky Law, Bryan Robson and Colin Todd but all have failed to come close to the bar that Jewell raised at Valley Parade.
Now that finances have improved and there’s even talk of paying a transfer fee – a novelty for BCFC fans – this is surely the best chance to the good times back to Valley Parade.
When Colin Todd was sacked – I wanted McCall appointed. When I heard that the Ginger Messiah was to return I was ecstatic.
Following his return everything coming out of the club was positive and when McCall said “non Promotion season is failure” I was filled with optimism. However, I think that Stuart should have kept his ambitions to himself until he had his squad together. Stuart didn’t think about anything other than winning as a player and he takes the same ideas into management.
However good a manager he may become the most important part of his masterplan is his squad. Some of the signings over the summer have been good captures and excited many fans. The return of Paul Heckingbottom and Paul Evans have, in my opinion, been vital in adding quality to a side that McCall hopes will climb to league one this season. Signings that have added much needed youth and desire to the squad, are that of Kyle Nix, Alex Rhodes and Scott Phelan who McCall will want to mirror the desire of our savior.
The most talked about signing was obviously the addition of Peter Thorne on a free transfer. Everyone realised that if Thorne could capture the goal scoring form he once showed, then this could be a vital part of the “Bradford City Promotion team” jigsaw which McCall and sidekick Wayne Jacobs are trying to put together. While concerns were cast over the fitness of a player who has only played two games in as many years, judgment is yet be made over Thorne as he has only made a couple of starts. Let’s hope he can impress the judges. The one player that has had no trouble winning over the fans is Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu, also known as Dave or “G”.
A much traveled player that is causing the opposite reaction is the Irishman Barry Conlon. Now, I can see why Stuart has made this signing but I don’t see this as the best of the lot. Yes, he is experienced, yes he can hold the ball up and yes he can occasionally bring players into a move but he is being paid to score goals and as of yet he hasn’t earn’t his pay cheque.
It is still early days but when the aim is to build a promotion winning side, I’m not sure Conlon is a striker that is going to have a big impact on results. Time will tell but I don’t think the auditions have gone well.
Generally the start to the season has been OK – could be better – could be worse but the problem is a lack of consistency. One week we are traveling back from Barnet after a poor result but the next few we have two wins on the bounce against a consistent play off finishing team and one of the most fancied in the league. Things start looking good and we hope the team has fully jelled but then we head to Hereford and all is out of tune. Individual errors and a poor performance- from apparently our strongest unit- the defense, bring down the confidence and optimism once again as City crash to defeat at Edgar Street.
In my opinion the X-Factor includes: Desire, Passion, ability, strong heads, quality and consistency.
Desire and passion are there and expected under McCall. Ability is at a good standard. Strong heads were evident against Peterborough, quality is there or there abouts but the consistency is the key and as of yet the team are not showing this.
It’s only early days and let’s hope Stuart and his team can show League Two what the X-Factor is.
Hereford United 4 Bradford City 2 At Edgar Street in League Two, 2007/2008
Facts of football. You don’t go away from home and let in three soft goals and win. It is just that easy and everyone who saw City 3, City 2, Hereford 1 at Edger Street this weekend knows that the Bantams beat themselves and if they can get over that habit then this division will be over with soon.
Hereford are second in the table after this win and that says everything you need to know about League Two. Not tat they are not a decent side but that is all they are. Decent. Not good and not great and not stunning and they are considered to be some good and if City can stop the silly goals then games like this will be good away wins.
Which all comes down to Stuart McCall stopping the silly goals of course. McCall knows this too and barks it from the side of the pitch and every time Donnie Ricketts, Omar Daley or very oddly Paul Heckingbottom did a wobble then McCall would throw his arms away and turn to Wayne Jacobs as if to say “Didn’t we just sort that out during the week?”
Up front Peter Thorne and Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu are showing signs of a good partnership. Thorne is a class above the League and when he gets a goal loads more will follow and Ndumbu-Nsungu grabbed two today that should have been enough to win the match and would have been if it was not for some rubbish defending.
It was Omar Daley fannying around with the ball in his own penalty area, when does Joe Colbeck cost goals? that cost City the first and then it was Ricketts pushing the ball into his own goal for a second. Ricketts is a great keeper having a bad time of it and the bad time is cause by the chaos that erupts in front of him too often.
Heckingbottom pulled down someone in the box after Gee had pulled one back and at the end Theo Robinson got a goal that Hereford deserved to give the two goal lead back after a bit of a good goal by Gee but by then the trip back was looking long and not too bright.
Following City is normally great fun and has been for a good few fruitless years but when the lads could win but throw it away it gets annoying. This is not being outplayed by better sides it is shooting ourselves in the foot and it needs to stop if we are going to go forward.
Back to back homers against Wycombe and Accrington give Stuart the chance to get six more points and things back on track. Keep the faith but work on this Macca.
Bradford City 1 Peterborough United 0 At Valley Parade in League Two, 2007/2008
Not an easy name to forget – Claude Gnakpa – but it was that Peterborough defender’s absent mindedness that gave Bradford City a tough and morale enhancing in at Valley Parade as two of the more fancied teams in the division battered about a game which may prove significant at the end of the season.
£600,000 has been spent at London Road by Darren Ferguson building a team up for the physical demands of League Two and possessing some – it not much – skill. At Valley Parade cash flows less easily but enough recruitment has been made to give Stuart McCall a team capable of winning this game.
McCall and Ferguson have much in common. Both are sons of footballers, both have played at higher levels and both are being watched as the progress in management. Ferguson will have been pleased with the early play in this meeting of managers as his Posh team – playing with the grace of a pub side – began to pummel City’s midfield. With Eddie Johnson once again up for the cut and thrust away from Carrington and in proper football City had a chance but injured Paul Evans – on the bench with a plaster the size of his head on top – being replaced by a lightweight Scott Phelan the Bantams risked being overrun.
Phelan had a game to forget but forget it he should. He is a good player and this tussle came too soon for him. First half he struggled to a point where City’s Donovan Ricketts was pressed into action – although not that often with midfields being the war here – and should both rookie managers need a definition of how football games are won then it would come in the difference between The Posh’s inability to put ball in net and City’s sneaking of a chance when it came.
Nevertheless that chance was hard fought. McCall is crafting a City team that obsesses on numbers in attack and while Peter Thorne – on his home debut – looks a cut above GNN, Joe Colbeck and Omar Daley lack cohesive ideas on patterns of play and reply on exciting but often fruitless dribbling to move the ball forward. One recalls Peter Beagrie, Lee Mills and Robbie Blake and the telepathy that went between them. One hopes that this City team can built the same. At present attacking is a random process – exciting but often frustrating.
Such frustrations are uncorked and freed when Thorne won a free kick to be delivered by an increasingly excellent Paul Heckingbottom which Mark Bower stole in between defenders to head home freely for the decisive goal of the game.
Step back to the free kick that Heckingbottom delivered. The ball arcs over from his left foot and Gnakpa and Craig Morgan both fix eyes on David Wetherall leaving Bower unmarked. After the goal Gnakpa argues furiously with Morgan who in two simple arm movements explains the defending structure of a mortified Gnakpa. “I mark him, You mark Bower” it screams and Gnakpa stand with his finger tips pressed along the sides of his head in full knowledge that the ten other players in blue are blaming him for the absent minded slip that was his fault and cost the fruits of a good away performance.
Gnakpa wanders back to continue the game the loneliest man on Earth. He is removed in a few minutes and watches the rest of the game knowing that he has – for his second long slip up – cost the game.
Such are the fine lines that football can operate within. Your heart goes out to Claude Gnakpa but three points goes to Mark Bower’s winning goal and Bradford City who move to seventh – a play off position – and march on.
Bradford City vs Peterborough United at Valley Parade
At Lincoln – and perhaps fittingly so – Bradford City seemed to come to a realisation.
When Bradford City sat at the top table of English football we were poor relations – described as the unacceptable face of the Premiership by a Daily newspaper one recalls – and spent a season and a half waiting for a supposedly deserved comeuppance which eventually come but seems only curiously merited. Yes, Geoffrey Richmond but history points us down the road East of Pudsey for the bigger crimes and how we remember the plaudits that the same press that damned us offered them.
For the years in between there seemed to be a facet of City that suggested that while we were shunned at the top we were too good for below. Jim Jefferies and Nicky Law shared a season where the Bantams strolled through a season which could have been promotion but ended up in nervous final days and even Law’s more meat and gravy approach to the game could not stop the general feeling that so close to facing Manchester United the Bantams would only have to turn up to beat Stockport County.
Move forward to now and heads have been knocked together. Over at Lincoln Bradford City dug in – perhaps out of respect – and earned a win which had been suggested all season. The first day draw with Macclesfield, the defeat at Barnet, all games where the Bantams with luck – which is to say luck as defined by Gary Player as getting more of it the more you practice and put in application – would have taken three points.
Effort – typified by Emile Heskey and Gareth Barry brings about reward and City – too long holding onto ideas above their station and finally showing a grounding at ground level – seem to have realised that.
We play a Peterborough United managed by Darren Ferguson – no jokes please – who are impressing early season but would be overhauled by the Bantams should City win at Valley Parade. Peterborough have spent freely for this division but Ferguson worries about the lapses his two central defenders are prone to. Peter Thorne is due to start his first home game for City leading the line alongside GNN with Barry Conlon eventually paying the price for his lack of goals – worryingly Emile Heskey is remembered once more.
Paul Evans – headless two weeks ago – hopes to return to the fight in the midfield with Eddie Johnson grafting alongside him. Joe Colbeck returns to the bench with Omar Daley taking the right hand role and Kyle Nix on the left. Most games are won and lost by the battles of midfield graft and this one will be no different.
Darren Williams returns at right back following injury and slots into the David Wetherall, Mark Bower and Paul Heckingbottom sitting in front of Donovan Ricketts set up of City.
Lincoln City 1 Bradford City 2 At Sincil Bank in League Two, 2007/2008
Stuart McCall unleashed his secret weapon on Lincoln City last night – and it wasn’t the belated debut of an injury-plagued number 10.
1,064 members of his barmy army had made the 90 mile trip to Lincolnshire and provided a 90 minute non-stop performance of passionate noise to help City come from behind and earn their first away win of the season. Our contribution in the away section might not have been as significant as the fantastic run and pass of Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu that set up Joe Colbeck’s winner, but it was no less meaningful on an evening that offered the strongest evidence yet that City can challenge for an immediate return to League One this season.
Much has been made about the huge home crowds City will be enjoying this season, but less has been mentioned about the power of our away support. It’s hard to imagine another League Two side bringing as many supporters and making as much noise at Sincil Bank all season – and that includes their local rivals Grimsby and Mansfield. This will be the same at so many other grounds and this level of support can make a huge difference in where City end up come May.
It was a certainly a large factor in this deserved win as City fans out-sung and humiliated their Lincoln counterparts. As balloons, beach bags and mini footballs were tossed in the air among City supporters before kick off, you sensed it could be a special night. An emotional tribute to the events of 22 years ago was impeccably observed before the action began. The chanting continued from the start and didn’t even let up when Lincoln took the lead, although the fact it was in controversial circumstances undoubtedly helped keep up the wall of noise.
The home side started the match much brighter, a decent save from an Eddie Johnson shot aside, and created several good chances. In defence, City looked strong with our back four reacting well to the busy night that lay in front of them. “Don-don-don-don-don-don-don-don-don-don-Donovan Ricketts!” (to the tune of No Limits’) made two smart stops but then City fell behind from a corner. Ricketts made a great save from a header but the ball was still scrambling around in the area. Louis Dodds stabbed the loose ball goalwards only for Ricketts to make another brilliant block on the goalline. Yet incredibly, as the ball was finally cleared, the linesman put up his flag to signify the ball had crossed the line.
The goal was awarded and City’s protests were waved away. It looked like a very poor decision but, thankfully, City didn’t let the injustice affect them as they clawed their way back into the game. With Eddie Johnson and Scott Phelan beginning to control things in the middle of the park, City got back on level terms after some great work from Omar Daley.
Since signing in January, we’ve been waiting for Daley to hit his best form and in the opening 35 minutes he continued to frustrate with his tendency to always cut inside rather than stretch the opposition by running down the channels. On this attack he finally did stay out wide, knocking the ball past a defender and then showed his incredible pace to reach the ball before another defender. Now level with the penalty area, he cut inside and continued his run into the box before squaring the ball for Ndumbu-Nsungu to fire home.
“1-0 to the Bradford Boys” we sang matter-of-factly. Daley’s reward for his assist was taking a knock from the challenging defender which threatened to end his evening and rule him out of international duty. Thankfully he was able to carry on and his subsequent performance was that of a player who had reached a new notch in self confidence. Daley continued to look a threat everytime he got the ball and trigged some of City’s best moves.
In the second half the level of noise in the away section was kept up with our versions of White Stripes, Beatles and Johnny Cash songs, and City began to get on top. Eddie Johnson went close with a brilliant free kick that was tipped away by Alan Marriott, Peter Thorne linked up well with G on his debut and the defence continued to keep Lincoln’s increasingly sporadic attacks at bay. The Imps did come close to retaking the lead when a long range shot rattled the post. Given how many times City have struck the woodwork in the opening six games, it was somewhat satisfying to watch another team rue their luck.
It looked like a winner might allude City but they finally made the break through 12 minutes from time. Lincoln were on the attack when City cleared the ball up to G on the half way line. The Congo striker produced a devastating first touch to lift the ball past a defender and then had the speed to charge forward. Two defenders chased him, blocking his route to goal. But no one picked up Colbeck racing clear in the middle. G’s through ball was inch perfect and Colbeck charged forward and beat the advancing Marriott with a low shot that rolled slowly into the corner. Cue pandemonium in the away section.
It was fair to say that the recalled Colbeck did not enjoy the best of nights and he consistently struggled to beat his full back, either by running at him or whipping in early crosses. But his goal was reward at least for his undoubted level of effort and may just give him that added belief to perform better. Joe can often look tentative and unsure of himself, although the subtle, unnoticed stamp he executed on the full back while he was on the ground showed that he isn’t intimidated by the opposition.
Apart from a couple of late scares, City stood firm to claim the three points and end a difficult week on a high. Lincoln might not have made the best of starts themselves, but they’re a wise outfit who know what it takes to be successful at this level. They certainly gave City a tough game, making this result and performance even more impressive.
“You’ve only come cos it’s Bradford!” we chanted at the home fans. Probably not true but, as Stuart’s Bradford Army marched into an away ground and made sure they were noticed by everyone, you suspected it was an evening that won’t be quickly forgotten by either side. The high number of away fans for a Friday night fixture was impressive and, temporarily we hope, it feels quite nice being the big fish in a small pond.
On a personal level, the non-stop chanting and stunning atmosphere, plus the result, contributed to one of the most enjoyable City games I have been too in years. The evening felt special and I left proud to be a City fan and being one of some of the best fans in the country (best in League Two without doubt!). The strength and enthusiasm among fans can be partly attributed to Stuart and Wayne’s return, but ultimately it’s about a passionate bunch of people finally able to dream of better things. Something feels special about supporting City right now and hopefully its going to lead to big celebrations come May.
Stuart’s Bradford Army makes trips to Hereford, MK Dons, Morecambe and Grimsby in the next two months. If we fans can maintain the high standards of this away performance we should help City become stronger on the road.
Although the level of noise we’re making means that Stuart’s secret weapon will not be staying secret much longer.
Doncaster Rovers 5 Bradford City 1 At Keepmoat Stadium in Johnson's Paint Cup, 2007/2008
There really is nothing much to say about the 5-1 defeat to Doncaster Rovers in the Johnson’s Paint Trophy. City fielded a team of reserves on the whole and got pretty much what a team deserves when it puts out kids against a team in a higher divison. Doncaster are not the lights of football but then again who is? Certainly not City and it is high time we realised that defeats like this one sap the confidence out of the club and the fans. Cheap tickets are great but we need players with a bit of a buzz about them and you don’t get that by being out of two cups a month after the season started.
There is always Kyle Nix though. Nix is a class act and as a bright light for City tonight. He scored a free kick after the defence was ripped up. Ben Saynor’s debut showed that keeping is about shouting as much as saving and his back four and him didn’t seem to know who each other was. Matt Clarke, Simon Ainge, Paul Heckingbottom, Luke O’Brien and Tom Harban will all have better nights than this and it is not about pointing to players and saying that they have played badly or even looking at the gaffer and asking why he picked this team.
It is about mangaing the fall out from hammerings. Three points from Lincoln on Friday and this result won’t matter.
Doncaster Rovers vs Bradford City – Associate Members Cup – Johnson’s Paint Trophy
It was to be hoped that Donovan Ricketts was carrying some sort of injury – the Jamaican acrobat lacking the impressiveness on Saturday to stop a match losing last minute free kick which some but not all would argue was unstoppable – and so news of his groin injury before tonight’s Associate Members Cup – Johnson’s Paint Trophy if you prefer and we prefer you do – game at holders Doncaster.
Ricketts’s will be absent leaving Stuart McCall to decide between eighteen year old Ben Saynor and whomever can be scrambled in on loan, probably former Newcastle fourth choice Jonathan Brain.
Ricketts joins a number of players sitting out the low priority tie with David Wetherall, Eddie Johnson, Mark Bower and Paul Evans all missing. Matt Clarke, Simon Ainge, Tom Penford and Scott Phelan are expected to move into the heart of what will be a much different team which McCall insists is the best available.
The importance McCall places in this competition is brought into clarity – a stiff back would not keep David Wetherall out of a league game – and perhaps the City boss is right to rest players. The effect of winning this competition on Doncaster Rovers seems to be marginal. The club have impressively risen over the last few seasons and for sure have made much considering the state they were left in by a bombastic former chairman but the attempts to push on from good regional to Championship side have faltered of late and the Johnsons Paint Trophy does nothing to push them into the top 44 of English football.
Silverware is always pleasing but where a club in Doncaster – or City’s – position look at banner headlines for achievement then they would not find it here. Promotion of course and FA Cup runs are the stuff of back pages and were a City or Doncaster do as Chesterfield or Plymouth in recent years have and reach an FA Cup semi-final then they may make people take notice. Sadly this competition – with withdrawals and low crowds a plenty – struggles for kudos.
Brave thinking would split it in to eight or even sixteen ultra regional competitions and play off for honours as champions of one’s area but that thinking has yet to be employed by the Football League and so the “local” game with Doncaster will prove resistible for many City fans and – should recent seasons be an indicator – the Bantams interest will end sooner rather than later assuming that Doncaster – needed points for the league and at home to a team from a lower division – do not suffer more of a malaise than us visitors do.
A few years ago, a City supporter submitted an article on this website stating that Andy Gray’s ability level was that of a pub footballer. This view came during a period when Gray was struggling to recapture his previous season’s form for City where, converted from a winger to a striker, he had managed a career-changing 15 goals that would belatedly signal the end to the dreaded tag of unfulfilled potential. As part of a City side speedily hurtling towards the relegation trap door in 2003-04, he was unable to match his previous season’s exploits managing just six goals.
Very shortly after this article appeared, Gray was sold to Sheffield United and his career continued to head upwards with a £1 million move to Premiership Sunderland a year after. This proved a step up too far but Gray has since re-established himself as a decent Championship striker with Burnley. Last Saturday he scored twice as Burnley won 3-2 at Colchester. Layer Road is hardly one of British football’s most beautiful stadiums, but it’s still a better level than the local park behind The Queen’s Head.
It’s this sort of striker debate which has been typical with Bradford City in recent years. Finding a pair of decent goalscoring forwards has proved difficult and is ultimately why the Bantams have been unable to climb back towards Championship level. Those that have toiled up front since have nearly all split opinion among supporters. Some arguably should have had more of a chance, others undoubtedly gave everything but came up short, too many rarely looked like scoring and just one player has managed double figures in a season since Gray departed.
Not since the legendary Mills and Blake partnership in 1998/99 have City been fortunate enough to possess two regular goalscorers at the same time. Only Dean Windass has consistently done the business, yet finding a suitable strike partner was a problem never solved while he was banging in all those goals during his second spell at the club. This over dependence meant that City were never able to lift themselves above midtable and, when Deano departed last January, no one was able to fill his void with dire consequences.
Different division, different management, different bunch of players and many more supporters; but so far the familiar problem has remained. In the five games to date, five goals have been scored. Not the worst of records but, when analysing the performances and number of chances the team has created to date, this figure should be at least double. In the home games at least, City have been largely dominant and created a host of chances. Unfortunatley, the strikers in the middle haven’t been able to convert them and, with each miss, have split supporters’ views once again. Perhaps the biggest question hanging over Stuart’s squad as we enter the second month of the season is if there is sufficient firepower to enable City to push for promotion.
Dividing views more than most is Barry Conlon. He arrived at Valley Parade during the summer with a reputation as a decent goalscorer at this level, but with a disconcertingly high number of former clubs. Conlon has so far looked very much your average target man, but unfortunately a little too average. He holds the ball up well and has good awareness at bringing others into play, but he seems to lack the goalscoring prowess and his efforts on goal have been generally tame. Confidence is a big part of this and his previous record suggests he usually manages double figures each season. Yet without a goal so far he looks more likely to match Andy Cooke and Danny Cadamarteri in the regularity of his City goals.
Unsurprisingly he has attracted a lot of criticism. Although, just like Andy Cooke, there seems to be a section of supporters who appreciate the undoubted effort he puts in. One thing is for sure, he’s going to need to improve his performances. With his height and physical ability he should be capable of giving opposition defenders a really hard time and his hold up play should at least allow others to come forward. On occasions Conlon has looked isolated and received the ball too deep. Hopefully as the whole team get to know each other better this will improve and Conlon will receive the ball where he can hurt people.
Very much vying for cult status, Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu has made a decent impression so far. He has a really good touch and is also strong holding the ball up. He has more pace than Conlon and has shown the odd burst of acceleration that’s put the opposition on the back foot. However, just like Conlon, he hasn’t really got into enough good positions to shoot on goal. How many goals he will score, at least until his loan move ends in January, remains questionable. In many ways Guylain and Conlon are very similar players but hopefully they will play together more effectively as they become more familiar with each other’s runs. Hopefully G (or Dave depending on your nickname preference, personally I like Dave!) can add that little bit missing and score a few goals for us.
So far, Nathan Joynes and Luke Medley have played the back up role. Joynes started against Shrewsbury but was unable to make an impression. Meanwhile Luke couldn’t have made a bigger impact with his first touch! The youngster’s wonder strike against Wrexham has made everyone sit up and take notice. There will inevitably be a lot of expectation on the striker’s shoulders, remember Gareth Grant, Danny Forrest, Kevin Sanasy and Joe Brown? Hopefully Luke can build on his superb start and fulfil his potential. While technically not our youth player, its still been a long time since City had a young striker who became a first team regular and scored lots of goals.
At Barnet, Stuart played Omar Daley up front in the second half and the Jamaican international will barely believe he has yet to score this season after hitting the post three times so far. After his much trumpeted arrival in January, Omar has yet to really find his form and, while he was very impressive in pre-season, we all hope he can do better than his displays so far this season. The hope is that Daley can nail that right wing position and consistently deliver there. He has looked reasonably effective when thrown up front, but is arguably needed more out wide. It’s both nice but a little unusual to think Eddie Johnson is our top scorer so far. Despite a slow start, Eddie is looking comfortable in midfield and it would appear that he has waved goodbye to a career as a centre forward.
Which just leaves one more forward on City’s books and one who has yet to play. Peter Thorne’s summer signing felt like a huge coup but it’s been hugely frustrating waiting for him to recover from injury. After suffering two years at Norwich that were dogged by injury, there are some fears over how much we will see him wear Claret and Amber and some of our more lunatic fans are calling for City to get rid of him already. Given the injury problems he has endured, it would seem City are being sensible in not rushing him into first team action.
When he is ready though, he may find expectations are pinned firmly upon him. The more our other strikers fire blanks in front of goal and points are lost as a result, the greater the pressure on Thorne to deliver. It may take him a while to get fully fit, but the signs during his brief reserve and friendly appearances are encouraging and his past goalscoring record suggests he knows where the goal is.
It seems likely that Thorne will figure at some point this week against either Doncaster or Lincoln. As City’s slow start continues, everyone will be keeping fingers crossed he can deliver. Although at the same time we need at least one from Conlon, Dave, Joynes and Medley to be able to consistently deliver alongside him if we’re going to start climbing the table and threaten at the right end.
Otherwise, with a certain East Yorkshire club splashing out £1million on a striker last week, how long will it be before rumours of a former regular City goalscorer returning on loan start up?
Barnet 2 Bradford City 1 At Underhill in League Two, 2007/2008
The home fans had given up on this one. City rattled the Barnet posts and 1-1 was going to be 2-1 to the visitors unless the Referee stopped the game and in injury time it looked like The Bantams would be going north with a point at the very least. Up stepped Jason Puncheon to put in the sort of free kick we thought only Paul Evans could take.
Paul Evans and Puncheon had met after ten minutes of the game and City’s tank like midfielder came off worst and then came off to be replaced by Scott Phelan who seems to be ready to play Evans’s part kicking everything in midfield but The Bantams missed the tank in the middle and came under pressure.
Pressure that all centred around Puncheon who was a thorn in the side of City all afternoon. We were promised a debut from Peter Thorne for the Bantams after his scoring in a reserve win during the week but the hit man did not show and City were slow to convert chances into goals. Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu looks the part some of the time and runs the channels well and Barry Conlon holds the ball up well but neither look like being the goal threat that can turn possession into goals. Luke Medley came on and didn’t score! First time for everything I guess.
Eddie Johnson scored – twice. EJ banged one in either end slicing a Puncheon free kick into his own net in the first half and replying by banging a left footed shot from a good distance in the second. Someone pipes up that with two in two Johnson could shove our goal scoring problems and then everyone remembers that he is a forward after all and chins get stroked.
Is Omar Daley a forward? Who knows? He moves up front and hits the post twice and City look the team most likely but pace aside Daley looks like his leg would snap if he were to give the ball a good League Two leathering and that is what this team needs. Stuart McCall has got the lads into a shoot on sight policy that rains shots at goal but a smarter striker who can take up positions to get onto Barry Conlon’s hard work or the wing play of Kyle Nix and Daley or Joe Colbeck might solve a few problems.
Not that there are that many problems for City. The free kick at the end was a bit of a fluke (Do that again Punchy – go on! I dare you) and the own goal self-inflicted. But for all the time when the Bantams put in 90 minutes of match winning work and lose then confidence is going to suffer.