Issue In the Nix of time

As told by Jason Mckeown

For as long as I have been going to watch Bradford City, there have been two basic types of player adorning Claret and Amber.

The first type is the hard working and committed footballer. Always giving 100% to the cause and battling to the end. They may not be the most talented often possessing limited skill, but when the chips are down they can always be counted on to give their all.

Then there’s the second, more skilful type of player. On their day they have the ability to decide a match with the quality to do things that others cannot. They can have you on the edge of your seat, but unfortunately are invariably less consistent and liable to underperform in some games. They frustrate as often as they excite and can’t be trusted to always try their hardest. Are they as committed to the cause as the other type of player? And why do they seem to think they’re above tracking back?

The fortuitous Boxing Day win over Lincoln was ground out by a mixture of both types of players and showed that, as much as most of would prefer to have 11 players sweating Claret and Amber blood to the cause, not selecting players who can produce those moments of brilliance will only get us so far.

Omar Daley is undoubtedly the second type of Valley Parade player. It’s just short of a year since he joined from Charleston Battery and received the huge build up before his debut, but the Jamaican winger has so far flattered to deceive. We know he has the ability to be a match winner for us, but it’s not seen often enough. Daley was largely disappointing during the second half of last season and his miss in that vital game against Leyton Orient still makes me feel angry. He has improved this season, particularly of late, but his inconsistency leaves some fans wishing we could replace him with someone who will always give their all.

Against Lincoln Daley was both typically brilliant and typically terrible. Not everything he tries is going to work and it is frustrating when he loses the ball, but he’s often behind our best attacking moves. He stretched the Lincoln defence and regularly beat defenders; but also largely knew when to pass the ball and bring others into play, even if the ball doesn’t always reach its target.

Midway through the second half Daley had a fantastic opportunity when he broke clear and had two players to square the ball to in the penalty area, but his pass found neither player and the ball was cleared. Then as the match moved to injury time, Daley had an opportunity to charge forward again after been brilliantly found by Joe Colbeck. Again he was running at a back peddling defence and again there were City players rushing to get into the area. On this occasion Daley took his time, slowed down the ball before beating and twisting the defender one way and then the other. With others now in better positions, he delivered an excellent ball across the area which substitute Barry Conlon was able to bundle home at the far post.

It was this piece of brilliance that made the difference and earned City the unlikely win. On an afternoon of high emotion which saw unforgettable scenes before kick off, it was a fantastic way to end the day. Over the last few weeks results and performances have improved, but there have been too many draws and progress up the league table has been slow. Once again it seemed that City’s huff and puff wasn’t going to be enough after Lincoln’s Lenell John-Lewis had cancelled out Peter Thorne’s early opener. Passing moves broke down too easily and corners and free kicks were wasted, service to the front two was again not great and a winning goal seemed beyond City. Cue the moment of brilliance.

More of the hard working but limited players are Joe Colbeck and Kyle Nix, who also both played equally significant roles in earning the victory. Making his first Valley Parade start for three months, Joe got off to a flyer wonderfully setting up Peter Thorne to fire home the opening goal in less than a minute. Ask supporters around the stadium for their views on Joe and you’re likely to receive largely negative responses. Joe is certainly a confidence player and has struggled in front of the Valley Parade glare in the last 18 months, but I don’t think he can ever be criticised for effort.

Joe began this game in flying form although predictably struggled with his final ball. Watching him perform by the Midland Road stand during the second half, it was noticeable how aware Joe seems to be of the crowd. You can seem him glance up when he’s receiving criticism and it seems to affect his game. I believe Joe can become a very good footballer for this club, but he needs to find that mental steel to block out the reaction of the crowd.

Joe’s return to the team has enabled Nix to move into the centre of midfield where he looks a better player. The former Sheffield United midfielder is not the quickest and struggles to beat full backs for pace when whipping in crosses on the wing, but his work rate and ball winning ability is admirable. Moved into the centre, his battling abilities were hugely effective and his passing also really caught the eye. Nix will soon be out of contract at City but there seems to be no question he will earn a more permanent deal. The centre of midfield has been a problem area all season but Nix’s recent performances mean Stuart might prefer to concentrate on improving other areas of the team when he can make new signings in January.

City’s flying start to the game allowed some comfort against an industrious Lincoln side who performed much worse than the Sincil Bank meeting earlier in the season. They did put some pressure on City and forced Donovan Ricketts into two fantastic saves, but City could and should have grabbed a second with only the final ball or weak finishing spoiling some decent moves. It was no surprise that Lincoln came out strongly in the second half but, disappointingly, we conceded a soft equaliser within five minutes, although otherwise our defence was excellent with Matt Clarke comfortably slotting back.

City struggled to pass with any fluidity and lacked quality in the final third, Guylian Ndumbu-Nsungu was hugely disappointing and it wasn’t until he went off and Daley moved up front that we can began to threaten again. Thorne was then replaced with Conlon and, with the 11 players left on the field having managed just six goals between them all season, a winner looked improbable. At least until Daley set up Conlon.

There’s no prizes for guessing which type of player Conlon is considered and it was fantastic for the hard working striker to finally net a goal for City from open play, but it was the delivery of a skilful but not always fully committed player that made it happen. If only Daley could produce like this more often because he is the type of player who makes the difference, but I know that in a few weeks time he will be causing me to tear out my hair in frustration as he disappoints once more. On those occasions it will be down to ever dependable players such as Nix to help City earn something. We certainly can’t manage without this type of player, but also need match winners like Daley to deliver.

Ultimately; the more good days than bad he enjoys, the higher up the league City will climb.