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Watford 4 Bradford City 2 (07/01/2012) 08/01/2012

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
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Five thunks from FA Cup Third Round day…

1- This is how games against lower division opposition are supposed to pan out, of course, but we’ve made it look considerably harder than this in the past.  From the opening minutes when Marvin Sordell made space for a cross far too easily and Troy Deeney headed in unmarked at the far post, this was never in doubt.  This was due, in part, to the fact that Bradford were dreadful; you expect a lower division side to hassle, to close down space;  instead, as against Doncaster, we had acres of room;  three of our goals were all but unchallenged, John Eustace even had time to line up a Steven Gerrard pass in the second half. City’s aggression took the form of slightly sulky and somewhat incidental low-level thuggery as the game ran away from them after the break; we stood up to much more focused, better organised thuggery recently against City’s near-neighbours Leeds, this was never going to be an issue. As last week, however, it’s worth noting the progress from a team that struggled so badly earlier in the season to a team capable of sticking four past anyone… even if a couple of instances of slack defending rendered the scoreline closer than it needed to be. This wasn’t a victory based on a few moments of quality, in short.  We were much better than Bradford.

2- Sobering to look at the state that the Bantams have got themselves into.   Circumstances differ of course, but it wouldn’t have taken a lot for us to end up where City are, and without the opportunity offered by a huge catchment area to fall back upon.  More than anyone else, Ray Lewington takes credit for the fact that we staved off relegation when the going was really tough, his achievement less lauded than that of some of his contemporaries but no less significant.  That our only dalliance with the lower divisions in the last thirty-odd years was brief is deceptive.  There’s no carousel back to the top divisions, ask Bradford.  This could have been us.

3- Having cited the reduced number of substitute berths available for League fixtures as a factor in the limited chances being offered to the youngsters blooded over the last couple of years, it was more than a little disappointing that Sean Dyche made scant use of the opportunity to give some run outs, or to add names to the bench.  Adam Thompson made a welcome first appearance of the season, if only as a non-playing substitute – an interesting choice given that David Mirfin is presumably the man in possession if we really have lost Nosworthy and Taylor is still not available.  Tom James perhaps a surprise call, making a brief but neat cameo on the left side of midfield.  Perplexing though that Dyche seems so determined to field neither Whichelow nor Murray, even in a cup tie against a lower division side with seven subs and no wide attacking options on the bench.  Worth noting also that the double sub featuring both of our attacking subs, the leaden Iwelumo and the eager but impotent Garner, was utterly unproductive.

4- Having said which, the four brought into the side all did well enough, three of them featuring in the stand-out highlight of the game.  Jonathan Bond stood up well to the limited opportunities that City created to intimidate him;  he came for everything, perhaps injudiciously once or twice, but with the score at 3-1 he decisively clouted a cross out of a crowded penalty area above some competing heads, setting a counter-attack in motion.  John Eustace, whose head bandage naturally did nothing to detract from  his on-field persona, charged upfield with three opponents closing in and, at the ideal moment, slid a pass left to the galloping Craig Forsyth.  The Scot, back in the side after two months without so much as a spot on the bench, was already a goal to the good after knocking in a loose ball after Yeates’ slice;  nonetheless, the home stands held their breath and prayed that Forsyth’s fragile confidence wouldn’t take another hit.  No bother… a glorious first-time finish to a fabulous counter attack.  Forsyth is no Kightly, but here – a gentle route back, admittedly – we saw all the most positive elements of his fledgling game.  Complete – if occasionally a little random – aerial supremacy, a tidy competence on the floor and attacking the box well; plenty to be encouraged by, even if you’d rather that there was more obvious competition for wide positions.

5- A slightly anxious footnote to a very comfortable victory is that our superiority didn’t quite translate into chances on goal.  Never in danger, as mentioned above, and yet…  the visitors’ goal was never quite under siege, we didn’t spurn too many chancs.  Given that this midfield saw a return to the side fielded earlier in the season – Eustace and Hogg in the centre, Yeates and Forsyth wide – this  was maybe predictable and might be a concern going forwards.  Nice to be saying this after a second consecutive four-goal haul, naturally…

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1. Roger Smith - 08/01/2012

Same personnel in midfield, but with Hogg and Eustace reversing their roles. With Eustace just in front of the back four, too often he was guilty of shilly-shallying around exchanging short passes, thus giving the opposition defence plenty of time to regroup. So if Dyche told Eustace that he preferred Prince, as he was more creative, it worked! The second Forsyth goal was a classic, and to make the pass, Eustace shook off a foul for which the Bradford player was subsequently booked. Well done the referee.

As for Forsyth, I’d like to see him stay wide longer, particularly when Yeats is taking a corner on the opposite side. He could then time his run to attack the dropping ball rather than having to inject power from a standing jump.

Another tactic that I would like to see tried at a goal kick is for our quickest forward (Sordell?) to lurk on the fringe of the huddle that forms on one side of the pitch so that, when the goalkeeper kicks it into the wide open space he’s first to the ball with a clear run on goal.

Matt Rowson - 08/01/2012

fair point re Eustace and Hogg swapping.

We made the same point about Sordell yesterday, maybe at the same point you were thinking it…

2. Marcus Shapiro - 08/01/2012

I think it’s a bit harsh to criticise Garner’s contribution when he came on partnered by big Chris for such a short time at the stub end of the match.

The strike from Forsyth was first rate – I was convinced he should have controlled it but had panicked lashing out first time. How wrong can you be!

I (and I sensed the defence) felt more comfortable with big Jonathan Bond (who doesn’t look 18) in goal than the previous imcumbent. Having said that, he was insufficiently pressured to form a real view.

I agree with perplexity re Murray (but perhaps less so Wichelow whom I suspect has really lost it – no idea why this should be so if it is correct and it’s just a hunch on my part). Wasn’t surprised to see James get a run out but hadn’t expected him to play left midfield – looked tidy enough.

Marvin was a class apart and Deeney is now a wholly different player in terms of physique fitness and confidence from the Walsall player we signed and the struggler of last season/early this. I guess he used to score goals and with confidence, luck and service I reckon these will come back.

Oddest thing is the Nosworthy final appearance to cup tie him. I really like him as he’s pretty quick but more importantly seems to read the game so well he seems always to be covering in the right position. I wonder if we are going to sell Mapps to Swansea for a couple of million and pick up Nyron for close to a free and make him one of our top earners.

Matt Rowson - 08/01/2012

re Garner… just a statement of fact, whatever the context (and he was on for 20 mins plus injury time, hardly a two minute cameo). Garner was ineffective.

re Whichelow… “suspect” on what basis? That Dyche sent him to Exeter and he didn’t pull up any trees? The evidence of our own eyes, 20 appearances last season in which he did very well and often injected vim from the bench, more reliable than any suspicion.

Don’t really agree re Deeney either. He looks good but doesn’t seem to have a striker’s instinct… and although I prefer him in the middle I thought he was one of our better performers in the last third of last season, albeit in a side that was struggling to pick up points.

Re Nosworthy… agree, odd. As I’ve posted before tho, I’m not sure how well he and Taylor would work together. Nosworthy’s not slow but he doesn’t have Mariappa’s pace.

marcus shapiro - 08/01/2012

Re Wichelow, that was last season. No basis to be impressed with his form or attitude this season. Seemed downbeat (like Oshodi) the one time I met him in the flesh.

Matt Rowson - 08/01/2012

you’re right, of course. watching the bloke play is nothing like as valuable as you having had a chat with him, clearly. my apologies.

SteveG - 08/01/2012

Whichelow’s absence is indeed bizarre given the fact that, as Matt rightly points out, he looked a great prospect last season. But doesn’t this leave open the possibility that it all went to his head a bit and that he came back with the wrong attitude at the start of this season and fell out with Dyche as a result. This seems plausible given a few comments made by Dyche in the press and the less than stunning loan move. Or possibly Dyche has just got this one wrong. Either way it’s a shame, but this kind of thing does sometimes happen. Remember when John-Joe O’Toole was going to be the next big thing?

Matt Rowson - 08/01/2012

Fair point Steve, but I’d still completely dispute the general premise that kids were being brought in too quickly. Dyche is the manager, that’s his call, but I’m allowed to pass judgement. If he’s fallen out with Whichelow as you describe… that explains Whichelow’s absence. Justifies it, maybe. But not that of Whichelow AND Murray AND Massey AND the other kids we saw glimpses of last term, not in my eyes, and not when we’re short of creative/attacking subs in this sort of cup tie.

SteveG - 09/01/2012

Agree with you general thrust here – I’d have thought that having two or three of the younger players in the team or on the bench at any one time would have been a fair balance – the fact that we haven’t seen Bryan or Whichelow or Murray at any point given that Yeats and Forsyth have looked OK but nothing stunning is indeed surprising. But then I mighthave argued that with Bennett, Thompson and Mirfin we didn’t need to sign Nosworthy when Taylor got injured, so what do I know?

3. Chris Franklin - 08/01/2012

Matt – I think you’re being harsh on Garner. He worked hard after coming on. Ran for everything and had some neat touches. The problem was Iwelumo. Totally immobile and gave away every ball that came near him. Even worse than playing with 10 men because he broke up a lot of our attacking moves. I don’t think we can judge Garner until we’ve seen him alongside Sordell or Deeney.
Thought we missed Hodson’s attacking movement down the right.
Lloyd’s reappearance confirmed how much better we are going forward with an attacking right back who can pass and cross effectively ( which Lloyd clearly can’t !! ).

Matt Rowson - 08/01/2012

Garner has played more than twice as long with Sordell (343 mins by my reckoning) than Iwelumo (142). And to repeat the assertion above, my account was a statement of fact. The substitutions were ineffective. Garner was eager but ineffective. You can argue that Iwelumo didn’t make life easy for him yesterday, but he’s not always had that excuse.

rousman 2 - 08/01/2012

Agree with regard to Hodson attacking down the right has made a big difference, as far as Garner if you want someone to run the channels in the last 15 minutes ok beyond that ?

Roger Smith - 08/01/2012

I don’t know whether you’ve noticed, but whenever Hodson went forward, Watford went three at the back, with Nosworthy slotting in at right back. Now that Nosworthy has gone, at least for now, could you see Mariappa having the confidence in Mirfin or Taylor to leave them on their own in the middle?

4. nick - 08/01/2012

Good result yesterday and great to see us score four at home again.

I think Garner has shown enough to make me believe he will be a good player for us, tidy on the ball, willing worker, looks to get a shot away. I wonder how he would play with Deeney.

With every appearance Iwelumo is showing what an appalling player he is. Hopefully we’re looking to get rid of him in this transfer window.

I thought Bond did well yesterday although I thought he could have done better for the second goal but maybe thats harsh.

I worry about our team for the next few games and can see us reverting back to the performances of the beginning of the season. Without Kightly in the midfield I think we lack the quality required to unlock the oppositions defence. Yeates for me leaves a lot to be desired whilst Forsyth (who I think will be a very good player) is not up to speed yet.

5. Tim Turner - 08/01/2012

So, picking up on thunk 3, who do we think is going to be partnering Aidy at centre-back against Reading? If Lloyd was brought in to give him some match practice so that he can deputise for the suspended Dickinson next week, surely the same logic demands that Nosworthy should have been dispatched back to Sunderland with our best wishes and someone else should have taken his place against Bradford?

As far as I can see, the options are:

(a) Dyche knows who he’s going to pick next week (as you say, it really ought to be Mirfin, especially now he’s sent Bennett off to Brentford on loan again), and has enough confidence in that person not to give him a first-team run-out beforehand. (Still, odd not even to put him on the bench, unless it’s Adam Thompson he has in mind)

(b) Nyron is going to sign permanently this week, and therefore we won’t need to change the centre-back partnership

(c) Dyche has got another centre-back lined up to sign (either permanently or on loan), and that person will go straight into the first team against Reading

Then again, given Dyche’s sometimes baffling approach to squad management, there’s probably an option (d) that I haven’t even thought of, possibly involving Chris Iwelumo.

Matt Rowson - 09/01/2012

🙂 I have nothing to add to that

nick - 09/01/2012

Preferably not Iwelumo at centre back. I like centre backs to win a few headers.

Fran - 09/01/2012

Tim, you might be onto something. After all it worked with Marcus Gayle

NickB - 09/01/2012

Marcus Gayle was at least fairly mobile – as Oli Phillips once said of Luton’s Mike Saxby, Iwelumo has the turning circle of a wardrobe

Lesley-Anne - 09/01/2012

I haven’t seen anywhere else that Dickinson is suspended. His 5th booking came against Portsmouth on 2nd January; didn’t the automatic ban for 5 bookings finish on 31st December? I hope so.

6. Chris (a Hornet near Darlington) - 09/01/2012

I’ll just put this link here, for no other reason than it is worth reading…

http://www.darlingtonandstocktontimes.co.uk/news/9459870.Tears_on_terraces_as_Darlington_fans_journey_on/

petebradshaw - 09/01/2012

Top read Chris. Such a tragedy.

7. petebradshaw - 09/01/2012

I have a secret ambition to see John Eustace converted to centre back (especially with headband).

As for Garner he has all the grace of David Connolly but little of the skill. Everytime he plays he seems to manage to throw a dive or too. And he’s not very good at that either.

8. petebradshaw - 09/01/2012

that should read ‘or two’

9. Tim Turner - 10/01/2012

Remarkably, it seems I was right about Nyron (see option b in my post above). There’s a first time for everything.

David Mirfin must be wondering why he bothered leaving Scunthorpe…

Matt Rowson - 10/01/2012

Something was odd, hence the thunk… Mirfin looked a very good defender to me at Scunthorpe but unfit to me when he had his few games earlier in the season. Perhaps he’s one of these guys, like Gavin Mahon, who needs to be playing to stay fit. If that’s the case, wouldn’t be a surprise to see him move on this month.


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