Tuesday night served as a reminder that the football being back isn’t always a good thing. We lacked any spark going forward and although we looked okay defensively against a physical Bury side, we were lucky on a couple of occasions that our opponents fluffed their lines. We now need to find a performance over the next few games to spark our season into life.
We might just have to put down that performance on Tuesday to the fatigue that a squad that is yet to be completed is facing with such a congested start to the season. We did look a lot better against Shrewsbury last Saturday and I would suggest a game where we closer to full fitness is a better indication of how we’ll be this season. With two new signings and Chris McCann available for selection, as well as further activity in the transfer market, we should be stronger come the end of the month.
Admittedly, the signing of Dan Agyei (pronounced Ah-jay) from Burnley as our number nine doesn’t fill me with confidence. Even if Agyei proves to be another Adam Armstrong, we’ve still had to take a gamble on an inexperienced 19 year-old, presumably in lieu of other more proven strikers who we’ve been unable to bring in. Time will tell, although Agyei is likely to be involved in this game just two days after signing due to the lack of fitness from our other attacking options.
The arrival of Jordan Turnbull though is more exciting than Agyei, a 21 year-old centre-back with over 80 appearances already at this level, and on a three-year deal. Turnbull should slot straight in for this game, but an impressive performance by fellow left-footed centre-back Cian Harries on Tuesday night potentially changes who it is that Turnbull comes in for. Caution, and the threat of James Hanson, would dictate that Harries is still the likeliest to drop out, but there’s a chance that Harries could be allowed to build on his most impressive performance for us to date.
Andy Rose picking up an injury serious enough to seemingly rule him out of this match, we have lost possibly our most important player at this moment in time.. He’s effectively been our target-man playing at right wing-back, acting as an outlet for goal-kicks and crosses into the box. As impressive as Dion Kelly-Evans was from the bench against Bury, at five foot five, he’s just not the outlet that we currently depend on to relieve pressure and create our best chances.
Last Time We Met
A win over Bradford last April just about preserved our remote hopes of making the play-offs. It was Tony Mowbray’s first dabble with the 3-4-3 formation that has remained in place ever-since, and it worked well to nullify a dominant Bradford side to hopeful efforts from long-range and half-chances in the box. Andy Rose came off the bench and scored an amazing half volley from outside the area with his first touch to hand us the lead halfway through the second-half. Although Bradford probably deserved to take something from the game, a red card to their forward Steven Davies in the final ten minutes pretty much ended the contest.
How Are They Doing?
It’s been a summer of change at Bradford following a takeover by a German consortium and the departure of stalwart manager Phil Parkinson, who has been replaced by former player and manager Stuart McCall. 10 new players have arrived to replace the 10 that left either at the ends of their contracts or after loan spells last season. However, Bradford have managed to gather some early momentum and arrive into this game with back-to-back wins.
McCall has attempted to make Bradford a more dynamic, attractive side than they were under Phil Parkinson. An impressive counter-attacking performance against MK ‘Dons’ on Tuesday night came without Parkinson-favourite James Hanson in the side, suggesting that the Bantams could find success this season away from the long ball.
Former Sky Blues midfielder Romain Vincelot has been deployed in the centre of defence due to injuries to the club’s more natural defenders. Vincelot will be partnered by Nathaniel Knight-Percival in the centre of Bradford’s defence, the former Shrewsbury man being more mobile and composed on the ball than Bantams fans have been used to of their defenders during Phil Parkinson’s reign. Additionally, Tony McMahon has been played in his more natural position of right-back instead of as a winger where he was used last season.
Josh Cullen in the centre of midfield is one to watch, the West Ham loanee impressed in a box-to-box role last season and the club have done well to secure a return for a player who probably should be playing in the Championship. Former Rangers man Nicky Law is another energetic presence in the centre of the pitch and Bradford also have the pace of Mark Marshall out wide, with former Nottingham Forest winger Paul Anderson to call upon from the bench.
Up front, Jordy Hiwula has settled in well after joining on loan from Huddersfield this summer. Hiwula is a quick forward with a bit of physicality to his game too, although he can be slightly inconsistent. Although Hanson missed their last game due to injury, there’s a chance he could be fit to partner Hiwula up front. Should Hanson fail to return to fitness in time, Billy Clarke offers mobility and creativity as the alternative option.
Facing Bradford City is a slightly different prospect to what it has been in previous seasons due to the changes at the club over the summer. However, they still have the threat of James Hanson and there’ll be a crowd of over 18,000 there to roar the team on. Given how physically weak we’ve looked over the first few games, this is going to be a very tough test for us this early in the season.
Unless Agyei and Turnbull are prove to be insanely good, I’m struggling to find reasons to be optimistic about this fixture. My prediction is that we will lose this game 2-0, the start of the season will be deferred another week.