Sunday, 9 October 2011

Bradford 1-0 Torquay

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend Bradford away this weekend. Therefore, this week's match report is down to Ben Currie - @ben_tufcfan.

After going to Shrewsbury two weeks prior, I wasn't going to bother with Bradford, such a lacklustre display didn't deserve my finanical and emotional torture. But after a more than satisfying performance against top of the table Morecambe my faith had been restored and i was ready again to plunge face-first into the hopeful randomness of another Torquay away day.

I was picked up by the travel club at 7am. When asked how I was feeling, I replied with the now customary 'buzzing' however the truth was that i was not looking forward to the long journey north. Being a Torquay fan, you have to get used to the long journeys, in some seasons the nearest away game can still be a two hour drive each way, which is why you need plenty of topics to discuss. Having stopped for a pub lunch just outside Bradford, in a dreary little village called Drighlighton, we were ready for the football. Sadly at this point it absolutely started bucketing it down, I then started to feel that this could be a bad sign of what was to come.

As soon as you approach Bradford, you see the stadium straight-away, it sticks out like a collosus, sort of like a poor-mans St James Park in Newcastle, it certainly is an impressive sight and one would imagine very intimidating. However, once you get inside you realise it isn't. It must be galling to be a Bradford fan, 11,000 is an impressive average attendance for league 2, but very poor for a stadium that holds 24,000. The fans don't sing either, I get the feeling this is a club stuck with a losing mentality having slowly worsened over the last 10 years.

Torquay lined up in a 4-5-1 formation; 
Olejnik, Nicholson, Robertson, Saah, Oastler, Mansell, O'Kane, Stevens, Lathrope, Howe, Atieno. Subs; Rowe-Turner, Leadbitter, Ellis, Mcphee, Macklin

Stevens was replaced due to an injured Morris, Howe coming back in for the absent Bodin, and Leadbitter on the bench for the first time. Torquay  kicked off and straight away O'Kane kicked it out of play whilst attempting a simple pass to Oastler, unfortunately this set the tone of our afternoon. The continually enigmatic Danny Stevens ran towards the Bradford area, slightly over-running it allowing the Bradford centre-back to intercept, he won the ball cleanly but followed through on Stevens after, who fell to the floor quite heavily. The referee had a decent view of it and must have deemed it to be 'excessive force' as he had no hesitation in brandishing the red card out of his back pocket.

I think the referee lost his head for the rest of the half, drastic inconsistency seaped into his decision making no doubt under pressure from the armies of fist clenching, angst ridden fans in the stands. Playing Bradford also welcomed the return of ex Torquay player Guy Brasnton. He was a man with a massive point to prove to the Bradford manager, his team-mates and the fans who have yet to see the best of him. He wrote a nice bit in Bradford's programme about us, and came over to thank us at the final whistle.

You would think with a man advantage that we would dominate, sadly not. No doubt galvanised by the injustice of the sending off Bradford upped a gear and the left winger in particular was rampaging against Oastler, firing in a couple of dangerous crosses which yearned to be tucked away. The only goal of the game came a bit later however when a bit of a scramble in the box allowed Fagan space at the back post to finish smartly through the legs of Olejnik. It was poor defensing, symptomatic of the whole lack of communication throughout the team. The goal was certainly deserved and Torquay needed to react quickly. Nicholson had a 25 yard free kick well saved down low by the keeper. However it wasn't enough and the half time whistle blew to a cacophony of boos. 

The talk of half time was still mainly positive. Normally the players come out in the second half more determined and attack minded, so we were all pretty confident that our fortunes would change. A double substitution welcomed us as Macklin and Leadbitter came on with Oastler and Lathrope off with a change to 4-4-2. What followed was an unbelievably fustrating 45 minutes of football. There were times we matched and outnumbered them in the box but achieved nothing. As we threw more men forward, Bradford played brave and nearly caught us on the break a couple of times. In one instance a breakdown in communication left Fagan with a free run on goal and Olejnik in no-man's land. Fagan's audacious lobbed effort hit the post and bounced free.

With the minutes ticking away, everyone was getting more impatient, the players growing increasingly fustrated that nothing was working, the fans equally irritated. We won a succession of corners in the dying minutes and with a 'smash and grab' vision sprawled across my mind, Olejnik raced up to join the attack, from the ensuing scramble he nearly got on the end of something. I stayed to applaud my team off the pitch, they probably didn't deserve it, but we all travelled the long distance together, we are a team, and we have a hell of a lot of work to do, and we will all be there next week to hopefully put it right.

And so, as i trudged the walk of shame back to the car, I reflected on our performance. We could easily have won this game. The decision to go to 4-4-2 at half time with 2 wingers was definitely the right call. Unfortunately, certain members of the team let themselves down, didn't play to their optimum standard, or their optimum standard just isn't good enough for this level. As proven by Bodin, there is genuine quality out there to be approached. 

I still don't think its been too bad a start from the team, we have had to play alot of good teams recently, and in some of those games we have been scratching our heads at how we didn't win. There seems to me to be no communication about the back 4, and a cavalier approach to defending. All good teams are built on a good defence, and i am slightly worried by this considering we have a specialised defensive coach. A lot of work needed from my point of view. It seems that some players are taking their place in the team for granted.

I appreciate the help of Ben for doing this for me, was a big help. Next week, we take up the challenge of Gillingham at home!

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