John McCormick writes: When I saw the starting line-up I thought we had enough to win. At 1-0 down I thought we’d come back and score two. Even at 2-0 I hadn’t given up hope. Why didn’t we do any of this? I don’t know, I wasn’t there. Pete Sxsmith was, however, and here he is, sharing his view on a result that ends our dreams of another walk down Wembley Way:
What to say that hasn’t been said already? I chose to leave this for 24 hours in an attempt to get some perspective on the debacle; had I written it on my return from West Yorkshire, the keyboard would have been alight and solicitor’s letters would have been winging towards Salut House as various people were slandered and libelled with words you never hear in the bible.
So, in the cold light of day, what can I say?
Bradford were better prepared and more committed than we were. They played the game and the occasion, something that is difficult to do (ask Alan Pardew, now settled into his new role as Head Butler at The Crystal Palace). Their manager had done his homework and understood how fragile our confidence and self-belief was after Tuesday night. Good for him, good for them and good for their magnificent support.
In Billy Knott and Jon Stead they had two men who had not made it at Sunderland. In Stead’s case, he has not quite made it anywhere; spending 18 months here and a loan spell there before going home to Huddersfield and being loaned out to Oldham and The Bantams. He looked a mighty fine player yesterday, pulling two experienced central defenders all over the place and scoring the winning goal – which I think I might have saved and Mannone should have.
Billy Knott always did ok for the Under 21s but never looked like making the breakthrough into the first team as Bridcutt, Rodwell and Gomez were brought in during the last year of his contract.
On Sunday’s performance, it should have been the Canvey Islander in a blue shirt, while the hapless Bridcutt should have been playing for Bradford – Park Avenue, not City. Knott was a constant presence all over the pitch, and this was personified when, seconds having had a shot saved by Mannone, he was making a tackle on the edge of his own. Compare that with Bridcutt who was outpaced by Bobby bleedin’ Zamora on Tuesday.
And what about us?
It was an awful performance from players who should be better than this but who looked as if they did not relish the type of battle that they were in. Too many of them (names to come later) ducked tackles and failed to compete against physical opponents who were allowed too much leeway in the opening quarter of the game by Kevin Friend.
McArdle’s assault on Danny Graham was a possible red card as was his later foul on a pedestrian Fletcher in the box. If it was a penalty (it was) it had to be a red. The referee gave neither and that was our sole chance of scoring in the 90 minutes. Of course, it would have been academic if Fletcher had shown anything resembling a striker’s instinct and had rammed the ball in the net before the tackle was made. But maybe we expect too much from our players.
The pitch was muddy, bumpy and narrow. City play without wingers – we went into the game with two and persevered with them until it was far too late. Alvarez worked hard but was too elaborate and Bradford were quite happy for Johnson to come infield where Liddle (once of Hartlepool United and a former Middlesbrough Academy colleague of Johnson) and Clarke (a former Darlington loanee) picked him off easily.
The three forwards that we “employed” – Wickham replaced a concussed Graham at half time – were particularly ill suited to a game that demanded physical bravery and a determination to succeed. The three of them cost a staggering £26m in transfer fees and goodness knows what in salaries and they made little impression on Mc Ardle, a former Rochdale player and Andrew Davies, another former Boro man who has had as many clubs as Stead.
Basically, we were outfought, outthought and outplayed by a side that we may well be playing next season in the Championship. At the moment, their possible promotion is less likely than our probable relegation, but they stormed out of Division Two a couple of years ago after their League Cup exploits and have built steadily on that.
We haven’t. This is a poorer side than the one that avoided the drop last season and which will not, on the evidence of the last two games, do so this year. There is a frightening lack of belief in the team and they look demoralised. A comfortable win for a Pulis/Gardner/Sessegnon inspired West Brom on Saturday will probably tip the support over the edge and the Head Coach may well vacate his post if that does happen.
Finally, I have a couple of questions to pose. Where is Jack Rodwell? Has anyone heard anything about him since he was sent off three weeks ago? And can Liam Agnew be any worse than Liam Bridcutt, a player that Poyet brought to the club before Lee Congerton was appointed – although Congerton may well have been the man responsible for the signing of Billy Jones, a man who makes Tommy Lynch look a speed merchant.
Lose on Saturday and it won’t just be Poyet leaving the club. I’ll be joining him.
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