League One Gameweek 41: Not Much Hope For Rock-Bottom Bradford5 min read
Bradford’s preparation begun
Most managers coming into a club would be glad of some time to assess the squad, identify their best players and from there, begin to compose a favoured first XI.
Bradford City boss Gary Bowyer, however, has not quite had that luxury, due to the precarious nature of the club’s position in the relegation dogfight.
After the 3-1 win over Peterborough with which Bowyer began his Valley Parade regime, we have seen four consecutive defeats, leaving the Bantams six points adrift of safety with six games to play.
Preparation at boardroom level has already began for the following campaign.
Playmaker Jack Payne and versatile midfielder Lewis O’Brien, on loan from Huddersfield, have arguably been Bradford’s best players so additions may be needed in those areas.
Most pertinently though, Bradford need to look at the types of characters they recruit in the summer.
The club’s progress through the mid-2010s had been based on a core of leaders: Matt Duke, Stephen Darby, Andrew Davies, James Meredith, Gary Jones and James Hanson, then moving on slightly Reece Burke, Gary Liddle, Romain Vincelot and Tony McMahon.
Over the past couple of years, while Edin Rahic was in charge, too many players were added based on their age, value and technical potential, without much thought given as to how to construct an efficient team; many of the prominent figures departed without quite being replaced.
Now that Julian Rhodes is back on the board as a consultant CEO – and a manager in Bowyer who built mentally tough sides at Blackburn and Blackpool and has signed a new two-year deal – the club will have a chance to re-connect with it’s core principles in the summer.
One thing nobody anyone can ever say about Bowyer is that he's scared of a challenge, after working under the Venkeys and Oyston he now has to rebuild a squad in league 2 unless he can pull off the greatest escape ever. Best appointment we could make for the job needed #bcafc https://t.co/jv2jiqhXau
— Joe (@Calvey94) April 2, 2019
Although winter recruit Paul Caddis has battled admirably at right-back, there is still only so much that can be done with the current squad and sadly, relegation looks increasingly likely.
Doncaster Rovers appeared to have hit a rough patch over March, with only four points taken and just three goals scored during a seven-game period.
Any concerns over their position in the play-off places, however, were wiped away within the first three minutes of the following two home matches with Bristol Rovers and Walsall, which ended in 4-1 and 3-1 victories respectively.
Donny started both games at a very high intensity: they used the wide areas well with Mallik Wilks offering pace, skill and two goals in two from the right channel and Kieran Sadlier providing spontaneous movement as well as flashes of quality from the left.
Grant McCann: “It was nice to find a way to fit Kieran Sadlier in the side – it was a tremendous finish from him. I was pleased with the boys. We felt in control of the game”#drfc @footballheaven pic.twitter.com/GBjQ8asmgM
— Tom Biltcliffe (@tombiltcliffe) March 26, 2019
What is key to their play though is their control: one feared they might lose that side of their game when Benjamin Whiteman picked up an injury – along with Herbie Kane – but Ali Crawford has dictated play with excellent composure at the base of the midfield.
Rovers get the rotation of the midfield spot on because, with various different players coming short to offer Crawford an option in possession, they half-invite the opposition press and then relish finding ways to play through it.
Plus, they have an excellent goalscorer in John Marquis, who has 19 league goals for the campaign and, providing a strong work rate, a physical presence, good movement and exquisite finishing ability, he is very close to being the complete centre-forward at this level.
Donny also have leaders in that squad like aerially dominant centre-back Andy Butler and driven right-back Matty Blair.
Rovers boss Grant McCann has had time to develop a clear playing identity and thus his side might be in a better position than the hosts to impose their game.
Tip: Doncaster to win –
Read Gabriel’s weekend League Two preview.