Match Report 2003-2004

Tuesday, 12 August, 2003, League Cup

Darlington at Valley Parade

Law gets a big black mark

Bradford City 0
Darlington 0

Darlington win 5-3 on penalties.

City are out of the League Cup in the first round to a Third Division team and it is all the fault of Nicky Law.

Law's team last night was a masterstroke of tactical planning. It pulled Andy Gray in from the right wing to create a packed and impenetrable central midfield. It had Tom Kearney and Paul Evans deep creating a shield that stopped anything coming through the middle of the field and I honestly believe that had the opposition been Manchester United, Arsenal or Newcastle United then City would have still ended up drawing 0-0 or perhaps sneaking a goal.

But it was not Manchester United, it was not Arsenal and it was not Newcastle United, it was Darlington.

To say that Law afforded too much respect to the visitors would be a massive understatement. Law misjudged the game in a colossal manner. His team was set for a scrap and grind without a hint of creation and an over-reliance on break away goals to get a win when what it needed was to take the game to the visitors.

Ignore all comments against Paul Evans, who seems to be the new target of the know nothing fan and his jeering, because Evans was in an unenviable position. Evans, and for that matter Kearney too, sat deep for 120 gruesome minutes. They won the ball well enough and provided unnecessary Thierry Henry proofing for the back four but after winning the ball the options that Law's spin on the 442 provided them were woeful.

On what one must assume are the instructions of Law Andy Gray forewent a right wing role to play tucked inside attacking midfielder joining the front two. After a ball win Gray and attacking pair Dean Windass and Michael Branch stood tens of yards and opposition shirts away from the on the ball Bantam. Paul Evans was blasted by Nicky Law last season for trying to play David Beckham passes all the time, it would have taken the Madrid midfielder to find a man in the situations Evans and Kearney found themselves in.

Football is a complex game made up of simple elements one of the most simple being that when a man gets the ball he needs some team mates to pass to. Against Darlington the unbalanced midfield robbed us of that.

An unbalanced midfield which is of course Law's fault. He picked a defensive posture and instructed Gray to come inside and while every one understands that he works within a budget it costs nothing to tell Paul Evans and Tom Kearney to play fifteen yards further forward and Andy Gray to play wider and ball side of the opposition. These are Nicky Law's players, he picked them all. This team looked unbalanced in the way that those he had been forced to play through injuries, as if he did not have the players, but with 14 hand picked new arrivals in the summer he should.

So in the game City had a few chances but most were snap shots or scrambles. David Wetherall should have done better with a header at one point but the Bantams created nothing of note owing in no small part to the midfield posture. Ben Muirhead and Robert Wolleaston both tried to be more attacking but with the engine room stopping not starting the game it was never going to happen.

For the record Tom Kearney's penalty miss allowed Darlington through. City three of four, Darlington five out of five and coming away from Valley Parade the visitors could not believe their luck.

Without wanting to get romantic cup runs are fun, they are the stuff that we watch football for, and tonight Nicky Law's tactical inflexibility cost the club a chance. We all know that tactics are not Law's strongest characteristic but he needs to find someone who knows them better to stand by his side because we are lacking in that department to costly effect.

For my money this is Nicky Law's first big black mark since he took over as City manager.

Man of the Match
Simon Francis

Looked superb on the ball and solid as a centre back. Already shaping up as the brighest thing in the season.

Bradford City Team
  • Ben Muirhead for Evans
  • Robert Wolleaston for Branch
  • Luke Cornwall for Emanuel