Bradford City record first win under Simon Grayson

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 24 March 2018, 20:56

Bradford City put an end to a shocking streak of 11 games without a win, dating back to New Year's Day, as they recording their first victory under Simon Grayson in a 1-0 defeat of Gillingham.

Our man Gabriel Sutton (@_FootbalLab) talks us through the action.

Poleon the difference

Some teams secure their victories by being poles apart from their opponents, but Bradford City were merely a Dominic Poleon apart from Gillingham in their 1-0 victory on Saturday afternoon.

The former Oldham forward scored his fifth goal in his seventh career clash with the Gills – a fine individual 20-yard strike at the start of the second half, smashing the ball into the bottom corner. It was a deserved goal, too: Poleon had been one of his side’s brighter attacking performers, one of the few willing to stretch play by running in behind.

He chased down lost causes and looked more comfortable in a central role – where he had the carrot of a possible goal – than he had out wide in August’s 3-3 draw at Walsall – where he lacked the discipline to chase back full-backs in the defensive phases.

Poleon might have done better with a back-post effort midway through the first half, when he skewed the ball into the side-netting, but he posed more of a threat than his partner. Shay McCartan was largely on the periphery and didn't enjoy the task of controlling high goal-kicks and clearances against powerful centre-backs, something the absent Charlie Wyke might have been better at.

Although Callum Guy went on one or two driving runs and enthused fans with his closing down, Bradford’s other midfielders, Nicky Law and right-back by trade Tony McMahon, were perhaps guilty of sitting too deep for much of the first half.

The lack of balance was also an issue because, while Alex Gilliead posed a threat with quick runs down the right, he sometimes switched off defensively to leave exposed the sluggish right-sided centre-back Romain Vincelot, who was bailed out more than once by the excellent Matthew Kilgallon.

Conversely, Stephen Warnock showed great defensive aggression and awareness, but lacked the natural pace at 36 to attack the byline. The task for Bradford in the summer, should they persist with wing-backs, is to introduce two players who are specialists in those positions and possess the necessary range of skills.

Warnock, to his credit, had a hand in the opener, which came after a prolonged spell of possession. There is a certain irony to the fact that those more composed periods from Bradford were when they were at their most creative, yet they have a manager in Grayson planning to evolve the side in the opposite direction.

Good performance or not, three points were all important for the Bantams, who kicked off as League One’s most out-of-form side in 2018 and needed any sort of result to keep them within touching distance of the play-off places. It was hard to escape the feeling though, especially as they rode their luck in the closing stages, that their performance denoted a side some way short of the standard a club of that size demands.

Lovell’s Gills a work in progress

Gillingham have made huge strides in Steve Lovell’s fifth months in charge. After Saturday’s 1-0 loss at Bradford City left them eight points off the play-off places, however, those strides are unlikely to end in a fairytale promotion – not this season, at least..

The defeat was not for want of trying: the Gills had their spells of pressure in West Yorkshire. They looked dangerous from set pieces and long throws early on, as impressive centre-back Max Ehmer posed a menacing aerial threat, while striker Conor Wilkinson saw his shot blocked.

They were then penned back a little more but still had opportunities on the counter: Scott Wagstaff, who always looked to cut inside from the right, got into some good areas but might be a little disappointed by his end product.

Gabriel Zakuani dominated McCartan in the air while Jake Hessenthaler, without setting the world alight, always made himself available for his teammates. In many ways, Hessenthaler’s selfless display epitomized Gillingham as a whole: sufficiently honest to please the hardy fans who travelled from Kent, but perhaps lacking the imagination to show top six credentials.

After falling behind early in the second half – Mark Byrne perhaps slow to close down Poleon for his goal – the visitors still could have grabbed a point. Substitute Tom Eaves, who forced a good save from Colin Doyle within 10 minutes of entering the fray midway through the second half, pressed relentlessly to catalyse a late spell of pressure. Creativity came largely down the left from Bradley Garmston and Connor Ogilvie, the latter having replaced the injured Callum Reilly in the first half, with Garmston's late cross headed just over the bar by Wilkinson.

Late substitute Liam Nash, who added the kind of exuberance one might expect from a striker who has experienced mainly non-league football with Maldon & Tiptree and Leatherhead, had an injury-time effort that cleared the frame of the goal.

Gillingham have shown they can produce competitive displays against most sides at this level. If they want to push further next season, chairman Paul Scally must give Lovell the backing to add one or two players who can provide a touch of quality to proceedings. For now though, their performance levels represent tangible progress.

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