Monday, 9 May 2022

Bradford City (U18s) 5-0 Doncaster Rovers (U18s)

Bradford City (U18s) 5-0 Doncaster Rovers (U18s)
EFL Youth Alliance
Monday 9th May 2022

Every so often you can feel privileged enough to watch a performance which has so much energy, verve, style, creativity, beauty, character and a distinct blueprint about it.

This was one of those occasions - and it might even just be the best youth team display which I've seen anywhere in recent seasons because, writing this 12 hours after the full-time whistle, I'm still struggling to think of another which ranks alongside it.

Sat high up in the stand with elevation (where you can see everything that happens on the pitch), the Bradford City youngsters raised the bar from what I've seen from them already this season and demonstrated nearly everything you could wish for as they ruthlessly put Doncaster Rovers to the sword.

It was a performance to admire and even though they'll pick the bones and wonder where they can improve; testament to their own remarkably high standards, their football was magnificent at times.

In many respects, Rovers’ naive tactics to 'press high' and 'press constantly' just played straight into Bradford’s hands - thus allowing the hosts to open up, and then exploit, so much space to devastating effect on the massive Valley Parade pitch.

However, what Bradford did with the ball on multiple occasions was remarkable and their masterclass in movement, whether it be with or without the ball, saw them camped deep inside Rovers’ half from pretty much the first minute of the game until the final whistle.

Freddy Jeffreys (No.4) effortlessly pulled the strings and glided past opponents so many times, Bobby Pointon (No.7) was in torturous form with his trickery, Cole Roberts (No.9) glowed and provoked mayhem up front, whilst Charlie Wood (No.18), Louie Chorlton (No.2) and Oliver Norman (No.3) were outstanding as well.

Having wrapped up the North-East Youth Alliance title with their win at Grimsby Town exactly a month ago, this was an occasion to saviour under the Valley Parade lights.

Less than 10 minutes were on the clock when the first goal went in.

Most of Bradford's attacks came down the right flank where Bobby Pointon (the best player in the Youth Alliance this year; a big statement but I'd challenge others to name someone better) combined expertly with Louie Chorlton whose explosive bursts of pace saw him overlap on multiple occasions.

With Bradford's No.2 high up the pitch, he squared a dangerous low ball into the goalmouth which caught the slightest of deflections before it was emphatically smashed home by Cole Roberts who'd superbly peeled off the shoulder of his marker to find the space for a shot.

Straight from the re-start, the Bantams won the ball back and they quickly doubled their lead with a goal which had just as much style as the opener.

Harvey Rowe superbly floated a ball over Rovers' somewhat high backline (brought about due to the high press) and Pointon showed fine technique and intelligence out-maneuver Tom Parkinson with some silky footwork to get goal-side and latch onto it where he then knocked his first-time effort from just inside the box beyond the oncoming Luke Chadwick. It was an excellent finish!

At 2-0 with less than a quarter-of-an-hour gone, Bradford continued to dominate possession, pick up any loose balls and consistently work to create space which they aimed to exploit.

Even though the Bantams' individual quality was absolutely everywhere, one of the main instigators causing so much of the torment was Freddy Jeffreys.

He had a magnificent subtlety within his individual play and pulled the strings from midfield over and over again with a first touch and movement to open up his body and play the next pass which was unbelievable for someone so young. His passes almost always seemed to find a team-mate and when he brought the ball forward with a mazy run to the edge of the box against a back-peddling Rovers backline on 25 minutes, it resulted in a throw-in out on the right after Pointon saw a shot blocked.

Chorlton found Pointon with the subsequent short-throw and the ball was eventually worked into the area where Dylan Youmbi got hold of it and with a quick turn and low strike, via a slight deflection, he made it 3-0 and the celebrations commenced once more.

It had already reached the point where everyone amongst the crowd (and probably even the Rovers players themselves) were wondering just how many Bradford might score.

The Bantams almost made it 4-0 on the half-hour mark; this time the architect of destruction was Chorlton because his floated ball went straight to the feet of Charlie Wood who skewed his attempt narrowly wide. Both Roberts and Youmbi, searching for their second goals of the night, also had efforts blocked prior to half-time as the relentless pressure continued.

Barring a header from big centre-back Charlie Petch and a good Tom Henson cross, Rovers hadn't done much in an attacking sense during the first half and a change was made at the break which saw Corie Cole replaced by Owen Scattergood.

It didn't have too much of an impact, however, because the Bantams continued to dictate things and implement their ideas superbly in the second period. The way they went about it (by making numerous tiny things look so effortless) was simply brilliant.

Pointon almost turned from scorer to provider on 55 minutes with some clever movement and a pass inside for Oliver Norman who curled his effort narrowly over. 

The Bantams' playmaker was involved again as they finally made it 4-0 just before the hour mark as he unleashed a vicious 18-yard attempt which was blocked and dropped fortuitously for Roberts who was able to spin and smash the rebound into the net.

By now it most definitely was just a case of 'How Many?' for Bradford and with Roberts desperate to register his hat-trick, he did everything possible to grab that third goal only to now be thwarted by Rovers' big 'keeper who pulled off a string of impressive saves.

In what became a fascinating duel between the duo for a short period, Roberts thought his moment had arrived on 62 minutes thanks to some exquisite movement inside the box followed by a powerful goalbound strike. His shot was blocked and Chadwick pulled off another save just milli-seconds later (although he knew nothing about this one) when the ball ricocheted violently off a Rovers player from a separate attempt and hit him at speed on the goal-line. Less than a minute later, Roberts was denied again; this time from almost point-blank range as Chadwick somehow or another got in the way of a powerful rebound which seemed destined to ripple the net.

Bradford's pressure and intensity was absolutely relentless and by this point, simply by virtue of the performance level which Roberts was maintaining coupled with his style, flair and off-the-ball movement to get between defenders and into dangerous areas (which was absolutely quality), I was rooting for the lad to complete his hat-trick and get the matchball he could cherish forever.

On 73 minutes, his exemplary technique presented him with another opportunity and perhaps the most golden of all those which came his way whilst he was searching for his hat-trick.

Not dissimilar from Pointon's goal earlier on, it was a ball over the top by Norman which brought about the danger and with Roberts having peeled off the shoulder of his marker to get in-behind, he found himself clean through but Chadwick denied him and Youmbi's follow-up was also smothered.

Had it not been for Rovers' 'keeper by this point, the scoreline would have been similar to the massive wins the Bantams registered against Rotherham United (7-0) or even Mansfield Town (10-0) earlier in the season, but not even Chadwick could prevent the hosts from adding a fifth goal with 15 minutes to go.

Roberts was again involved and perhaps, despite all his qualities, his unselfishness during the build-up to this goal; working for the benefit of the team rather than himself (when he was still needing a goal for his hat-trick) was his best contribution. 

The danger initially came from the left as Jack Wilson cut inside and weaved one way and then another before cutting the ball back for Roberts who'd purposely held his run to lurk unmarked in a dangerous spot on the edge of the area. Despite the penalty box being packed with players, his first touch allowed the potential for a shot (and it'd have been easy to have one) but instead he slipped a beautiful disguised pass through towards Wood who beat the offside trap and slotted home.

On a night of quality play, it was just another fine example of brilliant football.

At this point, Rovers' players looked shattered and exhausted and the 'Take Me Home' words from Bradford's pre-match song probably summed up their thoughts; whereas the Bantams players in white shirts probably wished they could have stayed on 'Midland Road' playing this brand of football forever.

A couple more chances to add gloss to another big victory came and went in stoppage-time as Pointon let fly with a rasping attempt which whistled just an inch wide of the top corner whilst George Thewlis, who'd joined the party in the last 10 minutes, saw a well-struck effort saved.

The final whistle brought the curtain down on a brilliant season and its memories like this which, in years to come, every player in a Bradford shirt will remember fondly. 

Bradford City Thoughts

From their very first session in pre-season, they've worked hard to create something special TOGETHER over the past 10 months and it's testament to themselves, their attitude, their humble nature, the coaching and every single bit of the work that's gone into it.

As I said at the start, although Doncaster's tactics of 'high press' and 'constant press' played straight into their hands, this performance (certainly in terms of players expressing themselves positively) might just be the best that I've seen anywhere from a youth team in recent years, such was the quality on show.

You just have to applaud and admire good players and there's so many in this Bantams team! 

That's why when these players have had their careers at whatever level and they get back together for a team reunion in 2042 or whenever, straight away they'll be able to slip back into this moment, re-capture the emotions and feel that overwhelming sense of achievement at creating something special as if it were only yesterday. Any player, even the pros, who've been in that special environment will testify to that.

Cherish these moments. Cherish the photos (and show them to your kids in a few years). Cherish the medals forever and make sure you have a Nando's Team Night out to take it in!

My biggest hope for these lads in the here and now is the club gives them every opportunity possible to succeed because I doubt Bradford City will ever have such a talented crop together in the same moment and in the same place ever again. It's why they've set records this season; it's why they've been an absolute pleasure to watch on multiple occasions and that's why I'd regard them as probably the best Category 3/4 team which certainly I've ever seen.

There's so many likable facets to their blueprint; whether it be the way they pop the ball about in such a sumptuous style and retain possession, the way their players work relentlessly to win the ball and find space which they can exploit to devastating effect, or the way certain individuals move sharply in dangerous areas and then suddenly accelerate and explode into action. I can't recall one 'direct' aerial cross into the box during this game; everything was creative and a cut-back and it was pure football that was a joy to behold.

It's hard to single out players because there's so much talent so they all deserve a mention.

Bobby Pointon is phenomenal and players from other teams have said as much this season when I've spoken to them and that's perhaps the best compliment any player can get. For everything he did on the ball, his best contribution in this game was actually with about 10 minutes to go when Rovers nearly broke away and would have done so had he not tracked back and committed a foul near to the centre circle. It was a clever one to concede in the terms of a game situation and those aspects of the 'dark arts' will serve him very well in the future. Freddy Jeffreys is frightening with what he does (and how he does it) for his age; the guile, the movement, his short and long-range passes, his pass completion rate because he barely ever seems to misplace a pass. Just wow!

Then you've got Cole Roberts who has looked good out wide in other games and was brilliant with the intelligence and movement he showed as a No.9 in this game (and that first touch from the floated ball over the top in the latter stages; absolute quality).

There's also Harvey Rowe; a Rolls Royce of a skipper for this league and a good down to earth lad. Noah Wadsworth; who has excelled in other games to warrant his inclusion, then the full-backs of Louie Chorlton; complete with his excellent bursts of play and energy that he brings to the team, plus Oliver Norman; capable of unleashing so much danger with his deliveries and quality on the ball.

And that's not to mention Charlie Wood who shone on loan at Ossett Town and capped off this performance with a well-earned goal, Dylan Youmbi who also bagged and posed a significant threat and Jack Wilson who has a partiular edge and energy to his game and was involved in the last goal.

I'd love to write something about Heath Richardson as well from this game but the ball was barely near him and as a goalkeeper I half-suppose that's probably what you'd want in some respects.

Again, as I said at the start, when you're watching a game with elevation from the stands to see the whole pitch and the space and areas available, everything does get noticed - and lots of bits of this peformance was genuinely as good as anything I've seen anywhere in recent times.

So stay humble and keep working hard to improve, get better, and keep listening to your coaches because there's so much more you can achieve in football - and even if you experience dark moments of rejection or disappointment at some point in the future, remember this feeling now or even re-read this post to overcome that moment.

Collectively, you've all worked hard to achieve this moment and become the best so always believe in the unquestionable talent you all have!

Doncaster Rovers Thoughts

Even though this was the last game for the second-year scholars who'll now depart the club for this summer, I'll not judge any player in a DRFC shirt on this game!

I've got eyes and I could see for myself what went wrong - and coming up against such talented opponents who can zing the ball about left, right and centre, look comfortable under pressure and are used to dealing with the ball in tight pockets of space, even on top form in a 'contain' style of play, it'd have been difficult to stop a Bradford team in this form.

Luke Chadwick deserves a mention because he pulled off so many saves to keep the scoreline down; Michael Nesbitt actually did alright at right-back I thought (standing up his man in two or three separate instances including one where, if he'd not done so, it would have led to a goalscoring opportunity) whilst both Alex Wolny and Jack Goodman worked hard up top and tried their best to feed off the extremely few scraps they were provided with.

No player has anything to be embarrassed about.

These things happen (ask Rotherham and Mansfield) and the lads departing soon should always believe in themselves and now just embrace the future. It's the chance for a new start and a new opportunity at a new club, so go and grasp it with both hands, take what you can from your time at DRFC, and show people the players that you can be elsewhere.

I'll go into much more detail with a Youth Team Season Review which I'll write at some point before the end of this month.

But good luck lads and if there's anything I can help with then drop me a message anytime.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.