Big-match verdict: Bradford 0 Plymouth 1- City hit the road aiming to atone

VALLEY Parade was a fortress for Bradford City last season yet it was not enough to secure an automatic promotion place.

Beaten: Bradford goalkeeper Colin Doyle is dejected as Jake Jervis turns to celebrate Plymouth's winner.
Picture: Bruce Rollinson
Beaten: Bradford goalkeeper Colin Doyle is dejected as Jake Jervis turns to celebrate Plymouth's winner. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Manager Stuart McCall, therefore, is not overly concerned that the Bantams have already lost four games on home soil this season.

He would point to the fact that City boast the best away record in the division – one that is going to be put to the test at second-placed Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

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City won 11, drew 12 and lost none of their home games last season but McCall would rather sacrifice a few defeats if it means more three-pointers.

However, the 12 points already dropped are irretrievable so improving on the five wins and two draws from eight trips will be a priority for the City chief following defeat to a Plymouth side who moved off the bottom after a sixth successive game unbeaten.

McCall, who succinctly replied ‘the result’ when asked if he would change anything for the return encounter in the second round of the FA Cup, saw his side drop a place to fourth.

Summing up a frustrating afternoon against a side who employed an effective 4-1-4-1 formation, McCall said: “If we had got the first goal it would have been totally different. It was all about taking opportunities but it is a bitter pill to swallow.

“The first goal was always going to be crucial. Give credit to them, though. They have conceded only three goals in six games.

“We could not have asked for more in the second half but the least you have to do is keep a clean sheet at home. We have lost three 1-0s at home now.

“Last season there were too many draws so if we lose one and win two we’ll take that rather than three draws.”

Looking ahead to Saturday’s trip to a Wigan side who have won six and drawn two of their eight home league games, McCall continued: “Doom and gloom merchants won’t give us a chance at Wigan and that’s probably sometimes better when your backs are against the wall.

“We’ll see what we can do there. We have got to go and believe we can get something at Wigan because this group of players, when they are on top of their game, know they can win anywhere.

“Wigan are a strong side, there is no doubt about that, but we will have a plan and, hopefully, we will go and execute it, be clinical and defend well.”

City were far from their best against Plymouth, though McCall refuted claims from counterpart Derek Adams that they had run out of ideas.

They had been boosted by the return from Republic of Ireland duty goalkeeper Colin Doyle, released from Martin O’Neill’s squad for their World Cup qualifying play-off in Denmark but who has rejoined the squad for this week’s crucial return encounter.

However, it was Doyle’s opposite number, Remi Matthews, who had the starring role. Signed on a weekly emergency contract due to three senior goalkeepers being injured, the Norwich loanee did well to keep Plymouth ahead at the break with two great tip-over saves from Paul Taylor before saving his best until the 78th minute after being beaten by a swerving shot from the returning Jake Reeves which struck the bar.

City captain Romain Vincelot had got a far-post header on target but was awarded a contentious penalty for a push from Aaron Taylor-Sinclair. Right-back Tony McMahon, back from a one-game ban, stepped up and hit a right-footer but Matthews pushed aside the spot-kick to deny the equaliser.

Charlie Wyke’s close-range header which smacked Sonny Bradley in the face rather than nestling in the net had been City’s best first-half opportunity but they livened up after the break following the introduction of Tyrell Robinson, a 20-year-old left winger City are converting into an attacking full-back.

The Arsenal academy product’s partnership with Taylor came the closest to breaking down the Pilgrims’ staunch rearguard after first-half tactics of getting behind them failed to materialise through poor distribution by the midfield men of the possession they monopolised.

Poacher Alex Jones never got a sniff and one expects he would have loved to have been on the end of the move that brought Plymouth’s 35th-minute winner.

David Fox took possession in midfield, threaded the ball down the right channel, enabling Lionel Ainsworth to race onto it and immediately drive a cross from which Jake Jervis converted from inside the six-yard area.

Robinson, who signed a one-year deal in May, admitted: “It was frustrating. A lot of us were annoyed because they only had one chance and it paid off for them. If we had equalised the whole game would have changed. This is a learning curve for everyone. Everyone is starting to get annoyed.”

Of his opportunity to shine, he added: “I was very thankful that the gaffer put me on at half-time because it was a great experience to come on in front of 20,000. It was a dream come true to be fair.”