The Verdict: Stuart McCall battles on ahead of Bradford City’s ‘must, must, must win’ challenge

Bantham's Domonic Poleon misses a great chance to equalise late in the match at Oldham. PIC: Tony Johnson
Bantham's Domonic Poleon misses a great chance to equalise late in the match at Oldham. PIC: Tony Johnson
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A MISCHIEVOUS airing of Road to Nowhere may have greeted the final whistle at Valley Parade on the previous weekend, but Walk Away was definitely not on the playlist seven days on.

Stuart McCall has been around in the game long enough to appreciate that sometimes it never rains, but pours and that was the case on a gloomy, impoverished north-west afternoon that bore the imprint of Lowry.

Any precious glints of sunlight on show were greeted with a Lancastrian burr as opposed to a Yorkshire one.

There was cold comfort on a cheerless afternoon for the Bantams’ near 2,000 travelling contingent as Bradford City lost a fifth successive league match for the first time since October, 2007.

That was at another Red Rose venue in Morecambe and now, as then, there were no laughs.

The City following will be bearing a few scars at the end of one of the most painful weeks that they have had to endure in some time – as will their manager.

Latics keeper Johnny Placide gifts Bradford a consolation goal, palming a cross into his own net.  PIC: Tony Johnson

Latics keeper Johnny Placide gifts Bradford a consolation goal, palming a cross into his own net. PIC: Tony Johnson

In mitigation, Bradford’s latest defeat was not a consequence of defensive ineptitude, which characterised the shambolic loss to AFC Wimbledon on the previous Saturday, or a lack of fight, which was prevalent in the recent reverse at Rotherham United.

But a lack of quality was damning, even if the effort was there.

The application at least provided McCall with something to grasp following the latest set-back in a new year which has bordered on the brutal.

But he will know that only victory will do against Bury, the visitors on Saturday – just as they were back in early February, 2010 which represented the final game of McCall’s first tenure in charge before a parting of the ways.

If I was going to walk away, I would have done that in the first two weeks when I got here. I am not going to walk away now, that is for sure.

Bradford City manager, Stuart McCall

McCall, whose side have now lost their last six matches in all competitions – you have to go back to November, 2002 for the last occasion City achieved that unenviable feat – said: “If I was going to walk away, I would have done that in the first two weeks when I got here. I am not going to walk away now, that is for sure.

“I still believe there is enough in that dressing room. When I left before, it was the right time to go. There was no doubt about that.

“But watching and listening to them in the dressing room, I do not think they are a beaten team.

“If anyone had seen how they were afterwards, that was a sign they are battling for themselves, for the fans and for their families.

“It would be wrong to say the lads have not given everything. I am sure they are hurting as much as we all are.”

Bradford may have battled, but Oldham scrapped that bit harder and with more conviction, too.

They, like their opponents, had endured a horrendous 2018 so far and they came into the game on the back of an atrocious nine-match winless streak stretching back to December 9.

When they needed inspiration, it emphatically came from the right boot of full-back Cameron Dummigan, whose majestic, unstoppable long-range strike broke the deadlock in spectacular fashion on an afternoon when the first goal was always likely to be huge, given the confidence-sapped nature of both sides.

It provided Oldham with a transfusion of hope in a first-half when Bradford’s efforts on a wretched surface were fitful.

Wrong options were taken as the visitors ran into all manner of blind alleys and cul-de-sacs, with the closest they came arriving when Adam Chicksen fired over when well placed early on.

The closest effort to a second goal arrived from the Latics five minutes before the break, when Colin Doyle, a welcome returnee in goal, blocked an effort with his legs from Duckens Nazon.

On the resumption, Bradford huffed and puffed, but lacked cohesion and fluidity.

Callum Guy fired an effort wide following a decent passage of play, but the killer second goal arrived from Oldham late on.

City switched off following Ryan McLaughlin’s centre from the left and fellow substitute Aaron Holloway adeptly headed in.

Rank-bad keeping from Johnny Placide, whose defences were breached by a routine cross from late substitute Jordan Gibson, provided City with an inkling of hope, with the visitors finding some belated urgency.

It could have yielded a point, but Dominic Poleon’s late effort lacked quality, sadly very much in keeping with Bradford’s showing.

Taking confidence from the work ethic shown by his charges, with newcomers Ryan McGowan and Stephen Warnock afforded sound debuts, McCall said: “After the second goal in the Rotherham game, they looked like a team that maybe thought it was all over.

“But this dressing room did not feel like that. Even though the blunt truth is that we are on a shocking run and lost again.

“Sometimes when you are on a run like this, you think is there enough leadership in the dressing room to get us out of this.

“I believe from what I have seen with the players that have come into the team fresh and couple of lads have been out for a while and a couple who have not played first-team football. It will be down to them to get a win next week.

“Next week is a must, must, must win.”