Elliot Watt focusing on Bradford City, not the many transfer suitors

AT THE end of a week which saw iconic Swedish supergroup ABBA announce plans to reunite, the name of the game for Bradford City had nothing to do with music.

A home draw with Walsall does not constitute an SOS either, but there was undeniable frustration for all Bantams supporters present, including those resident in the Mamma Mia Stand.

The maxim that playing against 10 men is often harder than taking on a full quota of 11 rang true for the umpteenth time as City, despite producing 17 attempts on goal and boasting a 66 per cent possession count, could not navigate a way past a stoic Walsall side whose captain Joss Labadie saw red just before the interval.

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Afterwards, manager Derek Adams professed to having a fair bit to be satisfied about regarding City’s poise on the ball and ability to fashion out opportunities – and he had a point. His side will probably play worse this season and win.

Bradford City's Elliot Watt (right) celebrates with Callum Cooke after scoring their side's first goal against Walsall (Picture: Zac Goodwin/PA)

His view was that the hosts ‘should have won by a landslide.’ A decent majority would have probably been more accurate.

Most of the reasons to admire arrived in the first half, ironically when Walsall had 11 players on the pitch before the 43rd-minute dismissal of Labadie for a crude challenge on Gareth Evans.

The movement and fluidity of the hosts going forward was an eye-catcher, less so the ability to be ruthless in front of goal.

The goal they scored was a thing of beauty with Elliot Watt announcing himself in splendid fashion after a quiet start to the season.

Bradford City's Elliot Watt strikes the opener (Picture: Zac Goodwin/PA)

A neat short corner routine from the hosts ended with Walsall failing to clear their lines with the ball dropping to the midfielder outside of the D.

His aim with his left foot was unerring and true with his unstoppable effort arrowing past Saddlers keeper Carl Rushworth.

It showcased the class that Watt has in his locker and an indication of why, if speculation is to be believed, other clubs have been monitoring his progress.

For his part, there is only one place where the Lancastrian wants to be.

Walsall's Joss Labadie (4) is shown a red card by referee Ben Toner for a foul on Bradford City's Gareth Evans (not pictured) (Picture: Zac Goodwin/PA)

He said: “If anything, it is a compliment. If people weren’t talking about me, then it shows I am not doing things that I maybe should be. At the same time, I take no notice.

“This is the perfect club for me to keep improving and playing in front of these fans is a pleasure. Playing with the players and learning from the gaffer is what I want to do. I take no notice and just need to keep improving.

“It is down to me to do it and keep my feet on the ground because that is the only way I am going to improve.

“If I start thinking I am a ‘player’ which I am not, then I will get carried away and won’t really reach my potential.”

Bradford City's Oliver Crankshaw (second left) reacts after a missed chance during the second half (Picture: Zac Goodwin/PA)

Admitting that the quality of his goal – his first since April – was tempered by City not picking up three points, he continued: “Personally, I was delighted to get a goal. But I’d swap a goal for three points every day of the week.

“It was not a bad one; if it falls to my right foot, it would have probably gone into the crowd.

“It is difficult when a team goes down to ten and puts two banks of four and makes a change at the end and have banks of five and four and play without a striker. You have to keep probing and hope something falls for you.

“We created a number of chances and it is just about putting them away.

“Even in the first half, when it was 11 v 11, we had gilt-edged chances and just couldn’t put them away, which I am sure we’ll work on this week.”

Even before Watt’s fine strike, it looked like being a long afternoon for Walsall, whose early defensive conviction was not exactly overwhelming.

Only a last-ditch block prevented Andy Cook from continuing his happy knack of scoring against former employers, while Rushworth had to be alert to deny the recalled Evans.

Watt then had home punters off their feet and a picture-book move should have later ended with more celebrations, only for Charles Vernam’s downward header to fly agonisingly past the far post and not nestle in the back of the net. City continued to probe, only to be hit with a sucker punch.

Incisive work on the left from former Harrogate Town player Brendan Kiernan, a livewire on the day, picked out ex-Halifax Town midfielder Jack Earing and another of the Saddlers’ impressive performers on the day tidily tucked the ball past Richard O’Donnell from close range.

Then the game turned again with Labadie’s red.

The eye-catching stuff on the restart came from those in the Walsall defence whose determination and resolve grew 
with every passing minute, block and chance that Bradford passed up.

The biggest culprit, surprisingly, was Cook, who fired into the side-netting and headed one excellent chance over, while only a last-gasp deflection from a Walsall defender got in the way of a close-range effort from substitute Ollie Crankshaw.

One of those days is the phrase, but there was still a fair bit that City got right. No time for dramas.

Bradford City: O’Donnell; Threlkeld, O’Connor, Canavan (Robinson 89), Ridehalgh; Watt; Evans (Crankshaw 71); Cooke, Gilliead; Vernam (Lavery 77); Cook. Substitutes unused: Hornby, Songo’o, Foulds, Kelleher.

Walsall: Rushworth; White, Menayese, Monthe, Ward; Kinsella, Ladabie; Phillips, Earing (Perry 90); Kiernan (Taylor 84); Miller (Shade 64). Substitutes unused: Rose, Bates, Osadebe, Mills.

Referee: B Toner (Lancashire).