LEE BOWYER could only smile at suggestions that he and counterpart David Hopkin would have loved to have been on the pitch during a feisty second half at Valley Parade.
“Yeah, yeah, it was good game, a competitive game and a physical game,” said Bowyer after a third successive win for his side.
He had formed a combative central midfield pairing with Hopkin for Leeds United in the late 90s before going their separate ways and it was only on Saturday that they were reunited for the first time in their roles as head coaches.
Bowyer, signed for a record £2.8m for a British teenager from the club he is now in charge of, Charlton, emerged victorious but backed Hopkin to turn around the fortunes of the Bantams after they slipped into the bottom four with a fourth successive defeat.
“It was good to see Hoppy again, it’s beeen a long time (18 years) but in football you just come and go and that is the way it is.
“He’s a good fellow Hoppy and I wish him all the best. He has got a good job with a good stadium and good crowd. Hopefully, he will have success here once he puts his stamp on things. It is difficult at the beginning and he has a lot of injuries as well but I am sure that with his knowledge of the game he will turn it around.
You feel the gaffer’s presence. If the results keep going the way they are, he will definitely change things and put things right.Eoin Doyle
“They are not his players obviously but he has got some good ones. You have Doyle up top, you have Ball and Payne and those three are very good players in this division. Once he puts his stamp on it, I am sure he will be fine.”
Hopkin, also a record signing when he joined Bradford for £2.5m from Leeds in 2000, was happy with the response of his players if not the result in his first home game in charge.
“Every player deserves credit but I can’t keep saying we are making mistakes and losing games. I want to make sure we keep a clean sheet as we have players in the team who can score goals. It’s individual errors and basic defending that is costing us.
“It’s going to take a wee bit of time for everybody to get up to speed as to how I want to play but I think you have seen a team today that has a bit of drive about them, a bit of energy and I was delighted with the commitment.”
The game could have had a different picture had captain for the day Eoin Doyle seen his first-time shot from Sean Scannell’s cross to the near post nestle in the net rather than thud off the chest of goalkeeper Jed Steer and go for a corner.
Instead, City went behind in the third minute when former Bantams loanee Josh Cullen threaded the ball down the left channel and Karlan Grant turned inside Anthony O’Connor before firing home from the corner of the six-yard area.
Bowyer was upset that both Grant and Joe Aribo were both booked for diving in the area while Hopkin and assistant Greg Abboptt also received yellow cards, the latter for dissent and the coach for “having my foot over the white line, it wasn’t anything I said.”
That came after injury-decimated City were denied a 67th-minute penalty when, from their fifth corner of the half, Ryan McGowan went down in an arm wrestle with Jason Pearce.
“His arms were all over him, the fourth official could see it, the linesman could see it and I just thought that some of the decisions were a wee bit baffling,” said Hopkin.
A second goal was always going to be too much for City and it came in the 81st minute, Lyle Taylor collecting the ball from Grant, advancing into the area and curling a shot between O’Connor’s legs and beyond Richard O’Donnell into the far side-netting.
Doyle, captain in place of hamstring victim Josh Wright, said: “They made a great save from me in the first minute but we’ve got to get better at not letting in things so easily. That’s from me at the top of the pitch as well as the rest of the team. But I think things are improving. We’ve got a style of play now that suits us. We’re a bit more aggressive when we’re not in possession. I think the tide will turn for us very soon.”
Of the appointment of Hopkin after the failed experiment of promoting Michael Collins through the ranks, Doyle said: “He’s definitely the right man who can change things for us.
“You feel the gaffer’s presence. If the results keep going the way they are, he will definitely change things and put things right.
“He comes across very well, simplifies everything for us. As you can see in the performances, we are working for him and the crowd is right behind us.
“They know how hard we’re trying. It’s just the silly errors here and there that are going against us.”
While Bowyer was completing his jigsaw – Nottingham Forest loanee Jamie Ward making his debut – Hopkin is still emptying the box but he, too, believes things will change.
Former Barnsley player Jim O’Brien, brought in as a free agent, certainly added bite to midfield and formed a fine partnership with young namesake Lewis, on his full debut, and Hopkin said: “We are down to our bare bones but, hopefully, over the next four or five weeks we will get players back and have a stronger squad.”
Bradford City: O’Donnell, McGowan, O’Connor, Wood; Scannell (Gibson 83), J O’Brien (Isherwood 88), L O’Brien, Wood; Payne, Doyle, Ball (Bruenker 74). Unused substitutes: Sykes-Kenworthy, Miller, Seedorf, Goldthorp.
Charlton Athletic: Steer, Solly, Bauer, Pearce, Page; Ward (Vetokele 75), Aribo, Cullen, Reeves (Lapslie 65); Taylor, Grant (Sarr 90). Unused substitutes: Phillips, Dijksteel, Marshall, Morgan.
Referee: J Simpson (Lancs).