For the second time in four days Bradford were entertaining superior opposition from the north east in a pre-season friendly. After Saturday's visit of Sunderland, tonight it was the turn of their fierce rivals Newcastle United, newly restored to the Premier League.
Bradford have had a tough pre-season. Several senior players have been lost, with the impact felt most strongly in defence. There have been replacements but it's too early to tell whether they will gel into an effective team. A couple of the first team have also been injured throughout pre-season, notably centre forward Charlie Wyke, so we haven't really seen the first team. Others have picked up knocks which meant that tonight's bench was full of youngsters and the squad seems very thin.
So tonight's experiment involved playing five at the back. It could have been a three/five at the back, but given the quality of the opposition, it was mainly a five. In the goalless first half the defence was pretty resilient but it didn't take long into the second half for Newcastle's pace and quality to show, particularly in breaks down their left. Two goals inside a minute killed the City resistance, two more followed and it could have been more. Indeed, I lost count and texted 12yo that we'd lost 5-0.
Bradford won't be facing teams of this quality in League One so it is very difficult to say how they're going to match up in the season ahead. My optimistic reading is for a slow start, with results improving as the team learns to play together and possibly a late run for a play-off spot. The pessimistic reading is for an inconsistent year bouncing around the lower third of the table. It all starts at home to Blackpool in ten days time.
For today's picture I've gone for a wide view which puts across the qualities of evening football in high summer. The traveling Toon Army take up most of the Midland Road stand, and were in high spirits throughout. As an Evertonian I grudgingly acknowledge the distinctive figure of Newcastle's manager Rafa Benitez watching on from the bottom of the frame.
The treat of a European night at Goodison calls tomorrow night.