Alex Gilliead and Bobby Pointon are running hot for Bradford City as Mark Hughes keeps a cool head in the heat: Final word on Bantams versus Grimsby

Alex Gilliead celebrates his equaliser for Bradford City with Bobby Pointon. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.
Alex Gilliead celebrates his equaliser for Bradford City with Bobby Pointon. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

On a boiling day, Mark Hughes did not have a Cook around, but found enough ingredients to concoct something in the nick of time.

Managers earn their corn at half-time. Subjected to cheeky chants of ‘Sacked in the morning’ by Grimsby Town’s travelling support shortly before half-time - one or two Bradford City fans seemed tempted to join in - Hughes did what all cool operators do and kept a clear head.

His side had created zilch in a desperately poor offering. Even accounting for the oppressive and sultry temperatures, it was dire and Grimsby handled it well enough, with Danny Rose’s 43rd-minute header giving them an interval lead which no-one could argue with.

Half-time was timely. Hughes ditched the 3-4-2-1 formation and went to a back four. The midfield axis of Kevin McDonald and Richie Smallwood, who failed to set the press, was dispensed with - the former got the hook and interval substitute Rayhaan Tulloch and Bobby Pointon were assigned as orthodox wingers.

And it gradually changed. Local boy Pointon, on debut, started to look the part. City got a head of steam, of sorts and the home crowd were less hot and bothered.

It was the half-time arrival of Alex Gilliead, as opposed to Tulloch, which proved to be Hughes’s trump card.

The midfielder came back to haunt someone he knows well in Mariners manager Paul Hurst in the process.

Hurst signed him while at Shrewsbury Town and Scunthorpe United. He would have feared the worst when Gilliead found himself in a threatening position just inside the box in the 89th minute. His drive was deadly and arrowed past visiting keeper Jake Eastwood.

It was the hosts’ first effort on target, but no bother as Gilliead scored for the first time since April 1. Incidentally, in City’s previous home game against Grimsby.

On his strike, Gilliead said: "It was my first one (on TV). I texted the missus and I didn't bother recording it as I wasn't starting.

“I thought I might only get on for 20 minutes. I am gutted and will have to find it somehow…”

Gilliead’s goal was a bonus. The thought process in bringing him on made perfect sense; he provided a badly-needed energy rush.

In retrospect, Hughes should have started with the indefatigable and fit-again midfielder, given the conditions, but at least he rectified the mistake in good time.

The City chief commented: “I had to make a more radical decision at half-time and that helped us.

“We got a better shape. We got more pressure high up the pitch and had wingers stopping full backs having an influence on the game.

“Gilly is one of those players that you probably appreciate more when he’s not there.

“He gets a bit of ribbing because he doesn’t score too many goals. But that was an important one for us.”

It sure was. Without Andy Cook and Alex Pattison - with Tyler Smith also out - City demonstrably lacked goal threat, although it was hard not to feel sorry for Matt Derbyshire, given nothing substantive to feed off in a thankless task up top.

He was tasked with fighting for the ball following aimless punts forwards in the air, which is not his game at all.

City could bemoan the absence of several players, but so could Grimsby in truth, without a couple of forwards themselves in Otis Khan and Donovan Wilson.

A sharp header from Rose, who got between Ciaran Kelly and Matty Platt, from Toby Mullarkey’s inviting centre from the right made light of any Mariners’ absences at the break.

The Bantams huffed and puffed on the restart and while the quality levels weren’t earth-shattering, there was at least intent.

The corner count rattled up and Bradfordians got enthused. The buzzing presence of one of their own in Pointon, who started to enjoy himself on his full debut, helped.

Fittingly, Pointon played a part in the hosts’ late leveller. The man-of-the-match award given to him had a touch of sentiment, but still had its merits.

Hughes commented: “Bobby is a young man finding his way in the game and it was an emotional day for him.

“He’s obviously a Bradford lad and a lot of his family were here. He wanted to do well for them and he stuck at it.

“When we played him in that wider position in the second half and he’s got a full back behind who he can off-load to, then he’s free to show that creative side of his play.

“I thought he was excellent. I hadn’t anticipated that he would play 90 minutes because we’ve still got to protect the young man.

“But we needed his creativity at the end, so he stayed on.”

Bradford City: Lewis; Platt, Stubbs (Tomlinson 84), Kelly (Gilliead 45); Halliday, Smallwood, McDonald (Tulloch 45), Richards, Pointon, Walker (Osadebe 82), Derbyshire (Afoka 67). Unused substitutes: Doyle, Oyegoke.

Grimsby Town: Eastwood; Mullarkey, Rodgers, Maher, Amos (Efete 73); Conteh; Gnahoua, Holohan, Clifton, Eisa (Pyke 79); Rose. Unused substitutes: Cartwright, Waterfall, Ainley, Andrews, Hunt.

Referee: S Purkiss (London).