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Matthew Bates keen to clean up during Bradford City stay
Matthew Bates managed to dodge the bug that descended on the City dressing room last week.
But there is one malaise that the centre half is finding hard to stomach right now.
Given his injury-riddled recent past, Bates is making the most of every opportunity since making his short-term switch to Valley Parade.
Sunday’s draw at Oldham saw a ninth straight appearance from the former Middlesbrough defender – and probably his best in City colours.
But there is one huge source of irritation for Bates. The lack of clean sheets is bugging the hell out of him.
So far there has been just one in a characterless goalless draw at Crewe a month ago.
It’s not as if City are being overrun or ripped open by stunning play; far from it. Nobody could argue about the ferocity of the weekend equaliser by Jonson Clarke-Harris but for Bates there have been too many preventable goals of late.
Goals like the Wolves one when Gary Jones inadvertently ran into his own player on the edge of the penalty area.
Bates admitted: “We’ve conceded some really cheap, really poor goals. You’re never going to win football matches while you’re doing that.
“We’ve felt quite comfortable and just give goals away from silly individual errors. Notts County last week probably scored from the only clear-cut chance they had.
“Ultimately it falls on the shoulders of the defence and the keeper but people within the game will probably see through that.
“You’re not going to keep clean sheets making silly errors, especially the higher up the leagues you go. You might get away with it more often than not in League Two but when you’re in League One or the Championship, you’ll get punished straight away.”
The absence of Andrew Davies as he recovers from knee surgery has been cited as the chief reason behind City’s stuttering progress in recent weeks. After the rip-roaring start, the Bantams have won only once since losing the defensive rock.
But as Bates points out, far too many of those goals against are self-inflicted blows; not so much poor play from the team but individual lapses.
He said: “It’s not a cop out. We’re not conceding bad team goals but cheap ones and they are much harder to take.
“Maybe it’s just a spell we’re going through and I’m sure we’ll come out the other side.”
Bates believes his partnership with McArdle in the heart of City’s defence is developing well with each outing. The pair willingly stuck their bodies on the line to defy the in-form Latics with some well-timed blocks and interceptions.
Bates said: “We do feel all right together and I think we have a good understanding. Rory and I get on well.
“But there have been times after a game when we’ve conceded, looking at each other and wondering ‘where did that come from?’ “You don’t mind conceding a goal because that happens. But it’s those cheap, poor ones from mistakes that really hurt.
“But it would be more worrying if they were from fundamental errors. At the minute it’s down to individual poor decision-making from the lads, myself included.”
Bates remains confident the phase will soon pass and speaks from experience.
He said: “I remember at Middlesbrough when we had seven clean sheets on the bounce. Then we went five or six games when we couldn’t buy a clean sheet.
“We went a month and a half without conceding once and the six weeks after that when we couldn’t keep them out – and it was the same back four.
“But it can just happen like that. I’ve been in the game long enough to know these things will swing round.”
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