Ossett Town 2
Boardman 65, Blackburn 81
Bradford City XI 0
Tuesday 23 July, 2014
Words and images by Jason McKeown
The sun-baked Ossett evening was the perfect setting for a few hundred Bradford City supporters to spend a relaxing, care-free couple of hours enjoying a football match. But this tranquil atmosphere undersold the heavy burden of pressure felt by the players tasked with representing the League One club. Upon such high stakes, the sport is at its most brutal.
A mixture of back-up first teamers, youth players and trialists were on a mission to impress Phil Parkinson. To demonstrate their value to the manager and, in many cases, secure a future at the club beyond the slow setting of the evening sun behind the main stand. Even for youth players who cannot realistically hope to get a first team call up any time soon, they may never get a chance as good as this. This was no meaningless friendly to the Bantams who participated in it: almost all had their future at stake.
It was a near-unrecognisable team, save for History Maker James Meredith – captain for the night – Jason Kennedy and Rafa De Vita. Even a 45-minute appearance from Matt Taylor felt like it should have been marked with the handing out of collector’s badges, given the majority of City supporters have still yet to see him in action. Jordan Pickford – who signed for the Bantams on a season-long loan the day before – was held back from making his debut. Instead, Parkinson ran the rule over two trialists in goal – Jay Lynch, a 21-year-old former Bolton keeper, and Matt Urwin, a 20-year-old ex-Blackburn Rovers stopper. In total, the starting XI featured five trialists, with two more introduced after the break.
Parkinson spent the entire 90 minutes stood behind one of the goals; ruling the roost over his team of lesser-knowns, whilst assistant Steve Parkin barked orders from the dugout. Of the trialists, Reginald Thompson-Lambe was arguably the most impressive performer; linking up reasonably well with Meredith on the left flank and showing some neat touches. A first team-ready player he certainly isn’t, but his nationality – Bermuda – will curry him plenty of favour at Valley Parade. The former Toronto man, who was once on Ipswich’s books, might be worth a development contract.
Other trialists included right back Stuart Bramley (ex-Dallas), French centre half Christophe Routis (ex-Servette), and – of course – Rafa De Vita.
What more can be said about the Italian? Had he rocked up on trial this summer without any previous connections, would he still be in the frame for a contract? In the two friendlies I have seen, De Vita has looked largely anonymous, and he continues to display a frustrating tendency to attempt ineffective fancy flick ons that only succeed in breaking down attacking moves. Playing just off a solo striker – youth product Joe Brennan – far more should be expected of De Vita. We know that he can be a decent player, yet he offers nothing that hasn’t already been recruited this summer. It’s time to put this one to bed.
Of the youth players on show, Sam Wright once again displayed glimpses of what he can do – this time in a central midfield role. He is a player of some promise but arguably needs toughening up. A month or two on loan at a local non-league club is a must if he is to progress to first team consideration. Niall Heaton was introduced in the second half and impressed with his confident runs forward. Another trialist – Richard Bryan (ex-Aston Villa) – was also given another opportunity after his outing at Guiseley. Between him and Nick Arnold, you would expect Parkinson to sign one to provide more right-sided defensive cover for the season ahead.
In truth it was difficult to come to any overly-positive conclusions about any of the players on show tonight. Ossett Town showed spirit and character throughout, never allowing their more illustrious opponents an easy ride. Throughout the rough and tumble, you want to see stand out City performers who can genuinely show they are on a different level. It might be harsh, but other than Meredith there was no one who looked above their semi-pro opponents. It might be harsh, but these opportunities cannot be passed up. Football is brutal, and it really was here.
In a game of very few chances, Ossett Town eventually took the lead after Rob Boardman smashed a free kick past Urwin from some 30 yards out. It was a terrific strike, although not a moment Urwin could feel proud about. In the opposite corner of the ground, his trialist rival Lynch showed no emotion as he watched on keenly, whilst stood amongst regular supporters. Lynch might have kept a clean sheet during his first half outing, but hadn’t been tested and, therefore, had little opportunity to impress.
City attempted to respond to falling behind, and substitute Reece Webb-Forster – who last season scored the youth team’s winning goal in the Youth Alliance (Northern) cup final – was played through on goal. A delicate lob deceived the home keeper, but bounced agonisingly off the underside of the croosbar before being scrambled away. It was City’s best opening on the night by some distance. A minute later, Luke Blackburn tapped home a second Ossett goal after Urwin had done well to parry an initial shot from Joe O’Neil.
With almost all of the senior players and trialists replaced when the score was 0-0, it is perhaps understandable that a more youthful Bradford City struggled to cope with Ossett’s greater physicality and lost the game. But these are the standards they have to reach and reach very quickly. Football is brutal.
Defeat barely matters, not when the first XI for the opening fixture with Coventry City was never going to feature anyone on display this evening. But it nevertheless raises small levels of anxiety as the big kick off creeps closer and closer into view. Parkinson still has areas of his squad to fill, and tonight offered him very few answers – at least not in the short-term.
City: Lynch (Urwin), Bramley (Pollard), Meredith (Heaton), Taylor (Bryan), Routis (King), Kennedy (Divine), Wright, Lambe, De Vita (Jenkinson), Brennan (Webb-Forster), Chippendale