Bradford (Park Avenue) 0
Bradford City XI 3
Campion 44, 45 + 59
Tuesday 29 July, 2014
Written by Adam Pickles (images by Kieran Wilkinson)
This was never going to be an easy game to report on. A hastily put together pre season friendly, only finalised a couple of days previously, with the already well known fact the majority of the squad was going to be made up of trialists. Groan. A reporter’s nightmare, even for the more established WOAP writers, never mind a last minute stand in like myself! After answering a call from the editor to write the report, I spent the afternoon researching the trialists and youth team in the hope to give myself a little more knowledge as to who would be playing. Turns out there was only one name I really needed to learn.
The Tom Banks memorial trophy was the prize at stake to the winner. Announced before the game, if the match remained a draw at 90 minutes, then penalties would be used to the settle the contest. Something to look forward to there anyway. It seemed strange to me that this fixture was not already previously arranged, with it being an annual event, but myself and 668 other fans headed to the Horsfall Stadium to watch the events unfold. This was in fact my first visit to the ground, despite them being our nearest neighbours, and I was looking forward to it.
Inside the ground, we took a seat in the Ronnie Bottomly memorial stand, which was a mixture of standing and seating, and also a mixture of Park Avenue and City fans. I had overheard on the way to the ground some BPA fans mentioning they did not feel there was a rivalry between the teams, a sentiment that after this game I must agree with. There was friendly banter and chatter throughout the game between both sets of fans and behaviour was impeccable all round.
The tannoy announcement before the game proved the press correct – with Jason Kennedy, Lewis Clarkson and, captain for the night, James Meredith the only “first teamers” part of the squad, with youth and trialists making up the rest of the City XI. As the BPA team was read out, I almost knew as many names in the opposition line up as in my own team, with one time City Player of the Year Joe Colbeck, and one time City “raw talent” Chib Chilaka both starting for BPA, alongside what I later learnt was also a team made up of trial players and youth squad members.
Interestingly, City only named three substitutes, who took their place alongside Steve Parkin in the view-restricting dugouts. With the running track around the pitch and these eyesore dugouts, it did make viewing in the front few rows quite difficult, and knowing I needed a keen eye on this game I moved further up the stand. Phil Parkinson was not present in the dugout, and I personally did not see him at the game – perhaps out watching games elsewhere and analysing potential transfer targets?
The first 40 minutes definitely had the air of a pre-season game, with both teams fairly open and both creating chances. City started brightly and the lively Mo Shariff burst down the right wing in the first minute whipping an excellent ball in, unfortunate not to find anyone on the end. Joe Colbeck, starting on the right wing, looked like he had a point to prove, and an early error from trial goalkeeper Matthew Urwin allowed him half a chance, which, as us City fans have seen before, he miscontrolled and wasted. Colbeck had a great first 10 minutes, and was causing Meredith trouble down the right flank. It seemed strange then that he was switched to the left wing, with Chilaka coming to the right, and it was on the left that he was anonymous for the next 80 minutes. Again, personally I remember such occurrences happening when he was playing in the claret and amber.
It was Chilaka who had the first real chance of the match, with a through ball finding him onside, and after taking a touch he proceeded to slice well wide of the target, much to the jeers/groans from the half full stand.
BPA began to grow into the game, controlling possession in the City half, however with no real threat. Giving the ball away whilst attacking led to City’s first real chance. Reggie Lambe, the Bermudan international trialist, intercepted a pass and played a lovely through ball to Achielle Campion, a fellow trialist, who in plenty of time and space somehow managed to smash the ball against the bar from close range. Not long after a square ball from the excellent Mo Shariff found Campion three yards out, with the Frenchman somehow managing to scuff his shot wide. It did not look like it was going to be his day.
Lewis Clarkson was substituted on the 20 minute mark, with another trialist, Danny Galbraith, replacing him. Clarkson had looked lively up to this point, linking up well with Lambe and Shariff, before what appeared to be a hamstring injury ended his evening. A shame, as his goal scoring and general play in preseason has been promising. Let’s hope it’s nothing too serious.
BPA created a couple of chances for themselves, with Christopher Routis slipping in defence, allowing a distance shot to be tipped acrobatically onto the post by Urwin, with Routis recovering and clearing the ball as it bounced in the box.
As it looked like the half was going to end stalemate, City, and Campion in particular, had other ideas. Kennedy – who looked confident and assured in the holding midfield “Nathan Doyle” role, played a superb through ball to Lambe, who beat the offside trap to square to an unmarked Campion, who this time made sure with a low finish to the keepers left. An easy goal, but they all count. This stirred something within City and Campion, and less than a minute later Meredith’s lobbed ball over the top, collected and delivered superbly by Lambe again, found the head of the again unmarked Campion who looped the ball over the helpless Avenue keeper.
What a difference a couple of minutes made. After the earlier misses, Campion had taken two chances, and his excellent position had left him perfectly poised to score twice. As the half time whistle blew, the sun went behind the clouds, probably mimicking the mood of the BPA fans and players. They had held their own for the first 44 minutes, but for the sucker punches right at the end.
The running track at half time appeared to become a kid’s playground, and whilst I queued for my very reasonable half time pint, I listened to those around me. Despite my opinion that Chilaka had played a decent first half – his hold up play on occasion was excellent – it appears he was made the scapegoat by a section of supporters, blaming his weight and fitness for the lack of attacking opportunities created by Avenue in the first half.
The wind whipped round the stadium as the teams appeared for the second half, with both sides deciding not to make a change. Sirens wailed round Bradford as the referee blew his whistle, something which Avenue should may have taken note of. They never got going in the second half – presumably deflated by the two goal cushion City had opened up, and the half belonged to the visitors. Meredith and opposite full back, Coulson, were clearly encouraged to get forward more, and Meredith in particular showed glimpses of his attacking prowess, playing many through balls and lobbed balls over the top which cut the Avenue defence to pieces.
Shariff and Lambe interchanged throughout the half, with the former continuing where he left off from the first half, with quick feet and a good looking bag of tricks creating space for his colleagues as well as his excellent passing and movement again stretching the Avenue defence. He will have done himself no harm in his quest towards a contract for next season, with Corinne, my girlfriend and a self proclaimed “Kyel Reid fan” remarking how similar the two are in terms of their playing style. For me this is not a bad thing, and he would make an excellent squad player.
It was another through ball which created the third goal – this time by the impressive Kennedy, and a superbly timed run from Campion found him with only the goalie to beat. Although the keeper stood tall, and managed to get something onto the shot, it squirmed away from him and crossed the line, allowing Campion to complete his hat trick and get his hands on the match ball. From two earlier misses to a hat trick – I thought his all round game was good, with positioning and awareness the two traits which stood out. I would assume he will be looked at again in the friendly at the weekend, and depending on our other targets, could find himself as the backup striker we seem to be looking for.
The frustration set in from Park Avenue, with a few poorly timed challenges and ill discipline starting to creep into the game, so much so that when Shariff went down injured with 10 minutes to go, the BPA players noticed he was off the pitch and continued with the game, with one remarking “he’s off the pitch – get on with it!”. This was disappointing to see, and made even more disappointing that this would be the last we would see from Mo Shariff, with youth team striker Giovanni Landu coming on to replace him. This switch saw Galbraith move to the left wing, with Landu joining Campion up front. A further substitution saw Niall Heaton replace Kennedy, who received a good ovation when leaving the picture. The biggest cheer of the day, however, came when Chilaka was taken off the field – whether this was ironic or not, the jury is still out.
Galbraith found himself on the ball a lot more and improved in this wide left position – although he had been overshadowed slightly by his hatrick hero strike partner – and he picked up where Shariff had left off, twisting and turning defenders and knocking useful balls into the box. Another day and another striker (Hanson?) would have been on the end of these crosses and such play does look promising and is a far cry from the hoofing from the back.
The game came to a slightly strange conclusion when, with all substitutes made, captain Meredith left the field leaving City to contest the last six minutes with only 10 men. The official Bradford City site later reported this was a planned move to manage players’ match minutes. This did prove a good test for the remaining three defenders, with Park Avenue pressing forward, and despite one shaky moment where an Avenue player found himself alone in the box, he fluffed his shot and the defence cleared up all that was thrown at them.
All in all, a good game of football and a convincing win by City. Park Avenue provided a decent test, but the young City XI, defensively especially, stood firm and held on to retain the trophy. The standout players for me were Shariff and, obviously, Campion, but I would expect Parkinson and Parkin would like to keep hold of others and have a final look at them at Hartlepool on Saturday.
Achille Campion – remember the name?
City XI: Urwin, Coulson, Routis, Bryan, Meredith, Shariff (Landu 68), Kennedy (Heaton 78), Rodden, Lambe, Campion, Clarkson (Galbraith 20)