Bradford City 1
Hereford United 1
Saturday 25 February, 2012
By Omar Eliwi
In front of a bumper Valley Parade crowd of 17,014, City were held at home once more – their sixth draw in sixteen home matches this season.
The £1 ticket promotion had drawn in over 7,000 more spectators than the average home game, but in truth there wasn’t much on show to convince the casual supporter to sign up for a season ticket for the next campaign.
The fact that City, as a football club, can draw such a high attendance for a regular League Two fixture is encouraging. And surprising – especially considering that for a more crucial fixture versus Stockport County last season, running the same £1 promotion, 1,500 less people chose to attend compared to this Hereford fixture at a similar time of year.
Both teams set up their stall in a way that didn’t exactly attract free flowing football. The visitors were here for a point. That was anticipated before the match, and manager Jamie Pitman played the ‘contain and hit on the break’ strategy that so many have employed when visiting Valley Parade over the years.
What was surprising was the way that Phil Parkinson set up his Bantams. He has received a lost of criticism post match for the way that he set his team up; but I believe that the negative view of his ability as a manager who can lead us forward is well wide of the mark.
I do believe though that, today, he got it wrong. He got his team tactics perfectly right away at Torquay – proving how astute he can be – and today’s selection admittedly was hampered by the fact that he couldn’t select the same eleven again due to injuries.
Nakhi Wells was far too isolated up front. In many City attacks, he was at least 5-10 yards in front of any one else supporting him. He worked tirelessly and actually had an excellent game, but this lack of support was always pretty unlikely to yield a goal.
Similarly, the team seemed to knock the ball long on far too frequent occasions, as if Wells’ usual strike partner James Hanson was in the side. Do the players not realise that the ‘pint sized’ Wells is not going to win headers in 98% of occasions? And when he does he is not flickering the ball on, but ‘holding the ball up’ – a real task for such a young, small sized striker playing on his own up front against such a brutal typical League Two defence.
Having mentioned the shortcomings in tactics, City did have enough chances to win this game. Kyel Reid was a constant menace on the left wing and his direct, dangerous fizzing crosses came close to putting City ahead on a number of attacks.
Former Bantam Joe Colbeck came off the bench for Hereford with 20 minutes to go into a surprisingly good reception (compared to last seasons fixture with Hereford), and from that point City began to turn the screw even more. Substitute Dave Syers was desperately unlucky not to break the deadlock when his goal bound effort following a fumble from Hereford keeper Cornell was frustratingly hacked off the line.
And then, the sting in the tail arrived. Having barely enjoyed any offensive moves in the second half, a blocked cross found its way to annual Bantams menace Delroy Facey, who whipped in another cross that Byron Anthony precisely headed into the net with Jon McLaughlan rooted to the spot.
Just as it looked like Hereford were going to rob City of all three points, the dying moments of the game proved kind for City again as a Will Atkinson corner found its way to the shockingly unmarked Syers, who headed into the top corner. And Hereford were reduced to ten men with seconds left in injury time when defender Purkiss hacked down Reid right on the edge of the box. And just as City were hoping for a last gasp winner, the subsequent free kick landed at the feet of Marcel Seip in the box with time and space, but when a blast into the bottom corner was required, a weak effort was released that fell harmlessly into the hands of the Hereford keeper.
And so it finished a point a piece. Another step towards mid table safetly. Not a time to call our manager every name under the sun for one game where perhaps he should have gone for a more attacking formation. Up until now his tactics have been pretty much spot on. So lets not over-react. Lets get behind the manager and the team.
The spirit to come back to rescue a point or a victory is a trait of Parkinson’s team and that was evident again today. Ultimately, next season will be his judgement season; but from the improvement in quality of players and spirit that he has injected into the squad, surely Mr Parkinson deserves our full backing?
City: McLaughlin, Kozluk, Bullock, Davies, Siep, Smalley (Atkinson 81), Jones, Ravenhill, Reid, Flynn (Syers 65), Wells (Hannah 89)
Subs not used: Annerson, Fry