Aldershot Town 1
Bradford City 0
Saturday 17 March, 2012
By Damien Wilkinson
Despite his pre-match billing and the talk this week of refereeing standards, a certain Mr Attwell thankfully didn’t take centre stage in today’s away trip to Aldershot. Instead, City fans were left to mull over yet another far from convincing performance which culminated in defeat, and increased concerns as to our precarious league position. With 10 games left, a gap of four points between City and the second from bottom position does not make the best of reading. Indeed the current haul of 39 points remains below that of the previous season, at a similar stage.
The mood before the match were buoyed by the surprise loan signing of Chris Dagnall on Friday, and as expected, he was plunged straight into the side for his debut, replacing the suspended Craig Fagan. A further four changes were made to the side which lost at Wimbledon on the previous Tuesday, with Simon Ramsden, Michael Flynn, Will Atkinson and Ricky Ravenhill returning to the starting line up. Somewhat disappointingly, Ritchie Jones did not make the bench, with Deane Smalley, Rob Kozluk, Nahki Wells, Dave Syers being the outfield substitutes selected.
Aldershot, after their creditable away draw at Crawley, kept a similar starting line up, with just a solitary change from their previous match. With 185 City fans and a few trees, within the crowd of 2,763, the game got underway. Competing home and away drummers created some atmosphere within the one end behind the goal with fans, the Aldershot version pounding out a military beat, in keeping with the surroundings.
City made a reasonably bright start, with debutant Dagnall showing some nice touches and a willingness to shoot on sight, albeit with many of these being blocked. After an early penalty appeal from Aldershot, there was a shout for a City penalty after 10 minutes, when Dagnall went to ground in the box, but this was waved away by referee Stuart Attwell, perhaps not unexpectedly to City fans.
The first half progressed, hardly a classic, a few more half chances for City, some pressure from Aldershot. Overall the half was fairly even, perhaps City shading things slightly in terms of attempts on goal, and it looked like a decent platform to build upon in the second half.
The second half unfortunately did not match such expectations. The first 25 minutes of the half were poor, to say the least. City were not able to get a foothold in the game whatsoever, in particular there seemed to be an inability to get Kyel Reid, City’s best attacking threat into the action. This had the dual impact of diverting all City’s attacks down the right hand side, which also further exposed the limits in Atkinson, who battled well, but still flatters to deceive, and there was a distinct lack of service to the front two.
Aldershot also began to start to press forward with more conviction, targeting both flanks in equal measure. Despite an initial lack of end product, this was finally rewarded by a goal which resulted from a burst by Sinclair down the left to the byline, followed by a cross, which after hitting the woodwork, caused mayhem in the City defence and left the unlikely named Wilko Risser, a simple head in from 6 yards out past a fairly static Marcel Seip, as covering defender. Another game, another sloppy goal.
However, as we have witnessed before, the conceded goal did spring the previously lethargic City into some sort of life. This was further enhanced by a treble substitution, with Syers, Wells and Smalley replacing Ravenhill, Dagnall, and Atkinson. A period of pressure and a number of corners and free kicks resulted, but City were unable to find a breakthrough. Despite this, it was difficult to detect any significant urgency or belief in City’s play, and the prospects of another great escape, never really looked on the cards.
So the final whistle went, and another away defeat with some murmurs of grumbling from City fans. To his credit, Michael Flynn came across to the fans, to show some appreciation of the support, incurring the wrath of a couple of irate fans. But overall the sense of resigned frustration, seen at regular intervals this season, won’t go away.
This defeat, coupled with results elsewhere, means we are left looking down the table, rather than at mid-table. The next three matches, despite two being at home, don’t look the easiest of fixtures and a low return of points could spell a very nervy end to the season.
After losing to another solitary goal, scoring in the other end remains the key issue to resolve. And whilst Dagnall suggested he might be the answer, the service into the strikers needs to be improved. Atkinson remains the current scapegoat in this regard, but the whole balance of the midfield cannot be overlooked, with the recent revolving door midfield selections, admittedly some enforced, hardly helping matters.
A big game on Tuesday at Crewe beckons, and after their win against league leaders Swindon today, any return to form will be much welcome to steady the ship, as we enter the final 10 games of this frustrating season.