Bray Wanderers 1
Bradford City 2
Wells 22, Hannah 61
Saturday 28 July, 2012
By David Lawrence
What fortunes have become of the travelling City faithful whilst touring Ireland, I wondered. I was really looking forward to hearing about their adventures when we got down to Bray. My friend Rick had been keeping me informed, with snippets from Twitter, about drinking carnage in Wexford the day after the game; but most of the talk on the wires had been of the new away kit.
For myself I’d had a great week catching up with old friends who had migrated to Dublin, playing golf and going to the horseracing at Leopardstown. And drinking Guinness. I had been very fortunate to enjoy the hospitality of Rick’s lovely family with whom I was travelling on the train to the match today. It was a special day as it was young Ethan’s first City match; to be fair though he probably enjoyed the train ride down to the seaside resort more.
Bray has a bargain bucket seaside atmosphere to it. While this appears novel to some Dubliners out for the day, it’s not too appealing to people brought up in the north of England, which is itself replete with resorts from a bye-gone era. Think a small Morecombe with a rougher clientele. On the front there are the usual cafes arcades and pubs. We met several City fans in a large busy pub near a band stand. Some had flown in for the match last night and were playing catch-up with the beers while some had become real tourists and travelled all around Ireland enjoying the Giant’s Causeway and such and such.
Most had discovered Wexford to be a bit of a ‘one-horse’ town and moved up through the week to Dublin to enjoy the city’s bars. Some had been unlucky and had lost things along the way –don’t try to call Lenny ‘City Gent’ on his mobile this week – while some had struck lucky and had a great time; especially those that got good odds on a City win at Wexford. Generally, we were all the better for the tour and looking forward to the match.
Unlike Wexford, Bray’s Carlisle ground is situated near to the centre of Bray, adjacent to the railway station. It had seating along both touchlines one of which was covered. This came in handy as the showers came in from the sea and led to the whole crowd being situated in the one stand. Initially, the crowd had been quite dispersed creating a colourful vista of claret and amber, the odd green shirt and gold and black. Yes the new away shirt, which many had purchased. There has been the usual amount of negative and positive comments about it. However, I’d have to say it looks better ‘in the flesh’ than on the club’s website.
Indeed, the team looked fine in the kit and less conspicuous than the pink shirts of last year as they came out to a warm round of applause and the odd chant for certain players. Oliver being one of the favourites. City set up 4-4-2 with Darby making his debut in a slightly stronger looking team than the one that started Tuesday night. Initial impressions of the new right back are that he looks technically capable and a good communicator, helping to organise the players around him from the offset. This was helpful as Bray produced the most positive attacking play early on and it was easy to see why they had beaten a Wolves’ touring team earlier in the pre-season.
City dealt with these early efforts well, with Oliver and McArdle marshalling the opposition front two effectively whilst the midfield Joneses began to get a grip of the game. It was soon time for our forwards to show their effectiveness with Connell again looking bright and Nahki bagging another.
Once more using his pace he latched on to a pass into the channel to lash a shot into the bottom left of the goal, giving the keeper no chance to save it.
Unlike the previous games the goal did not herald a goal avalanche. To be fair the opposition were too good for that. Instead the rest of the half was played out with both teams finding the measure of each other and trying to tease an opening. Ritchie Jones had probably the best effort shooting from outside the box after some neat dribbling, but it sailed over the bar. The crowd were not dispirited though and ended the half by singing several chants in homage to Jamie Lawrence, who has increased his cult status amongst City fans during this tour by sitting in the stands with them during the games and drinking in the pubs with them before and afterwards. From what I have experienced he has always been very friendly and approachable and interested in what the fans have been doing whilst in Ireland.
Our Irish host for the day are in the middle of a busy period of friendlies captured under the banner of Festival of football, which included us, Wolves and Liverpool. Apparently, giving something a good name and being a ‘tourist destination’ means you can charge an exorbitant 15 Euros, which was ridiculous for watching a glorified training game. It also meant Bray had to be thoughtful of player fatigue, it being half-way through their season. So at the half they made wholesale changes. Only one change for City; Darby being replaced by Ravenhill that meant a switch for Ritchie Jones to right back, which he played effectively.
In fact the start of the second half was marked by an increase in tempo and some really nice passing and moving from city. One such move enabled Connell to show some clever footwork to make an opening to drill a shot narrowly over the bar. That was to be the last of a good afternoon’s work for his effective partnership with Nahki as they were both withdrawn from play, along with Baker for Reid and the Hanson-Hannah combination. It would be disingenuous to say that the changes unsettled the team, as they didn’t, but it was followed by a brief improvement in Bray’s play leaving the hardly tested McLaughlin to make a tidy save.
Soon enough though the three substitutes were doing what they do best. Hanson was imposing himself along their back four winning headers and causing them to rush their clearances, Reid was making running around their fullback so easy he came back a few times to try again and Hannah did what he does: score. It was a really good goal that showed him using his strength to control the ball, sharpness to turn well and natural ability to place it across the keeper into the far bottom corner from around 12 yards out. He’d have scored that goal in any league.
City were playing well now, enjoying long periods of passing setting up several chances. The best of which being a Hanson header from a neat head back across the goal from Atkinson which he powered over the bar. Gary Jones again looks the part, consistently offering for the ball, immediately driving forward when he has it and tackling well when he hasn’t. It was telling that the dominance of the game lessened somewhat when he and the also effective Meredith were withdrawn with about quarter of the game left to play. They were replaced by Bass, who again played well for his age and the trialists Donnelly who played a lot better than at Wexford often asking for the ball, but again looked a little shy of pace. He also made a howler of a pass near the close that may have put paid to his contract hopes. If he ends up at Valley Parade, it’ll be a surprise.
What was a surprise was that we didn’t get another goal in the half, but Bray did. Hannah had gone close hitting the bar and post in one goal-line scramble and a few crosses and half-chances had been wasted. The substitutions and the fact there was little time left in the game meant the tempo had dropped. This was not the case for a Bray player by the name of Ryan Dooney who scored a great goal around five minutes from the end, blasting in a shot from the right edge of the box.
Soon enough the ref blew up on the ninety. There was to be no nonsense minutes to be added on a board. Enough had been seen. A smattering of applause, the players came over to reciprocate and the crowd dispersed, blending in with the rest of the tourists heading back from their own places of interest. We’ll all make our ways home eventually, by different means and at different times, but we’ll all take with us fond memories of the lovely Irish people, new friendships, lovely scenery and Bradford City in Ireland.
City: McLaughlin, Darby (Ravenhill 46), Meredith (Bass 72), Gary Jones (Donnelly 72), McArdle, Oliver, Atkinson, Ritchie Jones, Connell (Hannah 57), Wells (Hanson 57), Baker (Reid 57)
Sub not used: Duke