Bradford City 1
Aldershot Town 1
Saturday 9 March, 2013
By Damien Wilkinson
So another two points slipped from the grasp of City again, as the 2013 home form hoodoo continued at a wet and cold Valley Parade. Despite Alan Connell’s last gasp equaliser from the spot, there was a very flat feeling on leaving Valley Parade following a match where City’s inability to capitalise on their dominance again resurfaced.
City approached the game in positive spirits after a good performance at Port Vale during the midweek, and the Aldershot match looked like a great opportunity to propel the play off surge, get three points on the board and push on in the next two away matches down in the South West. Phil Parkinson made just one change to the starting line up, with Nahki Wells replacing Garry Thompson up front. It was hoped that after a reasonably bright appearance as a substitute on Tuesday night, Wells might be able to recover from what has been a recent disappointing spell.
Aldershot arrived on the back of a five match unbeaten run, and the appointment of Andy Scott as manager, just over a couple of weeks ago, seems to have reinvigorated the club, who have spent much of the season marooned at the wrong end of the table. Scott made two changes with new loanee, Paul McCallum, brought in from West Ham, up front in place of injured top scorer Danny Hylton, and a change at left back with Aaron Morris replacing the injured Anthony Tonkin.
The Bantams made a reasonable start to the match and looked keen to continue the form shown in the second half of the Port Vale match. Aldershot looked no pushovers though, and stood firm in the opening exchanges. City continued to press and began to carve out a number of chances; a couple of smart shots from Zavon Hines, who had a good first half, were well saved by Aldershot’s Australian keeper, Jamie Young, and a further chance for Michael Nelson, who headed wide with the goal gaping. City continued attacking, and a piledriver from Gary Jones was tipped over by Young.
Despite the pressure, there was a feeling that City would yet again fail to capitalise and get an early goal, and this was indeed the case. Yet again this came back to haunt us, as Aldershot scored with their first attempt on goal,right on the stroke of half time. In what seemed a harsh decision, Rory McArdle was booked for a foul on McCallum, and from the resulting free kick, Kieron Cadogan’s delivery eluded everyone in the box, eventually going in off the post. A sucker punch if ever there was one.
With no changes made at the break, it was hoped that City would come out all guns blazing in the second half. This wasn’t really the case and City struggled in the opening 15 minutes or so, with Aldershot creating a couple of half chances. As things began to fall a little flat, Phil Parkinson looked to liven things up with a double substitution on the hour mark; replacing Wells with Thompson, and Ricky Ravenhill making way for Kyel Reid. Will Atkinson moved into the centre of midfield to accommodate Reid. Wells again had a disappointing afternoon – he looked bright early on but increasingly seemed further isolated from James Hanson, and is clearly short of confidence and needing a goal.
City initially began to create a few more chances, but a degree of frustration also began to creep into their play. Atkinson in particular struggled and, with maybe the heavy pitch impacting, a number of passes went astray. Reid saw a lot of the ball, carving out a few opportunities, but City could not find a way past the Aldershot defence. Keeper Young was injured racing out of his goal on 66 minutes, which almost left Hines with an empty goal to aim at, but the chance was thwarted. After lengthy treatment Young was replaced by substitute keeper Glenn Morris.
With the last throw of the dice, Parkinson brought on Alan Connell for Nelson, and he made a good impression getting into the thick of City attacks with some intelligent play and was unlucky with a shot from distance.
As the game entered the last 10 minutes or so, City’s belief waned and, despite a header from Jones tipped over and a flurry of corners, the game began to fizzle out. However, due to the keeper swap and a subsequent injury to Aldershot’s skipper Ben Herd, injury time of eight minutes was signalled and seemingly re-ignited City’s resolve. With the game slipping away, Hines was sent sprawling in the penalty area and referee Richard Clark had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
The decision looked soft to be honest, but there didn’t seem to be many protests from the Aldershot players. Up stepped Connell, who made no mistake with the penalty, firing an unstoppable shot past Morris into the net.
The match ended soon thereafter and, despite the late equaliser, there was a noticeable air of despondency around the ground. The result leaves City in 11th place in the league, nine points behind Exeter in 7th place, albeit with two games in hand on them.
With the play offs becoming more and more distant, the forthcoming visits to Plymouth and Exeter, could now potentially make or break the rest of the season. If there was ever a time to rectify a run that has seen City not able to string together two league wins since the middle of October last year, then surely this is it.
As Parkinson seeks to resolve City’s scoring dilemma, more shuffling of the pack may be necessary, particularly with the clamour to accommodate Connell in the starting line up gaining some momentum, following his cameo performance. Over the last few matches, City have been close, but not quite there, and the final tinkering may be crucial to the rest of the season – hopefully Parkinson can find the answer starting at Plymouth on Tuesday night.
City: McLaughlin, Darby, McArdle, Nelson (Connell 78), McHugh, Hines, Ravenhill (Reid 61), Atkinson, Hanson, Wells (Thompson 61)
Not used: Duke, Davies, Doyle, Gray