Bradford City 2
Hines 53, Hanson 83
Southend United 2
Tomlin 10, Assombalonga 11
Friday 29 March, 2013
By Mark Danylczuk
Eight points off the play offs, with seven games to go. Mathematically possible – yes. In reality – probably not, barring an incredible run of results. Another one of those days for Bradford City, with dropped points proving costly in catching up to the play off pack and one less game as a margin for error. In a freakish reversal of the 2-2 draw at Southend in December, where City let a two goal lead slip to draw, the tables were turned today. The Bantams coming back from a two goal deficit to earn a deserved draw in an entertaining game at Valley Parade.
Parkinson kept the same line up from the team which beat Wycombe 12 days ago, with an attacking impetus of Kyel Reid and Zavon Hines on the wings to provide delivery to the pair of James Hanson and Garry Thompson up front. The game saw Phil Brown’s debut as Southend manager, as the hosts were looking to build on their promotion push with neither team wanting to drop any points at this crucial time in the season.
Both teams started the game fairly brightly but then, before City had time to make any sort of impact, the killer blow was dealt with two goals conceded in a matter of minutes, which meant the remainder of the match was a game of catch-up. The first goal in the 10th minute was very poor defensively with a long ball floated in, Jon McLaughlin flapped and missed the ball, Mohsni hit the post from the resulting shot and Tomlin was there to convert the rebound for the visitors.
A minute later Southend raced away again on the counter attack with the ball switched to the right-hand side, crossed in by Clohessy and Assombalonga clumsily converted from six yards. The two goals from Tomlin and Assombalonga made it 27 between the prominent Southend front pairing and, for the rest of the first half, City simply could not cope with the duo’s pace and presence.
City were quick to respond and from a free kick in the 12th minute; Reid was unlucky to hit the underside of the bar and Hanson’s resulting header was cleared off the line by the Southend defence. With the crowd spurring the team on, Gary Jones began to get a grip of the midfield and City enjoyed more of the possession with some neat and tidy passing, but no end product in the final third. Southend looked comfortable to soak up the possession, being effective on the counter, and City struggled to muster anything of any significance for the remainder of the first half. In particular, Hines looked poor and lacklustre and Ricky Ravenhill was also anonymous.
The Bantams began the second half strongly with continued pressure. The first chance of the period came in the 52nd minute with a ball in the box from James Meredith, a Hanson knock down and the resultant scramble leaving Hines to bundle the ball home – but the referee Steve Rushton disallowed the goal, apparently for a handball against Hines. Zavon was to have his moment a minute later though, as City got the early goal required to put pressure on the hosts in forcing a comeback. Again, another ball across from Meredith, and Hines struck the ball sweetly with his left foot, first time into the bottom right-hand corner of the goal. Justice done.
The momentum was clearly with City now in getting the equaliser, but Southend were also just as dangerous and had a great chance to re-establish the two goal cushion in the 70th minute. Substitute Matthew Lund broke clear down the middle and, with the City defence stretched, had a great opportunity to slip the ball through to Assombalonga to make it 3-1. But Lund selfishly tried his luck with a shot from 20 yards out which went well wide.
Parkinson could see that reinforcements were needed to freshen things up and Will Atkinson came on for Ravenhill, slotting into central midfield, whilst Alan Connell came on for Hines and went up front with Thompson moving out to the right wing. Again, the hosts went closer to scoring, this time with Mkandawire hitting the post in the 75th minute with a shot from the edge of the box.
Last chance saloon and it called for Nakhi Wells to come on for Darby in the 80th minute and form an attacking front three with Hanson and Connell. The substitution almost immediately paid off as, a couple of minutes later, City grabbed a deserved equaliser. Wells broke free to the left of the box and clipped a ball over to the far post for Hanson to head in.
Cue pandemonium from the City fans and the roar to press on for the winner. It was backs to the walls for the hosts who, although stunned from the two-goal lead lost, seemed keen to preserve a point. It was a game of attack and defence. City’s two best remaining chances came in the final minutes. The first was Wells cutting in from the right just outside the box and forcing a good save from the keeper with a powerful shot. The second was from another Reid run, which resulted in him going down in the box with Rushton refusing the penalty appeals and – to rub salt in the wounds – giving Reid a yellow card for diving.
But it was not to be. After five minutes of extra time, the game was up and City were left to rue another two points dropped. The damage was done after the two early goals conceded so quickly after one another. A few plus points can be raised – the tactical changes by Parkinson with introducing Wells in making an impact to set up Hanson for the equaliser, and Wells himself looking much sharper and more effective than in recent weeks. The warrior, Gary Jones, produced another impeccable and inspirational midfield performance.
Reid, given the sponsor’s man of the match award, also must be credited for putting a shift in and getting balls in the box to create chances. Yes, some of his crosses were poor, but most were decent, with City players not willing to gamble. I cannot understand some City fans who jeered and booed a player who was our most creative outlet, willing runner and focus of our attacking play. Personal opinion indeed, but where would the crosses come from otherwise? Hines on the opposing wing barely produced one all game.
Although City have not been picking up as many points as hoped, it is worth noting that it’s only one defeat in the last eight games. Progress, but the fact only two of these games have seen victories is simply not promotion material. With two matches a week for the next three weeks, it is asking a lot for a team to produce a promotion run of multiple victories with such a schedule. Parkinson will have to chop and change the team in order to work towards this.
Simply put, it has to be two wins against Torquay and Northampton next week – to keep the distant play off dream alive.
City: McLaughlin, Darby (Wells 81), Meredith, Davies, McArdle, Ravenhill (Atkinson 73), Reid, Thompson, Jones, Hanson, Hines (Connell 73)
Not used: Duke, McHugh, Nelson, Doyle