On-off play-offs well and truly back on

2013-04-20 16.42.12

Bradford City 1

Hanson 44

Burton Albion 0

Saturday 20 April, 2013

By Damien Wilkinson

In the final home match of the 2012/13 campaign, Bradford City managed to secure a play off place – a feat which has eluded them until now, in this,the sixth season of residence in League Two. Indeed, the only previous play-off activity goes back to 1988 and 1996, thus representing somewhat uncharted territory for many.

Yes, do not adjust your sets. Following today’s 1-0 win, City will take part in the first round of the League Two play offs, scheduled for Thursday 2 and Sunday 5 May.

When offering to write this match report, back at the end of March, WOAP editor Jason McKeown remarked that he hoped I wouldn’t be “writing about a Burton promotion party”. How things have changed! Whilst many euphoric fans celebrate tonight, there will no doubt be a few slices of humble pie accompanying some celebrations. Write this Bradford City side off at your peril. Burton themselves have wobbled greatly over the last few weeks, including a 7-1 mauling at Port Vale, and previous genuine hopes of an automatic promotion spot are now seemingly extinguished.

The Bantams two previous matches against Burton this season have had something of a pivotal or significant feel to them.

The League cup match last September, now almost mirrors City’s season – bright start, failure to capitalise on pressure, facing an upward struggle following conceding two goals against the run of play, but eventually turning things around to 3-2 after extra-time, and the subsequent march to Wembley.

The 1-0 reverse in the league fixture at Burton in October saw serious injuries to Andrew Davies and Luke Oliver, which threatened to derail the campaign, compounded by the harsh sending off of Ricky Ravenhill in the first half for violent conduct after a clash with Lee Bell, who had fallen to the ground. Bell’s subsequent Twitter comments, where he admitted he had somewhat milked the moment, didn’t endear him to may City fans, and were to come back to haunt him in a spectacular manner.

Pre-match activities, on what was a remarkably glorious sunny day, saw an excellent Bantamspast trip around historically significant spots in the city centre led by Glyn Watkins and David Pendleton, which included retracing the journey taken by the 1911 FA side from the station to the Midland hotel and culminated in Mark Lawn pulling a pint in the Sparrow Bier Café to launch the inaugural Bantams’ History Week.

At the ground the traditional anniversary minute’s silence for the fire victims was observed in the usual fitting manner by all fans and players alike within the crowd of 13,235.

City made one change from the previous match against Rotherham, with Michael Nelson drafted in to replace Andrew Davies, who is still nursing a calf/back injury. More welcome news was the return to the side of James Meredith, who had recovered from the hip injury that saw him substituted during the Rotherham match, adding much-needed balance to the left side.

Burton made a couple of changes to their line-up, restoring Calvin Zola to the side, following injury, and brought in Matt Paterson to partner him. Ex-Bantam Michael Symes and Billy Kee consequentially dropped to the bench.

City began the match positively, enjoying a good amount of the play without carving out any real opportunities. Disappointingly, Kyel Reid saw his afternoon cut short on 18 minutes, an injury, perhaps a recurrence of his recent problems, causing him to be replaced by Zavon Hines. Despite Burton not offering the muscle or directness seen in City’s recent match against Rotherham, the pattern continued and the Bantams failed to make any serious in-roads.

However, with half time approaching a ball knocked forward was latched onto by Nahki Wells, and whilst the initial effort was thwarted in a haphazard manner by goalkeeper Lyness and defender Holness, James Hanson was on hand to hook the ball into the net for his 13th goal of the season. An element of fortune to the goal perhaps, but it resulted in no small part to the persistence of both Hanson and Wells, and more importantly was a crucial first half goal.

Matters rapidly got worse for Burton. A challenge on Hines by the aforementioned Lee Bell saw the Burton captain dismissed with a straight red card for an apparent elbow on the City winger. The irony of the dismissal was not lost on many, but more critically represented a hammer blow to Burton’s hopes of a revival.

The second half largely saw much of the same, and for a period it looked like City’s inability to capitalise on their numerical advantage might come back to haunt them. Again, despite much possession City couldn’t create many gilt edged chances, and Phil Parkinson shuffled things, bringing on Alan Connell for Nahki Wells on 68 minutes, followed by the replacement of Garry Thompson by Will Atkinson 10 minutes later. But this didn’t result in any notable differences.

The best chance of the half, late on, saw Hines played in, but his disappointing shot went well wide and capped off a frustrating afternoon for him in which he never really seemed to ‘click’. Which also underlined the importance of a fully fit Kyel Reid.

Ultimately, the game itself was an curious one, nobody really had a particularly bad game and indeed many players had good games including Gary Jones, Michael Nelson, Stephen Darby, James Hanson and Jonny McLaughlin. But there was perhaps a nervousness across the whole side given the importance of the fixture, and certainly the fluency seen in the recent home game against Bristol Rovers didn’t emerge, nor did the extra man really seem to count.

Furthermore, as the half wore on, fears of a late Burton equaliser persisted. With the recent memories of the injury time Chesterfield equaliser fresh, the five minutes of injury time was not overly welcomed. City managed to see things out, however, and with news of Exeter’s defeat by Cheltenham, the traditional last home match of the season lap of honour finally had some significance. The players were jubilantly cheered off the field and a pitch invasion was, thankfully, absent.

It is worth highlighting that the atmosphere within the ground was again excellent, and in particular the chants in the last 10 minutes or so certainly seemed to help pull the City team over the line. It demonstrates the benefits that can be generated from a ‘positive’ 13k+ crowd.

So on to the final match of the season, in which the Bantams visit Cheltenham. Whilst the match certainly has more importance to the home side, who still harbour hopes of an automatic promotion place, the outcome will certainly have a bearing on City’s play off opponents, and there are various permutations from any of Rotherham, Burton, Northampton and Cheltenham themselves.

At the moment though, who cares? It is just fantastic to finally be involved in the end of the season play offs, in what now can finally be declared a truly amazing season. The fact that the play off place is now guaranteed will allow Parkinson some options regarding the side he puts out against Cheltenham, and perhaps buy some much needed time regarding nursing Andrew Davies and Kyel Reid back to full fitness.

In a season that continues to keep giving, and one in which pride in being a City supporter has been well and truly restored, let’s look forward to a final chapter in the hope it will deliver the holy grail of promotion.

City: McLaughlin, Darby, McArdle, Nelson, Meredith, Thompson (Atkinson 78), Ravenhill, Jones, Reid (Hines 19), Hanson, Wells (Connell 68)

Not used: Duke, McHugh, Doyle, Gray

2013-04-20 17.03.06

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17 replies

  1. Agree with all of this apart from hines tougth he was our best attacking threat wen he came and all our good chances came from him

    • Got to say Hines was poor. How many times did he beat his man? Yes Burton doubled up on him but in the 2nd half we had a man advantage. The miss at the end summoned up his performance to me. Maybe Burton deserve credit. Good organised unit.

      Loved the atmosphere for the last 15min. The Midland Road chant sang repeatedly has become my favourite City song. A song which gets all generations/age groups involved. Generates such a positive vibe around the ground. Lets savour what we’ve done. Our best season since 99!!

      • I actually thought Hines played well yesterday. He had a shaky start, but worked really hard for the team.

        What has to be recognised is that Hines was asked to play left wing when he is clearly a right winger. He struggled playing on the left earlier in the season, notably at Rochdale when the same thing of Reid going off injured early occurred and Hines came on.

        It was a controlled second half from City, I thought. No need to go gung ho, no need to commit loads of players forward. Hines gave a disciplined performance and tracked back really well. Some excellent tackles.

  2. Well, none of us had this on the radar back in August at Notts County; a League Cup final and the Play Offs! Best season ever!

    • What a feeling! 6weeks ago I had written off our play-off chances , however Exeter have crumbled late on in the push!.
      We’ve had a tough run of games during this run in to the play-offs infact teams like cty involved in the push for those play-offs .
      During the games Phil Parkinson has stuck with an unchanged team mostly, only changing personnel through injury.
      Now the question is will Phil Parkinson decide to rest players for the Cheltenham game an give the fringe players some game time ? .
      I cant see a preferred team to play in the play-offs and having just squeezed in I don’t care who we play to be honest.
      No team will want us in the play-offs considering the run were on only 2defeats in nearly 20 games I think ?.
      All enjoy these times as a Bradford cty supporter we’ve had some really poor years since the premier lge years.
      Maybe just maybe this sleeping giant of a club may have been woken up by Phil Parkinson! .
      Oh is it me thats getting a little worried over the new contract situation regarding Phil Parkinson ?
      Come board get that signature done now!!

      • On the Parkinson contract situation, Width of a Post has – up to now – been given every indication it is all but agreed. That said, there are reports that Mark Lawn used an appearance at the Sparrow before yesterday’s match to make some rather lukewarm comments about the job Parkinson has done. I hang my head in despair. Parkinson has done a fantastic job for City and the club should be doing everything they can to keep him.

      • Lets hope these reports are just nothing more than a comment out of context?
        I have lots of respect for mark lawn and his love for this club.
        He’s not a multi-millionaire and put money in when other more wealthy business men in Bradford wouldnt!.
        I feel (just a feeling) that Phil Parkinson gets on well with the board as a result we went over £600,000 over budget to give Phil Parkinson the squad of players he felt needed to get us out of this division.
        That’s been wiped out with the cup run.
        I can’t see another reason why any board member, chairman come to that would be unhappy with the direction Phil Parkinson is taking Bradford cty football club?

      • I think Phil Parkinson is doing an excellent job, and was told in confidence by someone very close to the situation some 3 weeks ago not to worry – that it was a done deal. Of course with any contract talks things can break down, but what I took from the intimation I had then, was that both sides were extremely keen to tie it up.

  3. Jason, if the rumours concerning Lawn’s words in the Sparrow are confirmed then I suspect that there will be many other heads hanging in despair at Lawn’s comments especially when questioning PP’s ‘loyalty’. Lawn needs to recall his previous comment post the Arsenal game when he played down the need for contractual discussions with PP until nearer the season’s end. Of course, that was until Blackpool came calling. Loyalty works in both directions and if it so important to Lawn them maybe he should have been discussing a new contract earlier with expecting PP to take the initiative.

    • On the comments in the Sparrow, reportedly Mark Lawn stated disappointment that City were not in the top three with the Budget Parkinson had at his disposal. Said Parkinson an “alright” manager.

      Given the context of over 10 years struggle on the field, with managers coming and going, you’d think that having found someone who has actually taken us forward – even if it’s not quite at the speed we might have liked – would be someone to do everything you could to keep him.

      This has been the best season since 1999/2000 – it is quite staggering that some people would disagree with that.

      • I couldn’t agree more. I assume that ML takes his responsibilities seriously and considers his own role in the appointment of a series of ‘alright’ managers some of whom had achieved success prior to their appointment or in one particular case, after leaving VP. One wonders why they were all less than successful during their VP stint.

    • Apologies. The end of my last sentence should have said ‘…without expecting PP to take the initiative.’ .. Bloody smart phones!

      • It would appear these comments allegedly said from chairman lawn were nothing more than a chairman
        Desperate to see this club get that promotion we so desperately need?
        Lets face it this club has massive overheads to keep this stadium running at this level!.
        Now the cup run im certain has stopped the club from being in the top three this year?
        And on the alleged comment over Mr Parkinson been an ok manager is probably the chairmans way of being realistic to the fact that until that deal is signed by Mr Parkinson could still do a u turn and move elsewhere.
        I remember an interview in which chairman lawn stated contracts mean nothing in football and he was not nieve enough to think they do. Yes it’s been a great season the cup run was a miracle in the fact that we came second thoughout all lge clubs in this country:-)

      • I admire your defence of the Chairman Wayne, but whether he is spot on with his views or misguided, you have to question the wisdom of apparently publically stating it to supporters in the middle of negotiations.

  4. Think Hines was hindered by being on the left even after Atkinson came on. He does well on the right hand sign (think of the cup games) so not his best game but a solid 5/10 for me

    • Agree Jason with your last comments it would appear that maybe in hindsight it’s not the best thing to do in and around supporters if what’s been said is true?.
      Again Im not sticking up for chairman lawn however I think it’s great that the chairman is happy enough to have a drink with your average cty supporter and at least pass time of day with us.
      I remember on one occasion he spent around a good 10mins speaking to me in 1911 club over the season so far!.
      He was delighted with the way the we had played that particular fixture and felt we were in good shape .

  5. An article on here recently suggested City weren’t dead and buried. I replied vehemently that it was. Too vehemently. I was wrong. So wrong. You can never write this team off. Ever. I can’t remember the last time I really liked every player. I don’t have a gripe with any of them. This season has been immense and this team keeps giving.

    Just on a few points raised. I really like beans. I personally thought he was quite poor yesterday. Jones was Jones- immense. Nelson had his best game in a City shirt. Wells was poor. McArdle was as steady as ever and seems to have overcome his 2 game ( from about 55) wobble.

    But I just want to single out Mr Darby. He is so good that sometimes he doesn’t get the credit he deserves. He’s just so good he can go unnoticed as he just does everything so well that you come to expect it. People have been debating the POTY awards. For me he’s right up there. With McArdle and Jones. In fact, and this will spark debate, my top two are Darbyand McArdle. I love Gary Jones but that’s just my opinion.

    Darby is a cultured footballer and McArdle has played nearly every game and has had more partners than Jordan !!

    May I thank, through this post and website, the City team for what they have given in enjoyment this season. Also thanks to WOTP for keeping me entertained.

    ROLL ON THE PLAY OFFS.

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