Tansey 23 (pen)
Bradford City 1
Saturday 31 August, 2013
Written by David Lawrence (images by Mike Holdsworth)
The day had started well for the large following of Bradford City fans and quite a few of us enjoyed visiting the ‘Our Mutual Friend’ CAMRA pub for a pre match pint. Not unlike the social media through the week, the talk was of signings: who’d be coming, either Newcastle’s Slovenian Vuckic or perhaps a Hanson back-up, and Parkin and then Parkinson’s assertion that Mr Wells was going nowhere.
It was the last meteorological day of summer and the sun was beating down, but in true footy fan style the majority were watching the Man City vs Hull City (Tigers!) game and talking football. A Bobby Campbell t-shirt started a debate about favourite players and the usual players were mentioned: McCall and Hendrie. It was good though to hear a mention of Tom Flockett from a supporter of sixty years called Cooky who had travelled to the game with a Town fan who was a fellow member of the ‘92 Club’. Hopefully, he’d see something today to convert him.
That wouldn’t be the ground though. To be fair the stand that the ‘faithful’ were in was great, but the ground really has a Conference/fourth tier look to it. That’s not to criticise Stevenage who, under the chairmanship of Phil Wallace, have made remarkable strides considering their formation as recently as 1976. Indeed, they have progressed remarkably through the leagues only occasionally stuttering (once under Peter Taylor) and won the FA Trophy twice, once winning at Wembley in front of 53,000. We know how that feels.
Much of that good feeling that was evident at the Blades game last week and travelled with the City fans, who were in good voice before kick-off, singing the praises of individual players. How Julian Rhodes must have loved it. All was good. Even the unusual sight of a giant chicken pretending to be the City mascot could not detract from what was surely to be a City win.
One change for City saw Kyel Reid come in for Mark Yeates, but otherwise City were unchanged. Stevenage having played midweek in the cup against Everton made two changes, with Tansey and Burrow replacing Smith and the injured Charles. Surely they’d be tired. Surely a game City should win.
And they started okay. To be fair, both teams started okay and Stevenage had the best chance on goal in the opening ten minutes with Robin Shroot and then the impressive Luke Freeman both getting shots in. Nahki Wells had a go with an effort that went wide and didn’t trouble the keeper, but it was all a bit 50/50.
City then lost their way. Be it rugby, hockey or football, statistics point to the importance of a team’s own re-starts. This is how City got lost. The main culprit being Jon McLaughlin and his diabolical dead ball kicks that were often sliced and lucky to make the half-way line. Five on the trot had the effect of the ball dropping short of the oft used channel between James Hanson and Garry Thompson and missing the midfield. The major effect, however, was to result in the play being largely in City’s half.
City’s inability to react to this until after the half time whistle maybe shows a lack of flexibility in the way they set up and execute their play away from home, and brought undue pressure on them that ultimately led to them conceding.
Stevenage were growing in confidence and beginning to make overlapping runs down the wings, making openings for both their strikers to come close to scoring. Fortunately, McLaughlin was doing better with his gloves than boot. However, it was one such play down the wing that caught James Meredith out of position, forcing Gary Jones into a frustrated block with his hand from another Freeman shot. Penalty. Keeper dives the wrong way and Tansey makes it 1-0. Surely not, Surely we should be winning. Disappointing.
It clearly shocked City too as it took them another 10 minutes to get into the game, before which Shroot and Dunne both had good efforts at goal. Fortunately, the Bantams’ two centre backs were playing well, particularly Rory McArdle who made some great blocks to keep City in it. And they were still in it as long range efforts from Jones and then Reid suggested a way back. Still, Stevenage’s manager Graham Wesley would have been the happier as the teams jogged off at half time.
While the players were having their ‘instructions’, for many of the City fans’ time was spent queuing for surely the smallest and smokiest toilet in the Football League. Or was it a covert smoker’s den masquerading as a loo? £24 on the gate and nobody is taking the p**s?! Shoddy.
Soon enough the players were back out and the ‘faithful’ continued to offer their vocal support. Something was different. City were playing better. The balls out of defence were managing to reach Hanson, who had been largely out of the picture in the first half. To be fair, this supply also came from the foot of McLaughlin, who had bucked his ideas up. Half time hairdryer?
Very soon City were level. Wells, who had to play most of the game living off scraps, was shoved in the back on the edge of the box, which led to the award of a free kick. Bearing in mind the scoring record that he was in line to achieve, it is to his credit that Wells left it to Reid to take. Which he did with some aplomb, bending the ball with his left foot into the top left corner. Worth watching again and again. Surely City would go on to win.
Unfortunately, for City’s second half performance refer to the Blades’ second half performance last week. Whilst we had plenty of the ball, we didn’t have the nous to break Stevenage down. Both teams had half-chances to score, particularly Nahki who twice went close with overhead kicks.
However, there seemed to be something missing from midfield. Reid went from shying away a little bit from the ball before he scored to thinking he was a world-beater afterward, often ignoring the easier option to lay the ball off to Meredith. He was eventually subbed for Yeates who looked out of sync with his teammates.
Meanwhile Thompson had yet another quiet game and was replaced by De (Rye) Vita. However, it was in the middle of the park that City seemed ordinary. Nathan Doyle had a quiet game as did Jones. However, it’s particularly in the central attacking midfield where City were short without a midfielder mobile enough to get the ball down and drive forward. Today, the central pairing, for all their effort, looked mediocre.
Middling, mediocre and moderate equalling - just about passable, with a poor first half followed by a more adept second period. That’s how many of the City faithful will surely have felt leaving the Lamex. Whether the management team feel the same or that it was a game we should have won will be reflected in the tactics and signings over the coming autumn months.
City: McLaughlin, Darby, Davies, McArdle, Meredith, Thompson (De Vita 71), Doyle (Ravenhill 72), Jones, Reid (Yeates 81), Hanson, Wells
Not used: Ripley, Taylor, McHugh, Connell
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