Preston North End 2
Clarke 32, Wright 68
Bradford City 2
Hanson 5, McArdle 73
Tuesday 22 October 2013
Written by Gareth Walker (images by Jason McKeown)
Anyone who was present at Deepdale stadium tonight witnessed a fantastic game of football as Bradford City drew 2-2 with Preston North End in what was a great advert for League One.
Overall the final scoreline was probably a fair one for a game which ebbed and flowed with both sides having chances to win it.
City started the game with one change to the team which was beaten at Crawley last Saturday, as Rafa De Vita made his first league start in place of Mark Yeates. Garry Thompson was pushed forward to partner James Hanson in attack in order to accommodate the Italian on the wing. Matt Taylor was also given a place on the bench after his loan spell at Colchester was not extended. He replaced Luke Oliver amongst the substitutes.
The decision to start De Vita was one which reaped immediate dividends as he set up Hanson to head City into an early lead after just five minutes. The Italian got free down the right hand side and put in an inch-perfect cross for City’s number nine, who had got free from his marker at the back post. The header was a firm one down into the ground and it bounced up into the roof of the net, after initially looking like it might bounce over the bar.
Much has been made of the trails and tribulations of City’s wide players so far this season, with only Kyel Reid showing any kind of form. Thompson has made a slow start to the campaign, as he did last year, and Yeates has at time flattered to deceive. De Vita has only been given a matter of minutes on the pitch in the league when he has come off the bench, but his two previous starts in the cup competitions against Huddersfield and Hartlepool had been far from impressive.
Indeed tonight, despite that fantastic early assist, De Vita was on the periphery of proceedings as his tendency to shy out of challenges was evident again, and his control let him down on a couple of occasions. What he does have going for him is a tremendous work ethic and he looks like a player who will cause problems if he is given space – something which is often in short supply in blood and thunder games in League One.
Once again, therefore, Reid was our main threat throughout a night when he gave the Preston defence, in particular left back Scott Laird, a torrid time. Time and time again our flying number seven was our outlet and the man who posed the danger to North End. After swapping wings with De Vita early on, he spent most of his time on the right hand side where he continued to beat Laird for fun, only to be consistently hacked to the floor. I counted six times in the first half when a free kick was given for a foul on Reid but referee David Coote somehow failed to show a yellow card on any occasion.
After our bright start, it was somewhat inevitable that Preston would have a decent amount of possession as they tried to respond and get a grip on proceedings. In fairness, they looked a decent side and tried to play football as well as use their own out ball to one-time England international target man Kevin Davies. To our credit, however, the Bantams managed to restrict them to a couple of long range efforts which both flew off target.
Davies began to cut a frustrated figure as, on the whole, Matthew Bates and Rory McArdle handled him and his strike partner Stuart Beavon relatively well. As Davies’ frustration grew, so did his demonstrations with Mr Coote, who seemed somewhat awestruck in his presence and at times appeared to be using one rule book for Davies and another for the other 21 players on the pitch. All the old tricks were being used by the former Bolton striker, including knees into the back of defenders and Jon McLaughlin from set pieces.
Somewhat inevitably however, it was Davies who drew a debateable foul in the middle of the pitch which resulted in the free kick from which the home side equalised. The cross was swung in deep to the back post, where one-time City loanee Tom Clarke rose above a couple of Bradford shirts to head past McLaughlin. On the balance of play, it was an equaliser that The Lilywhites probably deserved at the time, but it did stick in the throat somewhat the way in which it came about.
City came to life after the equaliser and arguably enjoyed the best of the rest of the first half. Firstly, a fantastic solo run and long range shot from Reid was fumbled onto the post by Preston goalkeeper Declan Rudd, before the Norwich loanee made amends by making a superb save at full stretch to keep out another Hanson header from close range
The first half was eventually brought to a close with the score at 1-1 and the North End faithful decided to boo Reid off the pitch, having come to the conclusion that he was diving because of Mr Cootes failure to brandish a caution for the continued assaults to which he was subjected to.
The second half was an open, end to end game of football, with both teams looking to win it. The first incident of note was a brilliant double save from McLaughlin to deny main Dangerman Chris Humphrey. The second of the two stops was made whilst our number one was still on the floor having saved the first effort. Humphrey had all the goal to aim at from six yards out, but blasted it straight at McLaughlin, who somehow stuck an arm in the air and managed to divert the ball over the crossbar.
City responded with two fantastic long range efforts from Reid and Gary Jones, which narrowly passed the frame of the goal before the home side took the lead when central defender Bailey Wright was left completely unmarked at the back post to head home from a corner.
It was a very poor goal to concede from a City perspective, but it seemed to spur us into action. For the remainder of the contest it is hard to disagree that we were the better side, as we imposed our game on our hosts. We were rewarded just five minutes after falling behind, when McArdle made his trademark near post run to emphatically head home a Jones corner and spark wild scenes of jubilation amongst the travelling army of supporters as he wielded away with arms outstretched and tongue on show.
Other chances came and went. In particular there were two occasions when the disappointing Thompson could have done better. Firstly he baulked out of a challenge with Rudd when chasing down a Hanson flick on in the box, and then he opted to tamely shoot from the edge of the box after a breakaway when Jones had burst a gut to join him from midfield and was far better placed.
There was also a moment of huge controversy when Hanson headed home what appeared to be a late winner from another Jones free kick, only to have his celebrations cut short by a very strange offside call from the linesman. It was a late flag and a decision that I personally would like to see a replay of.
Preston too threatened in the final stages, mainly with balls into the box as City looked a little suspect without star defender Andrew Davies; although Matthew Bates and Stephen Darby were notable in their decent defensive performances this evening.
As the game drew to a close and Bevan was announced as the man of the match for the home side, City’s travelling faithful drowned out the announcement with chants of “Reidy” and “Reid will tear you apart” – as we were in no doubt as to who had been the best player on the pitch from either side.
Ultimately it was a game that we might have edged had Nahki Wells been fit to partner Hanson in attack, but we had to settle for a point and now we look forward to a mouth-watering home clash against promotion favourites Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday.
City: McLaughlin, Darby, McArdle, Bates, Meredith, De Vita (Kennedy 77), Doyle, Jones, Reid, Thompson (Folan 79, Hanson
Not used: Ripley, Taylor, McHugh, Connell, Yeates
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