MK Dons 2
Bamford 35, Williams 72 (pen)
Bradford City 3
Wells 21, Reid 43, Kennedy 84
Saturday 23 November, 2013
Words and images by Mark Danylczuk
Ah, that winning feeling. It has been missing for some time, but it’s back and it feels very good indeed.
Bradford City’s first win in seven was long overdue. But it was a gutsy collective team performance that managed to edge it over MK Dons, in an entertaining game where the Bantams were twice pegged back after taking the lead.
City made one change from the team that drew 3-3 against Coventry last Sunday, with a surprise start for Jason Kennedy coming in for Nathan Doyle. The nerves seemed apparent for Kennedy, as within the first minute he carelessly lost possession in City’s half, almost allowing MK Dons in for an early goal.
It was the home side who settled the quickest and created the opening chance of the game with Stephen Gleeson hitting the bar from a free kick. The midfielder had another chance moments later, with a left footed shot from outside the box that was well saved by Jon McLaughlin. The front pairing of McLeod and Bamford were proving lively and finding space, with inventive runs keeping the back pair of Matthew Bates and Rory McArdle busy.
However, against the run of play, City took the lead in the 21st minute. A lively run down the right from Garry Thompson drew a foul. Gary Jones squared the resultant free kick to Thompson outwide and the winger’s cross was neatly tucked away by Nakhi Wells for his fourth goal in six days. It gave the Bantams impetus and belief, as they began to get a grip of the game. Jones was becoming more of a presence in midfield, and Kyel Reid caused problems by making his usual trademark runs on the left.
But in a game of twists and turns it was MK Dons who capitalised on a couple of City errors to get the equaliser in the 34th minute. Firstly Thompson carelessly gave the ball away in his own half and the impressive right winger, Darren Potter, slotted a through ball – wrongly left by Rory McArdle – for Bamford to run onto and strike past the on-rushing McLaughlin.
It was the on-loan Chelsea youngster’s 12th goal in 17 games, and his intelligent running and gifted technique will surely propel him to success in the higher leagues. Potter continued to give James Meredith a torrid time on the MK Dons’ right, and the link up play between winger Dele Alli (given man of the match), Potter, McLeod and Bamford meant the City defence had a busy afternoon.
The pendulum then shifted again back into the visitor’s favour as Reid delivered another wonder goal – this time a wonderful solo effort, on a par with the stunner against Walsall in October. After picking the ball up on the left hand side just past the half way line, Reid embarked on a mazy run that took him past a number of defenders and to the edge of the box, from where he launched an audacious chip into the top left corner, beating the opposing keeper, who was virtually stationed on his own line. It was unclear whether it was a cross or meant as a shot, but either way it sent the City fans into raptures and ensured their team took a narrow, if slightly underserved, lead into the break.
City began the second half strongly, with Jones becoming an ever-growing presence in midfield, contrasting to the quiet Kennedy who was struggling to impose himself. Reid continued his mazy runs and – based on yet another influential performance – we should be worried if he was to get an injury, as the other widemen aren’t providing that same level of threat.
A third goal Bantams goal almost came in the 51st minute, as a Gary Jones corner was met with a James Hanson diving header which went inches wide to the left hand post. MK Dons prodded and probed in response and, throughout, played a decent game on the floor, always passing out from the back. One of the better sides City have faced for sure and worthy play off challengers, who deserve to play in a fuller stadium.
City had another great chance in the 64th minute as Hanson drew a free-kick outside the area after being fouled. It was a sense of deja-vu as Wells hit another free kick against the frame of the goal, as per the Coventry game. In and end-to-end contest, MK Dons had the next opportunity with a Powell shot from inside the box smartly saved by McLaughlin.
A few minutes later the Bantams were pegged back again as Wells was adjudged to have brought down Alli in the area. It was difficult to see the decision, as it occurred at the opposite end from us; but it looked more like a coming together of the two players and seemed harsh. It was more hurtful as the referee did not give it originally, but after a pause he pointed to the spot upon the instruction of the linesman. Defender Shaun Williams calmly converted from the spot, and it was all square again.
As both teams searched for a winner, Phil Parkinson made changes in bringing on Nathan Doyle for Thompson (Doyle slotting into the middle with Kennedy moving out right) and Mark Yeates later came on for Reid, which seemed surprising due to the latter’s inspired form. Yet the substitutions were to pay dividends, as in the 83rd minute Jones won a hearty challenge in midfield, Yeates slotted the ball through to Meredith, who cut it across goal for the on-rushing Kennedy to tap in at the back post. City held on well until the end, edging a contest from which a point would have probably been a fairer result.
A number of positives can be taken forward – Jones was dominant and influential in the middle, Reid a constant threat down the left and – once again – the character of the team in grinding out the victory. On the negative side, more work needs to be done defensively as the Bantams shipped their ninth goal in their last five games. City invited pressure with too many easy losses of possession, notably from the opening Dons goal; and this is part of the basics which Parkinson needs to iron out.
Nevertheless it is a very welcome three points – and with City playing Notts County, the bottom side, at home on Tuesday, there is a perfect opportunity to get six points in three days and cement the play off position that today’s victory restored. City will need to be cautious though, after the experience of losing to then-bottom club Tranmere at home in October, which begun the slide that has now finally been ended. But with the commitment levels and character of this side, we have every reason to be optimistic.
City: McLaughlin, Darby, McArdle, Bates, Meredith, Thompson(Doyle 77), Jones, Kennedy, Reid (Yeates 82), Hanson, Wells
Not used: Ripley, Taylor, Connell, De Vita, McBurnie