Colchester United 0
Bradford City 2
Hanson 16, Bennett 56
Tuesday 11 March, 2014
Words and images by Mark Danylczuk
‘Colchester on a Tuesday night?’ asked my work colleagues. To be honest, even as a Southern-based Bantam getting a new ground in, I was sceptical about making the journey out to Essex on a week night. The cold, a host of empty seats and a pre-season friendly type-atmosphere didn’t encourage me further before kick-off.
But was it worth it? YES. Bradford City deservedly recorded their first away win since November with a mixture of composed passing, positive running, intelligent link-up play and dogged defending. It was a far-cry from Brentford on Saturday and numerous other matches where the Plan A direct, long-ball style has dominated our game. In came a refreshing passing style and certain individual performances, notably Nathan Doyle, Andrew Davies, James Hanson and Kyle Bennett, contributed to arguably one of the best City displays (particularly in the first half) since the halcyon days of last September.
City came into the game looking back over their shoulders towards the relegation places after successive defeats to Stevenage and Brentford. Phil Parkinson made three changes from the team, with Adam Drury in for Carl McHugh at left back, Matty Dolan coming in for Gary Jones in midfield and James Hanson as a late inclusion for Chris Atkinson, meaning City were back to their more comfortable 4-4-2 formation.
Both teams came out of the blocks strongly and had opening chances in the first few minutes. Firstly it was City with Aaron Mclean latching onto a through ball with an early flick-on and shot saved by the keeper, followed by a neat passing interplay from Colchester which resulted in defender Ryan Dickson looping a header just wide of the post.
Colchester continued this early bright spell, with Freddy Sears striking successive shots over just the bar after the 10 minute mark. The front four of Sears and Clinton Morrison in the middle, Sanchez Watt on the left and Gavin Massey on the right caused a handful of issues for the City backline throughout the match, with Morrison holding the ball up well and bringing others into play.
The next passage of play however, would result in City’s first goal. It was Adam Reach’s deflected low cross which came to Doyle, who struck a wonderful 25 yard volley which was turned away at the far post for a corner. From the resulting Matty Dolan set piece, Hanson bulleted a header home at the far post to the jubilation for the 200 or so City fans in the away end.
City looked fresh and with a point to prove. Doyle and Dolan excelled in their roles to either begin attacking moves or press and defend when needed, and Jones will do well to regain his place on Saturday. The addition of Hanson and Davies to the team added quality and stability, and on the wing, Bennett looked much livelier and full of running. Bennett had City’s next real opening on the half hour mark with a mazy run inside but his shot drifting over the bar.
City continued with their impressive, composed passing style and this was suiting Mclean, getting more balls into feet to capitalise on. Yes, it can be said Colchester’s pressing game was not strong but still credit to City. Mclean had City’s next chance, running onto a downward Hanson header to volley into the keeper’s hands. His reading of Hanson’s headers improved; but although the work ethic is still superb, the lack of goals is worrying for your centre-forward. Mclean had a great opportunity to break his duck just before half time, latching onto a through ball after Bennett dispossessed the Colchester defence, but his left foot shot was scuffed wide of the post. So that was half time and for me, arguably the best half of football I have seen from City in months.
Colchester were still in the game at only 1-0 down though and, with Freddy Sears pulling the strings and Gavin Massey continuing to give left back Adam Drury a tough time on the wing, it was well timed for City to get their second goal early into the second half. It was Hanson who won a header from a touch line throw in just inside the City half and sloppy defending caused Bennett to nip in with a nifty run and fire home low from a tight angle just inside the box, right in front of the jubilant City fans.
The second City goal seemed to give the U’s a wake-up call into mounting a comeback and, as City continued to sit deeper happy to defend their lead, the pressure mounted but resulted in very few clear cut opportunities. Jon McLaughlin barely had a save to make for the rest of the game. City’s first substitution came in the 78th minute with Bennett receiving a deserved standing ovation making way for Garry Thompson. This was easily Bennett’s best game in a City shirt and thankfully is showing us what he can do. Full of energy and nifty running, his attacking play was excellent.
Adam Drury was next to follow, again with a fine, solid display making way for Carl McHugh in the 85th minute. The mood was jubilant as City comfortably saw the game out with some scrappy, dogged defending but the win didn’t feel in doubt, particularly after the second goal knocked the stuffing out of Colchester.
All in all, much improved and an impressive display from the Bantams provided a much needed confidence boost. It’s now onto Gillingham at home on Saturday in search of more points to take us closer to safety.
City: McLaughlin, Darby, McArdle, Davies, Drury (McHugh), Bennett (Thompson 80), Dolan, Doyle, Reach, Hanson, Mclean
Not used: Bentley, Bates, Atkinson, Yeates, Gray