Regaining self-respect as Bradford City hit 50

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Rotherham United 0

Bradford City 0

Friday 11 April, 2014

By Jason McKeown

Redemption begins in Rotherham. All of that negativity from the Oldham shambles was firmly blasted away here with a highly commendable Bradford City performance. The precious point gained leaving them on the brink of survival.

They have now reached the magic 50 point mark, and could arguably lose all four of their remaining matches and still avoid the drop. That losing run won’t happen, not playing like this. This was not the performance of a team destined to finish amongst the four worst in the division. After a third straight clean sheet on the road, mid-table beckons for City.

That League One status was all but sealed at the home of Yorkshire rivals, who have lorded it over us of late, makes it all the more sweet. That the bad guy, who was seemingly about to deliver a fatal blow, got a comeuppance of sorts was gleefully celebrated at the final whistle. Steve Evans stormed down the tunnel without shaking Phil Parkinson’s hand. In the build-up to the match the Rotherham manager had declared that his side’s automatic promotion hopes were over, and that is now certainly the case. The play offs are a nice consolation though, and they deserve great credit for the more comfortable way in which they have negotiated the step-up to League One this season.

It could even have been better for City. In the second half, they carved out several chances to steal a shock win. Adam Reach volleyed wide of the post, Kyle Bennett saw a shot from the edge of the area deflect over the bar. Reach, who was more influential in the second half, later won possession out wide and charged into the box, before forcing a decent low save from home keeper Adam Collin.

The Bantams carried a genuine goal threat, after Parkinson used the half time interval to address failings in their first half attacking play. As expected, City lined up 4-5-1, but the more congested midfield initially failed to adequately support lone striker Jon Stead.

This was rectified in the second half, with Bennett and Reach delivering impressive performances, as they linked up effectively with the outstanding Stead. Nathan Doyle sat in front of the back four, enabling Gary Jones and Matty Dolan to push forward. How Doyle is suited to that defensive role, and he was excellent tonight after a rusty start. On this evidence, recent criticism directed towards his attitude looks wide of the mark.

City’s matching of Rotherham’s 4-5-1 nullified the home side’s attacking threat. They had plenty of possession, but could not find gaps in the claret and amber wall. The City back four recovered from last week’s collapse – Rory McArdle had his best game for a long time, and Andrew Davies returned to his previous high standards. The pair were like magnets to any ball flung into the City area, and Jon McLaughlin behind them looked much more assured. It was not a night for full backs charging forwards, but Stephen Darby and Adam Drury were nonetheless solid.

Rotherham enjoyed spells of strong pressure when they upped the tempo. Ben Pringle dropped deep in an attempt to dictate the play, forcing a good first half save from McLaughlin. He deserves to play in a higher level than League One. Kieran Agard’s dribbling skills also caused problems, and both he and Pringle provided good support to targetman Alex Revell. Rotherham created the majority of first half chances – City’s only effort of note during this period a Stead volley over the bar from a Davies knock-down – but never overwhelmed their opponents.

Once the Bantams emerged for the second half with the gameplan fine-tuned, they gave as good as they got and posed plenty of questions. City never attacked in numbers, but through Jones and Doyle in particular they began to play the ball on the deck. Stead held up the ball superbly. All that was lacking was the creation of that one big chance. Reach’s effort was the only save Collin was forced into all evening.

Rotherham pressed to the end, if lacking invention. Michael O’Connor hit the post a minute into the second half with a free kick that deceived everyone. Haris Vuckic spurned a great opening when presented with a one-on-one shooting opportunity, lifting the ball over McLaughlin but also over the bar. In the final minute of the 90, Karin Arnasan had a free header from a corner, but couldn’t hit the target.

A Rotherham winner then would have been incredibly harsh on City. The players worked so hard for this point, and were entitled to walk off the pitch at full time with smiles on their faces. It had been a long six days for them. Their commitment and ability has been questioned loudly, and this was the perfect response. Parkinson too deserves to feel proud. Time and time again, over the past three seasons, he has ensured his team recover strongly from what appear to be huge set backs.

Whilst no one deserved to emerge from the Oldham defeat with any credit, tonight they all merited a share of the acclaim. There remains a feeling that this has become a patched-up team whose shelf life is extremely limited and in need of an overhaul, but for now it is a team that is more than good enough to put to bed any lingering relegation anxieties.

As Parkinson argued midweek, inconsistency has blighted City’s results over the last few weeks. If they could play like this all the time, they would be grappling with Rotherham in the play offs. They are not good enough for that, but at the very least must eradicate feeble showings like last week. There can be no more repeats, and there certainly wasn’t here.

Instead, at the New York stadium, this group of players showed their worth. Now they must go out and do it again another four times, so that the newly-promoted Bantams can end the season on the high note that a mid-table finish surely merits.

City: McLaughlin, Darby, McArdle, Davies, Drury, Bennett (Thompson 90), Doyle, Dolan (De Vita 77), Jones, Reach, Stead

Not used: Barker, McHugh, Bates, Yeates, McBurnie

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6 replies

  1. Deliberately didn’t watch on sky – not sure nerves could stand it and I (among many others) feared the worst – but am delighted with the result.
    The right set up for the game and, by all accounts, the right spirit in the team. Patched up or not it did the job well and credit must be given all round. There are many lessons to be learned from this season and I am sure they will be well learned. Good performances at home will see us end the season well and do wonders for the sale of season tickets.Let’s finish on a high.

    • It was a gritty and committed performance which was good to see after the recent 2 home ‘no shows’.

      John Mac and the defence stuck to the task although how Rotherham missed with the last minute free header I will never know – this would have undone all the hard work we put in. But 3 clean sheets on the trot away from home deserves particular mention.

      Jones worked his socks off, Doyle was very steady but I have to say I was a bit disappointed with Dolan – don’t think he is the long-term answer.

      Reach and Bennett both had their moments, Bennett in particular had a very good second half. And Stead too played well in the second half in the lone striker role – showed good control and brought others into play whenever possible.

      Rotherham are a good team and have some very useful players but Evans was as always an ungracious lump in his after match comments. I know I am biased but I thought Don Goodman made far too much of the penalty appeals Rotherham had and Karl Robinson in the Sky studio gave a much more balanced view of what happened (he is a good manager).

      And lastly, well done to our fans who as always gave fantastic support away from home – second half they really were the 12th man that helped us over the line. I would like 1 more win to be sure and confident this will come in the remaining 4 games.

  2. With Peterborough United coming the Valley Parade next Friday, I believe another good BCFC performance will be delivered. As a club we seem to rise to the challenge of playing the top clubs on a consistent basis. I’ve often wondered why when over the years BCFC have consistently failed to beat so called lesser teams over the many years I’ve supported Bradford City FC, then I was reading a thread which said Bradford City as a club didn’yt have a bullying mentality, that is probably as good an explanation as any other I’ve read or thought of. I believe the same thread had the league table split between BCFC playing the top half of this division and BCFC playing the bottom half, if correct, it had BCFC 6th from top when playing the top half of this division and bottom(24th) when playing the bottom half. Staggering statistics if correct.

    Excellent report Jason and an excellent point!!!!!

  3. An incredible run of away form has prevented us from having an anxious end to the season. Picking up 8 points from Leyton Orient ,Colchester, Coventry and Rotherham away is surprising but very welcome. Now to try and correct the home form which has been poor when you think we won 4 out of 1st 5 home games but only 2 more home wins since. Now totally safe so well done to all concerned at City.

  4. Great point for City.

    If the FA don’t reprimand Evans for his post-match comments where he accused this referee and basically all others of cheating against Rotherham then it sums up all that is wrong in football.

    To have a convicted cheat accuse everybody else of cheating was distasteful in the extreme!

  5. This was the kind of display we usually see away teams , including Rotheram, put in at at Valley Parade, and maybe we don’t do enough of it.
    So maybe we are learning.
    You have to ride your luck in this kind of game, and we did, but equally we could have ‘sneaked’ it too, just as many teams, again including Rotheram have done when visiting us.
    I thought the Evans behaviour was terrible once again. He stormed down the tunnel at The final whistle avoiding a hand shake with PP, at least publicly.
    I read the ‘Football League paper’ every Sunday during the season, which I heartily recommend, and this has the benefit of a match report on EVERY FL game and includes comments from every manager.
    Evans consistently shows no dignity towards any opposition, usually saying Rotheram should have won by a cricket score when they win, and berating the referee when they don’t.
    He is an embarrassment to the game, but is also effective so you can’t blame clubs for employing him. I know an ex player who used to pay for Evans when at Boston in the FL and he rules totally by fear.
    If you don’t agree with any aspect of his management you are out of the team, and pretty soon out of the club.
    His sidekick is even worse.
    I am going to enjoy watching them in their play off games, and hope they fail badly.
    Nothing against Rotheram, but can you imagine Evans and co in the Chapionship.

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