Tag Archives: AFC Wimbledon

The last day of term

16 Feb

AFC Wimbledon 2

Midson 83, Alexander 90

Bradford City 1

Thompson 59

Saturday 16 February, 2013

By Alex Scott

I haven’t been looking forward to today. There’s been a dread in the pit of my stomach which has been building for weeks. The 2-1 reverse, and especially the performance that led to it would imply the same feeling amongst the squad.

The talk from within has been about focus, rectification, priorities. Phil Parkinson and the players have been out in force this week preaching the party line, appeasing our fictional overseers, the Football Gods, re-emphasising how our priorities were in the ‘right’ place. Even though they weren’t (his team selection tells you that much). And even though none of us had a problem with that anyway.

This past couple of weeks hasn’t felt like football at all. It’s felt like a gauntlet.

Everything has been viewed through the lens of next week; us, them, the media, everyone. Players have to focus and perform to ensure their starting place at Wembley. We need to build momentum for Wembley. For Wembley.

Every mention of focussing on the job at hand has highlighted it, ‘we must ignore what’s coming’. The blinking light amidst the darkness. The silence is deafening.

The segment of fans complaining about the league form, rueing the cup run have grown louder. They cannot be changed. They do not want to be changed. It will be always thus.

I really wanted to see a reserve team, I really did. Not because I didn’t care about winning, although I didn’t. It primarily a selfish act in that I couldn’t face the prolonged anxiety of panicking over every challenge, every jump, every run.

This is the downside of caring. The other side of the coin. After the semi final I wrote about how this team dragged me out of my cocoon of reason, making me feel again, this is an unfortunate side effect. I’m invested in these guys, not the win next week (I couldn’t care less), but these guys. These guys who are living out their (and my) dreams.

I’m not sure I could deal with a last second injury or suspension. I care about them. Damn me but I care. I wanted a reserve team.

An unchanged side from Tuesday partially allayed my fears, although anyone who has had to watch Gary Jones play whilst hyper-aware of his safety knows the wringer I’ve just been through. Terrifyingly all-action.

The game followed the path of many a Parkinson game. An illusion of control, a fragile dominance. A side good enough to dominate, but restricted by themselves. They don’t know how to be front-runners.

I’m not going to critique Phil Parkinson, he’s forgotten more than I’ll ever know, and come on, look where we are. But it isn’t a surprise that his greatest successes, even going back to last year, even with makeshift teams, have come in the cups. In the underdog role.

That he isn’t able to convert the team’s man-for-man superiority into points on the board is the other side of the coin.

I imagine there will be complaints about the referee, the corner that led to the winner, the pitch. Do not be derailed, these are sideshows to the actual issue. The ref wasn’t great, but he was the norm. And he was non-discriminatory. As a referee, when both sets of fans are ironically cheering free-kicks, you are either doing something right, or a whole lot wrong. It was probably the latter, but whatever.

What cost us the game was that, against the worst defence in the division, the worst home team in the division, the worst team in the division, we created two chances. And I’m defining ‘create’ loosely.

The goal game from a defensive howler, wonderful finish that it was. Shout out to Garry Thompson by the way. Amid a woeful attacking effort, he played as well as I’ve seen him today. He stands alone deserving of praise.

He was through again seconds after the opener, but the pitch did for him with an awful bobble. That chance came from another defensive mishap.

That was it. The midfield never got the ball; Michael Nelson et al had their phasers set to ‘hoof’. If I was being generous, I would say that was a function of the pitch. It also isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you have a striker who can hold it up, and midfielders who can get past the forwards. We had neither.

City’s ‘control’ and I really feel uncomfortable using that word here, was a function of their opponent’s incompetence. It’s true that Wimbledon didn’t have a chance until late on, but that was because they were incapable, not because they were overpowered. This fragile dominance has been a running theme this season, a tentative step into the fog masquerading as control.

The fact is, and I know I’m repeating myself here, the side haven’t shown an ability to play without Nahki Wells, or James Hanson, all year long. Today was merely another page in the book which seems set to damn our promotion hopes.

Looking forward to next week (to the extent we haven’t been this entire time), the only worry to come from today was Andrew Davies who took a knock early into the second period, refusing to come off when prompted by Parkinson after the opener.

I imagine he would be fit enough to play (if selected), but he was a shell of himself for the last half hour.

Kyel Reid had a frustrating day, where everything he tried didn’t work. Some may say, some who may have a narrative to fuel, that he was trying too hard to stake a claim for next week. I’m not sure that’s right, but I wouldn’t disagree with the sentiment. The fact Zavon Hines didn’t feature bodes poorly for the former Charlton man.

That same man with a narrative to fuel would note the lapses of concentration in the closing periods leading to the defeat, and although that would be really useful here, I just didn’t see it that way. Jones was his normal self, Nathan Doyle doubled over at the final whistle, Thompson fell to his knees. They wanted to win this game. Whilst the shadow of the arch loomed over the team selection, the performance was wholehearted. It just wasn’t particularly good.

Stood at Norbiton station after the game on the way back into London, a surprisingly sizeable and unsurprisingly loud selection of fans were rueing the cup run, complaining how they “wouldn’t want to get to Wembley again” (as if it were a choice). They cannot be changed, and come the end of the year, they may not be wrong. But I really struggle to care that we lost this game. It was a poor performance, they deserved no more, and now we can get to the matter at hand.

Next Sunday is a new day. City can sit back, play to their strengths. The big guns will be back for their moment in the sun. Fans can go back to their negativity on the Monday. As a week of magic is about to begin across Bradford, especially here on Width of a Post, this game will fade into the ether of terrible away defeats. Next week will be immortal. I can’t wait.

City: Duke, Darby, Nelson, Davies, Dickson, Atkinson, Jones, Doyle, Reid (Wells 84), Thompson, Gray (Hanson 66)

Subs: McLaughlin, McHugh, Hines, Turgott, Good

A chance to build on the momentum for the promotion push at AFC Wimbledon

15 Feb


AFC Wimbledon vs Bradford City preview

@Cherry Red Records Stadium on Saturday 16 February, 2013

By Mark Danylczuk

A hint of optimism in the air. Some light at the end of the tunnel after a winless start to 2013. The win at Wycombe in the week has well and truly kick-started the promotion push, and the manner of the victory serves as a true reminder that Bradford City are more than capable of pushing on and grabbing that elusive play off place. It’s a long way to go until the end of the season, but a game against the division’s bottom club, AFC Wimbledon, provides the perfect opportunity to get another three points and move further up the table.

City could not be playing Wimbledon at a better time. They have only picked up three points of a possible 15 in their last five games, conceding five and scoring none in the last two games. They also have the worst goal difference in the division. The year started off well for the Wombles, with two wins in five days against Torquay and Rochdale in January, but it has been downhill ever since. The January transfer window provided Wimbledon with an opportunity to bring in reinforcements, and this included the return of veteran ‘keeper Neil Sullivan at the age of 42.

For City and Phil Parkinson, the choice of the starting 11 will prove tricky, as arguably most of the side on Tuesday will deserve to keep their place in the team, particularly Andrew Davies who had an excellent game back at centre half and Kyel Reid, who terrorised the Wycombe defence with some good end product. Alan Connell is surely due a game up front as Andy Gray still struggles to make an impact, and it would also make sense to keep James Hanson and Nahki Wells fresh and bring them on, only if needed.

There will be further competition at the back as along with Davies. Michael Nelson provided a solid performance at Adams Park, and Parkinson now has the dilemma of two good centre back pairings, with Rory McArdle and Carl McHugh waiting in the wings. Being the last game before Wembley, you could say players will be conscious about staking their place for a game in the cup final and, on the other hand, not getting injured for it. There are many scenarios. But after the morale-boosting win, nothing short of three points will do really and Parkinson will certainly instil his belief in the players in getting the all important win.

The last meeting between the two sides way back in August gave City their largest win of the season, 5-1. Wimbledon will be looking to gain revenge and capitalise on their game in hand on the sides above, in order to climb clear of the relegation places. City will be of a similar thought in using their games in hand to progress up the table, and it’s set up for a tasty six-pointer in South West London this Saturday.

The disparity, and what it could mean

27 Aug

By Jason McKeown

So, on Saturday was it a case of Bradford City being utterly magnificent, or AFC Wimbledon being utterly woeful? The answer, as is so often the case in these situations, probably lies somewhere in-between.

Nevertheless, on an afternoon where there was so much striking about the Bantams, there was one aspect about the game that stood out to me more than anything. And although you have to temper any praise (or criticism) at this stage of the season with the disclaimer “it’s early days”, the destruction of Wimbledon offered so much encouragement for the many battles ahead.

And it went something like this: against a backdrop of five years watching Bradford City play League Two football (where each year I saw around 75% of the 46 matches), I’ve never seen such an evident mis-match of ability between two teams as I did on Saturday. It was just one afternoon, of course, where one team was in top form and the other in disarray, but the Bantams stood head and shoulders above their opponents. A different level. A gulf in class.

And it wasn’t a case of Wimbledon being the worst League Two side we’ve ever seen, or of City’s performance ranking amongst the best since dropping to this level, either – they are not, and it did not. All of which should help to fuel the rising mood of optimism. We will probably play better than this (you could argue we did against Fleetwood), and we will face worse teams than Wimbledon. Yet we won 5-1 – in a match where 45 minutes were spent with the foot off the gas.

As the players knocked the ball about in impressive fashion, I found myself looking around the pitch and feeling hugely confident about our chances this season. The Width of a Post has already spent plenty of time discussing how strong City look as a team and how there seem to be no weak areas; and on Saturday’s evidence you certainly wouldn’t have swapped any of Wimbledon’s players with our own.

Beyond that, how many League Two centre halves are there who are better than Andrew Davies? Can anyone boast a central midfield to match Gary Jones and (a still half-fit) Nathan Doyle? Is there a better striking partnership in the division than Nahki Wells and James Hanson? Time will tell, but – at the risk of displaying ignorance about our rivals – in all areas of the park City probably rank amongst the top five in this division (especially when you throw in the options in reserve).

Over the last few days, both Mark Lawn and Phil Parkinson have attempted to play down the expectation levels. But afternoons as enthralling as Saturday completely undermine such talk. We utterly dominated a team who we finished below last season, while still playing within ourselves. It may be early days, but there are very few reasons, so far, to believe it’s going to be anything but an excellent season.

Strap yourselves in for the ride, and scream if you wanna go faster.

Going again as Bradford City welcome AFC Wimbledon

24 Aug

Bradford City vs AFC Wimbledon match preview

@Valley Parade on Saturday 25 August, 2012

By Jason McKeown

As this time of year, you can often determine a football supporter’s age by their reaction to viewing the early season league table.

Back in the “good old days”, league tables weren’t published until at least 10 matches in. After all, how much meaning could you take from the standings two or three games into the campaign? These days of course, teams are ranked from the opening day of the season – and any big club starting with a couple of iffy results has their poor position highlighted in the media as a signal of a crisis.

What league tables do offer at this stage is a form guide of sorts, as to how teams have got off the mark. And with Bradford City going into tomorrow’s home clash with AFC Wimbledon in 12th position, we can, by literal definition, declare that we have made an average start to the season. A defeat and a win have offered both positive and negative indications about the campaign ahead. But with a buoyant mood derived from an encouraging Tuesday evening tussle with Fleetwood, there is increased optimism that this average start is going to lead to something more than just an average season.

Starting with a 3-1 away defeat and then beating a newly promoted side 1-0 at home? That was also the case two years ago under Peter Taylor, who infamously saw his newly constructed side booed off the pitch following an uninspiring victory over a Stevenage side who would go on to earn promotion. This time around, against Fleetwood, there were no boos at full time, only widespread smiles. There’s a natural, pessimistic inclination to rein in giddy excitement and to not get carried away, but somehow it really does seem different this time.

At least up to now. It’s worth recalling that last season’s 18th-placed finish included numerous strong home performances. The problem was what happened next. From City looking strong and achieving a notable victory, the players would all too often go onto dismally lose or disappointingly draw their next game. The only consistency occurred in the team’s inconsistency.

Which, even at this very, very early stage, represents an important test tomorrow afternoon. And the last thing we need is a flat performance and a poor result, in a way that replicates last season. AFC Wimbledon sit two places below City after similarly starting with a win and a defeat – the latter a 6-2 thrashing to Burton, which at one stage saw the Dons six goals behind. It’s always unsettling to face a team which has just had its backside kicked as you don’t know how they will react, but City will surely be confident of taking advantage of Wimbledon’s apprehensiveness.

Following Tuesday’s heroics, the temptation for Phil Parkinson will surely be to pick an unchanged line up, providing injuries and fitness allow. Matt Duke has made a hugely encouraging start to the campaign and looks a different keeper to the hesitant, unsteady stopper who rocked up a couple of days after Parkinson a year ago. After ending last season being told he could find a new club, Duke’s resurgence is even more commendable – and he has even become the club’s goalkeeper coach. Jon McLaughlin is slightly unlucky to lose his place, but the goalkeeper shirt is now Duke’s to lose.

In defence the return of Andrew Davies on Tuesday provided a timely reminder of just what a good player Parkinson has managed to sign permanently. Considering Davies’ season effectively ended against Crawley last March – he played only one more time, on the final day against Swindon – in truth I had forgotten just what an outstanding defender he is for this level. Davies’ battle with Fleetwood’s Jon Parkin was hugely compelling, and not many other League Two centre backs will come out on top against the bulky forward over the coming months.

Davies partners Luke Oliver, with Rory McArdle pushed over to right back – a position he apparently is less keen to play. I’ve now watched James Meredith four times for City, and on each occasion he has impressed me more than the last. He looks set to prove a solid signing by Parkinson.

As does Nathan Doyle in midfield. True enough he still doesn’t look the slimline footballer of his first spell at Valley Parade six years ago, and more work on the training ground is needed over the coming weeks. But even half fit, Doyle was head and shoulders the best player on the park on Tuesday, in my opinion. The early signs are that his partnership with Gary Jones is going to be the driving force behind whatever success City can achieve this season. They controlled the middle of the park against Fleetwood, and have the experience and pedigree to maintain these standards week in week out.

On the flanks, Parkinson will hopefully look to continue with two out and out wingers: Zavon Hines and Kyel Reid. The latter’s performance on Tuesday predictably drew some criticism, but I thought he performed what was a more reserved and controlled role fairly effectively. Parkinson revealed after the game that he had demanded Reid defend when City didn’t have the ball, and the winger held his position for much of the evening. Garry Thompson also impressed when he came on as sub and, from what I also saw of him at Notts County, I think he will prove a useful addition.

In attack will be the tried and tested partnership of James Hanson and Nahki Wells – which, from where I sit in the Kop, on Tuesday saw the positives and negatives of other supporters. I sit near a huge Hanson hater, and yet again it was 90 minutes of moaning about City’s number nine, only punctured to applaud his goal. I personally thought Hanson had a good game against a strong opposition defence, and his well-taken header underlines once more that he has become a reliable goalscorer.

Meanwhile some supporters nearby draped a Bermudian flag over the front of the Kop’s top tier in recognition of Wells. Nahki had a quiet first half, but a much more effective second 45 minutes. On a night where others caught the eye, Wells’ high work-rate and willingness to chase lost causes should not go unappreciated.

Ahead of a week that features difficult trips to Watford and Rotherham, the importance of a good result tomorrow, even at this early stage, is high. If this City side really are going to prove themselves to be the real deal and challenge for promotion, they need to quickly develop a winning habit that sees performances and results like the one achieved against Fleetwood a regular occurrence – rather than a high watermark.

The table never lies – or does it?

23 Aug

By Phil Abbott

Many a lively debate between fans of the same, or even different clubs, has included the old cliché ‘the table never lies’. Statistically speaking I guess, it can only be true of the final league standings, but it can be deployed with increasing effectiveness as a useful weapon, the longer the season progresses, in stifling even the most ardently passionate argument in support of a team’s success or failure.

In respect of Bradford City, it is a cliché used so frequently by so many in recent years.  Years of underperformance and lack of realistic hope in a remarkable mid-season upturn render this one of the more widely referenced clichés in the BCAFC phrasebook. What concerns me is that this old chestnut may well rear its ugly head sooner than we might hope and think this season – and it’s not because I suspect we are in for a disappointing campaign. Let me explain.

There cannot be many other clubs with a tougher start to the season than City have been dealt this season. After five games, I suspect we will have played some of our toughest matches of the season already.  With the disappointment of an opening day defeat at well-fancied Gillingham (having dominated possession for large parts of the game) soon extinguished by a well-fought victory at home to Fleetwood, that’s already two ‘big-guns’ out of the way.

But it doesn’t end there! In the next few weeks, we will have visited title favourites Rotherham at their new stadium, and Accrington Stanley who are currently on a 100% record. Throw into the equation the visit of AFC Wimbledon who will be hurting badly from their 6-2 demolition by Burton Albion and it looks like an epic opening stanza for the Bantams. With away trips to Oxford and Rochdale soon to follow, there is no sign of things easing up.

So what is the message? After five games, will the table be established enough to show the potential City have to get the promotion the fans so desperately crave? It may well give an indication if things have gone particularly well (if we are anywhere near the top six or seven, I really think there is a lot to get excited about), but I wouldn’t take too much from it if we are out of touch with the leading pack, languishing in the bottom half of the table

Another well aired footballing cliché is the ‘win all your home games and get a point away’ school of mathematics. Of course, an 80+ point season will most likely lead to promotion, but throughout a season, it is swings and roundabouts as to where those wins and draws occur. If you look at the results so far, and those to come, it might put context on the job in hand. In truth, we should beat AFC Wimbledon on Saturday, but I don’t expect to get anything away at Rotherham (and it will be painful to see Steve Evans doing his usual thing), whilst I suspect a point at Accrington Stanley will be a good one given their fine start.

The fact is, after five games, on those scores, seven points from five games will leave us around 16th-18th, but the reality is that at least two of those away games will probably be against promoted sides come May 2013.

My hope is that if things do get off to a slow start, fans are wise enough to link the lack of league points to the difficult opening fixtures. For my money, I think we are considerably better than last year already and there is a lot more to come.

Pontificating over the Fleetwood game on Tuesday, it was clear to myself and many around me just why we are now a better team. Put into context, City’s team for their opening home game last year which saw the likes of Martin Hansen, Robbie Threlfall, Guy Branston, Chris Mitchell, Michael Flynn, Lee Bullock, Jack Compton, Mark Stewart and Nialle Rodney filling the team sheet.

On Tuesday night, the unfit Nathan Doyle ran the show in midfield with some excellent wide-eyed distribution, eclipsing even the masterful Gary Jones in work rate and success.  With Zavon Hines still finding his speed, his lightening wing partnership with Kyel Reid began to show the fledgling success that will surely render even the most ardent Jack Compton-lover into submission very soon.  The back four look solid enough, with James Meredith growing into his role with every game, Luke Oliver and Andrew Davies commanding at the back and an out and out battle ensuing between Rory McArdle and Stephen Darby for the right-back position.

Just look at the bench and you will see how much better this team is that Phil Parkinson has put together. Alan Connell (2011-12 Champions Swindon’s top scorer), Ross Hannah, Darby, Will Atkinson, Jon McLaughlin , Garry Thompson and Carl McHugh.

So in answer to the original question – Does the league table lie? No it doesn’t, so long as you look at the context around it – and come May 2013, it will be telling us that City had their most successful season in a number of years. Just how successful that season has been, only time will tell.

2011/12 review: Highlight/lowlight – part one

8 May

The Width of a Post writing team provide their personal highlights and lowlights of this season.

Mark Scully

Highlight – There haven’t been many high points throughout the course of the season but the few memorable moments came in the Johnstones Paint Trophy. I’d have to say the highlight was beating Sheffield United, a great night at Bramall Lane. Jonny Mac proved to be the hero with an excellent stop from Billy Clarke with the last kick of the game, before becoming the penalty saving king again. It looked like the run was coming to an end when Matty Phillips scored a superb first half goal for the Blades. However, just like at Leeds earlier in the season, Michael Flynn scored a stunner from outside the area which sent the away end barmy! In the second half both sides had decent chances before penalties decided it….McLaughlin saved three spot kicks in the shoot out, before Chris Mitchell calmly slotted home to send the Bantams into the next round.

Lowlight – It’s not a game, but more a situation that developed and became a problem – which stemmed from the departure of Jack Compton. I wasn’t personally a big fan of Compton, but he gave us good balance with him on one flank and Reid on the other. Following his departure he was never adequately replaced. Young Charlie Taylor from Leeds wasn’t up to much, neither were the likes of Deane Smalley and Will Atkinson – whilst Fagan was playing out of position. With all that in mind the pressure on Reid to create was too much. Teams got wise to our only threat and would nullify him. Hopefully the penny has dropped with Parkinson that we do need two out and out wingers, something which has been missing for a long time at Valley Parade.


Luke Lockwood

Highlight – the Huddersfield Town cup win. In all my visits to the Galpharm Stadium I have never seen us win, but all that changed with the dramatic penalty shoot out victory in the Johnstones Paint Trophy this season. After twice experiencing the heartbreak of a Town equaliser, a City side, which had been labelled the worst in League Two by our joint chairman, knocked out one of the finest sides from the division above! Liam Moore, Robbie Threlfall, Luke O’Brien, Chris Mitchell, Jack Compton, Mark Stewart, Nialle Rodney and even Guy Branston, Matt Duke and Ross Hannah wouldn’t feature much more over the course of the season, but they provided one memorable night for the travelling 2,500 Bantams. Thank you Rodney and co.!

Lowlight – the David Syers injury. Another memorable evening – Leeds away – which was 20 minutes away from being my personal high of the year. But then Syers was left in a heap by the touchline just yards away from me and would not play again until Boxing Day. The 2010/11 player of the season had put in his finest performance to date and in front of the Sky Cameras; how would we keep the vultures at bay now? But his night ended prematurely and with it so did City’s fight. I had dragged along a friend of mine who was a Huddersfield Town fan and a number of my other friends were in the opposite end supporting the Dark Forces. For the rest of the evening they would debate among themselves whether it would be Leeds or Huddersfield signing our superstar in January. Ten months on we are now playing hard ball over his contract – how fickle football can be.


Gareth Walker

Highlight – My highlight of this season takes me back to a fixture that I look forward to every year – Morecambe away. The fact that it was Parkinson’s first match in charge added a little bit extra to a fixture that was already bubbling nicely. When thinking back to the game, I don’t think that I have celebrated a goal like that of Ross Hannah’s for quite some time. I was grasped round the neck by the complete stranger stood next to me, while jumping up and down with my hands in the air. It was one of the mad celebratory moments that we all hope for when we attend a football match.

It is easy to remember why. City had bossed the second half, yet had still fallen behind to a 57th minute Morecambe goal. Jamie Devitt had come on to make his debut alongside Kyel Reid and Matt Duke and looked a real threat. Morecambe had brought everybody back as they desperately tried to keep City at bay and hold onto the three points. However, despite the avalanche of pressure, it just didn’t seem like it was going to be our day. The referee gave a goal kick in the 92nd minute when the whole ground knew it should have been a corner, and it seemed like City’s chance had passed.

As I slumped over the crash barrier in front of me, aghast at the referee failing to give the aforementioned corner, I just couldn’t help thinking that we were leaving the Globe Arena empty handed. That all changed in the blink of an eye as desperation turned to joy. We were stood right behind the goal and suddenly I looked up to see the ball being crossed in and falling at Hannah’s feet. He swivelled and he scored. Unbelievable! The feeling as we walked away from the ground in the pouring rain just moments later was definitely my season highlight.

Lowlight – Defeat away at AFC Wimbledon in March. When City began to fall foul of the winter weather, as well as having had a run to the 3rd round of the FA Cup, it became apparent that March was looking like a “make or break month” due to the backlog of rearranged fixtures. One of these postponed games was away at AFC Wimbledon. It was a match that many City fans, myself included, had been looking forward to for most of the season due to the links between the two clubs from the year 2000 and of course the romantic tale of Wimbledon’s climb back up the non-league. Having bought our tickets well in advance of the original fixture, my friends and I decided to attend the rearranged game.

We booked to stay over down in London and made a long day of it. When we got to the game, it seemed that we weren’t the only ones who had done the same thing and the turn out for a long Tuesday night trip from the City faithful was quite impressive. Throughout the early exchanges, City were well in the contest and it was only an extremely dubious penalty, given by Referee Mr Darren Deadman, that saw us fall behind. We all know what happened next. Craig Fagan who was captain on the evening kicked the ball into the crowd for a second booking and saw red, not long after we had equalised.

His actions on that night at Wimbledon were inexcusable and they cost us dear. It wasn’t entirely his fault, as we all know that the performance of Deadman was extremely questionable, not least in giving Wimbledon a second controversial penalty. The comments made by Parkinson afterwards showed that it wasn’t just the supporters who questioned the referee’s performance in what was ultimately a 3-1 defeat. Unfortunately, this did little to help lift my spirits that night as we walked back to our Travelodge. City were edging towards a relegation battle and it felt like we had lost not only to AFC Wimbledon, but also to Mr Craig Fagan and Mr Darren Deadman.


Ian Sheard

Highlight – Toss up between Huddersfield Town away or Southend away and home. In fact the Christmas period was excellent and I would have all those if I could.  However, I will go for Southend at home on Good Friday.

Lowlight – Away to Wimbledon: horrendous ref again, Mr Deadman. And then away to Plymouth, when relegation was a definite fear!


Tim Roche

Highlight – The back-to-back home wins vs Crewe and Shrewsbury over the Christmas period. Thanks to a shock win away at Southend, City entered the final stretch of 2011 brimming with confidence. The Boxing Day 3-0 drubbing of Crewe Alexandra was swiftly followed up on New Year’s Eve by a comprehensive 3-1 victory over Shrewsbury Town, which was especially memorable for a fine goal from Nahki Wells. Two of the finest Bradford City performances in many years were tinged with frustration that such excellent football hadn’t been displayed earlier in the campaign. ‘Normal’ service was resumed two days later as City crashed to a 3-0 defeat at Rotherham.

Lowlight – Hearing that Andrew Davies, Jon McLaughlin and Luke Oliver had all been red-carded for their part in the ‘Battle of Valley Parade’. To witness those scenes was shocking enough, however confirmation of the inevitable punishment left me seriously believing we were heading for non-league football. The antics of Crawley Town were disgusting that night; however, I was so disappointed and angry that our players had allowed themselves to be dragged down to their level at such a crucial time in the season. I honestly believed that losing our centre back pairing and goalkeeper for at least three games would be the final nail in our coffin. Thankfully the performances of their replacements, particularly Guy Branston, were generally fantastic and played a huge role in ensuring our survival.


Ron Beaumont

Highlight – The away win at Northampton. It secured our League status and listening to it on the radio made clearing out the garage bearable.

Lowlight – The brawl against Crawley; I always stay to the very end of games, but wish I hadn’t seen this.


Damien Wilkinson

Highlight – City 1 Torquay 0. For my money this was one of the best matches of the season. It had controversy with a straight red card in the first half for Andrew Davies for an alleged two-footed challenge, Craig Fagan’s first City goal, and a heroic and dogged determination from all of the City players, especially substitute Guy Branston, who showed immense leadership and the form that tempted City to acquire his services pre-season. City were simply not going to surrender the lead, and the atmosphere within the ground was electric. The crowd also fired up by the abject performance of referee Carl Boyeson, who made many questionable decisions throughout. So Parkinson’s first league win for City at the 7th time of asking led to genuine belief, at the time, that we could go on and climb the league.

Lowlight – Rotherham 3 City 0. The season’s lowest point for me is probably the away fixture at the Don Valley stadium. A truly wretched venue, freezing cold conditions and City managed to undo all the momentum from a season-best three match winning run established over the festive fixtures. Somehow it all felt too predictable for the large City following that made the trip, in a season marked by all too familiar disappointments. Jon McLaughlin particularly had an afternoon to forget, but no one came away with any credit, and despite some improvements in performances afterwards, including the subsequent FA Cup tie at Watford, it wasn’t until 18 February when City finally managed to win again, with an unexpected away win at Torquay. Perhaps this Millers defeat was the start of the spell that set the tone for the fruitless second half of the season, and our almost magnetic attraction to 18th place in the table.


Rob Craven

Highlight – Progress. There has been a general feeling for me this season that we have started to move in the right direction. Sure, if you look at the table we haven’t done marvellously this season and the turnover of players and managers is nowhere near desirable, but it has been a step forward from recent years.

We have looked better all over the park and have had players which have sparked more joy than they have frustration, which is a first for many seasons. That feeling of looking forward to the game and knowing we are a capable team, instead of watching through my fingers, is definitely the highlight of my season, and I can’t wait for the next. The spine of the team is there, they have the best part of a season under their belts and a full summer of stability and regeneration ahead before the next season. Fingers crossed we can continue to progress.

Lowlight – I could have chosen the high turnover of players and the changing of management. But in all honesty this is something we have become used to in recent years at City. I could have chosen our own fans flippancy and ability to jump from the feeling of joy about being “play off contenders” to instantly being doomed for relegation after a few bad results, but again we all know and feel frustrated by this.

The lowest point of my season came away from the pitch and I have to say that, although I am chuffed to bits that Jason has started TWoaP since, and long may it continue, losing Boy from Brazil was a terrible moment. The BfB website kept us fans in touch with the real going on at the club with honesty and integrity. We can all read the BBC and the T&A websites knowing what is going to be said before we have even clicked the link. It is a standardised format. BfB was an amazing website that served City fans worldwide with a real football fans passion and opinion of what was actually happening at our club from 60, 100, 1,000, or 10,000 miles away.

I was gutted the day it went down and would like to personally thank both Michael Wood and Jason McKeown for all of their hard work and dedication over BfB’s 12 year history, for keeping me and the many BfB followers closer to our club than the club itself could.


David Lawrence

The low point of the season for me came not on the field, but on the internet; though watching City lose again at Hereford came close.

As a City exile, the web is vital for feeding my enthusiasm for my hometown club. This was dealt a real blow when Boy from Brazil had a disagreement with the club and thought it best to close down. All parties lost out. In the void that was left following the closure of the widely read website I was staring at the very real possibility of having to rely on either the party-line website or several injudicious forums. To paraphrase JFK, too often those sites enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. However, there was a resurrection of thoughtful opinion out of the ashes of the Boys from Brazil in the form of the WoTP. This has been my high point. Thank you to all that have contributed, especially Jason for his efforts.


Jason McKeown

Highlight – A sunny afternoon in September, where myself and former writing partner Michael Wood were fortunate to be invited to spend a day behind the scenes at Bradford City by Archie Christie. Getting to experience first hand what happens on the training ground and in meetings was something I will never forget, as was getting to meet and chat openly to several players, Parkinson, chief scout Nigel Brown, Peter Horne and of course the larger-than-life Archie. As a writer, being able to produce articles on what we experienced – which were very well received by City fans, other football fans and even national newspaper football journalists – was a dream come true. We helped to change people’s minds on what the club was trying to do, and that felt good.

Lowlight – I saw 40 of City’s 54 matches this season, but only one of the four away league wins (Northampton, probably my highlight on the pitch this season). So I endured a lot of fruitless away trips, where occasionally you questioned your sanity in making such an effort. The nadir of this was the midweek defeat at Crewe in March, where an accident on the M6 lead to a very stressful journey down to Gresty Road and missing kick off; only to witness a tame display from City that was hindered by Parkinson picking an unbalanced midfield. A night where patience was in very short supply.

The long route to standing still at Bradford City face Aldershot

16 Mar

Aldershot Town vs Bradford City preview

@The Recreation Ground on Saturday 10 March, 2012

222 days have passed since Bradford City entertained Aldershot Town on the opening day of the season, but despite the up and down events which have occurred in between that warm August afternoon and tomorrow’s return fixture, there’s an overriding feeling that not enough has really changed.

City lost 2-1 to Town at Valley Parade that day, to set the tone for a campaign which has continually seemed to be more of a struggle than it should be. At the time of that opening fixture, Aldershot were viewed as being as much of a middle of the road League Two team as you could find, and the fact City measured up so badly against them set alarm bells ringing that three weeks later resulted in Peter Jackson walking out on the club.

Seven months on Aldershot are still in League Two’s middle position of 12th – after finishing 14th last season – with an eight point advantage over the Bantams. City too have not enjoyed meaningful progress from the end of last season, with the 18th place we currently occupy the same position they ended up 2010/11. A lot of hard work, bluster and high player turnover has seen the club achieve little more than stand still over the past year. And while a backdrop of year-on-year decline over the last decade makes the prospect of at least halting that slide welcomed, the climb back upwards has never looked so difficult.

With 11 games to play, putting to bed those lingering relegation fears remains the main objective, but even assuming that battle is successful, it’s hard to imagine that we will end the season against Swindon in early May feeling anything other than relieved a poor season is over. Fond memories to look back on for sure, but as supporters we are looking for far more than what the last three seasons in particular have provided us.

Reasons to be optimistic largely stem from looking at the playing squad which has been developed and the abilities of the man who replaced Jackson in the hot seat. Width of a Post writer Rob Craven told me an interesting tale of getting an up close view of just how emotional Phil Parkinson was when City equalised against Wimbledon in midweek, and how much his celebration conveyed what this job means to him. Mark Lawn continues to tell people that Stuart McCall and Jackson were too close to the City job and were hurt by setbacks too much – but that doesn’t mean “outsiders” care any less.

Meanwhile with just four of the eleven players who started against Aldershot at Valley Parade back in August featuring against Wimbledon in midweek, the reasons behind a season of little progress become clearer. 18th last May to 18th this March leaves out the fact a backwards step was seemingly taken during the transition from Jackson’s squad to Parkinson’s, but the hope is that was a painful process worth taking in regards to the new-look squad’s capability to move upwards next season.

Jon McLaughlin appears to be firmly part of those plans, in addition to defenders Luke Oliver and Marcel Seip – who start once more tomorrow. The fact we can say it’s “unlikely” Andrew Davies would be interested in making his loan deal permanent during the summer is at least more optimistic than declaring that it’s impossible – but it still seems inevitable that his long-term future lies elsewhere. He is a key player for now.

Right back has a question mark for next season. Simon Ramsden was supposed to have returned for the Oxford game, but he didn’t figure; and Parkinson said after he was been held back for the Wimbledon match, where he once again didn’t appear. No one doubts Ramsden’s ability and the difference he has made when available, but that his two-year injury torment shows no signs of ending means it is going to be a very tough call over whether to retain him when his contract runs out this summer. Hopefully he can return tomorrow, to replace the less-than-convincing Rob Kozluk.

In midfield Lee Bullock has been the surprise hit of the past two games but is a doubt due to illness, meaning Ricky Ravenhill (back from suspension), Ritchie Jones (left out midweek) or Michael Flynn (unused sub at Wimbledon) will be battling to start alongside David Syers. Craig Fagan’s suspension allows Will Atkinson to return on the right – though he must improve on his average displays to date – with Kyel Reid continuing on the left.

Up front, Nahki Wells – who is attracting interest from higher clubs – is a doubt, which could open the door for a return to the 4-4-1-1 system, with James Hanson up front on his own and Syers playing the hole. Having no Wells and no Fagan would have presented a huge headache 10 days ago, but Hanson’s return is a boost given he was expected to be out for another couple of weeks at least. Three games in a week is, however, a tough ask of City’s top scorer, but Parkinson doesn’t appear to have many other options.

It’s been a strange second half to the week for City. An undeserved defeat to Wimbledon – bringing simmering anger of being let down by referee Darren Deadman and Fagan – saw the players receive barely a murmur of criticism from those fans who witnessed it. The good tidings of the victory over Oxford United last Saturday already seem too long ago, but defeat number 14 of the season was not down to any obvious failings and tomorrow’s game with Aldershot is all about picking up where the team left off, rather than needing to identify a different strategy.

City go again, looking to take another step closer to the target of survival; a step closer to being able to properly plan for next season; a step closer to again experiencing the feeling of pre-season optimism – which this time around was abruptly extinguished on day one by Aldershot.

There’s only 140 days to go until we start all over again.


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