Tag Archives: Dagenham & Redbridge

The need to get back in the hunt quickly – City go to York

1 Mar

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York City vs Bradford City preview

@Bootham Crescent on Saturday 2 March, 2013

By Jason McKeown

Back in the days when I went clubbing, the after party was considered an important part of the evening – providing an opportunity to continue the festivities after the main event had ended.

Wednesday night, at Valley Parade, felt just like an after party. The great time at Wembley on Sunday was over, and yet the chance to continue the buzz that was created from it was very welcome. The team were roared onto the field, the chanting louder than it has been for some time, the flags continued to be waved in the Bradford night.

But like an after party, the vibe eventually began to die down. Tiredness and weariness crept in, and by the end you wondered whether it would have been better to call it a night sooner; woken up the next morning feeling fresher, rather than going to bed so late the sun had already come out.

It was a great feeling to be inside Valley Parade on Wednesday, enjoying the post-Wembley feel good factor. But sadly it seemed to fizzle away in the increasingly cold Bradford night – and somewhere between half time and trooping out of the ground with an underwhelming 1-1 draw, the moaning and the muttering was back. The warmth of Wembley starting to become a distant memory.

Yes, City are prompting grumbles once again. Our league form has suffered badly from the cup exploits; but with that all out of the way now, the need to get right back on it was evident. As it was a late equaliser could provide the team with the kick-start and the momentum that it needs to start racking up lots of league points, but a 1-1 draw with Dagenham is never going to be considered good enough.

Cue the grumbles about Phil Parkinson (not unjustified, the decision to ‘rest’ James Hanson and Nahki Wells sent out the wrong message in my eyes), re-start the anguish about individual players (Kyel Reid and Andy Gray) and allow the pessimism to flourish (“the season’s over”). It’s sad to see the Wembley glow start to dim so quickly, but it’s all rather serious. Promotion will not be won over the next three or four games, but hopes could be lost for this season if indifferent form continues.

So City badly need a win at York tomorrow. Not a draw, and certainly not a defeat. The pressure builds, and Parkinson’s challenge is to ensure that the players are mentally prepared to handle that pressure and to play to their capabilities. Because with Port Vale to travel to on Tuesday, a second league win of 2013 has to be achieved within days not weeks. It truly is now or never.

Expect to see changes, as Parkinson has to start moving away from the rotation approach adopted in the build up to and after the cup final, in favour of getting his best team fit and firing. So that will be Wells and Hanson back up front, with Will Atkinson recalled on the opposite side to the excellent Zavon Hines. Reid has lost his way over recent weeks and is falling down the pecking order. He had the opportunity to change that on Wednesday, but despite being targeted by Dagenham there were no excuses for him not taking it. Gary Jones and Nathan Doyle patrol the centre.

In defence the moving of Stephen Darby to left back worked well, and he may continue as former York defender James Meredith draws closer to a return. Or Carl McHugh might offer better balance instead, though Darby’s form of late does not deserve for him to be pushed out. Rory McArdle, Michael Nelson and Andrew Davies battle for centre back places, with Rory possibly continuing at right back. Expect Matt Duke to return in goal, with Jon McLaughlin neither blemishing or enhancing his prospects to be City’s number’s one in midweek.

The short journey is over, now it’s back to the long haul

27 Feb

tim

Bradford City vs Dagenham & Redbridge preview

@Valley Parade on Wednesday 27 February, 2013

By Gareth Walker

So, after our epic journey, we are back home on Wednesday night. Back down to earth with a bump, back to reality, back to the bread and butter. Throw any other cliché at it that you can muster as Dagenham & Redbridge visit Valley Parade.

The memories of last weekend and of the whole cup run will stay with us forever, we must treasure them. Will it ever happen again? Many people doubt it. One thing is for certain, if we are to stand any chance of even getting close to that feat again, we need to get out of the fourth tier. And so the focus shifts back to the league regardless of whether it should ever have shifted away from that in the first place.

Whether or not we can get out of this division this season is another debate that seems to be splitting supporters right down the middle. From the negative on one side who say that we have left ourselves far too much to do, to the positive on the other who can see the potential in this side to put a late run together. There are statistics to support both arguments.

The last time that we made the Play Offs in 1996, many considered us to have made a brilliant late run. With 15 games to go in that season, we were actually four points better off than we are now and we managed to win nine out of those 15 games. Some would argue that results with that type of consistency are beyond the current team on recent showings.

Our form since Boxing Day has been nothing short of shocking, surely due in part at least to the distractions of the cup final that are now out of the way. We have only won once in the league since that victory against Accrington, a run that has seen us lose to strugglers Barnet and AFC Wimbledon.

Performances haven’t been great either, barring the second half at Fleetwood where we were considerably unlucky and the 3-0 victory at Wycombe. We have seen some of the old Bradford City failings rearing their ugly head again – failings that we hadn’t previously seen from Phil Parkinson’s team. The failure to close the game out before switching off and throwing it away at Wimbledon is just one.

What is equally concerning however, is the form and general demeanour of our main goal threat Nahki Wells. His performance in the league game against Gillingham drew widespread criticism from some quarters as he appeared to be holding back with the cup final on the horizon, and he was subsequently removed from the team up until the Big Day. Sadly, on his chance on Sunday, his performance wasn’t much better and the mystery as to what is going on in his head is one that Parkinson will have to solve if we are to be successful.

In the last three seasons, the team finishing in seventh position in League Two has amassed the following point totals: 72, 68, 72, 69, 78: an average of 71.8. On our season’s form so far we would finish on 66 points, and that wouldn’t be enough.

However, there are reasons to be positive. Wycombe, the opposition when we put in our most accomplished recent performance were at the time on a run that included nine wins in just 14 games, and they were right down at the bottom of the league staring at the relegation places when that run began.

Secondly, although our recent form would suggest that 28 points from 15 games is unlikely, it is worth pointing out that after the Gillingham defeat on the opening day of the season, we went on a run in which we gained 28 points from 16 league games. This run also included the totally unjust 1-0 home defeat to Port Vale. Maybe paying them back down at Vale Park a week on Tuesday can be part of our resurgence.

A final point of encouragement for us Bantams is the run that Crewe Alexandra went on last season. They were further of the pace at this stage than we are now and finished the season with such a flurry that they ended up blowing the other play off contenders away and now sit comfortably in midtable in League One. It can be done.

If we are to mount a challenge for the top seven then we need to make our move quickly. The next five games after Dagenham include York, Aldershot and Plymouth. These surely come in the must win category considering that our last three games are against fellow contenders Rotherham, Burton and Cheltenham. Wouldn’t it be brilliant to turn these final three contests into mini cup finals, especially considering that two of them are at Valley Parade?

Dagenham go into tomorrow sitting nicely in lower mid table and with a good record against us, although they  have lost their long serving manager, and one time City target, John Still to Conference side Luton Town. They have also only won once in their last six games.

City will have Jon McLauglin in goal following Matt Duke’s harsh dismissal in Sunday’s Showpiece. Andrew Davies also impressed as a substitute and his first appearance at VP for four months would provide us with a huge boost. Other changes are also likely with Michael Nelson pushing for a recall and either Zavon Hines or Kyel Reid likely to get the nod, maybe in place of Garry Thompson.

One thing that the nation noticed at the weekend was the magnificent backing that we gave to our team. It would be nice if some of the non-regulars who made the journey to Wembley would now consider making the shorter journey to Valley Parade on a more regular basis.

It is only ten years since our cup final conquerors Swansea City were almost relegated out of the Football League. That club and its fans have been on a tremendous journey and now play some of the best football in the country. They should be an inspiration to everybody

Keep your heads held high fellow Bantams, and let’s all pull together to use the weekend as a springboard to go on to bigger and better things.  The long haul may only just be beginning.

Three goals but no cheer for City after Dagenham thriller

6 Oct

Dagenham & Redbridge 4

Bingham 6, Spillane 30, Wilkinson 51, Gayle 76

Bradford City 3

Wells 55, 61 (pen), Connell 84

Saturday 6 October, 2012

By Mark Danylczuk

To score no goals away from home and come away with nothing is understandable. But to score three goals on the road and not get even a point is a bitter pill to swallow.

One point from nine, after three league games in a week, has given Bradford City a reality check on their promotion hopes. But with another midweek match in the Johnstones Paint Trophy next week, there is no let up for a side that looked jaded as the busy fixture list appeared to catch up with them.

There was only one change from the squad which drew at Rochdale on Tuesday with Zavon Hines coming in for the injured Kyel Reid. Parkinson kept with a 4-4-2 formation with City looking to capitalise against a Dagenham side languishing at the wrong end of the table with only one win this season.

It was Dagenham, however, who got the killer blow with an early goal in the 6th minute. A break down the left hand side and it was Billy Bingham who slotted home from outside the area after Jon McLaughlin had parried an initial Dagenham effort.

The goal seemed to deflate City and spur Dagenham on, who were first to every ball and attacked with confidence and assurance. City on the other hand, became wasteful in their passing and lacklustre in providing a response to the Dagenham threat.

City’s first effort on target didn’t come until the 30th minute with a James Hanson header from Nahki Wells’ cross forcing a comfortable save from the keeper, but any hope of City mounting more pressure for an equaliser was short-lived as Medy Elito cut inside Davies and crossed the ball to Michael Spillane to covert Dagenham’s second.

It became apparent that City were missing the control and drive of Gary Jones in midfield and the direct attacking threat of Reid, as Hines struggled to get involved. City were nearly three down at the break as an attack on the stroke of half time resulted in Bingham curling a shot just past McLaughlin’s post.

The boos sounded from the City fans at half time and it was clear that a change was needed after a shambolic and lifeless first half display. Parkinson brought on Connell for Hines and resorted to a 4-3-1-2 formation, with Connell sitting just behind the front two of Hanson and Wells.

The half time team talk appeared to do the trick with City coming out with more urgency and purpose and Hanson close to converting a Wells cross in City’s first chance of the half after 46 minutes.

However, more slack defending and it was 3-0 and it appeared that City were well out of sight. No City defender tracked Luke Wilkinson who scored from a near post header on 53 minutes and it was on the verge of becoming embarrassing for a City side sitting in the playoffs with hopes of promotion.

A quick response was needed and it came just two minutes later after Bingham fouled Wells on the edge of the box. Wells stepped up to curl the resulting free kick home from 25 yards. Things got even better on 61 minutes when City got a fortunate penalty after Connell collided with Dagenham keeper Chris Lewington in the box. Wells converted the spot kick and suddenly the belief of a remarkable comeback seemed on.

Parkinson made an attacking change on 72 minutes with Garry Thompson coming on for Will Atkinson as City pressed for an equaliser, but against the run of play it was Dagenham who got a fourth. Dwight Gayle caught the Bantams on the counter attack with a run from just inside the City half outpacing the defence and slotting home to the left of McLaughlin.

This didn’t continue to affect City though as the fans got behind them and sensed that goals were possible to come by after acquiring the first two within six minutes at the start of the second half. Nathan Doyle became City’s notable outstanding player as he grasped control of the midfield in the second half, with City pressing to get back into the game.

City came close in the 79th minute with Dagenham clearing an Davies header off the line from Doyle’s cross and were rewarded with a 3rd goal in the 84th minute with Connell heading come from a Doyle throw after a scramble in the Dagenham box.

Five minutes of injury time added to the belief that City could grab an unlikely equaliser and send the travelling fans home happy, but it was not to be with Davies agonisingly directing a header just over the bar in the final minute.

The players deserved their praise from the fans for a spirited second half performance, arguably the best 45 minutes by a City team for a long time, but the damage was done with a dire first half performance and it became too much to ask after going down 3-0 early in the second half.

A welcome break from the frequent mid week fixtures along with the tightening up of the City defence should help to ensure the promotion campaign gets back on track with the visit of York to Valley Parade next week.

City: McLaughlin, McArdle, Oliver, Davies, Meredith, Atkinson (Thompson 72), Ravenhill, Doyle, Hines (Connell 45), Hanson, Wells.

Not used: Duke, Darby, Ritchie Jones, McHugh, Baker

The bigger picture, as City look to put the Daggers to the sword

5 Oct

Dagenham & Redbridge vs Bradford City match preview

@Victoria Road on Saturday 6 October, 2012

By Luke Lockwood

Exactly a week ago I was writing possibly the most positive match preview in either my time writing for BfB or WOAP. City had won four on the bounce and a win against Port Vale would have elevated us into the automatic spots. However, since then we have taken only one point from a possible six and there has been a lot of understandable disappointment.

On the other hand, let’s not look at the last two games in isolation and – as we are at the 10 game milestone – look at the season as a whole.

1)      Bradford City are currently sat in 6th place

The league table does not lie, Bradford have had the 6th best start and sit in a play off position. Should we be in the play offs come the end of the season the majority of us would be very happy.

2)      We are currently on course to amass 78 points

City have managed 17 points from the first 10 games of the season, should we maintain this average for the rest of the season we would end up with 78 points. To put this in perspective 78 points would have seen us finish 6th, 5th and 4th in the previous three seasons.

3)      A tough start

After 10 games we have played the best three sides – based on league position – in the division, the two sides directly below us and a big spending Rotherham side who could go into the play offs if they win their game in hand. With this in mind and, taking ourselves out of the equation, we have actually played six of the top eight sides in the first 10 games of the season. Theoretically things should only get easier from here!

4)      We have been taking points off the weaker sides

Although I stand by the point that we have had a tremendously difficult start, we have played four sides from the bottom half. However, we have taken maximum points from these games which can’t be underestimated. Past City sides have been heavily criticised for failing to win points against those struggling in the league that has not been the case this year.

5)      The cup run

We have beaten a Championship side, League One high flyers and a League Two side full of confidence. On the other hand this has certainly been a distraction and it is interesting to note we have been beaten in every match that has followed a League Cup game. I’m sure we’d all quite happily have been knocked out by Notts County in the first round had it guaranteed not only an additional nine points but also a four point cushion at the top of the league.

Furthermore it is difficult to pick a weak spot in the side. Other than the being taken apart by Rotherham, there hasn’t been a game where those in attendance have felt Bradford either didn’t deserve something out of the match or were lucky to get what they did.

Many of the sides around us play each other this weekend, Accrington vs Rochdale, Cheltenham vs Fleetwood and Exeter vs Port Vale and Gillingham, Burton and Rotherham all have to travel away from home. This presents us with a fantastic opportunity as we make our way to the struggling Dagenham & Redbridge.

The Daggers have only won one game so far this season. Now what was I saying about City overcoming there hoodoo as a soft touch for those sides struggling to find form? Despite the fact I have probably put a curse on our fortunes for this weekend, this is a game Bradford should be looking to go and win.

Interestingly, though, the Daggers recent results have been on the up. Their recent win against Wycombe has been sandwiched between two draws against our early season promotion rivals, Port Vale and Rochdale. They have also slowly managed to find their scoring touch, after failing to score in the opening three matches of the season and only managing five goals in the opening seven games, they have since scored six goals in the last three fixtures. It is worth pointing out that they have scored three times from the spot already and after Parkinson’s recent comments about penalties in the T&A it would just be sods law if one was given the Daggers’ way this weekend.

However, City’s defence has been simply outstanding this season and I have absolute confidence in Jon McLaughlin, Rory McArdle, Luke Oliver, Andrew Davies and James Meredith to continue their fine form. Davies leads this defence like a man possessed, winning balls he has no right to. He came to the club under an immense weight of expectation and the fact that so little fuss has been made about his early season form shows just how good he has been and is one of the outstanding performers of this campaign – along with Nathan Doyle and Gary Jones.

Jones was a huge loss for City on Tuesday and his probable absence asks big questions over about the midfield this weekend. If Jones is not fit for the Saturday’s trip to Dagenham who will step in for the stand in skipper? Club captain Ricky Ravenhill took his place on Tuesday night and performed well he buzzed around the field, pressing the opposition without giving them a moments rest. On the other hand, it felt as though it removed the balance that has been evident in midfield when Doyle and Jones combined.

When they play together it works, simple as that. Without Jones, Bradford lacked a player who dictated play and tempo in the opposition half. Doyle was Bradford’s man of the match on Tuesday by a long shot, constantly looking for the ball off his defence and fellow midfielders but he also has to maintain his discipline to protect City when the opposition counter attack. Ravenhill, unfortunately, for all his endeavour, does not have the technical ability Jones possesses to be the key in unlocking the defence.

A man who does have that creative flair returned to the bench on Tuesday night. Ritchie Jones showed on numerous occasions last season that he is good enough to be the link man for our strikers and wingers and, if his namesake is not fit, I see Ritchie as the ideal replacement. At the same time, we don’t know how fit Ritchie Jones is himself and it is highly doubtful he would be able to last 90 minutes. It may be possible to ask Will Atkinson to step in because he has performed superbly in the middle so far this season but again this has been in a more reserved role and it is difficult to assess how well he would do in place of Gary Jones.

We therefore must hope our talisman, (vice) captain Jones is fit for Dagenham, but if not, I would presume Parkinson would remain loyal to his first choice captain and once again pair him up with Doyle.

If this is the case then there will be a reliance on the wide players to contribute heavily in all our attacking play. With the injury to Kyel Reid forcing him out of the next few games, Atkinson is likely to be required on either the right or left flank on Saturday with Zavon Hines/Garry Thompson on the opposite side. The injury to Reid is very unfortunate as he just seemed to be reaching full flight following a slow start, but it says a lot of how Atkinson has performed this season that he is likely to be first choice out of the three remaining wingers on Saturday.

Hines has shown he has the potential to terrorise defences at this level and to be fair to him he has shown this ability more often than he has not. However, on Tuesday evening, you felt the game was there for him to take to a 10 man Rochdale with his opposing full back on a yellow card, but unfortunately he struggled more than anyone in claret and amber hoops. You could tell by his body language at the end of the game that he was frustrated in his performance and Parkinson will have to decide whether that will spur him on or knock his confidence.

If it is the latter Thompson will be ready to step in. Thompson has made it very obvious that he is keen to start as a front man, but unless Bradford suffer a couple of injuries you can’t see him getting much opportunity in the front two for the time being.

That front two will once again consist of James Hanson and another as the intriguing fight for a starting berth continues between Nahki Wells and Alan Connell. In my preview of the Port Vale game I suggested that Wells would be understandably aggrieved if he was left out of the side. Parkinson rightly kept faith with him at the time, but has Nahki done enough to keep his place in the two matches since? He worked hard against Rochdale and showed some neat touches and movement – especially in the first half – but things didn’t seem to happen for him and Connell once again looked impressive from the bench.

Parkinson will have to assess what sort of player will have most affect against the Daggers defence, a decision he has been making very astutely throughout the season so far. In the majority of cases you would assume that Wells would pose more problems, and this is something Connell may have to come to terms with spending more time entering the game as an impact sub.

As for Hanson himself, he had a difficult game on Tuesday night and really struggled to make his mark as he usually does in front of the home crowd. In fact the worrying statistic that Jason pointed out following the Rochdale game is that he has not scored a league goal away from home in over a year – we can only hope is rectified this weekend. Hanson’s importance to the team can’t be underestimated, whether he is scoring goals or not. As I have pointed out a number of times before, not only does his partner benefit immensely from playing off him, his presence on defensive set pieces is a real bonus to the whole team.

A couple of slightly less complete performances combined with a couple of injuries has given Parkinson plenty to consider this week as City try to maintain pace with the leading pack. So far our away form has been a mixed bag with three wins, a draw and a defeat, but Parkinson has been getting it right against the side from the lower reaches of the table and will hopefully do so again this weekend. Daggers recent results do suggest that they are an improving side after a poor start but if we are serious about promotion this season we need to pick up points against these sides away from home.

On our way to Rochdale every fan I spoke to prior to the game agreed a point would have been a good result and not many sides will come away from Spotland with any more. The only disappointing factor was that against 10 men for around an hour and after dominating possession we did struggle to find a way through. However, if we can end a disappointing week with four points from two games the bigger picture will be full of roses again.

Look out for a Width of a Post exclusive from 12pm today.

The League Two relegation run in, and what City need to do

2 Apr

All week long I was dreading the prospect of Bradford City losing to Plymouth Argyle – as it seemed as though a loss in Devon would see the sky fall in on Valley Parade and our chances of staying up in huge doubt. But while there is no denying the defeat which did occur is a huge set back, results elsewhere were generally kind.

City (40 points) stay four points clear of second bottom Macclesfield (36) and five ahead of bottom club Hereford (35). And, as much as Phil Parkinson is criticised and there are some serious, serious questions that are going to have to be aired about the way the club has operated this season, we will all take ending the campaign four points clear of the bottom two. We need to maintain that gap, or at least not allow it to be fully eroded, and that is a better position to be in than needing to bridge a deficit.

In fact the four point advantage is effectively five, given City’s superior goal difference – by far the best of the bottom six clubs. In the final six games, it means Macclesfield and Hereford have to pick up five and six more points respectively than the Bantams, in order to finish above us. Macclesfield have not won a game since New Years Eve – 19 matches; Hereford only one in 14. And just above those two, Barnet (on 39 points) have not tasted victory for 13 games.

For how bad City’s form has been – and it has been bad – these three teams at least offer hope that any Bantams’ improvement over the next few games will prove good enough to ensure we are not overtaken.

That said, we are set for a very fraught final few weeks…

Tuesday night

Barnet face Swindon.

Leaders Swindon have endured up and down form of late, but know a win at Underhill will place them five points clear having played a game fewer. Whatever the result, after this game only Northampton of the seven relegation rivals will have a game in hand on the rest.

Good Friday

City entertain Southend, while Barnet travel to Cheltenham, Dagenham entertain free-falling Burton, Macclesfield play Shrewsbury and Northampton face Oxford. Hereford and Plymouth square up in a six-pointer.

Southend’s away record of 12 wins, 1 draw and 7 defeats suggests a home game against the play off chasers is more winnable for City than it might appear. A sentiment that Barnet might share, given their hosts Cheltenham have been in very poor form of late and are in danger of missing the play offs. For City, it is better Plymouth beat Hereford or draw than the Bulls win.

Whatever City’s result, that Macclesfield and Northampton’s fixtures are evening kick offs means it could be a nervy day following events, long after the final whistle at Valley Parade.

Easter Monday

Not an afternoon to expect too many wins from the bottom seven clubs. Shrewsbury play host to the Bantams, while Barnet face an equally tough game at home to Crawley, Dagenham are at Gillingham and Northampton travel to Swindon. Macclesfield might fancy their chances at Port Vale, while Plymouth welcome an Aldershot side which have an outside play off chance.

Shrewsbury are unbeaten at home for over a year, while City have lost five successive away games without scoring a goal. Logic dictates this is going to be a damage limitation afternoon, though the Bantams have taken points from the backyards of four of the current top seven – having visited only five of them so far.

Macclesfield will be the team to take most note of on this Bank Holiday, as any points they gain against Vale – while others, including City, face such difficult games – could prove significant to their hopes.

Friday 13 April

Barnet play Hereford at Underhill.

This could be huge. Yikes.

Saturday 14 April

City travel to Northampton on a pivotal afternoon, given Friday’s fixture and the fact Dagenham (Aldershot away), Macclesfield (Crewe home) and Plymouth (Swindon away) face tricky games.

Northampton and Dagenham have been the two form teams of the bottom seven during the past few weeks. After the Plymouth result and in view of how difficult Easter will prove, it could be vital City take a point if not all three from this game – which means the return of Jon McLaughlin and Luke Oliver from suspension might prove huge. The bottom two may look a little too close behind us for comfort prior to kick off, but hopefully there will be more of a gap at full time.

Tuesday 17 April

Northampton’s game in hand…at Crawley.

In truth it seems as though Northampton – currently six points clear of danger, after drawing with in-form Crewe on Saturday – have enough about them to avoid going down. So in a similar way to how City’s recent game with Crawley was built up, it might be a night the Cobblers can afford to lose.

Friday 20 April

Barnet travel to Southend.

City’s win at Roots Hall last December was one of five home defeats Southend have endured, so it’s not impossible to envisage a Bees victory.

Saturday 21 April

City entertain Macclesfield in a vital game, while Dagenham (Crawley) and Plymouth (Oxford) entertain promotion challengers. Hereford welcome Northampton too, but Valley Parade will probably be host to the day’s true six-pointer.

There is increasing talk that the Macclesfield game will determine City’s season and – with two difficult final fixtures after – it’s easy to see why. Yet if City come into this game still carrying a four point advantage over the Silkmen and Hereford, a draw might be acceptable if it maintains the gap. That said, a win and City could be virtually safe – depending on what return they took from Sixfields.

Saturday 28 April

Cheltenham welcome City on an afternoon you’d expect relegation rivals to pick up points. Barnet are home to mid-table AFC Wimbledon, Macclesfield host Burton Albion, while Plymouth face a trip to Morecambe. More encouragingly, Hereford travel to Crawley, Northampton are home to Gillingham and Dagenham are at Shrewsbury.

If City (who would welcome back Andrew Davies, at last, from suspension) go into this game only one or two points above either Barnet or Macclesfield we will need to be very afraid, as defeat at Waddon Road could see the Bantams slip into the bottom two on the penultimate weekend of the season. Expect this to be an afternoon of mixed results, which may not be pretty.

Saturday 5 May – final day

Swindon are at Valley Parade for what could easily be their Championship party, while Hereford (Torquay home), Macclesfield (Southend away) and Plymouth (Cheltenham home) face fixtures which could prove just as tough if their opponents still have promotion hopes to play for. In contrast Barnet (away to Burton), Dagenham (home to Bristol Rovers) and Northampton (away to Rotherham) face fixtures you’d prefer if you need a result on the final day of the season…

…but Swindon home is the last game you’d pick. If Swindon need points on the final day to confirm promotion or the title…well let’s just hope City don’t need to win. That said, if Hereford and Macclesfield are still below us, they face just as tough a task. Barnet would fancy their chances of getting out of it by facing Burton, while the other teams will probably already be safe by this point.

So, squeaky bum time then…

City’s prospects – and that of their relegation rivals faltering – over the final few weeks look either good or bad depending on how full you consider your glass to be. But there is no doubt that the situation remains in our hands and there are winnable fixtures to be played out.

Easter looks important for City in at least picking up one point from two tough fixtures, in view of the back-to-back games against relegation rivals which then follow. The sooner City next get a win (assuming they win again), the better the picture is going to start to look.

The three home games are also vital. City may have lost at Valley Parade to Crawley recently, but were unbeaten in 11 before that – which shows we are a tough nut to crack on our own turf. So if the players could win one and draw the other two, that would be five more points – taking City onto 45 – before we consider the away matches.

  • That 45 total would be 10 points more than Hereford have right now – meaning that the Bulls (don’t forget one win in 14) would need to win three and draw two of their last six games to overtake us.
  • It’s nine points more than Macclesfield currently have and – assuming City beat the Silkmen to get that one win from the three home games – they would need to win three and draw one of their other five remaining games to climb above us. And not only are Macclesfield winless in 19, they have only won once since they defeated us last October.

So clearly, if City can go on a three match unbeaten run at home (see our home record, it’s possible), winning at least one of them, that should be enough. No matter what happens in the three away games.

Perhaps most of all though – with three of Swindon’s final eight games against our relegation rivals and the fear they might rock up to Valley Parade on the final day needing to get a result – we should all become Swindon fans over the next few weeks and hope they get the title sewn up as quicky as possible.

Conservative City lack stomach for another fightback

3 Mar

Dagenham & Redbridge 1

Saunders 71

Bradford City 0

Saturday 3 March, 2012

It’s when your football team lets you down in the areas you expect them to be strong that the ultimate betrayal is felt.

Matthew Saunders had put Dagenham & Redbridge 1-0 ahead with a stunning free kick – but with 19 minutes still to play, weeks of watching Bradford City stage late fightbacks and always battle to the end left you feeling confident they would be able to come back. Sadly on this occasion, weapons were laid down and defeat ensued.

Perhaps it was just one setback too many for a squad which has had to battle against deficits so often this season; maybe it was down to the fatigue of playing a 5th game in 19 days. Whatever it was, we got no late rally and few credible moments where it looked like a draw could salvaged. It was a 20-minute period of play as wretched and as spirit-lacking as anything we’ve witnessed all season.

Defeat can be accepted, but not the white flag.

Collectively, the body language of the players was poor during the closing stages. Other than the commendable centre back Andrew Davies – who was thrown up front for the final 20 minutes – no one in the attacking third of the pitch was willing to accept responsibility of being the catalyst. When in receipt of possession, players would look to pass the onus onto someone else, rather than swing the ball into the box or have a shot. That was worrying.

It was too half-pace. Lone striker Craig Fagan was replaced with four minutes to go. Perhaps he was as baffled as the rest of us by this, but he failed to notice his number had been called up for a good few seconds until Nahki Wells went over and told him. He then walked off very slowly, eating up precious time by seemingly wanting to make clear his disappointment at being taken off. Three minutes into the four added on for stoppages, Matt Fry was under slight pressure when chasing a loose ball and opted to boot it out of the stand, rather than at least try and work it to a team mate so City could have one last attack.

We’ve not seen such a lack of courage from City for a number of months. And it’s to be hoped such a poor reaction to adversity was simply a bad day at the office, rather than a hint of darker things to come over the next few weeks.

For the majority of the afternoon this looked like a game the Bantams could win if they stepped up the tempo another notch. Dagenham didn’t seem as rough and physical as they have in recent years, but still presented plenty of problems from set pieces that required Davies and Luke Oliver to be at their best. Fry’s inclusion for the injured Marcel Seip looked welcome given his extra height. And though there some close calls, it seemed defensively the Bantams were solid enough to lay on the platform for a third straight away success.

Lee Bullock had been brought in to play the hole behind Fagan in the absence of Michael Flynn and David Syers, and he let no one down. We had all expected the more attacking Will Atkinson to take on this role, but the extra solidness Bullock offered his midfield colleagues when City didn’t have the ball was a worthy trade for a reduction in flair. Bullock had the first half’s best chance when he headed a Kyel Reid cross narrowly over the bar. Earlier the club’s longest-serving player saw another header blocked by Dagenham keeper Jonathan Bond, while on half time Davies had a stabbed effort at goal blocked by a defender.

For the first half of the second 45, City looked to be shading it. Reid was once again a handful; even though there was a feeling he was being relied upon too much by team mates, who also failed to provide enough support to give him the option of a short pass. Fagan ran a lot and tried to make clever runs over the top. Ritchie Jones was once again in outstanding form alongside the dependable Ricky Ravenhill.

Then came the Dagenham goal, and the sudden elevation in the level of urgency required caught out the Bantams. They just couldn’t muster the energy levels and composure to come back. It was desperate and aimless long balls, when at 0-0 passing moves had found some success. The play just lacked intelligence and thought.

Despite the need to bring on Wells, taking off Jones was a mistake for me – as he was the one player looking capable of charging from box-to-box. The still-frustratingly-average Deane Smalley was earlier taken off, with replacement Atkinson offering more quality on the ball. The forgotten Andy Haworth also came on; but the game was up and Jon McLaughlin had made three excellent saves at 1-0 vs Bond having nothing to do.

The referee James Linington – sigh, seriously, do we have to complain about a referee yet again? – played into Dagenham’s stop-start time-wasting tactics by penalising City players for any physical contact with a Dagenham opponent; but compared to recent dreadful performances we’ve seen from officials, it’s hard to blame him for defeat with any credibility. This was a game we let slip through our hands, when we should still be in the mindset of fighting for our lives.

Dagenham’s improved away facilities included the dressing room and tunnel being located by the City fans, which was always going to guarantee a magnified supporter reaction when they departed the field. Those fans who rushed to the very front attempted to applaud City as they trooped off directly in front of them, but very soon others had gathered round to yell abuse at Parkinson over his “boring” tactics and at the players for their underwhelming efforts. I swear I heard a faint chant of “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” too.

On days like this it’s difficult to muster the enthusiasm to defend the players, but the fickle manner in which Parkinson is being treated by many fans has to condemned. He was slated last Saturday, lauded on Tuesday and now a quick glance at the Official Message Board this evening was abruptly ended by noticing a thread titled “How long does Parkinson have left?”. We simply should not go down this route of placing a manager under pressure. It is unthinkable that we fans could be demanding that a search for another manager starts up soon, yet again.

There is much for Parkinson to contemplate for sure. His conservative tactics didn’t pay off today when the game was there to be won at 0-0, and without Flynn and Syers there must be doubts about whether it is wise to persist with 4-4-1-1 in the two home games that occur this week. But the safety-first approach is slowly leading us to safety, and afternoons as frustrating as this will hopefully be looked back upon as minor bumps in the road.

Not a time to panic, but a big week for Parkinson in terms of ensuring City don’t slip back into previous bad habits.

City: McLaughlin, Kozluk, Oliver, Davies, Fry, Reid, Jones (Wells 74), Ravenhill, Smalley (Atkinson 60), Fagan (Howarth 86).

Subs not used: Annerson, Mitchell.

Re-living the Essex sunshine as City travel to Dagenham

2 Mar

Dagenham & Redbridge vs Bradford City match preview

@Victoria Road on Saturday 3 March, 2012

It was a gloriously warm April day in Essex. An extra cold cider was enjoyed pre-match outside a nearby pub, while we admired each other’s sunglasses.

Tomorrow will be my first visit to Victoria Road – home of Dagenham & Redbridge – since that infamous 3-0, play off-ending defeat back in April 2009. The shadows from that afternoon still seem to linger over the club.

A forlorn Stuart McCall came over to us away fans at full time; I’ve never seen him looking so dejected.

The then-City manager first asked us what we thought of the referee’s decision to disallow a Peter Thorne goal, at 0-0, right in front of us City supporters, for a supposed push on the Dagenham keeper. “Should’ve counted” we all told him, a view shortly afterwards backed by referee Pat Miller who told McCall “I believe I’ve made a mistake and I’m sorry”.

By then it was too late, with the three goals City went on to ship in virtually ending flagging promotion hopes. McCall had vowed to quit if he couldn’t get the Bantams into the play offs. He was now apologising to us away supporters for not being good enough and asking for a chant of “Stuart, Stuart” to cease because “I don’t deserve it”.

McCall ended up being persuaded to stay by City fans, but there was to be no happy ending as 10 months later, under pressure, he quit after failing to mount a promotion push. City ended the 2008/09 season in 9th; McCall left with the Bantams in 16th place; they ended that campaign in 14th under Peter Taylor; and last season 18th under Peter Jackson. This time around, a midweek thumping of Barnet has placed us in a season-best position of 18th.

No where near to promotion since that afternoon at Dagenham three years ago. Continue reading

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