Bradford City 1
Tuesday 12th August, 2014
By Gareth Walker
Aaron McLean’s controversial late goal was the difference between City and a decent Morecambe side at a wet and blustery Globe Arena.
“Bradford by the sea” is a tough place to win at the best of times and a miserable August night so early in the season made the task that little bit tougher.
City made four changes to the side that beat Coventry on the opening day. Ben Williams made his debut, replacing the cup tied Jason Pickford in goal. James Meredith came in at left back, with Alan Sheehan shifting to centre back to replace Andrew Davies, who was on the bench. Matty Dolan replaced Billy Knott on the left hand side of the diamond. Finally, Filipe Morais also made his City bow on the right of diamond in place of Gary Liddle, with Jason Kennedy shifting to the holding role.
The game started quite slowly with both sides attempting to keep the ball on the floor and pass their way into creating chances. Unfortunately, goalmouth action was at a premium and the highlight of the first half hour from a City perspective was the cajoling of Kevin Ellison, which seems pretty standard whenever we come up against him. This reached a crescendo when he was booked for an ugly looking late challenge on Matty Dolan.
From an attacking perspective the Bantams looked most creative down the right hand side, with Morais impressing with his ball control and crossing ability in the early exchanges. Morecambe, however, were playing their part too and they grew into the game as the half wore on, with Ellison and the impressive Jack Redshaw being at the forefront of most of their good work.
As mentioned, City looked most impressive down the right hand side, with Meredith looking a little rusty and uncharacteristically unwilling to get forward down the left. This meant Morecambe in turn were getting most of their joy down their right too. It was down this side that the first real chance of the game materialised, with Redshaw showing good skill and a quick turn of pace to outstrip Sheehan and break towards the city box. Fortunately, nobody had made the break with him and his cross-cum-shot was watched harmlessly wide by Williams.
In truth, that was as close as the former Manchester United youngster came to being tested in the whole game, as from that point onwards the City defence stood relatively firm and restricted the home side to mainly shots from distance.
That first chance of the game appeared to spur the Bantams into action and the remainder of the first period was played mainly in the Morecambe half, with Kennedy inparticular continuing where he left off on Saturday by putting in another tireless and industrious display.
The pressure built up and resulted in a good chance for James Hanson just before half time, when a quickly taken free kick allowed Morais to cross and find the target man at the back post. His header completely beat Barry Roche but was smuggled off the line at the last moment by a defender, just as the away fans were beginning to celebrate.
The half-time whistle brought with it a torrential downpour that continued into the beginning of the second half and made playing conditions extremely difficult.
City started the second half on the front foot, as is so often the case under Phil Parkinson. However, chances remained at a premium, with the lack of width that comes with the use of the diamond formation proving problematic as they tried to break down a well organised and often physical Morecambe defence. In truth. it is difficult to remember either goalkeeper having a save to make in what was a scrappy but entertaining contest.
As the half wore on there seemed to be an end-to-end feel to the game developing, albeit without any chances being created, and it looked as though that final pass or little bit of quality was lacking from both sides just when it was needed. Parkinson made the decision to change things around in an attempt to find an answer to the quality issue by replacing Mark Yeates, Billy Clarke and Morais with Mo Shariff, Billy Knott and McLean. Both Yeates and Clarke had put in lively performances without either of them really reaching the high standards that they set at the weekend, and indeed it was their replacements, Knott and McLean, who combined to win the game for City.
Knott was the one who provided the quality that had previously been lacking when he broke from midfield and chipped a delicious ball into the path of McLean. In truth, McLean’s first touch was poor and the ball bounced away from him into the path of Roche and a defender. A scramble ensued as all three players tried to get to the ball first. A couple of ricochets later and the ball trickled over the line clearly having finally come off McLean’s arm.
When I say clearly, it was clear to the players and the 1,000 city supporters behind the goal, but not clear to the referee or the linesmen, and despite the angry protests of the entire Morecambe back four the goal stood. On the away terrace we were hysterically ecstatic, and it wasn’t long before an extremely vocal chant of “he scores with his hands” was being sung at the embarrassed officials.
The late goal didn’t allow much time for an equaliser, which was harsh on the Shrimps, who had impressed me with their overall play and technical ability. I personally wouldn’t be surprised if they were challenging for promotion from League Two at the end of the season.
From our perspective, however, the bright spots were undoubtedly McLean getting on the scoresheet and the continued resurgence of Kennedy, who was even having his name sung towards the end of the game.
Now, with two wins from our opening two games and a new loan signing in the shape of Derby youngster Mason Bennett on board, we can look forward to the next few weeks of the season and, in particular, the draw for the second round of the cup tomorrow, which will hopefully bring with it a much needed financially lucrative tie.
CITY: Williams, Darby, Meredith, Kennedy, Sheehan, McArdle, Morais (Knott 69), Dolan, Hanson, Clarke (Shariff 78), Yeates (McLean 69)
Not used: Davies, McBurnie, Urwin, Pollard