Oldham Athletic 2
Adeyemi 60, Kuqi 80
Bradford City 0
December 6, 2011
The romance of the JPT – if it was ever universally felt within the club – is over. Mark Lawn’s pre-match comments about the lack of money the cup run has generated suggested certain commitment problems. Shefki Kuqi’s 80th minute clinching goal for Oldham was the JPT’s way of saying “its not you, it’s me”. After an adventure featuring so many penalty shoot outs, that faint hopes of progression were finally ended by Craig Fagan blasting a 90th-minute spot kick into a packed away end seemed a fitting if cruel way to break up.
Tonight City were beaten by a better team. But the ordinariness of that assessment contrasts with the extraordinariness of how the club had made it to the competition’s quarter finals in the first place. Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield and Sheffield United – all much bigger names in League One than Oldham, all much higher up the league than the Lactics. Without trying to take anything away from the Bantams’ cup exploits this season, the way Oldham’s players and supporters celebrated both goals underlined the more serious manner they were treating the competition compared to their League One peers which City defeated in previous rounds. Stuck in mid-table, this game mattered a great deal to them.
And perhaps mattered a great deal more than it did to Phil Parkinson. That six changes were made to the starting line up was a strong talking point before, during and after the defeat. There is a perception Parkinson was playing a weakened side, though suspension and ineligibility had robbed him of his two central midfielders from Saturday, while Ross Hannah was still recovering from a heavy bang received during the FA Cup win over Wimbledon. Parkinson has also selected fringe players in previous rounds – and who would begrudge the likes of Liam Moore and Chris Mitchell, who had played major roles earlier in the competition, from a start tonight?
Nevertheless, it was hard to escape the conclusion that this game’s position on the priority list was below last weekend’s more lucrative FA Cup success (shame about the 3rd round draw) and Saturday’s relegation six-pointer with Plymouth.
Not that the players who started were lacking in commitment to get through. With City sitting deeper than usual and with the onus on not conceding rather than going gung ho, Oldham inevitably had more of the possession and created plenty of chances. Andrew Davies and Luke Oliver were again in outstanding form to keep them at bay, but below-par performances from the two full backs, Moore and Mercel Seip, too regularly allowed Oldham through.
The best chance of the first half fell to City, however, when a superb deep cross from Mitchell was met perfectly by James Hanson. His powerful header was flying into the top corner, only to be tipped over by home keeper Alex Cisak. Nahki Wells – making his first start in English football – looked lively and Jack Compton enjoyed a good first half at least. The threat of a City goal on the counter attack was credible.
In the centre of midfield, however, the Bantams were second best. Luke Dean made his league debut and looked useful at times but overall was bypassed. Ritchie Jones had returned from injury and looked rusty. He was very lucky to remain on the pitch after a wild lunge on a home player was punished only with a yellow card. When he gave away another couple of niggly fouls soon after, the temperament of City’s number 8 began to look like a liability. Parkinson must have spent a good few minutes of his half time team talk trying to calm Jones down.
Oldham finally made the break through on the hour mark, after Moore was caught out badly by Oldham’s on-loan Man City winger Luca Scapuzzi, who charged forward and cut the ball back for former Bantam loanee Tom Adeyemi to ride two challenges and fire home emphatically. His gleeful joy suggested little affection for spending last season at Valley Parade.
Parkinson reacted by making a triple substitution, with the ‘big guns’ Craig Fagan, Kyel Reid and Ross Hannah brought on to salvage the tie. Hannah had the visitors’ best chance after he broke clear and forced a decent save from Cisak, but in truth a second Oldham goal looked far more likely than a City equaliser.
Sure enough Kuqi sealed the win with 10 minutes to go, heading home a free kick unmarked. City were offered a late lifeline when Jean-Yves Mvoto handled in the box just as the game was heading into injury time, but Fagan’s woeful effort from the spot ensured there would be no frantic final four minutes. Overall we departed the ground pleased by the players’ efforts, but feeling realistic about their limitations compared to Oldham and with doubts lingering about whether we’d “gone for it” as much as we could have.
The final thoughts belong to the travelling support. Some 2,500 of us crossed the Pennines on a cold and rainy evening, and the noise and positive atmosphere generated was uplifting and gratifying. The chanting had begun well before kick off, but when a minute’s applause to mark Gary Speed’s passing included us chanting the name of the former Leeds midfielder it was a moment to feel very proud to be a Bradford City supporter. We stuck with the team to the end, showing that in the stands at least the importance of this competition was never in doubt.
One day, surely, we will have a team to match our fantastic support.
City: McLaughlin, Moore, Oliver, Davies, Seip, Mitchell, Jones, Dean (Fagan 66), Compton (Reid 66), Wells (Hannah 66), Hanson.
Unused subs: Duke, O’Brien
Categories: Match Reviews