Bradford City 4
Fagan 16, Atkinson 36, Reid 57, Wells 87.
By Rob Craven
Tuesday 28 February, 2012
Having been a keen follower of BfB and Width of a Post for a number of years since my extradition from BD10, over the Pennines to Manchester and then onto London,I was excited to write my first match report.
For me following City from a distance is an odd experience which more often than not results in Saturday afternoons and Tuesday evenings being spent frantically refreshing browsers or some very intense phone focused staring whilst waiting for Twitter updates. But when the opportunities do come around to go see City, they are met with the same desire and anticipation of the first game of the season or a high profile cup tie – no matter who the opposition or when and where I get to see it.
Tonight’s game was a rescheduled match, following our somewhat underwhelming result on the field yet exhilarating to be amongst fellow supporters, the FA Cup 3rd round trip to Watford. Despite one of the best away atmospheres and followings that I have witnessed since I was a regular, the result did not match and we came away proud of our team, with sore throats but no ball in the 4th round bag. The resulting draw would have gifted us a money spinning home tie against North London’s Tottenham Hotspur. A game that I would have been very eager for us to come away with a draw so that I could hop on the bus from the end of my road up to White Hart Lane for the replay.
Alas this wasn’t the case, but from every downside there comes an up, and this up came in the form of the rescheduled fixture against another North London club Barnet FC. Underhill is roughly the same distance from my home in London that Valley Parade is to my parents in Bingley making this by technical default my London home game of the season, and for that reason I have been relishing it since the fixtures were first published.
I have also wanted to visit Underhill since I was young as I have held an image of a pitch similar to those of the sloping Queensbury pitches we used to dread playing on in the Craven junior league; as there was much made of the nine foot difference from one goal to the other.
So I arranged to finish work early and travelled on the central line from Acton in the west across to Tottenham Court Road to meet my friend and fellow city supporter Jim, where we excitedly got on the Northern Line to High Barnet. The novelty of getting a tube every day soon wears thin, when you’re squashed with your back against the door and your face in some strangers’ armpit but tonight we couldn’t care less. With expectation and excitement bubbling away and our eyes on the lookout for fellow London based city fans we headed north to the end of the line to watch our beloved Bantams.
When Barnet last visited us up at Valley Parade in August, they lost to our manager-less side that had only three players on the pitch from tonight’s starting XI. That new team that we were ready to accept as our own and give our full backing and love to has gone through a lot of change in the past 6 months. Michael Flynn, Luke Oliver and Richie Jones have become fan favourites as well as lynchpins to Parkinson’s plans for stability and the future it seems. In fact apart from the equally important, yet injured for tonight’s fixture James Hanson, the remainder of that starting XI from that August afternoon have been left fighting for attention in the reserves/Development/non-Development Squad or are looking to grind out a successful career elsewhere.
Tonight Jon McLaughlin lined up for his 19th straight start of the season. In front of him Andrew Davies and Marcel Seip continued in defence along the fit again Luke Oliver and Rob Kozluk. The midfield lined up with Ricky Ravenhill and Ritchie Jones looking to take control of the centre and Deane Smalley and Kyel Reid terrorising the Barnet full backs. Michael Flynn sat just in front of the midfield looking to create and support the impressive Craig Fagan.
The last game we attended in the vicinity of London was versus Watford in the FA Cup where the team were outplayed on the field but the fans certainly took the bragging rights of best supporters of that tie. Tonight we weren’t expecting the same in terms of numbers of support with it being a Tuesday evening some 200 plus miles from home, but we were hopeful that we could match that desire on the pitch and attempt to continue the away form from Torquay. We were not disappointed.
After some initial confusion as to which Red Lion we were supposed to be meeting our friend Liam in we made our way to the ground, paid our £16 in and found our spot in line with the 18 yard box at the top of the hill. City, wearing pink for the final time this season, started off shooting up the slope and in the early exchanges were on top. Fagan, who was playing up front on his own, made life difficult from the start for the Barnet defence as they struggled with his strength and pace.
An interesting battle between Fagan and Dennehy in the early exchanges was developing and resulted in the first clear cut chance of the half. A neat through ball beat all of the Barnet defenders releasing Fagan who outmuscled his marker leaving him with just the keeper to beat. As Fagan was about to hit the ball he cleverly drew Dennehy into the challenge sending him tumbling and leaving the referee with his easiest decision of the evening awarding a penalty to City and red card to the Barnet Defender. Fagan got up and brushed himself down to coolly finish in the bottom right corner sendingthe 248 City fans to his right into celebration.
The galvanising effect of having a man sent off often makes playing against a ten man team tougher for the opposition. For the ten minutes following the penalty it was all Barnet. The increase in effort and tempo from the North London side tested City with a number of corners and charges down the hill but nothing materialised.
City dug in when the going got tough and fought their way back up the pitch looking once again to release Reid or Smalley on the wings. Jones who had another great game in the centre, won the ball and pushed forward, sending the ball out to Reid on the wing who’s cross fizzed into the feet of Atkinson on the near post and into the back of the net sending the City contingent into half time 2-0 up away from home and buzzing.
The second half began with the thought that any sting left in the Barnet tail would be coming at us in the early stages, but nothing came. City turned the screw and started to use the extra man and downhill slope to our advantage, pushing the ball out to the wingers to create chances. Reid had an effort early on in the half that is just about to dock with the international space station.
His next effort though was class. He received the ball out on the right wing and in what looked like a move from “Let’s Dance for Sports Relief” he drifted past not one but two defenders and hit a shot across the keeper into the bottom left corner sending the City fans into ecstasy.
The last half hour of the game was somewhat of a training routine for City containing any efforts and sitting quite comfortably in the knowledge that we were in control. Both Fagan and Reid were substituted and received much deserved standing ovations from the travelling support. Wells who came on for Fagan for the remaining 15 minutes put the game well and truly to bed with only minutes to spare as he broke free with the ball to round the keeper and hit the ball home. To add to their embarrassment the game ended after a comical scuffle between the Barnet defender Hector and striker McLeod that saw them both entered into the book.
It was unfortunate that Flynn was taken off with a thigh injury so early in the game as he is in need of game time, but Atkinson will have enjoyed his opportunity to get an hour under his belt. Smalley was a bit isolated out on the wing and in comparison to Reid needs to gain some confidence and look to beat his defender instead of cutting back and looking for the pass inside. This aside a great night was had all round and the City fans went home in the best mood they have been in from a Tuesday night football match for quite some time.
As we got our train home to Finsbury Park and our excitement calmed, the news filtered through of the unbelievable turnaround by Gillingham and of the Macclesfield equaliser. With an eye on the game against Dagenham & Redbridge on Saturday, the realisation came to us of what a significant step we had made towards safety tonight.
City not only won, but won convincingly with some great performances a clean sheet and four goals. Get in!
City: McLaughlin, Oliver, Kozluk, Seip, Davies, Flynn (Atkinson 24), Jones, Ravenhill, Reid (Bullock 85), Smalley, Fagan (Wells 75).
Subs not used: Annerson, Fry.
Categories: Match Reviews