Bradford City 1
Accrington Stanley 1
Tuesday 6 March, 2012
By Luke Lockwood
One thing seems certain at Valley Parade this season – if you leave early you are going to miss goals. Although based on the amount of empty seats around the ground tonight, it appeared most fans decided to stay away completely for this evening’s game with Accrington Stanley.
It probably wouldn’t be that surprising if you were to look at the facts without the bigger picture – Bradford City were still searching for their first home win this year against an Accrington side who have been very much our bogey side since we dropped into the basement division.
Bradford started off the game in lacklustre fashion as most of the first half was played in the home end. James Devitt showed in his time that he certainly had great potential but never really impressed enough to earn himself a longer stay at the club; but in the early stages he threatened to make Phil Parkinson regret that decision. Rob Kozluk struggled throughout the half to get to grips with the slight framed winger, who looked like a man with a point to prove. But fortunately the on-loan Hull winger’s final product was once again lacking.
It was City’s usually dependable men who started the game the slowest, Andrew Davies and Ricky Ravenhill have undoubtedly been two of Parkinson’s best signings since joining the club, but Davies appeared nervous and indecisive while Ravenhill could not get the bounce of the ball.
Instead it was another two players on who the jury is still out on that were driving City forward. Will Atkinson and especially Deane Smalley were constantly looking to get on the ball and take it forward with speed and – despite all the possession and territory that Accrington had – Bradford still carved out the clearest chances as they caught Accrington on the break.
A well worked move down the right hand side found Nahki Wells in the box, but with limited time the Bermudan took a touch to try and find more space when he may have been better to thrash the ball first time. Accrington’s goalkeeper was also on fine form as he made a handful of decent saves to keep the score level. Not to be outdone Jon McLaughlin produced a fine save of his own as the City defenders failed to deal with an Accrington free kick late on in the half.
Without being the most exciting game, the first half still offered enough for both set of fans to feel they could have gone in at half time in front.
Accrington appeared to move Devitt more central for the second period which seemed an odd decision as in the first half he had time and time again proved he had the beating of Kozluk. Perhaps the idea was to get him involved more and allow him a greater opportunity to influence the game, but it didn’t pay off and Lee Bullock stopped seemed to easily stop Accrington’s main threat from the first half. Bullock did such an effective job that Devitt was later subbed after having such little impact after the break.
Bullock started to put his mark on the game in the second half – a neutral spectator would not assume that he was currently Bradford’s 5th choice central midfielder – and a superb superb pass early in the second half put Wells through on goal. The young striker showed the composure to commit the defender into attempting a block before dragging the ball back inside and finishing with his left foot past the keeper.
Bradford kicked on a bit after taking the lead and the front two of Smalley and Wells refused to give any Accrington defender a moments rest, as they fought for every ball and constantly pressed the player with the ball. Unfortunately for City, the performances of the front two were not matched in midfield. Following an impressive first half Atkinson had once again become anonymous on the right, Ravenhill was not his usual self and Kyel Reid was just having one of those days.
In Reid’s defence he kept on going all evening, and would continue attempting to take on his man, or cross the ball; but every time he would either need that extra half-second to get the ball under control or his cross would fly straight out for a goal kick.
As the evening wore on it appeared that if either side was to get the second goal of the game then it was Bradford. McLaughlin was faultless in goal commanding his area on set pieces and making one or two very good saves, and for the majority of the second half the City defence looked untroubled. Davies returned to his usual assured self and Kozluk was no longer being terrorised by Devitt.
Up front the seemingly endless energy of Wells and Smalley continued to trouble the Accrington defence – but if there was one criticism of the two it was that they failed to finish this game off. Smalley in particular had a couple of glorious opportunities to win the match. Following one superbly timed run he was put clear of the defence and rounded the keeper with his first touch but his tame effort allowed the keeper to recover and save the shot.
Later – after once again harassing the Accrington centre halves – he found himself through on goal but opted to shoot early when he possibly had more time and space.
Accrington’s centre half Aristote Nsiala – probably fed up with not getting a moment’s rest – inexcusably lunged in on Smalley by the touchline long after the ball had gone. Smalley’s retaliation earned him a deserved yellow card but the Accrington player could consider himself lucky to stay on the pitch. However, this is not a criticism of the referee who handled a heated situation very well and, after the recent criticism of those officiating Bradford games, Mr.Gibbs can be given credit for his overall performance.
With only 7 minutes remaining and possibly with that confrontation in mind, Smalley was replaced by Ross Hannah and received a deserved standing ovation from some sections of the crowd. This was though to be the only performance that was clapped off the pitch as home fans were made to feel that sinking feeling once again at the death.
As injury time was shown on the 4th official’s board, a sense of nervousness came into City’s game. Rather than keep the ball and waste time in the Accrington corners, Bradford panicked when retrieving possession and chose to hoof the ball long and present Accrington with the ball to attack once again.
Another nothing Accrington attack appeared to be snuffed out as Marcel Seip attempted to shield the ball out for a goal kick, but pressure from the Accrington forward forced a corner. The City defence fell asleep at a vital time and Will Hatfield was allowed to escape his marker all too easily as he emerged at the back post to volley home the Accrington equaliser.
Once again Bradford had let three points become one right at the death and it was probably due to this rather than the overall performance that produced a smattering of boos at the final whistle.
Fans could feel understandably frustrated that their side had once again squandered a victory late on. Dropped points such as these could prove costly later on with a number of difficult fixtures to come. However, the second half performance should have resulted in a comfortable victory and the signs that Parkinson is building an improved side are still evident.
This was still a side without key players such as David Syers, Simon Ramsden, James Hanson and Michael Flynn – and we must still believe that the squad has enough talent to ensure Bradford’s safety in this league.
City: McLaughlin, Kozluk, Davies, Oliver, Seip, Reid, Bullock, Ravenhill, Atkinson, Smalley (Hannah 83), Wells
Subs not used: Annerson, Fry, Haworth, Jones
Categories: Match Reviews