Shrewsbury Town 1
Bradford City 0
Monday 9 April, 2012
By Luke Lockwood
The Greenhous Meadow Stadium was the destination for Skipton and Craven Bantams first official trip. After a quick bacon sandwich and coffee at ‘Spoons (they don’t serve beer until 9am) we set on our way and – following Friday’s great victory – there seemed to be a quiet optimism within the camp. After a few pints close to the ground this quiet optimism began to grow into a vocal belief that we were the side to end Shrewsbury’s great home run.
A group of fans with such a vast amount of experience following the occasional ups but mostly downs of Bradford City should have known better.
Whilst in the pub news broke that Phil Parkinson had named an unchanged team from Friday and the members of the supporters club agreed that the side had done enough to keep their shirts. We made our way to the ground with our alcohol fuelled optimism that today would be the day we confirmed our safety.
Those hopes were quickly dashed within 16 minutes. Bradford had started the game reasonably brightly and certainly had not been outclassed by their promotion chasing opponents, but neither side had threatened the opposition goal before Jermaine Grandison managed to thrash the ball home following a goalmouth scramble. This appeared to knock a bit of confidence out of City, both in the stands and out on the pitch, as the players looked very nervous for the next five minutes and Matt Duke was called upon to make a very good save to keep the deficit to just one goal.
Bradford soon woke up and re-organised. Craig Fagan had a fantastic chance to level when he met James Hanson’s knock down just a few yards out, but only managed to volley the ball over the bar. Often the words associated with Fagan are “a player of his supposed calibre/pedigree” and I think he is unfortunate to be associated with the ex-Premiership player tag. Because of this we seem to expect a level of performance from him that we do not do of other members in our side. He is ex-Premiership for a reason because, following his injury problems, he is no longer good enough. So perhaps we should give him a break and assess whether he is producing decent League Two performances or not.
After Fagan’s miss the game began to turn into a non event as both defences dominated. Lee Bullock and Guy Branston continued the impressive partnership they began against Southend, while Hanson struggled to get the better of Ian Sharps at the other end. When Shrewsbury came to Valley Parade earlier in the season I wrote about how Hanson had bullied one of the division’s best centre halves. Following that outstanding performance, I had hoped we would see something similar today. But unfortunately Sharps proved why he has established such a fine reputation for himself at this level.
Bradford’s narrow midfield, including three central midfielders and a centre forward, also failed to make an impact. Both sides struggled to hold onto the ball and neither showed any real cutting edge as attack after attack continued to break down in the final third. In fact one member of the Skipton and Craven Bantams close to me fell asleep! That probably gives the most accurate portrayal of the game.
To Parkinson’s credit he attempted to change it and made a double substitution introducing Kyel Reid and Chris Dagnall to replace Michael Flynn and Nahki Wells.
Reid started to make a difference as the Shrews struggled to handle his pace and trickery, but frustratingly they appeared to have some success by adopting a tactic of letting Reid knock it past them before chopping him down – which the referee failed to clamp down on. Even more frustratingly, the referee seemed happy to blow his whistle every time a Shrewsbury player put in their audition to partner Tom Daley at this summer’s Olympics. On one particular occasion a home forward threw himself to the floor in Drogba-esque fashion in the box; fortunately the referee decided against awarding a penalty, but the failure to show the culprit a yellow card for his dive was disappointing.
Shrewsbury are a good football side with some fine players and I have no problem if a player is fouled and they go to the ground to make sure they get a decision. However, the Shrewsbury players hit the deck time and time again without any contact. That is blatant cheating, and a side of their quality do not need to resort to such tactics to win football matches.
The most entertaining moment of the game – and the moment that will be remembered from our first supporter’s club trip – surfaced perhaps from a little frustration about the constant diving. Branston hopped over Duke as he followed a ball back to the keeper and, as he landed, fell over – appearing to be in some pain as he clutched his leg. The Shrews fans in the corner made their thoughts clear.
As the game carried on upfield and the officials were out of sight, Branston leapt to his feet, now seemingly fine, and turned to the home fans before cheekily raising his middle finger – much to the delight of the City following. A chant of ‘Let’s all do the Branston’ with accompanying gesture to the Shrews fans followed, and it appeared Branston had – for a while at least – managed to lift the gloom.
There was nothing between the two sides as the stats show. There was an equal share of possession and both sides had five shots each, finding the target with only twice. Therefore, Bradford could say they were unfortunate not to come away with a point. On the other hand, after going behind they failed to create any meaningful chances to equalise and Shrewsbury did what they needed.
Parkinson said after the match that he was wrong to leave the side unchanged and that he felt some players were a little fatigued after their superb effort on Friday. This could be the case, but he can’t be blamed for sticking with a side that impressed against a strong Southend team. However, with no midweek games now until the end of the season there will be no opportunity for excuses such as this, and we will need to put in improved displays to put further distance between ourselves and the bottom sides.
Following the final whistle, we waited nervously listening for the results of those around us, especially Hereford and Macclesfield; both were defeated to keep the gap at seven points. With our superior goal difference, one of those two sides will effectively need to get eight points from four games to finish above us.
As Macclesfield have failed to win this year and Hereford have only won 1 in their last 16 this is highly unlikely. Furthermore, had anyone offered us the opportunity to be seven points clear of our rivals at the beginning of Easter weekend – following games against high flying Southend and Shrewsbury – we would have all gratefully accepted it.
The Skipton and Craven Bantams trudged back to the bus. But with a lack of talking points – other than Branston’s antics – to discuss from the game on the journey home we were forced to reminisce about days gone by with City. Chris Waddle’s magic, the wrong Bruno Rodriguez and, most importantly, was Gary Locke really that bad?
Despite tasting defeat in our first official away day trip, it was made more bearable by sharing our pain amongst one another. Hopefully there will be many more to come and we will see some improved performances and results.
City: Duke, Ramsden, Branston, Bullock, Kozluk, Fagan, Ravenhill, Jones (Syers 75), Flynn (Reid 45), Hanson, Wells (Dagnall 45)
Unused Subs: Annerson, Fry
Categories: Match Reviews