Accrington Stanley 1
Bradford City 1
Saturday 8 September, 2012
By Gareth Walker
Another away day for City, another huge following of away fans, and more soaring temperatures. Fortunately this time, unlike the Gillingham and Rotherham games, substitute Alan Connell’s brilliant late lob saw that we came away with a point.
It was no less than City and their fantastic away support deserved after particularly dominating the first half.
City fans could be seen on three sides of the ground yesterday and Simon Parker tweeted afterwards that there were more of us in attendance than home fans. Indeed, if it wasn’t for the smaller nature of the stadium, it would have been quite easy for an observer to mistake this for a home fixture.
Accrington Stanley are often talked about as possibly being the smallest club in the League, but credit has to go to everyone associated with them as they continue to defy the odds. Prior to yesterday they had made an impressive start to another League campaign having won three out of four games.
Indeed Phil Parkinson had gone on record during the build up to the game to say that the contrasting sizes of the clubs would bare no relevance as to what happened on the pitch, and anyone who has seen previous encounters between the two sides could testify to this.
Living in Accrington however, it was easy to see the significance that the town put on the visit of Bradford City, with posters appearing in shops encouraging supporters to get down and support their team and even cricketer turned pundit and Stanley share holder David “Bumble” Lloyd urging his Twitter followers to visit The Crown.
Furthermore, I am led to believe that there was a larger than usual Police presence for the game, probably mainly due to the number of travelling supporters that descended on the Town.
Parkinson made three changes to the side that had been comprehensively beaten at Rotherham a week earlier as he switched to a 4-3-3 formation. Out went Nahki Wells (injured), Rory McArdle and, most controversially, goalkeeper Matt Duke. They were replaced by Will Atkinson, Stephen Darby and Jon McLaughlin. James Hanson was deployed in a lone striker role to be supported from the wide areas by Zavon Hines and Kyel Reid.
We are led to believe that Duke wasn’t happy at being dropped and nobody would expect him to be, after it was difficult to place fault at his door for last week’s defeat. However, PP has previously spoken about how closely matched he feels that our two goalkeepers are and he obviously felt that McLaughlin deserved a chance.
Accrington too made numerous changes to their side that were beaten 2-0 by Morecambe in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy during the week. Several regulars were returned to their starting line up after manager Paul Cook had made nine alterations for his sides mid week fixture. I am told that he claimed that he would be happy to accept the £3,000 fine for not fielding “a first choice XI” in that game in order to save players for yesterday’s match.
The game in truth was one of very few chances. The first half was dominated by City in terms of territory and possession without creating a hatful of goalscoring opportunities, and the three notable ones that were created were spurned.
Hines twice went close to breaking the deadlock, with one effort in particular drawing a fine save from Stanley Keeper Ian Dunbavin, who somehow went full length to tip a drive on to the post after the City speedster had been sent clear by Hanson.
Will Atkinson was the other player who went closest for The Bantams as Stanley Skipper Luke Joyce brilliant cleared his goal bound tap in off the line.
During the second half, Stanley changed their tactics and appeared to cause City problems by going more direct. They definitely started to take more of a grip on proceedings. However, it is difficult to remember the recalled McLaughlin having any saves of note to make on his return to the side.
That was all to change however with 17 minutes to go as Will Hatfield found space down City’s left and crossed across the six yard box for the unmarked Striker Padraig Amond to smash into the goal. Cue the first real noise of note from the home fans who are usually well known for their passionate support.
With just a few minutes left and having dominated the first period without reward, things were looking bleak for City. Annoyingly this seemed to manifest itself on the terraces as certain “supporters” began to voice their displeasure. Hanson notably becoming the target of some vitriol.
It was harsh on the Big Man who had battled valiantly in his lone role up front and had won more than his fair share against the Stanley back line. Appropriately, he managed to respond in the perfect manner as City summoned up the energy to “go again” and he had a hand in the equaliser.
With just seven minutes remaining, a long ball was launched up field by McLaughlin and Hanson again won the header. His flick on was straight into the path of Connell’s intelligent run and the striker expertly beat two defenders to lob over the onrushing Dunbavin from the edge of the area and salvage a point. Cue wild celebrations amongst the City contingent.
As we walked away after the game, I was amazed to hear people criticising Parkinson’s starting tactics as being too negative. Were these the same people who said that we were too open during the Rotherham game?
A quick look at yesterday’s results shows that the same Millers side who tore us apart last week were beaten 6-2 away at Port Vale yesterday, and in my opinion it just goes to show how teams find it so difficult to play away from home in this league.
With two back to back home games now coming up for City, I wouldn’t be surprised to see us sitting in the play off positions after seven games. Fingers crossed, hey?
City: McLaughlin, Darby (McArdle 67), Oliver, Davies, Meredith, Atkinson, Doyle (Connell 77), Gary Jones, Hines (Thompson 66), Hanson, Reid
Subs not used: Duke, McHugh, Brown, Hannah