Bradford City 0
Tuesday 6 November, 2012
By Luke Lockwood
Excitement like Wigan can’t happen every week.
The lowest crowd at Valley Parade this season witnessed City being held to a 0-0 by Chesterfield and those who did choose to stay away needn’t worry – you didn’t miss much.
Chesterfield travelled to West Yorkshire aiming not to get beat and credit where it’s due they achieved their goal without ever threatening to score one. Supposedly they lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation but their two centre halves were employed as sweepers and spent the majority of the game on their own 18 yard line and the two deep lying midfielders were therefore playing almost as centre halves.
As far as City were concerned, Parkinson had made four changes from the side that faced Northampton in an attempt to freshen things up and they started the game brightly. The Chesterfield defence obviously struggled to cope and were attempting to slow the game down as much as possible. When in possession the defenders kept the ball by passing amongst themselves as Gary Thompson and Nakhi Wells watched on like spectators at a tennis match. If I wanted to see a team pass a ball either sideways or backwards before eventually kicking for position then I’d spend my money watching big men chase an egg at Odsal.
When City eventually managed to get hold of the ball, the Spireites defence would constantly be making niggly fouls to make sure Bradford’s players couldn’t get into full flow.
It was from one of these fouls that Bradford would come closest to breaking the deadlock. After Zavon Hines was brought down on the edge of the box, Gary Jones stood over the free kick in front of the Kop in a position where you felt confident he could conjure up a moment of magic. He curled the ball round the wall towards the bottom corner of the goal – the Kop rose in unison ready to celebrate – but the Chesterfield keeper had managed to scramble across and tip it round the post for a corner.
In truth this would be the only time either keeper was really tested as the game quickly petered out. Bradford was very comfortable defensively and never really troubled other than Matt Duke having to be alert and race off his line to collect a few through balls. John Egan making his debut will certainly face tougher tests; however, he looked relatively assured when any questions were asked defensively. His distribution didn’t seem particularly good this evening, however we can perhaps put that down to first game nerves and he certainly wasn’t the only member of the City side guilty of not looking after the ball tonight.
Seeing their side was in need of a boost, the Kop began to really get behind them as a chorus of chants continued throughout the remainder of the match. This is a noticeable difference in the City stands this year, despite watching a frustratingly dour game the fans remained patient. They appreciate the effort the players are putting in this season and on the whole we have been rewarded but occasionally we will have to put up with disappointing nights like tonight.
Gary Jones produced another lesson about how to take superb set pieces over the course of the evening but unfortunately on they were missing the presence of Messrs Davies, Oliver and Hanson. Despite consistently putting the ball into dangerous position in Chesterfield’s penalty area City failed to capitalise and you have to think that the aerial prowess of those three will have caused Chesterfield an almighty problem. They may not always be the one that scores in these situations, but their mere existence in the opposition penalty area gives defenders something to think about allowing the likes of Wells or Alan Connell to turn any knock downs or goal mouth scrambles into the goal. Unfortunately we will have to get used to Davies and Oliver not making their presence felt for the foreseeable future and, following tonight, there will be pressure to get James Hanson back in the side as soon as possible.
Chesterfield’s defence found it all too easy to dominate City’s front line and as much as Thompson would like to take on the centre forward role, he lacks the size and frame needed to dominate the physical battle and allow Wells to profit from his scraps. I may be beginning to sound like a broken record, but Hanson is severely undervalued for the service he provides the rest of his team. One of the favourite criticisms from Hanson knockers is how his headers and knock downs fail to find a City team member, but when you have a rough and ready League Two centre half trying to wrestle you into submission it’s a hugely difficult task. Thompson lost his wrestles tonight and therefore Wells had fewer scraps to gamble on.
As half time approached you felt that City would only need a goal to win the game but unfortunately you couldn’t see where it would come from. No doubt many began to take more notice of the fireworks that could be seen in the distance behind the Bradford end.
The second half was played out like an end of season affair where neither side had anything to play for. Bradford had a couple of long range efforts but failed to test O’Donnell, who had looked uncomfortable in the first half. Tired legs were obviously beginning to set in after Bradford’s recent cup exploits and it is concerning that it is not going to get any easier on the squad as the fixture congestion piles up and the midweek games continue – remember that year Manchester United didn’t enter the FA Cup? Would it be possible for us to forfeit our game in the next round of the JPT?!
There are a number of players who have played a huge amount of games recently, you think of Nathan Doyle and James Meredith in particular as definitely looking as though they could do with a week off. Tonight Parkinson should have changed things earlier because a number of players were fatigued and not reaching their usual levels. On the bench Connell, Craig Forsyth and Ritchie Jones have not played anywhere near as much football as others, and an injection of these fresher legs may have seen a rise in tempo. Parkinson has said he will utilise his squad and I think these three in particular may get an opportunity in the upcoming fixtures.
It was announced that the match sponsors had chosen Zavon Hines as their Man of the Match, but I can only assume the dreary game had sent them to sleep and they had missed half the match before picking a name out of a hat. It’s not that Hines had a particularly bad game – he was his usual up and down self – but I’d like to take a moment to give some deserved praise to our other winger Atkinson. He was the one player who stood out in claret and amber, constantly looking for the ball, finding bits of space and trying to make things happen in the congested Chesterfield half. The rise of Atkinson is similar to Oliver’s last year, but although he has failed to nail down a regular position in the side he has impressed either on the wing or through the middle. It is this sort of versatility that will be key to Bradford getting as much as possible out of the packed schedule.
A point against a decent Chesterfield side is not the end of the world and we still hold a position in the play offs with an automatic spot still very realistically attainable. The rest of November will see City travel to bottom club Aldershot and host three sides who are all below them in the table. It is vital that City can take a decent amount of points from these games, and there will be a keen eye on how Parkinson rotates his squad to deal with player fatigue.
City’s endurance is going to be severely tested until the end of this year and how we come out the other end will no doubt define our season. If in January we sit in a similar position to where we are currently and with the opportunity to strengthen, we will be able to look forward to 2013 without the distractions of cup competitions and have a fantastic chance at achieving our real goal this season – getting promoted.
City: Duke, Darby, McArdle, Egan, Meredith, Hines (Forsyth 82), Doyle, Gary Jones, Atkinson, Thompson (Connell 68), Wells
Not used: McLaughlin, McHugh, Ritchie Jones, Brown, Baker
Categories: Match Reviews