Survive and advance

Aldershot Town 0

Bradford City 2

Wells 28 + 39

Saturday 10 November, 2012

By Alex Scott

It was a business trip. Get in, get out. Everything went along with Phil Parkinson’s pre-match plan, right down to the textbook applause for the fans at the end. There are no easy games at this level, but that was close.

Two simple finishes from Nahki Wells sealed the win in the first half, and Aldershot were utterly incapable of response. Their lack of firepower, ironic.

To be honest, you can leave this article here if you like, I won’t take it personally, I’ve already used my best line. An unremarkable end to a largely unremarkable game. It will be hailed as a professional performance by the Bantams, which it was. This all-consuming professionalism contrasts well with Aldershot, who barely looked a professional outfit at all.

The first half saw City barely reach second gear, the second saw them leave the car in the garage under a tarp. They didn’t play well; they didn’t have to. They did exactly what they needed to. Get in, get out. Business trip.

It’s hard to establish in words how poor Aldershot were. Sometimes you hear that a team was terrible, but they were as good as they were allowed to be. That isn’t accurate here. It wasn’t a suffocating City performance. They were only as good as they needed to be.

Aldershot are a simple, paint-by-numbers fourth tier team. Unfortunately for them, they cannot stay within the lines, literally or figuratively. For a side which finished so well last season, it is a startling fall. In mitigation, I must note they were missing their top scorer, Craig Reid. But Danny Hylton is a proven scorer at this level, and his impotence against the still-burgeoning Bradford defensive backline was highly disappointing. He wasn’t on his own, mind.

As we have witnessed so often over recent years, the real tragedy of struggling sides like Aldershot, is that they do it to themselves. And this was another wholly self-inflicted loss for Dean Holdsworth’s men. I don’t like talking about other people’s livelihoods this callously, but I’d be stunned if he made it out of this weekend.

All the home fans I polled before the game were utterly disillusioned, and after the game the impressively, stunningly, supportive fans from throughout the game vocalised their frustration. Needless to say, if Holdsworth had to deal with the Valley Parade faithful, he wouldn’t have made it this far.

The performances for Parkinson’s men were largely without note. Gary Jones and Nathan Doyle were typically strong inside, neither at their dominant best, but fine. Craig Forsyth had an off-day, but kept at it, and was admirable in his defensive work. As the old Bill Russell paradigm goes, sometimes the ball doesn’t go in, but you can always control your defence. It’s an important note for this team. The professional nature of their defending is a staple.

After some early tentative mistakes with the long ball the defensive pair were strong, the full backs did everything asked of them. James Hanson harried well and won everything in the air. The two goals were almost carbon copies. Almost. The first came from Nahki’s now typical grafting. A few weeks back it felt odd to hear Parkinson calling out the Bermudian’s work rate, but over the past few weeks the reaction has been inescapable. Players like Nahki don’t need to be as hard working as he is, he’s good enough to coast. But he doesn’t. And that work makes the side a far more effective unit defensively, forcing errant passes out of defence. Or better.

As Aldershot defender Sonny Bradley dallied, Wells saw his opportunity. With an unexpected closing burst of pace, he blocked the attempted clearance, and found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper. I’m not sure I can remember a City forward I was this confident with in these situations. Nor one who was as confident in himself. It was never in doubt.

The second came from Wells’ strike partner’s hard work. James Hanson blocked another attempted clearance, and found himself with the opportunity to break his run of poor form in front of goal. He didn’t snatch at it, which is a start. He composed himself before pulling the trigger, however the impressive Shots keeper Jamie Young was a match for the finish. The ball rebounded into the path of an on running (potentially offside) Wells who fired into the empty net. The game was a foregone conclusion at this point.

Wells missed a couple of chances at his hat trick, dinking another clean break wide of the right post, before hitting the post with an close range overhead kick in the second half. He could have had as many as he wanted. He was head and shoulders better than any of his opposition, and he knew it. But his work rate never relented. I have been the driver/mechanic/navigator of the Nahki Wells Bandwagon for going on a year now, and games like this only make me more comfortable.

It was stunningly ‘routine’. Matt Duke had almost nothing to do, but if I were to nitpick, here is where I would target the comb. Aldershot’s solitary chance came from a Duke error, dropping a (relatively) simple cross at 1-0. I don’t think there is much between he and Jon McLaughlin. But if one must be better, and in this context, one must, Duke isn’t that one.

As the second half wore on and the daydreams began, the lack of substitutions was interesting. Again, let me emphasise how bad Aldershot were. This couldn’t have gone more to plan for Phil Parkinson. And his plan called for only one substitution, Zavon Hines for Wells late on. (Interesting in itself actually. Worth keeping an eye on, Hines looked good in that role.) That was it. With such a tough run of games on deck, and so little at stake in that second half I was expecting more changes.

Aldershot offered nothing to deviate Parkinson from his plan, so this was obviously his ideal scenario, which probably tells you a lot about his approach to Tuesday.

A perfect day for the Bantams, the manager couldn’t have drawn it up better. A performance of it fitting military precision, three more points are on the board, and the play off run remains on track. Survive and advance.

City: McLaughlin, Darby, McArdle, Egan, Meredith, Forsyth, Gary Jones, Doyle, Atkinson, Hanson, Wells (Hines 81)

Not used: McLaughlin, McHugh, Ravenhill, Thompson, Brown, Connell

Categories: Match Reviews

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1 reply

  1. A couple of points on the goalkeeping…. maybe Jon is better at collecting crosses but Duke seems to let fewer goals in. Duke’s certainly been very consistent since his recall, the lack of goals conceeded speaks volumes for him and the defenders in front of him. Thanks for the match report Alex …a good read and three excellent points gained at a place we’ve struggled at in the recent past.

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