Bradford City 1
Torquay United 0
Saturday 8 December, 2012
By Gareth Walker
For so long during the second half of yesterday’s match against Torquay United, it looked like City supporters would be left leaving Valley Parade muttering that famous football cliché about it just being one of those days.
As chances, and 30 shots on goal, came and went – in what was really a dominant 90 minute performance – it simply felt like we were never going to score. That was until Alan Connell, not for the first time this season, leapt from the bench to score a stunning late winner and keep City firmly in the promotion picture.
There were many reasons why, up to the 85th minute, we had failed to break down the Gulls’ resistance. Not least, the brilliant performance of opposition goalkeeper Michael Poke who made a string of fine saves to keep his side in the contest.
Add to that the relatively poor, by recent standards, crossing and set piece delivery that Phil Parkinson touched on in his post match interview, plus the at-times-greedy-performance of Nahki Wells (Disclaimer here: I am a big fan of Nahki and I understand that he probably scores a lot of his goals, like all strikers do, by holding on to a somewhat selfish streak) we could be forgiven for thinking that we would be leaving Valley Parade frustrated.
Futhermore, I have not yet mentioned that City were playing against 10 men from the 34th minute onwards after Torquay Skipper Brian Saah was sent off for a vicious blatant elbow to the face of James Meredith. We all know the difficulties that playing against 10 men can bring and City actually triumphed in this same fixture last season despite being reduced to 10 men ourselves.
Unfortunately, Martin Ling is already talking about appealing the red card decision after protesting that Saah doesn’t have that aggressive streak in his character. I would assume that once he has seen the video, he will change his mind.
In truth, City had been the better side in the early stages before the sending off, dominating possession and looking the more likely side to break the deadlock. Ling even admitted after the game that his side only really had one clear chance during the whole 90 minutes which ironically came immediately after they lost there captain, when substitute Niall Thomson hit the post.
In stark contrast to this, City had a plethora of chances throughout the game, the most notable in the first half being when James Hanson rose at the far post to cannon his header against the crossbar.
In the second half chance after chance came City’s way. In particular we saw Wells’ brilliant strike from the angle somehow tipped onto the post by Poke and then we saw a cross from the right defected in-between the diving Poke and his gaping goal by a Gulls defender, only for the stretching Hanson to miss turning it into the empty net by inches.
The Bantams were trying everything to get the winner and as has been so often the case this season, Gary Jones and Nathan Doyle were instrumental in the middle of the park as we tried to stretch the opposition defence. It was a masterclass in midfield play, not least from Doyle who seems to make his job look so effortless and never fails to impress me in a City shirt.
The one criticism I had before the goal was the lack of width that we were exhibiting down our left hand side. Meredith was running himself into the ground getting up and down the pitch but he had Will Atkinson playing in front of him. As good as Atkinson has been this season, he is not a player who is going to provide natural width and the only help that Meredith appeared to be getting was when Wells was running the left hand channel. What is key to note, at this point, is the amount of work that Wells put in whilst running both channels and attempting to probe for a winner.
Around by us, we thought that it was crying out for the introduction of Craig Forsyth to help out on the left flank. Maybe it was just us being picky, because I’m sure that similar discussions were taking place all around the ground, as supporters, as well as Parkinson, were wracking their brains in trying to think of a way that we could break down our opponents defensive ranks.
In the end, the two attacking changes that PP made were instrumental in getting us the three points. The first was the introduction of Blair Turgott for Garry Thompson on the right had side. Thompson hadn’t had a bad game, but the pace and directness of the West Ham loanee really made a difference. One jinking run in particular resulted in a shot from the edge of the box that seemed destined for the top corner until it deflected wide. Unfortunately, and much to the annoyance of Turgott, the referee failed to notice what was an obvious deflection and awarded a goal kick.
I really like this lad. He is young and raw but he definitely has something about him and I can see why he has played for England U19s. One key feature of his game is that he never lets his head drop and he keeps wanting the ball. Despite three poor crosses in a row yesterday, he kept probing away and recovered to put in some good deliveries, He also makes an effort to gee the crowd up and involve the supporters in the game. This is something that will endear him to the fans of any club that he plays for, and he is doing a good job for us at the moment in the absence of Kyel Reid and Zavon Hines.
The second substitution that the Bantams boss made was the introduction of Connell and this one proved to be the match winner. He came on in the 80th minute and scored in the 85th. It was a goal worthy of winning any game.
As Meredith and Atkinson interchanged passes down the left, what looked like another poor cross came in to the box. However, a Torquay defender failed to make the clearance and Connell set himself nicely on the edge of the area. There was a huge intake of breath from the crowd as he unleashed a superb first time volley that arrowed into the top left hand corner of Poke’s goal.
Cue delirium and relief in the stands as well as on the pitch where the players ran to the Kop to celebrate. Indeed, this was a game that previous City sides certainly wouldn’t have won and would maybe even have lost to a sucker punch goal on the break.
Ling had irritated PP somewhat in his pre-match interview when he had suggested that City’s players may be distracted by the big Cup game that we are all looking forward to on Tuesday night. We of course knew better, and it is yet another testament to this side that not one of them flinched any tackle or 50-50 yesterday.
Our next two league games look like tough ones away at Southend and Wycombe, but there is a feel good factor around the club at the moment and long may it continue. Even being the pessimist that I am, on leaving the ground yesterday, I mentioned the words “Automatic Promotion” for the first time.
That is the way that the club has got us all feeling at the moment. As the Kop sang at the end, why not “Bring on The Arsenal!”
City: Duke, Darby, McArdle, McHugh (Connell 80), Meredith, Thompson (Turgott 62), Gary Jones, Doyle, Atkinson, Hanson, Wells (Naylor 89)
Not used: McLaughlin, Ravenhill, Ritchie Jones, Forsyth
Categories: Match Reviews