Bradford City 2
Thompson 24, Connell 86
Accrington Stanley 1
Tuesday 26 December, 2012
By Damien Wilkinson
Bradford City finally laid the curse of traditional bogey side, Accrington Stanley, who looked to be heading for a fifth consecutive 1-1 Valley Parade draw, a result that would have extended their unbeaten sequence at Valley Parade, stretching back to 1955. However, up stepped super-sub Alan Connell, who fired up the flux capacitor, consigned the 1955 statistic to history, and propelled City to another important home win.
Following the postponement of the previous at Wycombe, City approached the match on the back of a much needed rest, after the relentless fixtures in the campaign to date. Accrington Stanley, on the other hand, participated in one of only two League 2 fixtures to go ahead last Saturday, drawing 1-1 at home to Plymouth, leaving them in 17th position in the league.
December has very much been a pivotal month for City. Wins in the Capital One and JPT cups, good league performance and a narrow extra time defeat in the FA Cup, have removed the shackles from an almost ingrained pessimism within many City fans, with many starting to believe this could be the season.
City made two changes to the expected starting line-up, with Tom Naylor replacing Carl McHugh, who had a slight calf injury and Zavon Hines replacing Nahki Wells, who could only make the bench, following a recent bout of sickness.
Accrington were looking to halt a recent run of seven league and cup matches without a win and managed to avert a potential goalkeeping crisis, with Paul Rachubka, on loan from Leeds, originally suspended following a red card in the Plymouth match, reinstated following the submission of an appeal against the red card.
In front of a decent sized Boxing day crowd of over 11,000, City, playing towards the Kop, began brightly, with the pace of Zavon Hines causing Stanley some early anxious moments. A couple of near misses from Hines and Will Atkinson came and went, and were soon followed by some crunching tackles from Stanley, Hines being a notable recipient, as they looked to stifle City’s play.
As the half progressed, James Hanson began to exert himself on the game, winning a number of headers, and following a spell of pressure, McArdle’s free kick on 24 minutes was flicked on from Hanson to Garry Thompson, who opened the scoring, crashing the ball into the net with a scintillating strike from the right. Thompson, looked like he was certainly capitalising on his performance in the Arsenal game, and put in a great shift throughout.
The rest of the first half progressed with City largely dictating matters, without overly threatening to increase their lead. An accidental collision led Hines to receive a fingernail in his eye, blurred vision causing him to be replaced by Nahki Wells just before half time.
As the teams left the field at half time, there was a feeling of a job well done, so far.
Accrington came out of the blocks with all guns blazing for the second half, and there was a spell of pressure for the first 15 minutes or so. Accrington pressed and City struggled to string any meaningful passes together, resorting to increasingly lumping the ball up forward. Some good chances were created, with Accrington missing a couple of good chances and Matt Duke pulling off one amazing save, tipping a shot around the post when a goal looked certain.
City kept going though, and their task was made somewhat easier when Stanley were reduced to ten men on 66 minutes. Wells raced on to a through ball just inside the Accrington half, and a mixture of handball and a body check, which floored Wells, led to Winnard’s second yellow card of the afternoon and an early bath.
This allowed City more space to knock the ball around and there was a greater use of width, and for a while, despite the pitch becoming heavier from the relentless rain, it seemed only a matter of time before City would go on to score again. Wells, clearly struggling with the effects of his illness, was himself substituted on 72 minutes, Alan Connell replacing him. Kyel Reid, also made a welcome return to league action nine minutes later, replacing Will Atkinson, who had another good game with some skilful play down the wing.
Despite the pressure, Stanley managed to equalise against the run of play. A free kick into the box, was not dealt with by the City defence, uncertainty allowing Boco to slam the ball into the net. With 10 minutes to go, this looked a body blow to City, and the hoodoo reared its head yet again.
However, City this season have shown that they are made of sterner stuff and this was to be the case yet again. Reid was increasingly becoming a menace, and finally a ball in from the right was nodded home in some style by Connell on 86 minutes to cue celebrations amongst the City faithful.
Looking at the League Two table, City sit in 5th place, 3 points off the automatic promotion spots, with a game in hand on some of the teams above them. At this stage of the season, Phil Parkinson must be delighted with this, together with the resilience his side continues to show. City can now kick on with the next home match against Rochdale and the subsequent trip to Morecambe, with a great platform to build upon.
January can never have been more important, and Parkinson will be hoping to adopt the blueprint from December; ensuring the league form can continue, in spite of the distraction of two cup semi-finals.
From what we have seen so far there is no reason to doubt this, and the continued belief that this is our season firmly remains.
City: Duke, Darby, McArdle, Naylor, Meredith, Thompson, Gary Jones, Doyle, Atkinson (Reid 82), Hines (Wells 44, replaced with Connell 72), Hanson
Not used: McLaughlin, Ravenhill, Ritchie Jones, Turgott
Categories: Match Reviews