I’m fed up of this

By Jason McKeown

Afternoons like the one experienced on Boxing Day provide an emphatic reminder of the importance of the main job in hand – escaping this bloody division.

I am not one of those arrogant, snobbish types who looks down upon League Two and believes we don’t deserve to be here. Mistakes have been made. League Two has been our home for over five years now for many good reasons, and in truth I’ve enjoyed many aspects to life in the bottom division. But there comes a time where the more tedious elements of football at this level have been endured far too many times. It’s time to move on.

And, in truth, I’m whole-heartedly sick of playing teams like Accrington Stanley.

Not because we’re too good for this, not because it’s unglamorous (we go to watch City, not the opposition) and not because Accrington are a poxy club (I wish they’d bring a bigger away following on Boxing Day given they’re less than an hour away, but I do like Accrington as a club and they’re supporters are fantastic). But because of their dreadful tactics, which spoils the entertainment value of football.

We had started the game well, with Zavon Hines and James Hanson linking up promisingly. Not everything Hines did came off, but he was obviously our dangerman who was likely to make things happen. Our spark. Accrington saw that too, and so began to implement a cynical and ugly gameplan of kicking him out of the match. Robust challenges on him overstepped the mark on several occasions. It may have been accidental on Accrington’s part that a loose fingernail ended up inside Zavon’s eye, ultimately forcing him to depart the field, but it left a sour taste given the way he had been treated before.

On comes Nahki Wells, same result of experiencing overly physical Accrington challenges. Later on Kyel Reid, who we’ve only just got back, was on the receiving end of similar stuff. Imagine if Reid had been hurt and we’d lost him again for a few months? I get the fact Accrington had to try something to stop us from playing, we can hardly expect them to roll over and let us defeat them, but this borderline legal approach makes for a really dismal watch. It’s not nice to watch less physically strong players be kicked up in the air.

It’s not a novel approach. I remember Year Zero of our adventure in League Two, Macclesfield Town at home in August 2007. We were treated to the sight of one of our players being rugby tackled at one stage, and flair player Omar Daley was on the receiving end of some questionable tackles. We’ve seen so many teams at this level attempt to succeed through brawn rather than brain.

Then when Accrington snatched an equaliser, we endured that other  dismal aspect of League Two that drives me mad. Time wasting. City had poured forward but the ball had gone out for a goal kick, cue the big centre half falling down ‘injured’, and the full back casually dribbling the ball up the field so his goalkeeper couldn’t restart the game. From then on, every Accrington goal kick and every throw in was carried out painfully slowly. The referee typically impotent towards doing anything about it.

City scored a winner, thank goodness, but as the fourth official put up the board to signal four minutes of added time there was a frustration that a large chunk of those four minutes was the result of Accrington’s time-wasting. They had bought themselves more time to get an equaliser by time-wasting their way to a point. There would have been no justice if Stanley had have equalised during stoppage time. Just like Crawley Town last season, I couldn’t help but feel there was a decent football team within that Accrington side – it’s just held back by stone-age tactics.

The Accrington manager Leam Richardson saw events completely differently, and his post-match interview is all the more remarkable for the fact we can see him on the video, airing his distorted views with a straight face. It’s a common feature of League Two opposing managers to make ludicrous claims of dominating the match when at best they had a 20-minute spell of pressure (tick), that the referee made a scandalously bad decision (tick) and to criticise City’s approach (tick, bingo – full house Richardson!). You wonder if the Valley Parade media room has a crib sheet for opposition manager’s to use, so well worn is the script. The message to their supporters: they were brave and unlucky to lose to “big club” Bradford City.

I’m so pleased that City won the game – as others have said, in other seasons we would not have won such a match – but the tedious approach of Accrington left a sour taste in the mouth from knowing they were so close to getting away with it. Again.

And I just hope that the three points we gained from a tough afternoon put us another step closer to escpasing from a division where such tactics have become the norm.

Categories: Opinion

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11 replies

  1. Spot on here, a very good article!
    Again we find ourselves struggling with teams coming to valley parade with so many men behind the ball !!.
    Some tackles put into our players are disgusting!!

  2. I think time wasting after 2 or 3 minutes was beyond a joke. I totally agree with Jason but I fear it is something we will see more and more as we go through the season. What is equally as frustrating is the referees total lack of protection for James Hanson. I have seen him literally manhandled this season and the referee will just look away. If James commits even half the foul the referee cant wait to penalise him.
    Anyone else see the referee on Boxing Day with about 5 mins to go ignore a blatant shirt pull on James by their number 5 and then admonish the number 5 when the ball went out of play? What was he saying to him “It was a foul do it again and I will have to blow” Just blow your whistle point to the spot and grow some balls. Rant over. Great article Jason.

  3. The only thing that surprised me about this match was my usually far more reserved than myself wife saying ‘f@uck you Accrington Stanley’ at the final whistle. It felt like such a justified victory because of their vulgar, though perhaps not always illegal, approach throughout. Unfortunately they are not unique in that respect, however, as I would say that about 1 in 4 visiting teams have a similar attitude and approach. It’s getting boring to say it, but the standard of refereeing in this division that allows this to happen is ultimately what is at fault.

  4. Spot on Paul. I too am sick of seeing James Hanson pushed, pulled and sandwiched for 90 minutes with no protection and then penalised for next to nothing. It seems that if you are 6′ 2″ and 15 stone you forfeit the right to any protection.
    We all view the game with a one-eyed perspective but Richardson’s comments are incredible. He omits to mention that we played a fluid attacking formation until Hines got injured, with Zav in a free role across the front; then we went route one for a while and then changed approach again when Connell & Reid came on. So much for only playing one way.
    He also overlooks the damning stat that his side didn’t have a single shot on goal all first half. Had our finishing been better we’d have gone in three up at the break and not been flattered. And all of this with a virus in the camp affecting several players.
    Accrington looked a pretty poor side overall and let’s hope we don’t have to play them again for a long time.

  5. Jason, that sums up my feelings, and those around us at the game. Every time that Stanley have visited us this last few seasons their approach has been the same, a feature of last season’s encounter being their Physio who spent as much time on the pitch as some players. Please, please let it be good riddance.

  6. Excellent article. The comments from the AS manager are unreal – I can only assume his directors weren’t there and a video isn’t available! They wasted time from the start and although City played poorly, they did try to play. AS came out a different side in the 2nd half and produced a couple of chances but the game just died and there was a sense of disbelief when they equalised. City then played 10 minutes of good football to win it. I thought the ref did a good job of keeping 11 AS players on the field for as long as he did; I thought it was clever the way they took it in turns to go through the back of the City forwards! One separate comment that the stadium announcer needs to tone down the arrogance – he appears to have a very short memory!

  7. In total agreement. Even Rochdale, who absolutely outplayed us, and could’ve continued to if they so wished, did the same thing. Niggly fouls, delayed goal kicks and a ridiculous series of ‘injuries’, with the ref only taking action in the final throws of the game as their full back crawled off the pitch.
    Note to future teams: please try and play.

  8. I was at this game we out sung your bradford fans. 150 of us to 10000 of you. And to be honest i thought we were the better team for large parts of the second half. And i think the ultimate arrogance of braford as a whole was summed up at half time when 18 year old first year pro came on Marcus Carver for the man on the tannoy to say: “Who came on …. sorry i wasn’t looking” and for him to continously chuckle to the whole ground. It was a poor game ….. but it would have been a lot poorer if it weren’t for us Stanley fans.

    • Yeah your fans are excellent, though curiously a lot quieter in the home game this season than I remember from previous seasons.

      To be honest, the PA announcer at City is a bit embarrassing and I think City fans were laughing at him for not doing his job properly rather than Stanley. So I wouldn’t take offence by it.

      • To be fair i also think that we lack that dirty side to our game that you truthily need to be succesful …… Although that may be my biased opinion …..

      • Hope you stay up. Dislike your manager, but always enjoy trips to your ground.

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