Atieno 41, Oster 48
Bradford City 0
Saturday 5 January, 2013
By Tom Warden
Several years ago I was sat idle in a recording studio on the outskirts of Manchester listening to City’s promotion bid begin a slow decline with an away defeat to Barnet.
I was confident that year, just as I am this year; except this year I can be at Underhill in person. Ultimately the result that previous time kick-started a run which saw us out of touch with the play off pack towards the end, but this season one hopes we seem more resilient. City are going through a mini-slump recently, perhaps a case of after the lord mayor’s show (an outdated term if ever there was one), who knows? But a slump all the same, a two goal lead thrown away at Southend followed by a demolishing by John Coleman (boy does he have our number) and a deflating draw at Morecambe led us here, potentially the perfect place to start our resurgence.
The fans arriving at Underhill were greeted by a changed formation and backline from the one that has served us so well up to Rochdale, Curtis Good and Stephen Darby taking the fullback slots whilst Nathan Doyle dropped back to centre half with Rory McArdle, while Carl Mchugh recovered. Formation-wise City began with the controversial diamond, designed to stifle a midfield which had provided some joy for Barnet in recent games. Gary Jones was the tip, with Ritchie Jones and Atkinson in the centre while Ravenhill anchored the side.
Tactically, the first half could not have gone much better, Barnet seemed happy to show little intent aside from on the counter, soak up City pressure and allow us time on the ball, Nahki Wells began running the open channels and when James Hanson flashed a shot wide of the post after about 15 minutes it seemed the tempo was set. The idea was evidently to use the pace of Wells to stretch the backline and bring the extra midfield into play or have them there to win the inevitable Hanson knockdowns.
To get this out of the way early, Hanson was categorically not to blame for this defeat. His brief was to get out there and win the ball in the air, which he did, multiple times. The fact that the officials gave him nothing despite him being sandwiched in-between two giant men at every challenge and tugged back every time he turned should be something we defend him against, not pillar him for.
What do we want him to do? He covered an awful lot of ground today, the service to him was mostly balls hoofed lo him which he challenged for EVERY time against a back line which was allowed to push both him and Wells around, yet I don’t hear Wells getting stick, because of the goals? Maybe, but without Hanson, Wells doesn’t score the amount he has done.
Anyway, rant in defence of James Hanson over, the first half drew little, until just before the interval when Ritchie Jones, instead of playing the ball out for a throw, decided he could get it over the top of a man stood less then a foot in front of him. He couldn’t. The ball ended up bouncing off the Barnet full back Johnson who had a free run through to square the ball to Atenio who had a simple finish. This was a lazy piece of play which epitomised Jones’ game, Darby had little or no protection from him until, ironically, this instance, where he contrived to provide Barnet with their first shot on target of the game.
This led into a half time where Phil Parkinson had a decision, go for the equaliser by bringing on an attacking player or stick with something that had worked in stifling a team which had been performing well recently (a draw at Exeter and an away win at Gillingham, let’s remember.) He chose the second, bringing Kyel Reid on for the disappointing Ritchie Jones.
Immediately there was an impact. Reid pulled out Barnet’s hitherto solid midfield and Hanson outmuscled his man on the flank before squaring a ball into the six yard box that Wells should have buried for 1-1, he didn’t. Instead, following Wells’ shocking miss, Barnet came forward, a fairly blatant handball was missed by the linesman, City failed to clear twice, and John Oster was on hand to fire home from inside the box. I had the same feeling as I’d felt listening to the radio that day a few years ago.
After that it was an exercise in extreme frustration. Ravenhill gave very little but mouth to the referee, Hanson had a goal disallowed from a header after a sumptuous cross from Reid, Alan Connell missed a glorious opportunity from 10 yards and Nahki Wells and Gary Jones argued about who should take a free kick which Jones curled marginally wide.
On another day Ritchie Jones would have put his clearance out for a throw leaving us to go in at 0-0 and grab the goal in the second half that our dominance deserved, on another day Nahki would have slammed home that chance from 5 yards, on another day Connell would have buried his shot with ten minutes to go, kick starting an unlikely comeback. On another day everything could have been different.
But this wasn’t another day, it was today, and I hope that today doesn’t end up ultimately lead to the same result this season as the one I heard on the radio a few years ago.
City: Duke, Darby (Turgott 77), McArdle, Doyle, Good, Ritchie Jones (Reid 46), Ravenhill (Connell 67), Atkinson, Gary Jones, Hanson, Wells
Not used: McLaughlin, McHugh, Brown, Hines
Categories: Match Reviews