By Gareth Walker
Somehow, I have got the impossible task of rating the individual performances of Tuesday night’s heroes out of ten. I really wanted to give them all full marks, and certainly nobody deserves anything less than a nine because I can’t really remember anyone doing much wrong. However, just because I felt that three players stood out to me, I have awarded them one more mark than the rest.
Matt Duke – 10
This man has gone from being loaned out to Northampton Town last season to probably being the most consistent performer in this Cup run so far. Having made something of a shaky start to his City career, Duke is now our clear first choice number one and performances like Tuesday are the reason why.
Having excelled himself with a string of fine saves in the previous rounds against Wigan and Arsenal, he somehow went one better against Villa. Sitting in the Kop end, we were right behind the pile driver from N’Zogbia that he kept out. In the second half, he continued to perform his job bravely and somehow kept out the Multi-Million Pound Strikers that he was up against. A deserved MOTM.
Stephen Darby – 9
Another player who is enjoying a fantastic turnaround in fortunes of his City career over recent weeks. Although it hasn’t taken Darby as long as Duke to come good, he was still out of the team at the start of the season, and it has taken the injuries to Andrew Davies and Luke Oliver for us to see him as a regular in the side. We are now seeing what we have been missing and I have heard a few people today describe him as the best right back in League Two.
Darby really has become Mr Consistent. Defensively Phil Parkinson is all about shape and Darby epitomised this light night. He never once got sucked out of position and dealt well with whichever of Villa’s floating attackers he came up against, whether it be N’Zogbia, Gabriel Agbonlahor, or Andreas Weimann.
Rory McArdle – 10
Having re-watched the goals on television when I got home, I heard the commentator describe McArdle as “the busiest man in football”. He certainly has played more minutes than any other player in the land this season and it is amazing that due to all of our injuries, he has become the “Grandad” of the back four at the ripe old age of 25!
McArdle seemed to be everywhere, marshalling the Villa attacking threat marvellously, making tackle after tackle and block after block. After losing the first couple of aerial battles, he also got to grips with Benteke too and I don’t think that anyone deserved a goal more than him.
Carl McHugh – 9
It just goes to show how far this lad has come when you hear supporters talking about how much we have missed McHugh whilst he has been injured. He seems to be the perfect partner for McArdle at centre back, not least because he is left footed and we saw what a problem City had when Rory had to play on the left hand side of the pairing to accommodate Tom Naylor against Rochdale.
On Tuesday Carl played a role that defied his young years and yet again showed what a threat he can be in the opposition penalty box. It was a brilliant header for the third goal, and his celebrations weren’t bad either!
Curtis Good – 9
Considering what a huge performer James Meredith has been for us this season, Cutis Good has had huge boots to fill since stepping in for him at left back. I for one have been extremely worried by our lack of cover for Meredith, and PP even admitted after the Morecambe game on New Years Day that he didn’t know if Good could play at in that position until he was forced into putting him there.
Probably the biggest compliment that I can pay Curtis for on Tuesday is that he didn’t look like a centre back playing out of position. He didn’t make any of the mistakes that you might expect from someone doing such a job to make. He went about his business coolly and calmly and, in all honesty, he rarely looked troubled.
Will Atkinson – 9
What a transformation Will has undergone during his time at City. He has gone from being one of the Boo Boys of last season to now being one of our most invaluable players. His role has changed from last season in that he is no longer being asked to play as an attacking winger. We have Hines, Reid and Turgott to do that. Will’s job seems to be to provide much needed balance to the team on the opposite flank and it is a role that he is excelling in.
He is able to tuck inside and help out the midfield two as well as providing an outlet for the defence and midfield. His versatility was really important on Tuesday against higher league opposition, as it was against Wigan and Arsenal. He is another player whose attitude is spot on and this was shown perfectly late on in the game when he raced down the left wing to keep a ball in play that looked for all the world like it was going out for an Aston Villa throw in.
Gary Jones – 10
What can you say about this man that hasn’t already been said? I heard people complaining that Andy Gray is a bad signing because he is too old. Well; let me tell you this: if Gray is half as good for Bradford City as what Gary Jones has been so far this season then I won’t have a problem with him whatsoever.
For me, Jones’ performance on Tuesday was a shining example to all on lookers of what we regulars have seen all season – this is what playing football is all about. The man clearly loves his job and is a born winner. He was everywhere and you can see his enthusiasm rubbing off on his team mates. Talking in the pub before the game when we saw the two teams, somebody commented that they thought that Jones and Nathan Doyle might have the upper hand in the middle of the park over the young pairing of Bannan and Delph, and didn’t they just?
A couple of people had commented that Gary hadn’t quite reached his usual high standards during recent games, but he was certainly back to his best against Villa. This was never more evident than when he charged into a challenge and made a last ditch block just inside his own half in the dying minutes. The post match praise that he received from experts, including Robbie Savage, has never been more justified.
Nathan Doyle – 9
I’ve gone on record earlier this season as saying that Nathan Doyle is my favourite City player at the moment. He oozes class and looks far too good at times to be playing in the Fourth Tier.
I worried for him early doors when N’Zogbia seemed to throw him off the ball like he wasn’t even there – not an easy thing to do, as I’m sure any player in League Two will probably tell you! However, Doyle recovered to regain his usual composure and went on to mix it with the players who on paper are supposed to be far better than him. He shows a level of composure and time on the ball that only the best players usually have and he was able to spray some trademark passes about at times too.
Zavon Hines – 9
But for being substituted, Zavon would have been the fourth player that I would have awarded full marks to. He undoubtedly had his best game to date in a City shirt. He had the young Villa left back on toast at times in the first half, and showed Premiership quality on at least two occasions when he instantly brought long passes under control.
Zavon also had one notable run and shot when he cut inside from the right when I thought that he was going to score. He clearly has ability. Hines looks to be a confidence player as many players of his ilk are. What City have to do now is get this type of performance out of him on a consistent basis; because if we do, we could have a real gem of a player on our hands.
James Hanson – 9
I am one of James Hanson’s biggest fans and I can not understand at all some of the stick that he gets from certain sections of the VP crowd. The man was a giant on Tuesday. He is City’s target man and our play is geared so much around him. Hanson does far more for the team than most target men would too, in that he works so hard chasing lost causes and running the channels.
I sometimes think that he is only appreciated in games such as against better teams, because people don’t have the same expectations of him to score goals as they do in League Two, and therefore they are more appreciative of everything else that he brings to the table. On Tuesday, Hanson defied the odds of a man who has been looking like he needed a rest, in order to regain his goal scoring touch, and he gave the young Aston Villa defence a torrid time.
He was also so unlucky not to score with a header that was cleared off the line and another that thundered against the bar with Shay Given beaten. His performance deserved a goal. James also must go home battered and bruised after every game because he gets pulled and pushed around by defenders in every game that he plays. How Mr Webb didn’t give him a free kick at times in the second half was quite frankly staggering.
Nahki Wells – 9
City’s star man of the season so far put in another top notch performance that is sure to have put him in the shop window. He took his goal calmly, which is the trademark of a real striker after he missed a couple of chances at the weekend. He was another player whose movement was too much for the Villa defence to handle at times, and he proved yet again what a top class partnership he has formed with James Hanson.
The detriment of City’s cup run might be that it increases the number of suitors chasing Nahki – new Wolves Manager Dean Saunders (pundit for Sky’s coverage of the game) admitted to having had him watched and described him as the best striker in League Two. All City fans will be praying that we hold onto him in order to spearhead our promotion push.
Blair Turgott – 9
I’ve said in previous WOAP articles how I really like this lad. His attitude is infectious, he is becoming a real crowd favourite and he has some good ability too. I can see him going a long way in the game and he will certainly endear himself to the Supporters of whichever clubs he plays for.
Blair likes to cross early and he has some skill too. It was a testament to him that PP chose to bring him on over our star winger who is working his way back to fitness, Kyel Reid. Turgott was trusted to keep us threatening in an attacking sense after Hines had run himself in to the ground, and he didn’t disappoint.