Not worth reading

20130316_165757

Exeter City 4

Duke (OG) 11, D’Ath 45, Bennett 84, O’Flynn 89

Bradford City 1

Reid 79

Saturday 16 March, 2013

By David Lawrence

You don’t want to read this. City’s promotion hopes are over. Told you.

You don’t want to read, what you probably suspected beforehand anyway, that City are just not good enough this time around.

You don’t want to hear how a team good enough to beat any team in the league also struggle to put away any team in the league.

This was again the case at St James Park, Exeter.

City rocked up unbeaten but unimpressive since Wembley, hoping to finally get their late push for promotion going in a six-pointer against a significantly weakened Grecian side. Once again Phil Parkinson had changed things around, making considerable modifications from the team that misfired at lowly Plymouth on Tuesday night. The most significant of these being a starting berth for the uncared for Alan Connell, who had been putting in good late cameos to suggest he could be the man ‘in form’ to create, if not score, the goals City have been so sorely lacking of late.

20130316_145435Before kick-off the atmosphere amongst both sets of fans was nervous, anticipatory and, unlike the weather, friendly. This was a welcome relief to the real football fans that may have feared the worst from the warnings of possible trouble. If you’ve not had the pleasure or inclination to go to St James Park you ought to be aware that the parking is rubbish, the away facilities are rubbish, the pubs around the ground are rubbish but the welcome in their supporters bar is far better.

It’s got a lot of what football should be about: a community helping to run their club and create a welcoming atmosphere to have a drink, and a chat with like-minded footy fans. No plastics anywhere.

One Exeter fan from their supporters trust Bernadette, summed up how they felt about her teams’ chances; particularly with their midfield maestros Alan Gow and ex-cityite Tommy Docherty missing: a cautious ‘victory or draw’. The few City fans that were there, many of which had stayed down in the south-west since Plymouth, tried to resist repeating the ‘bloody obvious’ importance of the match by sharing tales of their antics through the week; the most bizarre being throwing snowballs by Dartmoor prison.

Wishing each other well, but not good luck, the supporters filed off to their respective areas. City fans that wanted to stay dry were ripped off by paying £21 to sit in an old mainly wooden stand (yes I know) , rocking dementedly from side to side during the game to see what was happening behind the large girders blocking their view. Meanwhile, those hardy/daft enough stood behind the goal were open to the elements. They made a wrong choice as, before the kick off, there was a torrential downpour which spoilt their and City’s chances of having any fun. The pitch would cut up fast.

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So it proved. Within 10 minutes of the match, the pitch resembled a farmer’s field. Previous to that City had started brightly. You know the script by now; we have lots of possession but don’t really create ‘real’ opportunities to score; half chances had left City in this last-chance saloon and there was no inclination the status quo was about to change. The one notable incident from the opening exchange was Andrew Davies being injured in an innocuous challenge which at one point prompted the stretcher. After several minutes he came back on to begin his worst ever performance in a City shirt. Brave but a bit daft, given the quality of Rory McArdle on the bench.

This wasn’t to be the only calamity of the afternoon though. Step forward Matt Duke. Hero to villain. On 11 minutes he appeared to be doing some ‘live’ coaching to Jonny Mac on how not to come for crosses and palmed the ball into his own net. Sucker punch worth watching again for its morbid hilarity. He wasn’t finished there though, as his afternoon to forget got worse in the first half stoppage time. New loan signing (yes you can still bring players in to bolster a promotion push) D’Ath (from Reading no less) mustn’t have believed his luck as Duke hesitated and then mis-judged a cross to the far post. 2-0.

City traipsed off looking dejected. Particularly James Hanson and Garry Thompson, who had both worked hard. The latter showing the kind of drive and passion unusually lacking today in our midfield. It needs to be said: we were missing Ricky Ravenhill in a game like this, with the pitch being in the state it was.20130316_145006

So it was something of a surprise to see Thompson not reappear along with Doyle, the pair replaced by Zavon Hines and the elusive Kyel Reid – Doyle had earlier taken a knock, which may have influence decision making. Yes we’d been short of width, but from none to two out-and-out wingers was a gamble. If the wingers could come to terms with the cut-up pitch it may have given Hanson some ball to attack, possibly force the impressive O’Flynn back and starve Gosling and Molesley of service. If it didn’t it would be a big loss.

In truth Hines got going from the off but was erratic and wasteful; whilst it took the more potent Reid a good 10 to 15 to get into the match. This is when City had their best chances of the game; not least Hanson’s header that was cleared off the line from a Jones corner. Having aerial balls was suiting James, but he should have scored a few minutes later from a fine Reid cross. Apparently, Parkinson commented afterwards that City lack a striker brave enough to put his head where it hurts. We all know James is nice but not naughty. Hence his poor scoring record. Oh for a Lee Mills or a Ron Futcher.

City did manage to score though as Krysiak impersonated Duke and let a Reid corner swing all the way into his goal. City fans were briefly buoyed, but soon disappointed, as Exeter scored from the next break-out of play. Davies and Nelson’s persistence in standing too far apart all afternoon and the midfield being absent gave the impressive John O’Flynn time to set up Scott Bennett, who showed City strikers how to take their chances.

Wells came on for 10 minutes of doing nothing to add to Connell’s eighty minutes of doing nothing. Oh yes, Connell’s not been mentioned yet. He was lost in this game. Like a school boy playing for the first time with the seniors. League One player my arse. Not on this showing. His performance was so directly opposed to his fantastic cameos and put paid to why he was shown the door by Paulo Di Canio. Confirming Phil Parkinson’s judgement that he’s a better impact player.

In fact, as O’Flynn wrapped things up with a nicely taken fourth for the Grecians, City fans were left to reflect on their team’s and manager’s performance; no one was really surprise and certainly nobody had a passionate but angry rant. Parkinson had been unlucky that the selection was hijacked by the weather which cut the pitch up. He’s been unlucky too that he’s not managed to sign a ‘brave’ striker –perhaps a consequence of his strategy of signing ‘nice guys’ who fit in with a happy squad.

As we lose heavily and promotion goes out of the window for another year, his rotation policy since Wembley has clearly not worked. However, he had little choice given how jaded the players clearly are. You can rest and recover physically for the odd week, but to regain mental strength to put a serious promotion challenge in takes a good break from things. On this showing, the rotation is more about the squad ‘sharing the load’ to get the last few games out of the way.

As the bedraggled City players trudged off the pitch covered in mud they looked as defeated as the defeated soldiers did boarding the boats at Dunkirik. Many of those came back to conquer Europe on D-day and many, but not all, the City players will be back to try to conquer the league on August 3rd.

Now that will be worth reading about.

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City: Duke, Darby, Nelson (Wells 83), Davies, McHugh, Thompson (Reid 46), Doyle (Hines 46), Jones, Atkinson, Connell, Hanson

Not used: McLaughlin, Meredith, McArdle, Ravenhill



Categories: Match Reviews

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

16 replies

  1. Well it’s over the promotion play off push!
    And im pleased it is!
    Maybe now the club and management can look into what’s gone wrong since Christmas over our league form? To many games ? Injuries that have robbed us of players for long periods? The cup runs ? Having a small squad?
    Phil Parkinson’s contract talks gone on to long? (I appreciate issues why) no for me this is no time to start looking for what or who’s to blame its a time for Phil Parkinson and the board to take stock for next season look at the whole structure ! The cup final money what’s the best way we can spend it. The club may decide to release players early ones that are not in the clubs future next season.
    No never have Bradford Cty been in a better position than now to plan for another season in lge2 , I look forward with so much joy at next season knowing the building blocks are set in stone only the furnishings need to be sorted!.
    Im one very proud Bradford Cty supporter layed here in bed. Yes promotion is a must next season , we will make it im sure!

  2. Isn’t it time we scrapped our “mascot”.
    An elderly bloke in a City strip who wears a bowler hat is getting a bit embarrassing.
    There – avoided any criticism of the team/manager. Wouldn’t swap the Wembley glory for promotion but next season can we field reserve teams and go out in round one of Capital One/Johnstone Paint ? Please.

    • Before we ‘scrap’ our City Gent perhaps we should consider that he fills this role unpaid and doesn’t even get expenses. Oh and he’s been doing it for City for years, through thin and thinner -both metaphorically and literally! He’s certainly ‘original’ but is a top bloke. What next rename city to something more exotic and unsuccessful like the ‘Bulls’ did away with ‘Northern’ and damned be our history?

  3. Good enough to beat any team in the league? Checking the stats.
    Played 15 against teams who are today in the top 10, losing 8 and collecting only 15 points from a possible 45.
    The so called dip in promotion form since the Arsenal game? Since then and Wembley City have played only four of those in the top 10 Gillingham 1st, Southend 8th, Fleetwood 9th and Oxford 10th.
    Time to take stock.

    • May I ask what your point is Steven?
      I mean why not ask Peter Taylor back ?
      Yes things in lge have gone wrong but the overall view by the sensible Cty supporters (im not saying your not 🙂 is the blocks are in place for a very good season next season

      • Peter Tyalor – where on earth does that come from? Surely an over reaction to statement of facts?
        Sensible supporters (and I’m not saying you’re not one either) should be realistic and recognise City have not delivered against the top teams who were also competing for promotion. The record was poor before the Arsenal game
        Whilst there might be blocks in place there are also serious questions about the current squad being strong enough for a promotion push next season. Thats the point.

  4. I went yesterday and took the decision to sit my family in the stand given the horrendous weather sweeping across the south. Isn’t it amazing how much play takes place behind the pillar!

    My feelings at the end of the game were just of disbelief. Pure disbelief. We were just simply better than them, they were extremely poor but you do struggle if you just gift them goals like we did. Their attacking threat revolved around Davies giving the ball away and we pressed through Thompson, Hanson and Jones – who all put in a shift. Connell looked off the pace, just as he did against Rochdale the last time I saw him. Shame Thompson didn’t stay on and Connell go off.

    We then basically attacked for the rest of the game. All over them but without scoring. Davies should have scored (1st half), Hanson had two good chances plus we put plenty of poor crosses in. As Reid and Hines started to tear them apart, we got the goal back. They then resorted to fouling in turn to stop Reid in particular attacking.

    The ref pulled the card out a few times and then abdicated all responsibility by not giving a foul to City when Connell was upended on halfway. They went straight through and ended what was set to be a grandstand finish.

    Anyone who thinks the players don’t care should have looked at Jones & Parkinson as they trudged off. A miserable day – stuffed by a very poor side.

    BUT we are in a good position as a club, there is always next year and let’s stick behind the team (as I have to say all the supporters who were there) did.

    • Rob is right. I was there too, and though it may sound rather unlikely, considering the score line, we completely dominated for long periods. Coming out afterwards with some Grecian fans, they could not believe their luck and our generosity at both ends of the pitch.
      Just nothing is going for us and I think clearly we used up all our luck in the cup.
      Be in no doubt, the players really want it – and were clearly distraught at the end. We do have a good bunch if we can keep most of them and add a little more.
      Harsh comments on Connell I thought he was decent given the conditions.

      A question for David – I assume “reading” in the title should be with a capital R ? PP certainly isn’t yet worth premier league !

      • Hi Ken. Yes it crossed my mind to put ‘Not Worth Reading’ but thought that it would make the play on words too obvious. Well done for being one of those that have noticed.
        Yes, I agree the comments seem harsh on Connell but I felt the set-up, the conditions and the way the game went meant that the game just seemed to pass him by. Being a relatively late signing in the summer following the frustration of missing out on other targets I don’t think he can be thought of as ‘a starter’. Often comming on a sub when defences are tiring mentally and physically he really makes a good contribution. However, I feel at present he is short of being good enough to play in a league where he could show his skills (league 1) and unsuited to league 2. He needs to find a yard of pace or bulk up to survive in this league or a manager with spare budget and patience in the league above.
        In truth I don’t think we have solved the striker issue since Parkinson took over. Way back then he called for the strikers to pull their fingers out (http://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/sport/sportbcfc/9392458.Bradford_City_strikers_urged_to_stake_their_claim/)
        What happened was we ‘found’ the Nakki-Hanson partnership that was and is good enough to Keep Us In This League.

  5. Just back from a Devon adventure and the usual story with City – a good trip apart from the results. For my money we were worth four points from the two games. The Plymouth game was especially frustrating as we battered them for the second half but, just like yesterday, without creating many good chances and never really testing the keeper.

    At Exeter I thought we got it wrong from the start with the system we played, although we certainly weren’t helped by comedy goalkeeping. However in the second half we were by far the better side, just lacking a cutting edge. Exeter only ventured into our final third three times in the second half and managed to nab two goals.

    I’d echo the comments on Exeter as a football club – a lovely setup, friendly community club and a great example for others to follow. And how I wish we could have a terrace like their goal-end (oh, wait, we had one even better and had to tear it down).

    Richard Johnston

  6. I cannot believe this article; oh how short some memories are!
    Firstly. Lenny is a City legend and it is grossly unfair to make such comments against someone who does what he does for no reward.
    Secondly, I am not sure what this club needs to do to satisfy some people; A Wembley Final and a good start and first half season.As for the cheap shots about Duke and Connell; I really give up.
    Looking forward to Aldershot and Bristol Rovers away again next season;because that’s what real fans do, not criticise like a spoilt child with less than constructive comments when things get tough.Only Chelsea have played more games than City….and plastics? What the hell is a plastic? Frankly, you pays your money and you take your chances and if someone pays to watch City once a season, then that’s good enough for me. A little arrogant and presumptious this article I’m afraid.

  7. I can see that Wayne, but it was read in the round.My point still remains; what does this club have to do to satisfy some people ( and yes, though the easy answer is “get promoted”, I think the trade off for a cup final was worth it).

    • Can’t agree more Chris the finances have been given a good injection and I think it’s fair to say we had a great day at wembley .
      One I will never forget anyhow 🙂
      Just the result could have been better!.
      Steve total appologies if you felt my attitude
      Towards your comment was distasteful.

    • Dear Chris Herbert. David Lawrence and others go out of their way to provide intelligent articles and reports, sometimes opinionated, nearly always informative, relevant and thought provoking and, more to the point, always making a valued and substantive contribution to this excellent and generally positive website. Your first killer point is not relevant to David’s report. He actually seeks out Lennie at matches but, hey Chris, let’s give you a chance and take it ‘in the round’ whatever that may mean. We all dig the occasional hole. You then suggest Mr Lawrence is not satisfied with BCFC. Trust me you are wrong. I know him. He is in a good place with life and with Bradford City. I can then see the comments on ‘two howlers’ Duke and ‘blew his chance’ Connell are a touch extreme but they have some factual merit. Connell has struggled to establish himself as a regular above league 2 and at 30 he is probably on the way down. Sad but true. So let’s move on. Next point. Chris Herbert is going to Bristol and Aldershot in 13/14 because he is a real fan. Next. I take your point that David’s use of the word plastics is a bit odd. What I think he meant Chris is that you tend to see fans who really care at games like Exeter away …. and Aldershot and Bristol. Some truth in that and we now know that you care and you’re a real fan … not plastic perhaps? Gobbledygook though, you’re right. But arrogant and presumptious Chris? No. Football is full of opinions and differences of opinion. I agree with you that this season will take some beating, 85 and 99 perhaps. I personally think that Lennie’s on pitch value is questionable despite his history and undoubted commitment (the words ‘shelf life’ come to mind). We have a right to those opinions without being told we are arrogant and presumptious. Leave out the ill-informed and personal comments, so unnecessary. Perhaps you could show some class and apologise for the misguided rant. Maybe write a report or two. You can clearly string a couple of words together, even if presumptious shouldn’t be one of them (that’s me being arrogant Chris). Presumptuous = going beyond what is right or proper. Hardly. Regards. Mike

  8. Crikey Mike, calm down; not personal at all, and I too have a right to my own opinion and I did think it was arrogant and presumptious.However,” in the round” (i.e trying to consider all points of view), you are due your opinion too.Sorry if it sounded like a rant; but there’s decent debate for you.No-one ever said it was meant to sound comfortable, as long as it’s not rude. Best Wishes.

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