The pause

Bradford City 1

Thompson 7

Wycombe Wanderers 0

Tuesday 19 March, 2013

By Jason McKeown

Truth be told we all needed an evening like this. Not so much because of the win – although a first home victory since Boxing Day was certainly welcome – but because of the quiet, satisfied reflection that Garry Thompson’s seventh minute strike fostered around a bitterly cold Valley Parade.

It has been an emotional period, the Wembley aftermath. The adjustment back to the harsh reality of City falling behind the promotion pack has seemingly placed supporters on the brink of civil war. A low key victory will do little to change anyone’s mind on the big issues, but at least winning so comfortably enabled us to place such heated debates on hold for a couple of hours. Who knows, maybe even for a few days.

City were better by Wycombe by yards if not miles. Always looking more likely to stretch their early advantage than relinquish it. Scoring so early took some of the edge off the contest, but at least ensured there would be no need for frustration to grow or for boos to ring out. I cannot remember the last time a home league game attracted such few grumblings from supporters within my earshot. Equally, it’s been a while since a victory was cheered so reservedly.

It was just a quiet evening, really. Thompson’s early goal was the result of a Kyel Reid free kick that was flicked on at the back post by James Hanson, affording the former Morecambe man the space to fire a low shot that squirmed into the net via a deflection. The celebrations were curious, with Reid stood at the touchline arms outstretched and everyone racing up to hug him. A popular provider of a goal it seemed.

From there the contest was set up as one where City might have grabbed a second – Reid, Thompson and Hanson all going close in the first half, Thompson, Hanson, Gary Jones and Rory McArdle in the second – but left themselves open to the threat of an equaliser. Wycombe spurned two excellent second half chances, with headers that flew over the bar. But it would be hard to make a case for them deserving any more than the narrow defeat they ultimately fell to. Not the worst side to visit Valley Parade this season, but far from the best.

The balance of City looked its strongest in weeks, and it was evident the root cause of this. James Meredith’s return to action following three months’ illness saw him display no signs of rustiness or any lack of fitness. It was like Meredith had never been away, and his presence helped the erratic Reid produce his best display for weeks. Not perfect by any stretch, and the final ball is still not what it can be, but at least the left side of City was as effective as its right.

Ricky Ravenhill also made a big difference. Recalled to the starting line up after his own rest on Saturday, his disciplined role of sitting in front of the back four continues to enable Jones to play with added attacking freedom. Ravenhill is a strong passer who sets the tempo for City’s overall play, and it’s to be hoped the injury that caused him to leave the field with 20 minutes to go – following a fearless tackle – is not too serious.

The stars of the show came up front, however. Thompson continued his strong run of form and now looks every inch the effective striker he made early season claims to be. I enjoy his movement and running with and without the ball. His background as a wide player influences some of the positions he takes up in the final third, and provides space for Jones to run into. Thompson and Hanson – who bounced back from stinging criticism from his manager to lead the line superbly – are blossoming into a strong partnership.

With Andrew Davies and McArdle as excellent as ever at the back, and Stephen Darby and Zavon Hines maintaining recent high standards, only a failure to get the second goal left the victory in doubt going into the final stages. But although Wycombe toiled hard, their mid-season resurgence from the bottom of the league to mid-table has seemingly taken the edge off their desire. Losing 1-0 didn’t seem too heart-breaking to them.

All of which meant the evening’s biggest talking point was not the manager’s team selection or the underperformance of players, but us supporters. Just short of one month ago since around 33,000 of us waved claret and amber flags at Wembley, tonight’s official attendance of 8,047 was not just the lowest of the season, but the lowest league attendance since May 2007. The players and management deserve better than that, even if promotion hopes remain slim at best. One month on from being talk of the country and the hottest ticket in town, a sense of eeriness swirled around the stadium.

City have somehow become tomorrow’s fish and chip paper surprisingly fast.

If us fans have seemingly given up on the season, it seems unfair to expect the club to feel any different. Tonight’s win has narrowed the gap on the top seven, but with eight games to go it still seems highly unlikely we can make the final cut. I’ve personally felt it was over since walking out of Home Park a week ago, and in truth the sense of disappointment has quickly gone. I can accept another season in this division, as a trade off for all the wonderful memories this campaign has provided me. And I’m excited by the position of strength that we are in, going into the summer.

And that was the biggest positive watching tonight. The anxiety of win or bust gone, it was nice just to spend an evening in the company of a group of players who have given me so much. I must admit I’ve grown rather fond of them, learned to appreciate their qualities and accept their flaws. Unlike teams of recent seasons, I know that this squad will remain fresh in my mind for years to come.

Some will go this summer inevitably, some will see their place taken by new arrivals more effective than them. But for now, as this amazing season goes into the final stretch with promotion hopes all but over, I’m just grateful to experience an evening where all the recent frustrations and anger could be put to one side, and we could enjoy learning to love ourselves all over again.

City: McLaughlin, Darby, McArdle, Davies, Meredith, Hines (Atkinson 73), Ravenhill (Doyle 73), Jones, Reid, Hanson, Thompson (Wells 87)

Not used: Duke, Nelson, Connell, McHugh

Categories: Match Reviews

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

4 replies

  1. It was quite a strange game to watch, after the first goal Wycombe didn’t seem overly bothered by the result, bar a little spell at the beginning of the 2nd half and the almost obligatory ‘everyone up’ during the last few minutes. Even the two late chances from Wycombe didn’t seem to be hit, or headed, with much conviction.

    I agree with your standout performers, Darby especially impressed me in the first half. Sitting in the lower main stand, his effort, tenacity and willingness to run past Hines made him a worthy man of the match. Thompson and Ravenhill (the last time I saw him he was awful, but what a changed player he is) also show cased their skills.

    The one thing I mentioned to a more seasoned City supporter who I was chatting with at half time was the lack of a striker like Thorne or Windass. We created a hat full of chances with Reid’s crossing, although occasionally frustrating, causing havoc on at least 4 or 5 occasions. Hopefully, if Parkinson is still with us and I truly hope he is, the manager will sort that problem in the summer.

    This squad has a lot of promise (from what I’ve seen in the games I have been to) and with a few minor tweaks (depending on who goes in or out) could achieve even greater things than this year come next season.

    A small piece of comedy was when Ainsworth subbed himself on for the last 25 minutes and then did one run and nothing else. If that’s showing your team how it’s done, then it speaks volumes about the way Wycombe played last night.

  2. Couldn’t agree more about the lack of support last night. Very poor. You can’t claim to be a supporter when you are doing well, a club is for life not just the good times. I have always said the fans on our day are among some of the best in the land a la Wembley, Villa, Arsenal, York away. But they can be some of the worst. Some of the abuse our players are subjected to is appalling.

    Maybe I differ from a lot of the supporters, but I knew the moment we had beat Aston Villa in the Semi Finals that barring a minor miracle that was that for the league this season. I for one was happy for the trade off. Our club has suffered the darkest of times over the years and this year for the first time had a little chink of light.

    We will go again next season and try to climb out of this league again, there will be frustrations as always but we support Bradford City and not one of the perceived big clubs in the landit wouldn’t be right if it wasn’t a battle.

  3. I just wonder if Exeter was the catalyst to a real end of season push. I did wonder if losing 4-1 on Saturday might knock the stuffing out of the lads and we would limp towards the 60 point mark. However, I think last night showed we have a bit left in the tank and I just wonder if we might be that team that arrives from nowhere and nicks that 7th spot. Highly unlikely but with 5 games still to come at VP who knows. We all must still believe.

  4. We’ve had some terrible referees this season, some of the worst I can remember for a long time. Tuesday’s though, in an often quite fiercely contested game, was overall pretty good I thought – he kept the game moving, was balanced, and used his common sense by only dishing out the one yellow.

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