Rotherham set back tests City’s powers of recovery

Bradford City 0

Rotherham United 2

Frecklington 80 (pen), Agard 90

Tuesday 16 April, 2013

By Jason McKeown

The margin of error is squeezed even tighter, the tension racked up another notch. If Bradford City are going to hold on to the top seven spot that they have occupied since last week, they need to recover from this set back very quickly.

Beaten by Rotherham, but not bettered. Pride dented, but not deflated. The sight of the Millers manager Steve Evans racing on to the pitch to celebrate his side’s game-sealing goal from Kieran Agard may have being the realisation of every City supporter’s worst fears, but there is no need to feel too despondent over this defeat.

It was unjust, it was unfortunate, it was unnerving. But come 3pm on Saturday, Bradford City will once again take to the Valley Parade field with their fate in their own hands. And if they play as well as they did for an hour this evening, they will surely take a giant step towards sealing an extended end to the season.

For this was a good display from the Bantams, against what must be acknowledged was a good Rotherham side. The visitors packed the midfield and defended with admirable heart; standing up to everything City could throw at them. In the early parts of 2013, an opposition side putting five in midfield was a sure-fire way to outgun City’s counterparts. But with Ricky Ravenhill once again producing a composed display in front of the back four, a simply outstanding Gary Jones stood head and shoulders above everyone else on the park.

It seemed as though City were set for a victory that would have all but secured seventh position, when after just four minutes James Hanson headed home a Jones corner. Celebrations were cut short by a linesman flagging for a push by Hanson on Claude Davis. False hope remerged 30 minutes later, when Garry Thompson finished off another Jones pass but was flagged offside.

Probably the right call that time at least, but a frustratingly inconsistent referee Mark Haywood got more wrong than he did right over the course of the evening. The only benefit for City was his leniency in letting Nahki Wells off with a warning after the Bermudian kicked the ball away when already on a booking. By that stage he had sent City’s assistant manager Steve Parkin to the stand for something said to the fourth official, after complaints were raised about Michael O’Connor’s reaction to a robust tackle.

Haywood’s over-officiating – rather than letting the game flow – played right into Rotherham’s hands, as Evans’ side chased and harassed for every decision whilst falling to the deck following the slightest of contacts. We have being here before, of course, with Evans’ Crawley side of a year ago behaving in the exact same manner. But what impressed me tonight was how little City’s players allowed themselves to be affected by Rotherham’s gamesmanship attempts and over-physicality. They stood up and simply got on with it.

When Rotherham bothered to engage themselves in a game of football, City for the most part looked comfortable dealing with their attacks. This was despite the obvious set back of losing Andrew Davies to injury after 24 minutes. It had been touch and go whether Davies was to be fit enough to play tonight and – in truth – starting him was a call City got wrong. Even during the game’s opening minutes, Davies’ struggle to run was evident. Michael Nelson came on and slotted in where he left off on Saturday, letting no one down.

However, another loss through injury – James Meredith on 50 minutes – tipped the balance back into Rotherham’s favour. Meredith’s replacement, Carl McHugh, has impressed previously in the less familiar left back role, but tonight was not such an occasion. The young defender’s hesitancy coming forward impacted on the previously impressive Kyel Reid, who suddenly found that being double marked was too much of a hindrance without Meredith to back him up. The balance of the team began to suffer.

Rotherham grew stronger, even if Jon McLaughlin’s goal was not tested anywhere near as threateningly than a Alex Revell header in the first half, but it began to look as though City were out of ideas. Wells has enjoyed much better nights than this – he got little change out of Davis – and though Hanson toiled hard, he was not able to dominate the Rotherham backline in the manner he has of other defences this season.

Then came the sting in the tail. Goalkeeper Scott Shearer pumped a long ball forward to Revell just inside City’s box, only for the Millers’ striker to push Nelson backwards, which resulted in the unsighted defender handling the ball. Haywood pointed to the spot, and Lee Frecklington expertly fired the penalty past McLaughlin. A dreadful, dreadful decision from Haywood, which had Phil Parkinson livid.

City pushed hard for an equaliser, with Alan Connell quickly summoned from the bench as part of a switch to 3-4-3. Wells might have done better with a header that he placed wide of the goal. Jones glanced another effort over the bar. Then Connell somehow shot wide with just Shearer to beat following Hanson’s flick on. It was a gilt-edged chance, and Connell was the one player on the pitch you’d have wanted that chance to fall to.

With the five minutes of injury time all but completed, one last City corner saw McLaughlin race forward. The ball was cleared to Agard, who was able to sprint clear of the back-tracking goalkeeper and tap the ball into the empty net. It was at this point a previously restrained Evans raced onto the pitch, with the highly disappointing sight of an object being thrown from the main stand towards him. It seemed some City fan had decided to join the Rotherham boss in the gutter.

For his own safety, Evans was quickly rushed to the dressing room by four stewards at the full time whistle. He paused only to clench his fist at the Rotherham fans who were celebrating wildly in the Bradford End. There is a good chance he will be back at Valley Parade in just over a fortnight, for a play off semi final first leg.

For that to happen, City probably need four points from their final two league matches to complete the job. That we have to play fourth-placed Burton and fifth-placed Cheltenham underlines just how there are no guarantees this will happen. Chesterfield, beaten also tonight, can still catch City, but Exeter remain the biggest threat to that last play off spot. One ear will be on events at St. James Park on Saturday.

City: McLaughlin, Darby (Connell 80), Davies (Nelson 24), McArdle, Meredith (McHugh 50), Thompson, Ravenhill, Jones, Reid, Hanson, Wells

Not used: Duke, Atkinson, Doyle, Hines

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Categories: Match Reviews

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9 replies

  1. All we need now is 2 results to go our way on Saturday – a win for City and a loss for Exeter.

    Then hopefully the Cheltenham game won’t matter and they can have the 3 points to knock Rotherham from 3rd place.

    One can only hope.

  2. I thought Wells did not cope well with a very physical opposition. Indeed he was lucky not to be sent off when kicking the ball away after yet another foul. I actually hope Rotherham take 3rd place because I don’t fancy meeting them again in the play offs.

  3. I suppose it’s the beauty of football that two fans sitting next to each other can have completely differing views of the game. Whilst I wasn’t exactly sitting next to you Jason, my view of the game differed greatly from the one you express. I thought that City played into Rotherham’s hands by continually booting the ball in the air and over the top. I would love to know, out of the 95 or so minutes played, how long the ball was actually on the pitch. It can’t have been many. Claude Davies had Hanson in his pocket for most of the game and the balls being sent over the top were just meat and drink for him. I wanted us to start playing football like we have demonstrated we can successfully – on the floor. This was not to be.
    I completely agree with your comments about Referee Haywood. I haven’t seen the penalty incident again but I thought that the Admiral was fouled, fell over and handled the ball. My friend sent me a message this morning to say that it was a clear hand ball and about the only thing that Haywood got right all evening. I would like to see it again.
    I also thought Gary Jones wasted too many dead balls. Too many times his corners were not beating their first man. I am a great fan of Gary and I think that he will deservedly win our POTY award, but last night I don’t think he was playing as well as he has. I suppose the number of games played this season is taking it’s toll on everyone, but at 35 it has to take more out of you than it does the younger players.
    Burton is a crucial game. Our record against them isn’t too impressive – I don’t believe we have never beaten them in the league! Now is the time to start.

  4. Southend can catch us as well

    • Interesting comments .
      My assessment was and still is Rotherhams game plan was simply to spoil the flow and rhythm of our play!.
      1st half we had chances more corners than Rotherham and looked like we were the team to go infront .
      I honestly didnt see anything wrong with James Hansons header? And now ive seen footage of the Thompson goal I do not see anything wrong ! Yes nahki was in an off side position but he didn’t touch the ball and wasn’t interfering with play? However I do class that as 50/50 incident can go either way.
      Second half Rotherham won nearly all of the second balls all over the pitch! And we couldn’t get a foot on the ball to play to our strengths.
      We never used our right side of the pitch to attack at any stage last night all down the left handside. We still created chances and lets be honest the Connell header 6yards out was possibly the best chance of the night when chasing the game!.
      I hate saying this but these officials are a disgrace to there profession.
      And to come to valley parade not within radio contact with each other to a game of that importance is shameful!.
      These officials are killing the game it’s no coincidence that the best officials we’ve had have been in cup !.
      Chesterfield last week we were denied a clear cut handball! Theres so many big decisions been missed or bottled by officials at this level.
      Well im backing Phil Parkinson to get our players together over the next few days and rev them up for whats going to be another battle on Saturday.

  5. Rotherham were exactly like Crawley last season and to a lesser extent Gillingham for the last couple of years. It’s not nice to watch and I would hate to see City playing in this manor, but crucially, all 3 of those teams will be playing in league 1 next season.

    I think we coped well last night, the penalty aside it would have been a hard fought point against a very tough physical and organised side. On the penalty, I’ve watched it over and over and cannot see how that can be given as handball. Nelson is nudged and is off balance in midair when the ball strikes his hand, it may not have been a foul on him but it’s certainly not a deliberate handball. If ever referees needed clarity and consistency on a certain rule then it is handball at the moment.

    As bitter a pill as last night was to swallow we nee to get it out of our system immediately, focus on Saturday and make sure we beat Burton.

    Whatever happens, if we lose at Wembley, lose in the semi final or even finish 8th or 9th, this has been the best season for about 13 years. Let’s not forget that.

    • Well said Christopher!

    • It may have been the best season for around 13 years but the reality is that until we are promoted out of this division, as a club we are not progressing. That was the target for the season according to PP, Lawn, Rhodes, Baldwin and many players. The cup run was great at the time but it’s real benefit has been to bring some much needed money into the club. This windfall could have been better used in January to sustain a promotion push but it wasn’t. However if we don’t get promoted this season then we have missed a golden opportunity and we may well have to rebuild the squad with or without PP in the summer without any further guarantee of promotion next season. This season will go down as another ‘nearly year’ without promotion.

      • Dennis im so sure pp will be with Bradford cty next season! I will purchase your season tkt if not
        We all measure success in different ways from our lge position last season to our position now in the lge (progress)
        To the first lge2 team to get to a major Wembley final (miracle)
        Quite clearly pp has a good working relationship with our chairman and where else can pp go and build not just the playing side but a sleeping giant of a club?

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