The next chapter begins

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Guiseley AFC 0

Bradford City 4

Connell 15, Wells 73, Ravenhill 79, De Vita 84

Saturday 13 July, 2013

Written by Jason McKeown

(Images by Alex Dodd, see note below)

The great contradiction about pre-season friendlies is that as much as everyone talks down their importance, they act as the basis for the making of some significant calls.

In amongst established Bradford City players building up their fitness and sharpening their skills for the start of the season proper, at Nethermoor on Saturday, four trialists auditioned for the two or three remaining spots in Phil Parkinson’s 2013/14 squad. The City manager was a subdued figure as his charges achieved a 4-0 scoreline more comfortably-sounding than a spirited and hard-working Guiseley side deserved to be on the wrong end of.

At such occasions it is difficult to understand how Parkinson can make conclusive judgements over which trialists could provide what he is missing. But with the pre-season programme gathering pace in Ireland next week, the objective for those undertaking a live job interview yesterday was surely to make sure they do well enough to not be written off straightaway.

In the meantime, the modern day fun of watching trialists can be found in the pre-match sight of numerous City supporters Googling the names of the unknown players that were read out over Guiseley’s crackling tannoy system. Who is Vincent Acapandie? Answer: A 23-year-old former French youth international who Wikipedia tells us is a right back that can also play central midfield. The rather wonderfully named Raffaele De Vita was part of Paulo Di Canio’s Swindon revolution and has a rather impressive appearance record from two seasons at the Robins. Thank goodness for iPhones.

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The other two trialists required little internet research. Brian Jensen’s large presence in goal for the first half suggests that Parkinson has no major target in mind to replace Matt Duke and that Jon McLaughlin could be viewed as this season’s number one. Jensen is responsible for one of the greatest goalkeeping displays I have ever seen: when we lost 2-1 to Burnley in March 2004 in a game that all but relegated us to League One. But that was almost 10 years ago now and, at 38-years-old, there have to be some doubts about signing him.

At least Jensen went someway to allaying those doubts with a confident 45-minute performance that saw him make a couple of decent saves and show bravery in going in for a loose ball that left the Guiseley attacker (fairly) clattered to the floor. It’s not hard to imagine ‘The Beast’ becoming a firm favourite at Valley Parade should his trial prove successful. Though it’s fair to say the jury is still out.

The fourth and final trialist – and the only one announced before this match – was ex-Carlisle United midfielder Jon Paul McGovern. Out of the four he played for the longest yet made the least impression. Playing on the right side in front of Stephen Darby, there was a curious unwillingness to do much when in possession. He made sure to find the nearest team-mate rather than attempt to cross the ball or run past a defender. I guess you could say he was tidy on the ball, but really more should be expected than this.

McGovern played a small part in a decent first half that City ended a goal to the good. A lovely move started with Nathan Doyle spraying a trademark cross-field pass to Kyel Reid, who dropped his shoulder, beat his man and whipped in a delightful cross that a combination of Alan Connell and a Guiseley defender forced home. Connell celebrated what looked suspiciously like an own goal. He had a mixed half that saw him look sharp in the final third but wasteful when chances came his way. The worst when played through one-on-one, only for a heavy touch to enable the keeper to smoother the ball.

More impressive from the first half team were Doyle and new signing Jason Kennedy in the centre of the park. Reid was enjoying himself on the left whilst Carl McHugh and Michael Nelson looked solid at the back. James Hanson led the line superbly but his partnership with Connell still doesn’t look too effective. Youth striker Louis Swain was strangely deployed at left back but did well.

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Half time saw eight changes made. Acapandie replacing Darby at right back and looking tidy, although you wonder why we are looking for another right back when we have plenty of cover compared to left back options. It was great to see the likes of James Meredith, Rory McArdle, Garry Thompson and Nahki Wells back in action – the Bermudian’s battle with former City defender Mark Bower an enjoyable sideshow – and the tempo seemed to increase.

The changing of McGovern for Raffaele De Vita also provided City with greater balance. De Vita showed some excellent touches and almost netted the second goal with a stunning volley that flew wide of the post. Youngster Jack Stockdill – a defender who can play in midfield – was introduced with 25 minutes to play. Stood next to us was a group of Jack’s former school friends, who were understandably excited to see one of their own on the pitch. Stockdill is travelling to Ireland with the first team this week and could have a role to play over the coming months. Niall Heaton also came on and looked impressive.

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Finally the second goal arrived when Wells danced in the box and fired home emphatically. Five minutes later the home keeper spilled a shot and Ricky Ravenhill pounced on the rebound for 3-0. The fourth goal was the best of the lot with De Vita finishing superbly. This guy really looks the part and, though it is unclear if he is exactly what Parkinson looks for as he replaces Will Atkinson, De Vita has surely earned the opportunity to travel to Ireland and press home his claims for a contract.

The only sour note on a red hot day was an arm injury picked up by Andy Gray following a collision just before Ravenhill’s goal. He was taken off immediately and one hopes that it will not be the last pre-season action he sees. Gray badly needs a strong pre-season if his second spell at Valley Parade is to be anything better than disappointing, so this is a huge setback for the player.

But City are off and running. A couple of pieces still needed to complete the jigsaw, but compared to other pre-seasons there isn’t a lot missing at this stage. The familiarity of so many of the players used was comforting. By and large, the promotion-winning squad will be entrusted to build upon the stunning achievements of last season.

And they have started off very much in the way they signed off. League One look out, we’re coming.

City first half: Jensen, Darby, Nelson, McHugh, Swain, McGovern, Kennedy, Doyle, Reid, Hanson, Connell

City second half: McLaughlin, Acapandie, McArdle, McHugh (Heaton 74), Meredith, Thompson, Ravenhill, McGovern (Stockdill 65), Swain (De Vita 57), Gray (Swain 80), Wells

A big thanks to Alex Dodd for kindly supplying the photos used in this match report. Please visit www.alexdoddphotography.com for more information.

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