Bradford City 3
Wells 17+28+90 (pen)
Coventry City 3
Webster 2, Clarke 7, Wilson 42
Sunday 17 November, 2013
Written by Alex Scott (image by Claire Epton, see note below)
Well that was fun, wasn’t it? Sunday afternoon’s clash against a mightily impressive Coventry side will almost certainly go down as the game of the season at Valley Parade and Nahki Wells’ penalty deep, deep into stoppage time rescued a point for City which looked all but gone.
The Bermudian was back to his best, and his hat-trick couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment for the striker, or his agent. Going up against another young star in Callum Wilson, he went blow-for-blow and in the end stole all the headlines, and the hero’s finish with an emphatically-dispatched penalty into the right corner of Joe Murphy’s goal.
As the nation’s eyes descended on Valley Parade, Wells characteristically rose to the occasion with his ninth, tenth and eleventh goals of a season already curtailed by injury. He also hit the bar with a free kick in the second half and Nahki really could have had as many as he wanted. Nahki Wells is a businessman and his business is goals.
Coventry City manager Steven Pressley likened City’s performance to “dark ages football” after the match, and the all-encompassing adrenaline from the game spilled over into the technical areas throughout the game. There will certainly be no love lost between the two managers.
Sidebar: According to the BBC match report, one team committed 11 fouls in that game; the other committed 20. Anyone want to hazard a guess which team was which? Little known fact, and I never knew this, but if you look closely, Chapter 7 of the Tiki-Taka Handbook is actually titled “How to Shamelessly Hack Away at Your Opposition’s Left Winger After He’s Shredded Your Full Back For The Eighth Time”. We can but dream of playing football in a style as morally spotless as Steven Pressley.
Did that sound bitter? That felt bitter. Moving on!
Whilst this charge of playing football from the dark ages does harken back to Todd’s “Death of Football” rant at Parkinson from a few years ago, Pressley’s outburst only betrays the depths of his frustration at his own defence. Bradford certainly didn’t hit their free-flowing best during the game, but when the opposing central defence is as soft and fragile as Coventry’s, they didn’t need to.
And in truth, as barbaric as Pressley may wish to paint the men in yellow, if City’s defence had shown up, his side would have been beaten today. Convincingly.
Whilst Coventry are without question the best attacking side I’ve seen this season (I don’t think it’s even close), and have a sure-fire star in Callum Wilson, they were constantly undermined by a back line who had absolutely no answer for James Hanson, and in particular Nahki Wells. You can’t help but think that in the end, this will be their undoing in the promotion race especially if the starlet Wilson leaves in January.
Parkinson’s men have come in for a surprising amount of stick in recent weeks, but the most damaging lament from the crowd has been how soft they were in defeat at Rotherham. That isn’t something which you could often label at this team; their mental strength a running feature. And their refusal to die, their refusal to be denied, has never been more apparent than it was today.
Coming back from two nil down in ten minutes against a team as good as that? That doesn’t “just happen”.
This team never, ever, ever know when they are beaten. They will run themselves into the ground each week for as long as the clock will allow. Count them out at your own peril. And that adage is as important for their own supporters as it is opposing managers. They will never give up, and neither should we.
The first half of football was a spectacle to behold, almost gladiatorial in style. Who needs Rollerball when you’ve got that? I’m not even sure the last twenty minutes of that half could even be classed as ‘football’ in the traditional sense, or in any sense really. The defending from both sides was a comedic as it was tragic, and this was the foreground narrative throughout the game.
There were 39 attempts at goal in this game. THIRTY NINE! The home side’s decisive twentieth attempt coming as the clock ticked silently on all zeroes.
It resembled a poorly-executed NBA game with both sides relentlessly driving to the hole back and forth without much in the form of transition defense. This was a sight of two of the best strike forces in the division dominating over two of the weakest defences.
Coventry were two to the good before some had even taken their seats, the first being netted without a City outfield player yet touching the ball. The only one who came close was Rory McArdle who collided in calamitous fashion with his own keeper, dislodging the ball for Adam Webster to bury home.
The Northern Irishman didn’t cover himself in glory for the second goal either, five minutes later. Muscled off the ball by Wilson who spurned a one-on-one opportunity before strike partner Leon Clarke dispatched the rebound.
If City didn’t get that last-gasp penalty, the recriminations of the back line will have run long into the week, especially after the recent wobbles. And it must be said, as frail as the boys in sky blue looked, City’s back line was every bit as bad in the 1st half.
There wasn’t much in the form of organisation in City’s display defensively, with almost every Coventry attack looking like it would bring a goal. There is a gaping void in City’s defence at the minute, and it doesn’t look likely to be filled until Andrew Davies returns in the New Year.
Matthew Bates continued his shaky run of form, and alongside McArdle the pairing represent a worry. It was a surprise to see their partnership reprised, especially after the horror show at Rotherham last week. This fact pays testament to how poorly Luke Oliver, Matt Taylor and Carl McHugh must be performing in training. From the outside it is curious how none of the three have managed to hold down a place in the side in Davies’ absence. But clearly Parkinson doesn’t see any of the three as an improvement over what he currently has. And that speaks volumes giving what he currently has on the field.
They did improve in the second half, it must be noted. Especially James Meredith who put in one of the better halves of football of his season. Hopefully this will bring them some confidence heading into next week’s battle with Patrick Bamford and his MK Dons.
Stephen Darby was peerless amongst all defenders on the pitch, in a very tough match up against Franck Moussa. This was headlined by a headed clearance in the six-yard box which I still don’t understand how it didn’t result in an own goal. There was a relentless intensity in his battle with Moussa, with each giving as good as they got, and this was no better epitomised than the moment directly after a handball decision outside Coventry’s box when everyone else stopped for the free kick and those two carried on battling against each other for a full five seconds attempting to retrieve the loose ball.
Bradford came back into the game as the first half wore on with James Hanson rising imperiously against a set of Coventry defenders whose boots appeared to be incased in some form of concrete. Two textbook Hanson-Wells goals followed with the former’s hilarity matched by the latter’s elegance. There is an almost beautiful art to the thunderous collisions of Hanson at his finest, and after Wells contorted his body to slot home City’s equaliser, that was all you could see.
Coventry, and Callum Wilson in particular were not to be denied though, and his explosive first half performance was capped by a powerful near post finish to give the Sky Blues a half time lead.
Those of the mind to pick fault will question the goalkeeper as he broke the fundament football tenet of being beating at his near post, but frankly I disagree with that logic and the underlying necessity to apportion blame at every opportunity. It was a hell of a finish, and if you really, really want to blame someone, I’d take a look at that preposterous V-Shaped defensive line before McLaughlin.
Of course the second half couldn’t match the intensity of the first, but both sides continued their adventurous style knowing the importance of the next goal.
As the game wore on Parkinson went into the bench searching for an answer, and to an extent, he did. The futility of the cavalry has become apparent over this slide City have found themselves on, with each sub invariably making the team worse. Today in Mark Yeates and Alan Connell, Parkinson did find some impetus that his tiring side desperately needed. Connell in particular I thought was excellent. Which is nice to be able to type.
But in the end, all of the changes and formational shifts were made redundant as the final equaliser came in the only way it ever could in this game, with a long heave to Hanson who drew an inexplicable handball from the centre half, allowing Wells the chance to complete his hat trick from the penalty spot.
The kid really is special, and for all the negativity which is beginning to pervade our fan base, we all need to take a step back and just appreciate what we are able to see on the pitch in Wells. Appreciate him while we still can. Today was a tour de force in a nascent career so far littered with them.
Coming into the game the two sides appeared as different as could be, at polar opposites on the scale of momentum. In the end, the tale of two cities was in fact the story of one. Two very similar teams in design and performance, inseparable to the last. Rather than the bleak Dickensian epic every home fan feared heading into the weekend, this game more represented a Shakespearean tragic comedy.
And as the minds of every Bradfordian can attest, All’s Well that Ends Wells.
City: McLaughlin, Darby, McArdle, Bates (Connell 83), Meredith, Thompson, (Yeates 68), Jones, Doyle, Reid (De Vita 85), Hanson, Wells
Not used: Ripley, Taylor, Kennedy, Folan
Categories: Match Reviews