We’ve got our Jovies back

Image by Alex Dodd

Bradford City 0

Preston North End 0

Tuesday 28 January, 2014

Written by Gareth Walker (images by Alex Dodd, see note below)

Bradford City and Preston played out one of the most entertaining goalless draws that you are likely to see on an evening that was more about the return of Andrew Davies, the return to form of Gary Jones and a dramatic decision from referee Stuart Atwell.

Davies made his first appearance in a City shirt since the beginning of October and his typical blood and thunder performance made it look like he’d never been away; particularly in the second half, where he appeared to be all over the pitch. At one stage making a couple of mazy surging runs down the left flank

The performances of Davies and the ever-reliable Stephen Darby would have been worthy of any man of the match award, if it wasn’t for the presence of City skipper Jones, who picked up where he left off in the Sheffield United game with a performance that defied his years and harked back to his heroics from last season.

It was encouraging to see two cornerstones of 2012/13’s success reunited, and the effort, tenacity and workmanlike ethos that they brought to City’s play was only overshadowed by the erractic referee Attwell, who took centre stage just before the half hour mark.

There had been a coming together of players arguing from each side in the centre circle, after what appeared to be the reward of a harsh free kick by Atwell. City debutant Kyle Bennett and Preston’s Neil Kilkenny both raised their hands in the direction of the other, and Kilkenny somewhat embarrassingly, and theatrically, threw himself to the floor. Bennett was immediately shown the red card, and when Killkenny eventually got to his feet, he soon followed for an early bath.

The incident, although unsavoury, was in truth nothing more than handbags and it could be argued that if Kilkenny hadn’t have taken the dive – or if there had been a more reasonable referee in charge – a yellow card may have sufficed for both players. After the match Phil Parkinson and Simon Grayson both expressed their surprise at the double red card decision.

Before that point there had been a lively opening to the game, with the confident visitors doing most of the early pressing as they looked every bit a side who have only lost twice on the road in the league all season. Joe Garner, who was leading the line in the absence of the suspended Kevin Davies, was a real handful and gave the struggling Rory McArdle a torrid evening.

North End were knocking the ball around well and had already caused a two of moments of panic in the City box, where Jon McLaughlin had failed to deal with a couple of deliveries and received one stern telling off from Davies as a result.

City for their part were taking time to settle down, with three home debutants on show, but were slowly growing into the game whilst looking to hit the visitors on the counter attack. Adam Reach and Bennett had been given the nod on the wings in place of Garry Thompson and the injured Kyel Reid, and both showed flashes of what they were capable of in the opening quarter of the game.

I have heard Reach described as having a touch of Chris Waddle about him, and you could kind of see why as the night progressed. He looks a very confident lad with a strong and powerful running style, who is capable of a good cross. Most of City’s good moments throughout the evening resulted either from the on-loan Middlesbrough man or through a surging run from Jones or Darby. The one critiscism I have of Reach, after last night, was that he always wanted to go down the outside – his one trick seemed to be to fake to go inside before cutting back and trying to go down the line. This was something that experienced full back Scott Wiseman realised very early on; but still, it was quite a promising debut.

Bennett was in some ways a polar opposite to Reach, in the brief glimpses we saw of him. He looks to have a game that is built around pace, speed and trickery. He will no doubt be another City winger who will excite and frustrate supporters in equal measure.

The main difference between him and Reach would appear to be that – whereas Reach always wants to go down the outside – Bennett always wants to come inside looking for the ball, and this infuriated at times in the first half hour last night when Darby was crying out for a bit more support on the right flank. What I will say about Bennett is that he appeared to be very eager to impress, which can only be a good thing; and it was refreshing to see a talismanic winger tracking back and getting stuck in.

Unfortunately, it was this over eagerness that was to prove to be the Doncaster man’s downfall with the red card.

Image by Alex Dodd

The half resumed after the sending off, and it was City who seemed to adjust more quickly to having 10 men. Parkinson made little alteration to his formation, leaving James Hanson and our other home debutant, Aaron McLean, upfront as a pair, whereas Grayson shifted things around into a 4-4-1 system. As a result, the Bantams had the better of the remainder of the first half with Reach and Jones in particular seeing more of the ball and a McLean header forcing a decent stop from impressive Lilywhites keeper, Declan Rudd.

The second half started with the home side firmly in the ascendancy, as full backs Darby and Matthew Bates – who had one of his better games in a City shirt – pushed well up the pitch in support of the attacking players. It was one of those “all hands to the pump” type performances in the second period that have become typical of the Parkinson’s reign, and this was demonstrated no more so than by Davies who was appearing all over the pitch.

Despite the increased tempo to the game, City’s chances were few and far between with McLean spawning the best one after he used great strength to shrug off Bailey Wright and go clean through on goal. Unfortunately for him, Rudd was very quickly off his line to smother the goal-bound shot. Hanson too had an opportunity from a corner when the ball fell to him around the penalty spot, but he leaned back and scooped his effort over the bar.

It was only the second time that Hanson and McLean have played together, and it will take time for them to build up an understanding where Mclean can read the big man’s flick ons. It is this partnership that they need to work on, because they both showed that they are good individual players, and as a duo they could prove a real handful for League One defences.

Preston had their moments too, particularly on the counter attack where Josh Brownhill’s shot hit the post after a very good team move. In the dying embers of the game, Garner had the ball in the City net but he was rightly flagged offside.

On the whole, it was an evening where defences came out on top and, for City, that was largely down to the returning Davies. His first appearance in almost four months brought about our first clean sheet in almost three months. More importantly, though, it is the confidence and optimism that he and the resurgent Jones brought to the rest of the team – the real positive to take forwards going into February.

City: McLaughlin, Darby, McArdle, Davies, Bates, Bennett, Doyle (Ravenhill 81), Jones, Reach, Hanson, McLean (McBurnie 72)

Not used: Jameson, McHugh, Thompson, Atkinson, Gray

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

Categories: Match Reviews

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19 replies

  1. Grayson switch to 4-4-1 not 4-5-1 as he only had 10 players to choose from.

  2. Overall a reasonable point – I notice McLean didn’t worry the Preston defence! Have to ask where our next three points are going to come from? Probably and most unlikely Wolves! However if we assume that at best we will get a point – 1 win in 19 is beyond sacking stuff for PP. I was just looking at our fixtures to come – we have played all bottom teams at home (without too much success), we have to visit most of Top 6 – so crucial we win a few games against mid table lot.
    The new blood too long overdue and I wonder whether PP is the right man. Could it be an unhappy Capital One anniversary? Whilst I would not for a moment WANT PP to go – unfortunately it is a results driven game – I seem to remember Colin Todd being dismissed for a better sequence of results. Having had the highs of last season this is turning into one of the most depressing. Whilst we can be optimistic about new blood – in essence the team strategy (4-4-2) remains the same and only the Reid injury and Wells’ departure have forced changes. Andrew Davies’ return will help but last season it was more the return of Meredith that changed the momentum.
    Unfortunately I think the Wells departure has not brought about a radical re-think. We will not be successful in League 1 with 4-4-2 indeed I think we will be relegated. Today in the modern game you need mobile box to box midfielders and a striker that can operate alone. The point was made that we always overrun in midfield – because we are a man short. If you believe in Hanson then you have to play 3-5-2 and look how dreadful that was at Peterborough first half!
    Finally I have to ask why we are usually so poor in the first half? Surely PP’s faith in Alamby “preparing” the team includes “get out of blocks quick” strategy?
    I guess I have lost faith – the writing has been on the wall regarding PP ever since our Arsenal heroics and only the implosion of Exeter, Fleetwood and Southend got us to 7th place. Look at the succession of poor signings – he can’t trust any of them to make a difference!

    • Can’t see us going down the Colin Todd route again, that really would bizarre looking at how that particular sacking ended.

      I personally haven’t lost faith in the manager, I think BCFC will be fine this season.

      Still find it hard to believe that the Bradford End was given back to the away fans, why change the whole dynamic of the ground after such a successful season, smacks of making life easier for those running the club rather than what’s actually best for the club. A lazy decision after so many great decisions over the last few years.

    • Andrew, if you do’nt want PP to go you are certainly disguising it well. Also a description of this as a most depressing season beggars belief, certainly dissapointing that a couple of draws have not brought deserved wins – but to describe it has depressing questions where you have been for the last 10 years. Players effort and PP commitment have been good, I think a season of consolidation (at a higher level) will result.

    • I think that stating “the writing has been on the wall since Arsenal” is completely over the top and ignores, for example the Aston Villa games that followed and the way we got through the play offs. Whilst I don’t disagree that our promotion was aided by the collapse of Exeter in the run-in last season, I don’t think that it means we were lucky to get promoted. It wasn’t as though we had average form and got in by default, we ended up going on a fantastic run that lifted us from firmly out of the picture into the top seven with a game to spare. You mention Southend and Fleetwood – their form didn’t collapse so much as they couldn’t get a run of form together to capitalise on Exeter’s losing streak. We could, and the club (and Parkinson especially) deserves great credit for that.

      If you want to debate the supposed shortcomings of PP (which I personally disagree with) that is fine, but I don’t see why such debates have to incorporate attempts to belittle his past achievements

    • Please tell me this is an attempt at an early April Fool ??

      “The writing has been on the wall since Arsenal” How can you ignore two Wembley appearances and the single best night supporting a City side ever at Villa Park ???

      Good that we are writing McLean after two games. He’s had long enough after all…

    • Andrew – were you drunk when you wrote this? Phil Parkinson and his back room staff signed a 3 year contract in the summer and they won’t be leaving before then, and rightly so. Yes we will finish midtable – but surely that’s more than acceptable given the recent turmoil the club has been in ( nearly going out of the football league). And the excitement and quality of play this season has been excellent in my view. Results haven’t been great in the last couple of months, but I have every confidence in this management team turning the current corner and pushing the club further up the football league in the future

  3. I agree with the earlier comment. Last season was a complete fluke. We should sack Parkinson now before he ruins the club. Maybe we could tempt Peter Taylor back to the club? Also, we could resign Tommy Doherty to solve our midfield problem and Chib Chilaka would be an ideal replacement for Wells. Oh, how I miss those glory days.

  4. I’ve become a confirmed critic our attacking play under this manager but I don’t think the results have been that bad, just disappointing. Changing managers would be an exceptionally risky move, especially given the limited alternatives available mid-season. Changing the style of play, also a bad idea at this stage. We’ve drawn a lot of games we could have lost, which translates into a major difference in points. I also don’t think PP has done badly with the limitations of this squad, even some of his summer decisions now look flawed.

    By the way, James Hanson is great at what he does but his lack of mobility and poor touch are frequently exposed at this level. I thought McClean looked decent and deserved some more considered service, having the ball played in to him instead of getting tired chasing misdirected headers. I think he could lead the line alone next season in front of a remodelled midfield of we have the right squad for it.

    Finally, I thought both teams benefited from the greater space when it went down to 10v10. The size of the pitch may be an important consideration in the club’s future if we want to establish ourselves at a higher level.

  5. Just read Andrew’s comments. Very strange and really wide of the mark. Don’t agree at all.

  6. I cannot believe the mentality of some of our ‘supporters’, negative comments regarding Mclean, Parkinson and formations, dear oh dear. This season may well end up with BCFC finishing mid table in League One…wouldn’t you have taken that before the season started?..It’s worth remembering just how far we have come in a very short space of time, particularly within the context of the long & lonesome years which preceded our promotion.

    Regards the game itself, I thought a draw was probably a fair result. Neither team could dominate the other for a long enough period of time to stamp their authority on the game.
    The sending off of Bennet & Kilkenny deserves a little more scrutiny.
    I could see clearly that Bennett reacted (unprofessionally in my opinion) to some verbal provocation but showed an open hand to Kilkenny’s face, an act which he surely knows (as we all do) that will result in nothing other than a straight red. The fact that Kilkenny then reacted like he was trying to win a BAFTA proved too much for the referee and he went for an early bath also.
    I cannot understand how a professional footballer, on his home debut, could have been so provoked to over react the way Bennett did and I must say I was very disappointed with his behaviour. I assume he will now miss the next three games???
    This is very unfortunate as I thought he started quite brightly with one or two good touches early on.
    Reach on the other wing was far too predictable in the first half but I thought he changed tact in the second half (due to managerial advice?) and he became much more effectual, taking on their right back and producing three or four good crosses.
    It was great to see Davies back, oh how we have missed him, though it did seem to me that Mcardle had in fact been asked to try a win most things in the air – I wonder if this was a deliberate ploy to try and give Andrew a more ‘gentle’ re-introduction in his first game back?.
    Good also to see Ravenhill being brought back to replace the largely anonymous Doyle.
    I personally thought that Hanson deserved to be substituted rather than Mclean as it was largely the new signing that had the better of the few chances, in particularly the one where he was put clean through only to be cynically brought down on the edge of the box.
    Gary Jones was immense once again offering a calming influence on the rest of the team but then equally going in sharp to dispossess or break up Preston’s play when required.
    What really struck me more than anything else last night was not the sending off, or the result, or Preston hitting that post but something which occurred before a ball had even been kicked.
    Together as a team, as a single unit they all took the time to wish each other well with particular attention been afforded to the new signings. This I thought should bode well for the future and continues that one for all and all for one mentality which I feel is one of Parkinson’s greatest strengths, galvanising the team to support one another through good times & bad…a bit like being a supporter?

    • We have become a very hard team to beat, we’ll be even harder to beat now Davies is back. Like you I thought Gary Jones was immense as was Davies, what a great shame we didn’t sign el capitano a few years earlier, what an example to the team and especially the younger players Gary Jones is.

      Thought the Bennett dismissal was soft last night and having looked at the replay that decision gets worse with every pressing of the replay icon.

    • I will be happy to eat my words if we survive. There seems to be a total lack of reality – to finish mid table which all of you guys think is a given – we need say 60 points – 26 points now from 19 games – not an ambitious target – but 6-7 wins is a must. I posed the question where are we going to get them from?
      To survive we need say 52 points – 18 points from 17 games. Jason you’re great on stats what are we averaging over the last 18 games?
      Yes we had four or five great days last season – I think too many of you guys are looking through rose-coloured spectacles. I certainly want PP to succeed and hope his new look will be successful but who in all honesty can say that if PP had not achieved what he did last season he would be gone?
      I want a side that compete and prosper at this level – what would you be saying to PP at an interim review? “i know your signings – Gray, Connell, de Vita, Yeates, Taylor (& Nelson) have been disappointing – need I go on”? By all accounts we had a top 10 budget – probably top 6 (like we did last season and scraped into play-offs) and yet we are nose diving. My contention is that PP has bought poorly and whilst in no way writing off Mr McLean question whether someone who has played so little football in the last two years and really didn’t make the grade as Championship footballer is the right person?
      I was at the debacle at Notts County and the first half at Peterborough – only Wells departure and Reid’s injury has forced a change of personnel. How can we prosper when our midfield contributes so few goals?
      Guys – get a grip of reality, we are in the relegation mire – much as we were two seasons ago. Look at our results – last minute goals saved us against Coventry and Orient (even Shrewsbury took us to the wire), a very fortuitous win at MK, ghastly defeats by Tranmere, Peterborough, the County (who we failed to beat at home). Even Jason has felt that we have only performed in a handful of games out of 26 played.
      I wish I had a solution but mid table obscurity – optimism unbridled!

      • Hi Adam

        Whilst I don’t doubt you make some sensible points, you are not helping yourself by adding nonsense statements about the club’s situation. To say we are “we are in the relegation mire” when we are 12th in the league (and eight points above the drop zone) is absolutely ridiculous.

        Let’s start with last season. I have no idea how often you go to watch City, Adam, but to say we only have four or five great days is very insulting to the players and manager and simply not true. I went to 52 of our 64 matches in 2012/13 and I can tell you that there were many, many fantastic days and the achievements of the club should not be talked down by anyone.

        I don’t understand why anyone would want to downplay finishing seventh and going up through the play offs. We had five (FIVE) years before that in League Two, underachieving and finishing in the bottom half in the last three. If that proved anything it was that the division is not easy and we had no god-given right to be promoted. Five years of struggle underlined what a great achievement it was to be promoted.

        Finally on last season, let me tell you that I hate people using the line “rose-coloured spectacles”. It is such an unbelievably patronising put-down, as though everyone else but you is stupid and cannot form logical opinions. I don’t need any kind of glasses to know that last season was brilliant. If you didn’t enjoy it then frankly when are you going to enjoy supporting Bradford City Football Club?

        Now, this season. I’ve not seen anyone say that finishing mid-table is a given, but the way in which performances are shaping up (all season, why judge just 18 games?) and the quality of our squad relative to others would suggest we will finish around that part of the table. I don’t see us having any issue getting the six or seven wins needed. We have some difficult away games for sure but a lot of very winnable home games. We have lost only one game this season by more than one goal (the Notts County game you saw). We are not losing many games.

        One win in 18 hangs over the club for now, but those 18 games include just six defeats. Okay, not fantastic form, but not dreadful either. On those 18 games (knowing you love a stat!) we have won 1, lost 6 and drawn 11. That is pretty average form, and though only winning once is a concern, to draw 11 games shows we are not far away from winning. Turn just three of those 11 into wins (which we could easily have done) and we’d still be talking of the play offs. That’s how thin the margins are.

        And the mitigating circumstances – namely the lack of Andrew Davies – point to an improvement soon (though probably not on Saturday at Wolves). Prior to Davies’ injury, we were 4th in the league and had only lost one game. Parkinson has refreshed the squad and brought new faces in aimed at delivering the improvement. There are reasons to be optimistic. That is my reality.

        I don’t know where this “by all accounts we had a top 10 budget” has come from, but even if it is the case when are we going to learnt the lesson behind that? How many years in League Two did we have one of the biggest budgets and fail? If football was as easy as throwing together a big budget then we would not have spent six years in League Two.

        The reality is that we are a newly promoted club and are doing okay. Not amazing, but fine. For a first season in a new division, I think most reasonable City fans would accept that as a good return.

        Let’s wait to judge Aaron McLean. I thought he looked good at Sheffield United but less so Tuesday night. I’m not sure why you are bringing up that he failed in the Championship, given we are in League One (where McLean has previously performed exceptionally). I suspect it is to suit your argument. I think you have to be realistic about who PP could have brought in during January. I heard he was after Mata, but you know perhaps our top 10 budget didn’t stretch that far.

      • I think some of the points you raise only serves to highlight the progress the club has made this season.

        I agree, amongst some stellar performances last season they were some undoubted howlers. And I agree that we were in some ways fortunate to to get promoted. Look back in the records over the last 10 years and you won’t find many clubs promoted with a total of 69 points. Barnet in particular can count themselves unlucky to go down on 51.

        Doesn’t this mean, however, that given we were relatively fortunate to go up, and that the team is largely unchanged from last year what a great season they are having and doesn’t it show the progress of both the team and the club has made since PP came to the club?

        I don’t understand what people expected from this season. 2 Wembley appearances aren’t the norm. I expected clubs like Sheffield United and Wolves to storm this league but lets face it – they’re not pulling up any trees. True, the summer signings have been disappointing, but look at the players that PP brought in who have been a success (Jones, Reid, Doyle, Davies, Darby, Ravenhill, McCardle……. shall I go on??). You could also look at examples like Atkinson, who in his first season was disappointing but who came good in his second season. Who’s to say Yeates won’t do something similar…?

        You’re right – we can’t be complacent, and we can’t rule out a relegation scrap, very few clubs in the league can, but given the games and performances I’ve seen I have faith that we can see this one out…

  7. Although I also missed what Kilkenny did at the time, you can clearly see here that he did pretty much the same as Bennett. The way that he went down is something that he should be hugely ashamed of:

  8. “Only Wells departure and Reid’s injury has forced a change of personnel”.  What exactly is your point here, Andrew?  Wells left, we replaced him. Reid was injured, we replaced him. If Wells had stayed and Reid was fit, we wouldn’t have needed to replace them.  If MacLean’s second half “Wells like” effort had gone in instead of being stopped by an excellent keeper, if he hadn’t been cynically hauled down on the edge of the box …. perhaps you wouldn’t write him off after one viewing. I thought Reach shaped up really well throughout.   As for Exeter etc capitulating, so what?  Was it Chesterfield that fell apart during City’s late run to 6th in 1996? Didn’t Burton deserve to beat us in last year’s cup run? We never ever deserved any of our Wembley appearances, no? Wolves hit the post in the 1999 cliffhanger – we scraped automatic. We didn’t deserve that.  As a football fan over years, you see ups, you see downs, unless you have the misfortune to love a top Premier Division team.  Enjoy it while you can.   Timing is all Andrew. We have just performed pretty well against a top 4 team. Come back and say you were right all along when we finish 21st.  After all, we don’t deserve League 1. We didn’t unearth Hanson and Wells. We never resurrected Gary Jones and Andrew Davies. We never plundered reserve teams and lower leagues for Darby or Meredith. We don’t have a team spirit or the backing of fans to be envied. Get over yourself and keep the faith.

  9. Andrew you are one of the biggest idiots i have ever seen comment on this post…do you actually support bradford or in fact even enjoy watching them? what is wrong with you

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