This Ground is Coming Like a Ghost Ground

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Coventry City 0

Bradford City 0

Tuesday 1 April, 2014

Written by Kieran Wilkinson (images by Mike Holdsworth)

Since the last meeting between Bradford City and Coventry, both teams’ seasons have followed similar paths. Each has lost their star striker in the January transfer window. Both teams have only gained 20 odd points since that November meeting in front of the Sky cameras, thus putting paid to both teams’ ambitions of a play off spot (though were it not for their 10 point deduction, Coventry would be very much still in the mix). Equally, both teams look reasonably safe after Saturday: City after the magnificent win in E10 and Coventry after a late winner against Crewe.

 

Adam Drury and Nathan Doyle were ruled out for City by injury (the former being a particular blow, given his recent form and the much-discussed lack of cover in the position) with James Hanson also failing to make the squad, as the club look to resolve his back problems. The only change to City’s starting eleven from the weekend was Carl McHugh slotting in at left back.

 

Callum Wilson (scorer of one of Coventry’s three goals at Valley Parade earlier in the season) and Dan Seaborne – both of whom had played in Coventry’s weekend win – missed out through injury and there were also two other changes for the Sky Blues.

Unsurprisingly, given the boycott of home games by a large number of Coventry fans, the atmosphere was non-existent (though the openness of Sixfields doesn’t help in the first place). The club’s attempts to rouse the home support by playing ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky fell not so much on deaf ears as absent ones. Perhaps Coventry’s finest band’s “Ghost Town” would have been a more appropriate song for the occasion. The attendance was 1,673, with 327 City fans. It must be soul destroying for Coventry’s supporters and it is hard to see how they can achieve any real momentum whilst playing away from Coventry.

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So, given the similar fortunes of both teams, was a goalless draw almost a foregone conclusion? Whilst on paper, the result would seem to have gone to form, Phil Parkinson will certainly be the more disappointed of the two managers given that, on their performance, City really should have taken all three points. 

All of the early creativity in the match seemed to come from City, with the midfield pairing of Gary Jones and Matty Dolan both having a couple of chances in the opening 20 minutes.

 

It wasn’t only the midfield two who were threatening – Jon Stead and Aaron Mclean continued their good work from Saturday, with Mclean forcing a smart save from the Coventry keeper Joe Murphy after a cross from McHugh (Parkinson describing the save as one of the best that he has seen this season). Stead also forced Murphy into action after some good work by Kyle Bennett.

 

City continued this good play up until the half-time whistle, with chances for Mclean, Stead, Adam Reach and Rory McArdle. However, Coventry could have snatched an injury goal but thankfully Jon McLaughlin was alert to an effort from the exotically named Cyrus Christie, this actually being their first real attempt on goal in the entire match (and, as it would transpire, their only attempt on target on the night).

A pleasing first half performance but, as always when such good play is not reflected in the scoreline, a lingering worry that City would pay for the failure to make the most of their chances.  

In the second half, with City shooting towards us, proceedings to a certain extent started where they left off, with the visitors doing the early pressing. The big chance of the half came in the 52nd minute when Bennett put in a dangerous cross which Reach was only able to head onto the crossbar.

 

Truth be told, the game fizzled out a little after that. Both teams had a few half chances with Coventry’s Marshall putting an inviting cross into City’s box that, thankfully, Coventry could not capitalise on. At the other end, Stead’s attempted piledriver from a Mclean flick on only troubled the City fans behind the goal. 

 

Both teams tried to inject some urgency with attacking substitutions – Coventry introducing midfielder Conor Thomas and Villa loan striker Nathan Delfouneso, City sacrificing Dolan and the impressive Bennett for the lesser-spotted Chris Atkinson and Garry Thompson – but none of the substitutions were able to tip the balance in either team’s favour.

 

Mclean had a chance in the last ten minutes after a McHugh header-on, but this was not a clear cut opportunity and Joe Murphy managed to deal with it fairly comfortably.

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The fact that I haven’t had cause to mention the referee is due to him having a decent game. Whilst the BBC website will tell you that the ref was Lee Probert, it was in fact fellow Premier League official Chris Foy who took charge. He officiated fairly, wasn’t over-fussy and kept his cards in his pocket all night. A refreshing change!

So, a goalless draw and, therefore, some mixed emotions at the final whistle. We really should have killed the game off in the first half and, to an extent, this is reflection of our season as a whole. Having drawn 16 matches this season, it is easy to see that we have at times lacked a killer instinct. Thankfully, it doesn’t appear that we will be left rueing those draws at the end of the season, but it would have only taken converting, say, five of those draws into wins to have seen us on the edge of the play offs.

There were plenty of positives to take from the game. A clean sheet and a solid defensive performance, especially considering the absence of Drury. There were bright performances again from Stead, Bennett and McLean. In respect of the first two, the remainder of the season should really be seen as an audition for next season. I have been impressed with Stead in his two matches so far, and he could potentially have the pedigree to offer us that “something different” that we have been lacking up front. Bennett also appears to be improving match-by-match to offer a genuine threat.

So, the status quo between both teams was maintained and it would take a calamitous set of events for them not to be facing each other again in League One next season. Plenty to build on, and to think about, for both teams.         

City: McLaughlin, Darby, McArdle, Davies, McHugh, Bennett (Thompson 85), Dolan (Atkinson 80), Jones, Reach, Stead, Mclean

Not used: Bentley, Pollard, Bates, Yeates, McBurnie

 

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