Lessons to learn from the Students

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UCD AFC 3

Creevy 21, Cannon 44, Mustapha 78

Bradford City 2

Clarkson 41+54

Tuesday 15 July, 2014

Words and images by Damien Wilkinson

Hot on the heels of the opening pre-season friendly 3-0 at Guiseley, Phil Parkinson’s men travelled out to Ireland for what is becoming an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” training camp and fixtures.

In keeping with previous visits, Bradford City are playing teams from each of the top two tiers of the League of Ireland and the Tuesday night match saw the Bantams face SSE Airtricity Premiership outfit, UCD, or the University College of Dublin.

UCD have played 19 of a 33-game league campaign which commenced in March, and currently sit third from bottom in the league of 12. Despite having only won four games so far, a much needed 1-0 victory in their last game against Sligo Rovers last Sunday, had lifted spirits in the students’ camp.

The glamorous sounding UCD Bowl in Belfield on the outskirts of Dublin, was the setting as was a compact ground with one main stand. The late Dermot Morgan, better known as Father Ted, was a sometime UCD fan, explaining his allegiance along the lines of hating crowds! Former players over the years included Kevin Moran, Pat Jennings Junior and a brief stint by Leeds legend Peter Lorimer.

In line with expectations, Phil Parkinson made a number of changes to the starting line up.

Aaron McLean and Oli McBurnie, despite having travelled with the squad, were again deemed not worthy of risking a start, and James Meredith was also rested having picked up a knock during the Guiseley friendly.

Additionally, Parkinson left a number of first teamers from the starting line up, including the likes of James Hanson, Stephen Darby, Andrew Davies, Billy Knott, Gary Liddle and Billy Clarke. As a result Rory McArdle captained the side, and was joined by Alan Sheehan, Jason Kennedy, Niall Heaton, Sam Wright, Nick Arnold, Raffa De Vita and Mark Yeates. Lewis Clarkson and Angelo Balanta retained their places in the first eleven and, with trial keeper Ben Alnwick not travelling with the squad, Jon McLauglin made a start between the sticks, despite the contractual uncertainties surrounding his future.

With a good number of City fans travelling out on the early morning Tuesday flight, having sampled the delights of Dublin during the day, they made up a significant proportion of the crowd that welcomed the teams out on what was a pleasant and sunny evening in the capital.

Formation-wise, City started the half looking to further develop and embed the diamond formation employed against Guiseley. Clarkson initially looked to be playing a lone striker role and in the early exchanges the Bantams moved the ball around relatively well without creating any clear cut chances. The first chance did arrive after 10 minutes with Clarkson failing to convert a De Vita cross.

However, UCD were not prepared to let City dominate and responded well. In the first half their match fitness and sharpness shone through; they worked the ball around well, and certainly had a greater rhythm to their play. Ed Sheeran-lookalike Conor Cannon gave the City defence a good test with his work rate and movement, and midfielder Hugh Douglas was a powerful presence for the students.

After a period of even play with neither team able to create any clear chances, the deadlock was finally broken after around twenty minutes. A cross in from the left was looped into the goal by the lively Robbie Creevy to give UCD a 1-0 lead.

In response, City upped their efforts and a through ball from Balanta was narrowly hooked over and a Wright shot was pulled wide. The Bantams sought to adapt their positioning and for a time Heaton was pushed into a more advanced left wing position with Sheehan covering at left back.

As the first half clock ran down, and Matt Taylor seemingly answered a call of nature on a grassy knoll above the team dugouts, City finally got back in the game – a Mark Yeates ball into the box was stabbed home by Lewis Clarkson, to continue the youngster’s recent scoring run.

UCD responded quickly forcing a smart save from McLaughlin, and the half looked set to end even until a bad mix up in the City defence allowed Conor Cannon the opportunity to restore UCD’s lead and send them into half time 2-1 to the good.

983750_10203208489071814_125683756283689446_nThe start of the second half saw a welcome return to action for Matt Taylor, whose Bantams career has not managed to get off the ground following injuries last season, and it is to be hoped he can play a key part in the squad this time around.

UCD started where they had left off in the first half and continued to cause the City backline some concerns. However, after 10 minutes some smart play by De Vita, culminating in a delightful chipped pass into the path of Clarkson, saw the young striker do well to run on and smash the ball under the UCD keeper, to again restore parity.

The match remained fairly even and with a significant number of substitutions made around the hour mark. Parkinson finally brought his big guns on and it looked for a time that City would go on and secure a win. Indeed a sharpness and higher energy seemed to punctuate their play and it appeared only a matter of time before this resulted in a goal. However, the hosts had other ideas and kept plugging away.

Their resilience was rewarded with around 10 minutes to go, following a further mix up within the City ranks and Toyeed Mustapha was presented with the opportunity to run onto the ball and dispatch it past the reaches of youth keeper, Elliot Barker, giving him no chance.

Despite a few more chances, mainly for City to grab a third equaliser, it was not to be and the match finally ended with a 3-2 victory for the students.

Overall Parkinson will no doubt be pleased with the work out that UCD have his team, but will certainly be less happy with the mix ups that self inflicted at least two of the goals conceded, and occurred in both of the line ups fielded, rather than the actual result itself.

Hopefully however, this can be addressed, and it will also be useful to have tested out a different starting formation. The goal scoring of Clarkson will be a good boost to his confidence heading into the season, Wright also gave a decent account of himself in midfield and Taylor got some game time.

The next fixture sees a return to Dublin to face Shelbourne of the SSE Airtricity League First Division; and whilst on paper this should represent an easier task against lower league opposition, it should allow a further shuffle of the pack and further assessments of both trial and fringe players – as the start of the season beckons.

City: McLaughlin (Barker 63), Arnold (Darby 63), McArdle (Taylor 45), Heaton (King 76), Sheehan (Davies 63), De Vita (Liddle 63), Wright, Kennedy (Dolan 63), Balanta (Knott 63), Yeates (Clarke 63), Clarkson (Hanson 63)

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Categories: Match Reviews

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