Tied up in Knotts

Image by Kieran Wilkinson

Image by Kieran Wilkinson

Bradford City 2

Knott 84, Hanson 86

Leeds United 1

Smith 82

Wednesday 27 August, 2014

By Jason McKeown

What a night to be a Bradford City supporter. A long overdue victory over our biggest rivals; achieved in the most incredible, hedonistic fashion. It will be talked about for years and years to come. A night that no one of a claret and amber persuasion will ever forget.

This might be a Leeds United team in disarray. They might be a shadow of the club they once were. And, of course, the visitors were a man short for over an hour. But it is still a major scalp for City and a hugely commendable achievement – one that the players deserve all the praise in the world for accomplishing. Their names will now go down in history for being the first Bradford City side in 28 years to defeat their nearest neighbours.

And what a way to win the match. When Leeds United’s impressive Matt Smith headed his team into a late, late lead it looked set to be another Bradford City hard luck story in this irregular derby fixture. But then Billy Knott – the game’s man of the match – struck a stunning half volley into the top corner. And then, just four minutes after Leeds had gone in front, James Hanson’s diving header from Gary Liddle’s cross completed the turnaround and sparked unbridled delirium. Scenes of home celebration that will go down in folklore.

The uncomfortably nasty side of some Leeds fans then came to the fore, as chairs were ripped up and scuffles took place in Midland Road’s B block. The sight of a disabled supporter in a wheelchair having to rush onto the pitch for protection should shame every Leeds United supporter who was involved. They were disgraceful scenes, which held up the match by more than five minutes. There would have been no justice had their team equalised in the nine minutes of stoppage time that a small section of Leeds fans had added to.

Leeds fans often parade their indifference over this local rivalry like a badge of honour; they are above loathing us back and all that. But their own scenes of wild celebration, when they took the lead, betrayed any lack of interest. For many reasons beyond the fact it was those noisy Bradford neighbours who inflicted their exit from the competition, this defeat clearly hurt them and it remains to be seen what it will do to manager David Hockaday’s increasingly loose grip on his job.

And Leeds’ brief spell in front was a plot twist that only added to the ecstasy of City’s two late goals. Make no mistake, the Bantams had to earn this victory. A man down, Leeds dug in admirably and there can be no doubting the commitment of the players towards their beleaguered manager. Increasingly as the match wore on, the home side dominated proceedings but by no means did Leeds fold. An early miss by Stephen Warnock following a strong Leeds start aside, City were clearly the better side, but their opponents carried a threat throughout.

It might have been different had Luke Murphy not inexplicably lost his head in the derby atmosphere, deservedly earning his marching orders after collecting two bookings. The former Crewe man probably should have been red-carded on five minutes after a shocking challenge on Liddle. But after escaping with only a booking, it defied belief to see him haul down James Meredith with barely half an hour on the clock.

With the man advantage, City belatedly found their passing rhythm and upped the tempo. Knott revelled in the extra freedom and ran the show, popping up all over the park – he was behind all that was good from the Bantams. What an astute signing he looks to be, and although playing in a different position there is more than a touch of Robbie Blake about his play. It will be very interesting to see how his City career takes shape. He is jewel in Phil Parkinson’s midfield diamond. A player to build your team around.

Billy Clarke too was outstanding, especially in the second half, whilst Liddle and Jason Kennedy both put in heroic shifts. Kennedy had City’s best chance of the first half with a volley from an impossible angle that flew just short of the near post. Just after half time, he missed a gilt-edged chance when a side foot stab at goal from just inside the six-yard box bounced wide. Clarke too was heavily involved in the chances City created, forcing a stunning save from an otherwise hesitant Leeds keeper, Stuart Taylor. His close control and vision are valuable assets for his side, and he can really flourish at Valley Parade playing in the hole behind the strikers.

City had plenty of possession but at times struggled to create much. Meredith’s confidence continues to look low when judged against his performances of a year ago, but he and fellow full back Stephen Darby offered useful attacking support throughout. Aaron Mclean, looking half-fit, toiled hard. He was later replaced with Oli McBurnie, and the teenage striker impressed greatly leading the line and causing havoc.

In the closing stages City were building up a head of steam. Lots of corners and crosses that came to nothing; yet a growing feeling that, through persistence, a big chance was coming. But an injury to Kennedy stopped the game for too long and halted his team’s momentum. Then Liddle switched off, David Norris came forward with the ball and crossed for Smith to seemingly win it.

But as Parkinson observed after the final whistle, his team doesn’t know when it is beaten. The never-say-die culture of the club that the manager so impressively instilled two years ago remains, despite the departures of Gary Jones and co. The crowd kept roaring them on, and within two minutes Knott had equalised in memorable fashion. The former Sunderland man adding to his stunning first goal for the club, against Crawley, eight days earlier. Boring tap-ins are not his thing it seems.

Extra time beckoned, but then Hanson wrote another chapter in his own extraordinary tale with the late winner. Add this stunning personal moment to James’ goals against Aston Villa, Burton Albion and Northampton in 2012/13. He is one goal away from breaking into the club’s top 10 all time goalscorers.

And what more can you say about Hanson? What an incredible piece of business by Stuart McCall, bringing him in from Guiseley, five years ago. What a meteoric rise. What an inspiration. I know that we have had more naturally talented strikers over the years, but none that I have seen have meant more to me than Hanson does. For so many reasons he has become my favourite striker of all time. I feel privileged to have watched his City career.

Where are all those people who doubted him two or three years ago? Who barracked him endlessly? Where are your now with your apologises? How stupid do you feel? I’m proud to have been one of many City supporters who stood by the big man during difficult times. I’m proud to watch him enjoy moments like this.

The cup draw has handed City an unglamorous tie at MK Dons in round three, but who cares? Who can ask for more than nights like this? To be part of such a positive, vocal crowd that backed the players to the hilt. To jump up and down on top of people I am proud to call friends in celebration of Hanson’s winner. To witness a sea of happy faces around a stadium that – too often – has been filled with doom and gloom. To enjoy the players rushing over to the Kop at full time so they can take in the warm glow of pride that they had just instilled into 15,000, forever grateful home fans.

For all the disappointments we endure watching City over the years, it is nights like this that truly make it all worthwhile.

City: Williams, Darby, McArdle, Sheehan, Meredith, Liddle, Kennedy, Knott (Dolan 90), Kennedy, Clarke, Mclean (McBurnie 70), Hanson

Not used: Urwin, Routis, Morais, Yeates, Shariff

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Categories: Match Reviews

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12 replies

  1. Brilliant write up of the game. The never say die attitude of this club since Parkinson came in is unbelievable. It’d be interesting to see the stats for how many late goals the team has scored since he began managing the club. Unbelievable night once again!

  2. Probably the most electric atmosphere I’ve experienced in the Kop. Trying hard to think of a game which from start to end was just a wall of noise. Beats Arsenal game easily and probably matches if not exceeds the Villa game. Can you think a game which does?

    We will savour this result for years. To come from behind and beat your illustrious [arrogant] local rivals in the final 6 minutes doesn’t get much better.

  3. I thought James Meredith was incredible last night. He really made the most of the space afforded to him by the narrower midfield (and, after half an hour, the lack of opposition numbers).

    • Meredith on the whole frustrated me last night! Too many passes back down the field when he still had acres of Valley Parade to run into especially in the first half. Whilst I accept his overall display was good, I do feel if he’d have taken the ball further up the field more often and crossed, we’d not have been a goal down after 82 minutes.

      • I know what you’re saying, but I think the backward and sideways passes were responsible uses of the ball on the whole. Meredith is a great athlete but you can only go flat out to beat a man for pace so many times in a game without getting too tired to be useful, doubly so for if you are a full back who may well have to go flat out back in the other direction to defend. Most of the conservative passes came when he had 10 yards in front of him and one or two Leeds players covering. Running at them with the ball is just going to tire you out and give the ball away, and make a midfielder get across and cover if they break. Flat out runs can be decisive but they need to be timed right, either onto through balls/balls over the top or when you’ve already got around your man, and I think his decision making was spot on in that regard.

        Also, I think there were times when he was instinctively looking for a winger to combine with to overload the opposing full-back. He seemed to adapt to carrying the width solo as the game progressed.

      • Agree with Mal. There were times when we were shouting for him to run down the wing every time and then remembered he was the full back. His role was to push up and play into the diamond or where possible get good balls in. He plays great when he overlaps with a winger but that role has gone so i think he did as best he could without losing sight of his defensive role.

  4. Excellent write up of the game. As an exiled Bantam I only got to watch it on TV. Oh how, Nahki Wells must have wished he was there on the pitch instead of the studio. However, I thought McClean looked out of his depth and Jason Kennedy seemed frightened of the ball. Meredith was outstanding and I love the way Knott picks up the ball from defenders and just powers on forward. A great signing by PP. Personally I think Oli McBurnie should start ahead of McClean. I’m sorry but he doesn’t look good enough. Hanson, a true Bradford hero.

  5. Against Arsenal and Villa I went to bed euphoric. Last night I went to bed with the most sublime feeling of well being and quiet satisfaction. When Brendon Rogers speaks of his “culture of performance” I think that can be equally applied to Parky and his City sides.

  6. Another night we supporters won’t ever forget.
    I had this feeling as the game wore on Leeds would get in front as the chances we created weren’t been taken McLean,Kennedy all should have scored.
    fantastic character in our team to never say die and keep plugging away.
    Billy Knott was fantastic on the ball keeping the rhythm and tempo high.
    Meredith got forward well put in some great crosses.
    James Hanson without doubt is legend status, you always know what your going to get with James Hanson every time he puts on claret & amber shirt 100%.
    4 goals already this season & I believe he’s now taken on the role of our most potent goal threat!. Mr Dependable is James.

  7. Thoroughly enjoyed the game last night – there were times of nerves where i had convinced myself they would nick it against run of play and when their goal came i was gutted. All credit due to the lads for a fantastic fightback and some excellent open play.

    Knott really enjoyed his game last night (great goal!) and i was very impressed with Meredith. After the criticism of Saturday he was a different player. Pleased to see McBurnie get on the field and do well – a big game for the young man. Special mention to the defence as they are often overlooked, they coped with the Leeds pressure and played the ball well from the back. That chap Smith is very tall!

    Phil Parkinson is an excellent manager and other clubs out there are starting to notice – hands off! I love the way he gets the best out of the team and instills that ‘one for all’ attitude. I know we love Dava and Hanson but it is PP who is our best asset.

    When our second goal went in i must admit to turning into a sort of deranged lunatic up there in the kop. This match really mattered to fans and it was a fantastic result.

    Our love for the League cup continues…

  8. Dead right Jason about scum fans always declaring they just don’t care about us.One Leeds blogger describes us as minnows,but the reaction to the defeat showed that they are hurting big time losing to us. What a night and payback time for all the arrogance and nonsense that Leeds fans dish out.

  9. Meredith was good, he often could have charged down the flank and whipped in a ball that could have gone anywhere, but instead retained possession bringing Knott/Liddle/Clarke into the game.

    As someone watching from Australia I can only hope someday I get to a game at VP with the crowd half as good as that!

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