MK Dons 2
Bradford City 0
Tuesday 23 September, 2014
Words and images by Mike Holdsworth
A busy M1 and mild panic on timing after a bump in the roadworks near junction 16. So a missed Costa stop (I always go for the Belgian Chocolate Caramel Shortbread) and there we were, ready to take on the erratically signposted, the concrete jungle with the Americanised grid, the new town strategically developed between a number of far more interesting and English places, the town born around the time I started primary school.
I’m sure there are more good reasons to go to MK other than football and music, they just escape me. A £7 car parking touch was more than made up for by 3 tickets and a programme at £33. Enter Stadium:MK. Check stylish, roomy toilets with automated paper towel dispensers, check very comfy Emirates style seats with much leg room, check friendly steward helping the City fan arrange his big claret and amber flag and taking his photo …. the way we watch our football has so changed.
Memories of the bogs at the back of the kop circa 1975 and bricks being lobbed across said Kop five years on … or not. But I love Stadium:MK. Wrong club, wrong town perhaps, incredibly soulless yes, but classy and cool and built for 21st century football.
Unfortunately City didn’t realise a competitive football match had broken out until shortly after 8 o’clock and at circa 7.50, with Christoper Routis pulled out of position, Benik Afobe skilfully but perhaps too easily outfoxed Rory McArdle on the edge of the box and thundered a superb shot past Ben Williams. MK’s man in form had delivered early.
Billy Knott took City straight onto the attack but his firm shot was comfortably saved. On 10 minutes Afobe too easily robbed Jason Kennedy and created himself another shooting chance. That typified City’s slow start. Mason Bennett was energetic down the left and shared some of City’s good early moments with Filipe Morais.
Both teams showed neat touches and interplay without looking too threatening. MK’s better moments earned ripples of applause from the sparse home support. Ben Reeves found too much space on the edge of the area but credit to McArdle and Routis, who were strong after that early setback.
The City fans were enjoying themselves as we edged back into the game. On 21 minutes Carruther’s tumble on the edge of City’s box earned him shouts of ‘diver’, ‘sack of spuds’ and ‘southern softie’. In truth he was fouled twice, but Reeves fired the free kick tamely over.
City’s passing game extended back to their own area as Williams, in dayglo orange (I preferred Jonny Mac’s purple), knocked the ball around in a daring game of keepball with Routis and McArdle. Morais drew signs of life from the home ‘crowd’ after a pointless tussle with Lewington earned him an overly long lecture from the referee.
Half an hour in, Knott was to the fore as City kept up the neat, if somewhat ineffectual, passing game. Billy Clarke, our best forward on the night, linked well with Oli McBurnie who fed Bennett who pushed his best opportunity two yards wide from a nice position on the right.
A hasty Gary Liddle challenge near our dugout then drew Phil Parkinson into a row with the referee. He likes a row with an official does Parkinsin. A lucky MK break found Afobe again centre edge of box, but he was better marshalled this time. He passed to Reeves who in turn fed Bowditch who shot over. On 39 minutes, Carruthers found space too easily down the left but the danger was snuffed out by Bennett which typified the growing City spirit.
Referee Russell seemed about to award a surprise penalty, striding intently towards the spot. To much relief, he pointed at the corner flag. Reeves continued to find space and was well challenged by Routis, who impressed throughout the half. On 42 minutes an excellent City move drew enthusiastic support as it ended with a McBurnie headed chance – replays showed (check multi big screens around classy S:MK) Oli’s header was tame and some 7 yards off the mark. Where was James Hanson when we so needed him?
More cool defending as MK ended the half strongly. Routis likes a pass, McArdle caught the bug, Williams stopped a Kay header at his near post, Afobe had a shot deflected over. We lacked cutting edge against confident, well-organised opponents but we had fought well from 15 minutes in ,and ended the half to a good reception.
In truth, the City fans seemed to be in relaxed mood throughout, with I think a strong smattering of southern exiles enjoying the balmy evening out without getting too excitable … perhaps more worried about the Tesco share price than Capital One Cup Round Three.
The second half began with many City fans still in the bar. That will be the bar at the back of the concourse, with stewards ensuring fans don’t come out on the concourse with drinks, that will be the concourse with sheets blocking the view of the pitch from the concourse, with signs saying “viewing not permitted from the concourse”. I guessed they’re not keen on fans viewing the match from the concourse. Anyway … football broke out again.
City again struggled to settle as MK full back Spence, impressive on the overlap, shot narrowly wide. But we then had a short, strong spell as Morais, fed on the counter by Clarke, crossed firmly but straight at keeper Martin. Morais then earned a corner after a good Knott pass. McArdle, not tightly marked, seemed to have a clear opportunity to connect with the corner … but he missed out.
There followed a period of MK pressure, Williams making two sharp saves from Afobe down the left. Bennett had a decent first half but for a few minutes here, he had a horror show. Poor control and a misplaced pass as he twice failed to stem the MK pressure when well placed to do so. Then he was outpaced by Spence who crossed for Afobe to head over. Aaron Mclean warmed up (cue Capital One Cup “he scores with his hands” chant).
On the hour mark, Knott neatly stole possession. He quickly found McBurnie who had needlessly strayed into an offside position when potentially clear. With no let-up from MK, McFadzean hit a post after a good McArdle block. On 63, Bennett and McBurnie combined to lose possession when well placed in the left corner of the MK box.
Parkinson soon ended the youngsters’ agony and sent on Mclean and Mark Yeates on 64 minutes, not one minute too soon. Bennett showed enough strength and pace in the first half and surely has enough in the locker to suggest this was just a bad second half at the office. McBurnie continues to draw wholehearted support but needs to start delivering …. in other circumstances, a loan to a lower division would perhaps help him.
A predictable rally followed. JamesMeredith crossed dangerously only to see Kennedy’s shot blocked by Mclean. Meredith forged forward well at every opportunity, unlike Liddle who, whilst solid, seemed to be finding his feet and no more at full back.
Clarke broke well but shot tamely when others were well placed and then Morais and Kennedy both misfired. On 71 minutes, Yeates and Knott got in a tangle on the edge of the MK box. It was that kind of half, but we were perhaps starting to see hope, certainly there was fight and vigour.
There was more passing across our own box and Williams looked more comfortable with that than the City fans, genuinely looking to build from the back but perhaps taking the idea to extremes at times.
Mclean headed wide from a corner and forced another corner after a wicked Knott cross but it was all a bit tame until Knott fed Morais on the right whose cross was turned sharply goalwards by Kennedy, our best moment of the half. It was easily saved, but the front six were all playing their part in trying to drag City back into the match.
On 82 minutes Meredith made a storming 30 yard run, he fed Mclean who let the ball slip into touch. We just seem not to be bringing the best out of Mclean, but the all round effort was there for all to see. City pushed on and Mclean won a free kick around halfway on 84 minutes.
As late debutant Reece Webb-Foster made an intelligent run, Knott’s pass inexplicably found Lewington with no City player near him and little defensive cover. MK moved forward quickly, Alli found Afobe well placed and striding away from the defence, who finished well, again making the art of scoring look easy. “Cheerio, cheerio” sang the MK fans …. obviously not noticing that the only early leavers were of a Franchise rather than a Bantam persuasion.
The home MoM was announced as Afobe to no great surprise. MK almost snatched a third but we held out with a good Routis block. 2-0 was about fair, there can be no complaints.
It’s strange how people see a match differently. Parkinson saw the momentum with City second half. I thought we dominated for much of it without carrying a great threat.
City: Williams, Liddle, McArdle, Routis, Meredith, Morais (Webb-Foster 85), Kennedy, Knott, Clarke, Bennett (Yeates 65), McBurnie (Mclean 65)
Not used: Urwin, Wright, Pollard, King
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Categories: Match Reviews