Down in the dumps but not down-hearted

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Bradford City 1

Stead 32

Rochdale 2

Vincent 12, Andrews 90

Saturday 10 January, 2015

By Jason McKeown (images kindly provided by Thomas Gadd, see note below)

Despondency might be unavoidable, but it is also unjustified. One late lapse in concentration might have proven costly, but it cannot overshadow a monumental effort.

Bradford City were outstanding here; producing a performance of skill, courage and heart in the face of adversity. They lost a man early doors, and ultimately lost the points, yet along the way they gained character. Rarely does a defeat leave their outstanding supporters still feeling so proud.

Rochdale smashed and grabbed the victory. They were second best throughout, despite playing against 10 men for almost 80 minutes. City made a mockery of their numerical disadvantage, and for long periods pinned their opponents back in their own half. Yet there was a sucker punch lying in wait in the shape of Calvin Andrew’s scrambled winning goal for Rochdale, three minutes into injury time.

The ninety-third minute yet again. That’s now three out of five home league games where points have been lost at the death. A concern, but nothing to panic over just yet.

For the positives outweighed the negatives by a long distance. As City attacked the Kop end in the closing stages, a late home winner would have sparked scenes of celebration akin to the Leeds cup tie back in August. This was so close to becoming the crowning moment of the season so far. The fact it wasn’t stings, but it shouldn’t leave a scar.

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The story of the game was that of the reaction to Jordan Pickford’s early dismissal. After Andy Halliday carelessly lost possession in the Rochdale half, the visitors broke with purpose and Matt Done was played through on goal. Pickford rushed out in desperation and halted Done’s run with a trailing leg. A definite penalty, but referee Gavin Ward’s decision to compound the matter by sending off the City goalkeeper was controversial.

By the letter of the law Pickford was the last man, but as the saying goes: the law is an ass. Done privately admitted to Billy Knott that he would not have scored even without Pickford’s illegal trip, as the ball was running out of play. Two City defenders were rushing back to cover Pickford’s unguarded goal. It is such a grey area; and in a very similar situation at Valley Parade earlier this season, Swindon’s Wes Fotheringham was only yellow-carded when the last man, meaning he stayed on the field to save the resulting spot kick.

Ben Williams was summoned from the bench for a belated Bantams league debut – Halliday the sacrificial lamb, meaning he would have no opportunity to rectify his mistake – and under intense pressure from the Kop, Ian Henderson chipped his penalty onto the crossbar. As the ball came back into his path, the former Norwich striker was mindful to get out of the way, given the rules state he couldn’t be the next person to touch the ball. Unfortunately for City, Rory McArdle was fooled into leaving the ball too, and the impressive Peter Vincenti was left free to smash it into the net.

Yet rather than these events leading to a home implosion, the Bantams stood tall and displayed their mettle. Rochdale were a much improved side from the Spotland meeting earlier in the season, but struggled to make the most of their extra man, with possession readily squandered. City chased and harassed whilst gambling on leaving big gaps, as they purposefully chased parity.

And with the erratic Ward producing several bewildering decisions, the noise and the intensity of the home support never waived either. As Ward seemed determined to prove he could not be swayed by a large crowd, fans hooted and howled every perceived injustice. As much as everyone hates a bad referee – and Ward was amongst the worst you could see – they certainly help the atmosphere. And in City’s situation of trailing and a man light, it suited everyone of claret and amber leaning to adopt an us-against-the-world mentality.

Ward’s failure to address the rising tensions between Done and Alan Sheehan threatened to result in another player walking. The competitive style of the two players spilled over several times in the first half, with Done especially fortunate to get away without a booking. Gary Liddle was then yellow-carded for little of note. Stronger challenges from both sides went unpunished, whilst in other instances slight contact needlessly resulted in a free kick.

After the game Parkinson complained that Ward, who is from Surrey, should not be sent to officiate Northern-based matches; and it is striking to note that until today he had not refereed a single game North of Burton. City even have to pick up the tab for Ward’s hotel accommodation.

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On the occasions that Ward allowed the game to flow, it was action-packed. To make up for the numerical disadvantage, the remaining 10 City players needed to put in a monumental shift and they did just that. James Hanson led from the front with a remarkable level of effort that on several occasions included racing back to defend. He and Jon Stead were exactly the type of strikers needed for such circumstances, and both were terrific.

Whilst Knott gave the ball away at times, during other moments his creativity and energy were effective in shaping attacks. Filipe Morais ran up and down with purpose. Gary Liddle protected the back four with discipline. Having at 0-0 carved out promising openings for Hanson and Stead, other chances were subsequently created after Pickford’s early bath. The knocking on the door was loud and unrelenting.

Eventually, Stead was on hand to finish off a bout of pinball in the box, as Hanson and Sheehan got touches to Morais’ cross, in order to keep the opportunity alive. It was the perfect way for the Huddersfield forward to mark the extension of his Valley Parade loan until the end of the season. A fifth goal of the campaign, in a Bantams shirt, leaves Stead just one behind joint top scorers Hanson and Knott.

Hanson had three reasonable opportunities in the second half; the best a powerful effort from Stephen Darby’s cross, with 20 minutes to go. At that stage the constant home pressure was beginning to wane as tiredness become evident. Parkinson took off Knott and Morais, but substitutes Mark Yeates and Jason Kennedy were unable to make any real impression.

Still, a very credible point and extension of the unbeaten record was on the cards. That was until Andrews – only on the field for 10 minutes – struck late on. A debatable Rochdale free kick wasn’t cleared, and the journeyman striker’s header looped into the net.

It was an avoidable goal, it was heart-breaking, and it brought an end to the two-month undefeated run. A moment later, a couple of fans near me were having a stand-up row over Jason Kennedy. As we filed home at the final whistle, others muttered darkly about defensive frailties and a failure to kill teams off.

Familiar themes, and the weaknesses of this squad are obvious to everyone. But while they must be addressed, they should not be allowed to obscure the bigger picture.

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This was a good performance, and right now City are playing some of their best football since the Premier League promotion season of 1998/99. They have attempted to adhere to an attractive style of play since the start of the season, but have recently married this ethos with the grit, determination and character that was the hallmark of the 2012/13 ‘We Made History’ side.

What a job Phil Parkinson is performing. This time a year ago, the History Makers looked past their sell-by date, the club had won only once since October and Parkinson was looking short of solutions to the growing problems.

The past 12 months have not been a smooth ride; but ultimately the manager has dismantled and rebuilt, delivered a more pleasing style of football on a cheaper budget, and retained the spirit of two years ago. They are not the best team in this division and they may not even prove to be amongst the best six, but the trajectory of Bradford City continues to be upwards. This looks set to be another year of progress. Parkinson continues to perform miracles, and the club must never lose sight of his value.

The City boss will undoubtedly tell his players not to be overly concerned by this set back; to not allow it to derail the progress of the last few weeks. Whilst a midweek FA Cup exit to Millwall would threaten to cast another spell of gloom upon Valley Parade, Parkinson will make sure that his team go into this vital fixture in a positive and confident frame of mind.

It is what we have come to expect.

City: Pickford, Darby, McArdle, Sheehan, Meredith, Halliday (Williams 12), Liddle, Knott (Yeates 70), Morais (Kennedy 86), Hanson, Stead

Not used: Routis, Mottley-Henry, Zoko, McBurnie

With special thanks to Thomas Gadd for allowing us to use his brilliant photos. Please visit Thomas Gadd’s website for more details.

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Categories: Match Reviews

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14 replies

  1. Fantastic report as ever. I came home today totally proud of the team – to play 80 minutes with ten men and have Rochdale pinned back the way they did was superb and they should all be very proud.

  2. I rely mostly on Social media (Twitter/Facebook/Youtube, Etc) and sites like WOAP for my City news.

    My understanding is that the Red card was undeserved and ruined what could have been a win for City, given the way they dominated.

    Looking at the game stats on soccerway.com, I can’t help the feeling City missed many chances to put the game away even with just 10 men.

    Still sitting in 5th place in the League though.

  3. ‘I think this game has suckerpunch written all over it’ and ‘it’s the last 10 minutes when being down to ten men takes its toll’. Two prescient comments from the gents sitting either side of me yesterday made fairly early on during yesterday’s proceedings. My comment to one of them that it felt it might just be one of those days when the fates are against you also had some justification. The scoreline was certainly no reflection on the game. Sure, Rochdale got the points, but the application, commitment, effort, teamwork and, by and large, superior footballing skills of the entire City team made you feel proud. They were a credit to themselves, Phil Parkinson and the coaching staff.
    The referee was clearly out to prove he would not be influenced by the large crowd, but, unfortunately, applied the same principle to not being much influenced by the football match taking place on the same pitch as he was standing. I think that’s why I felt it would be ‘one of those days’ as he stamped his ‘authority’ on the game.

  4. Sitting directly in line with the incident in the Kop, as soon as Pickford tripped the Rochdale player everyone around me agreed that he was bound to be sent off. At half time the view was the same. Never mind Billy Knott’s claim on radio, the Rochdale player would have had the opportunity to slot the ball into an empty net from a tight angle. It was more likely that the angle would be too tight – but he was denied the opportunity. Red card.
    Post match, with the terrible agony of a magnificent gutsy display bringing absolutely no reward and in the most frustrating way possible yet again, the sending off is now being portrayed as some massive injustice. It wasn’t.
    Very unlucky but we should concentrate on the positives which Jason highlights in his report. Great battling spirit and the best side lost.

  5. “By the letter of the law Pickford was the last man, but as the saying goes: the law is an ass.” So it’s a shame that the letter of Law 12 makes no mention of ‘the last man’. What it actually says is that a player should be sent off for ‘denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity’. There is then some guidance for referees, headed ‘Criteria for deciding when to penalise for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity’. There are six criteria offered, as follows :-
    1. The direction of the play.
    2. The location of the foul.
    3. The proximity of the player to the ball.
    4. The probability of controlling the ball.
    5. The location and number of opponents.
    6. The opportunity for the attempt on goal.

    Watch the TV highlights, use all six of the criteria and then decide whether it is the law that is an ass or the person in this instance deciding how to apply the law.

    • I think the rule should take into account whether or not the side gets a penalty or not. If outside the box equals red. If the penalty is harder than the chance equals pen. I have always thought it harsh when someone makes a genuine attempt to tackle then gets sent off and then they get a penalty.

  6. Just looking at our referee for Wednesday night……

    Mr J Adcock

    In his last 11 games he has issued 7 red cards and 36 yellow cards.

    Of course you can have fun with statistics and nearly all the reds were “second yellows” and nearly all were brandished at away team players.

    He has refereed us a few times – but this comment is interesting (on Football-Lineups website) last time he was at valley parade :

    “Went as a neutral to Bradford vs Burton in the 1st leg of the league 2 play-off games, and must say Mr Adcock was poor, consistently inconsistent, seemed to be biased towards a hostile home crowd, which is a sign of a very weak referee”

    Oh dear…..

  7. A gutsy & hardworking performance from city & I thought all the players who played their part in the game after the sending off was 1st rate. Meredith was superb and got forward, back & tackled with real grit & determination. I thought Rochdale showed no ambition & were content to knocked the ball about in a dangerous fashion in front if their back four and rately troubled our goal. Dale were exactly the same at spotland earlier in the season & never mustered a single shot on target and Rochdale currently hold a top eight position oater their 3 points today!! The ref had no choice with red card but got little else right between himself & his assistants thereafter. Inconsistent & inept sums it up for me. It really was a smash & grab raid from Rochdale and even penalty was a play to the crowd & was similar to the winning goal scored from the spot in the european championship final of 1976 when Czechoslovakia
    Played West Germany (for those older enough to remember). I was convinced the penalty had gone over the bar & into the kop. City deserved at least a share of the spoils but must learn quickly how to see games out as this is becoming a feature of home games lately. This season is a great opportunity to finish in the top 6 and I it says a lot about the division when at the halfway stage the 2 best teams to visit Valley Parade have been Scunthorpe & basement club Yeovil. Parkinson & his team deserve the plaudits for the turn around in form & entertaining football style however, it’s so frustrating to give away three 93rd minute goals away in the last 5 home games which has ultimately cost us 5 points and an even healthier position in the table. Here’s hoping for 10k crowd for the visit of Millwall on Wednesday a penality shoot out victory and a show down against Chelsea. A fantastic effort from the team today.

  8. It’s interesting to compare the referee’s decisions at Valley Parade and Bolton yesterday. We can argue all day over which decision was correct, but it’s a clear demonstration of the inconsistency of the application of the laws of the game.

  9. Best team by far for 80 minutes with 10 men. Even though situation made worse by opposition having 12 (1 keeper, 10 in blue and one in black). fans don’t ask for much from referees, just to be consistent and impartial. yesterday the ref failed in both. rochdales over the top chalenges and off the ball fouls met with a severe ticking off. our minor infringements like shirt pulling resulting in yellow cards. nevertheless we just couldn’t shut it out….sad!

    • A fantastic performance but I must add my point- Lots of comments above regarding the red card and the ref but he didn’t actually score the goals. Thought so at the time and more so on the highlights, poor defending for both goals. Lost the ball for the pen then not following it in and then static from Hanson and Stead in the last minute.

  10. Good report again.

    I’ve been thinking about PP and his contract – I believe he has 18months left on it? If so, I’d like him to sign another contract extension. We have players like Morais signing on longer than the current manager. Even if it’s just an extra year, it’d give a bit more stability and show belief that we’ll continue to stick with PP (and his team).

    • Couldn’t agree more. I don’t think players should ever be given contracts longer than the manager, unless it’s a budding superstar like Nahki who would surely be wanted by whoever took over. If PP were to leave at the end of his contract we would still be left with contracts for the like of Morais and McCardle who may not be to the taste of the next manager.

  11. If ever there was evidence of the esprit de corps PP has engineered in the team this was it. Top performance. Great backing from the VP faithful

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