Getting what you deserve

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Yeovil Town 1

Ugwu 26

Bradford City 0

Saturday 17 January, 2015

Written by David Lawrence (images by Mike Holdsworth)

Making your way to deepest Somerset to watch Bradford City can be tiresome at the best of times. Sure, the countryside is nice and not dissimilar to the beauty of North Yorkshire. I could have been driving up to Harrogate on the A658, the scenery was so comparable. As it was, I was driving to Yeovil desperately trying not to think that I should have been driving to Valley Parade to join a queue. You know the one, but I was trying not to think about not getting a ticket and hoping a begging email with photos of replay stubs would be successful.

The car radio didn’t help as the rolling hills cut most stations coverage out, apart from BBC Somerset who were talking cricket. Yes cricket! Uninspired, my mind drifted back to a conversation earlier with a friend and long-time City fan about who ‘deserved’ to get to London (I can’t even bear to say it). He’d mentioned his mate had queued from 6pm the night before and got a ticket. I said that I was glad he had been successful (he’s a nice fella who I met at Villa away) but I questioned whether queuing was a way to deserve anything. It seemed a pretty daft idea in this day and age and not a great way to treat the club’s fans. Yes, I was stressed.

Damn it if I wasn’t thinking about it again! And I’d promised myself to concentrate on the game in hand, which until Wednesday night I’d really been looking forward to. So I put some music on the car’s CD player – an old Rush greatest hits disc (yes, I’m that old) and on comes the first track ‘Working Man’. Soon enough I’m thinking about the proletariat footy fans being mistreated. Where was the parity for those that couldn’t queue?! My mind was swirling and the stress of not knowing about tickets was eating me again. The CD is halfway through by the time I come around – I really ought to have been playing ‘Insomnia’ by Faithless, as that’s how I felt.

Then through the gloom something came to me and it’s kind of down to Huddersfield town fans. I had earlier seen the great efforts they are making to commemorate the tragedy. Their comments came in addition to witnessing the warmth offered by the Millwall fans at the Den when donating £1,000 to the Burns Unit. The Terriers’ humanity had really touched me the night before, and the messages are worth reading yourself if you can. This put everything about tickets ‘to bed’, so to speak, for me. We all deserve to be there. Be thankful for what you have.

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At last, the gloom had cleared in both my head and the skies above as a sunny Huish Park came into view. Surrounded by light industry units and modern brick housing estates, the home of Yeovil Town is a tidy ground set on the outskirts of town.

It’s still got a bit of an unfinished air to it as the standing area where some of the City fans were to be housed is yet to be completed at one end and has no roof. It was rather fun and friendly though that the club bar was in a marquee. Inside it, the locals were friendly enough and were busy talking about their two new loans signings, Gozie Ugwu and Jamar Loza, who would be their new strike-force today. A smattering of dishevelled City fans were having a pint or two of the local Thatcher’s Gold cider, which was gradually dissolving the look of the endured 260-mile trip written across their faces.

Entering the ground, more City fans were to be found in the seating opposite the main stand which rose to a similar giddy height of row ‘P’ in our section (that’s 16 rows, Einstein). Across the way, having just arrived late in minibuses, some City fans were unfurling their flags in the empty segregated area behind the goal, akin to how fans used to do on the old Spion kop.

The mood was a strange one. Some were deep in discussion, clearly not happy about the ticket fiasco having just heard that they may have all been sold. Others were trying not to think about it. I wondered how the players felt. Would they want to earn their ‘ticket’, or did they already feel they deserved it after the magnificent showing against Millwall?

For his part, Phil Parkinson appeared to be taking the game seriously by sending out the same starting eleven. There was no place for Billy Clark even on the bench, which was a minor disappointment and meant City would be relying heavily on the aerial power of James Hanson and Jon Stead with Billy ‘wiz’ Knott in the hole backing up. Our bench didn’t exactly excite, but spare a thought for Yeovil who’ve not filled their bench this week or last and are said to be short of cash despite the recent cup game against Manchester United. This flavour of financial prudence seems to be catching on.

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Both sets of fans found their voices as the players emerged and sang their usual chants. Still no chant for James Meredith. It’s a calamity. Someone please rectify this. He’s playing out of his skin. Anyway, the game was underway with both teams trying to play it largely ‘on the deck’. Yeovil were most often trying to play through the middle to their forwards, whilst City favoured working it out wide to play into the big lads up front.

The first most notable battle would be Stead against the stocky Aurthurwurrey, the latter of whom showed a good amount of pace to beat him to a clever break-out/through ball early on. In the end both had good games with neither coming out on top.

Yeovil had the first shot in anger after about six minutes from a 25 yard free kick through Seth Ofori-Twumasi. It was unremarkable, except for the use of a foam line by the ref that didn’t vanish as quickly as the shot did over the roofless stand. The early pattern of the game then began to develop as Yeovil, largely directed in the middle by the impressive Foley, looked to play their new strikers in with balls played in the channels behind the defence whilst City’s midfield, aided and abetted by the forwards, ran around ragged trying to break up play and look to do clever counter attacking.

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For their part City’s back line looked strong limiting Ogwu to long range shots that flew over (12 mins) and making Loza look for all the world to have the potential of Isaiah Rankin (weak shot straight at the keeper 25 mins, and fell over a lot). It was all a lot of puff and no powder…

Then something funny happened. The City fans lifted the mood by singing “I’d rather be in Yeovil than a queue, I’d rather be in Yeovil than a queue, I’d rather be in Yeovil, rather be in Yeovil, rather be in Yeovil than a queue”. Brilliant. This, dear reader, was the highlight of the game.

Unfortunately, only a few minutes later City were behind (26 mins). Foley’s free kick was flicked on by stand-in centre-half-used-to-be-forward Moore (yes, they are that short of personnel) into the path of Ugwu, who used his strength to hold off Rory McArdle and fire a low shot across Jordan Pickford into the corner of the net. Cue mild celebrations – this is sleepy Somerset, and they are bottom of the table.

Cue slight increase in effort by City. This was largely led on the flanks through the combination of Andy Halliday and Meredith who made some outstanding runs in the latter stages of the first half and the wholly outstanding Filipe Morais who was not to be suppressed until he was doubled up on later in the game. City were having plenty of the ball and created openings and half chances for Stead (blocked shot 33 mins) and Hanson who fluffed his lines when he should have done better than a weak shot straight at keeper Steer (36 mins). But still, there was something missing.

Well someone actually. Billy Knott. Less ‘wiz’ today and more ‘lack of fizz’. The way that City were set up with two big lads up front dictated that the player ‘in the hole’ really needed to be on his game supporting them. Today he wasn’t.

They’ll be a reason. It may be the effects of Wednesday as he did put a real shift in (but so did the others), it may be the thought of returning to a former club (somewhere in London) or it may be something entirely different. The truth is we don’t know. The facts are as missing as he was for large parts of this game. He was largely noticeable for not being noticed. So when he went close in the last minutes of the first half with a header from a great cross from Meredith, it only served to remind the City fans of what he should have been doing for the rest of the half.

As it was, City finished slightly on the up with Morais forcing a save from Steer with a very powerful drive. However, as the teams wandered off, Yeovil seemed good value for their slender lead.

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The sunshine had gone down on the City fans literally and metaphorically. With largely unnoticed irony, The Jam’s ‘Eton Rifles’, about being brought down to size after cockily picking a fight, was playing as the players strode out for the second half. No change on either side wasn’t really a surprise given the two benches and likely/hopeful firm redirection of team effort by Parkinson.

City started well enough having quite a bit of the early play that meant they nearly made openings, but not quite. After a short while they then inexplicably started to play how they do when they are a goal up at home with ten minutes to play. You know, head and kick the ball straight back to the opposition. Andrew Davies and McArdle were the guiltiest at this misadventure but then again Knott had gone missing again.

Bar Stead playing in Hanson only for his half-fluffed shot to go wide (58 mins) this spell of inept football from City got Yeovil back in the game and appeared to herald the changes that a hastier manager may have made at half time. Yeates was warming up, surely to replace the ineffectual Knott. Nope, Halliday is hooked with Stead for him and Zoko (59 mins).

Francois Zoko. What to make of this chap? It’s fair to say the away City support were less than excited. I myself haven’t seen much in him in what little time he’s played so far. However, today was different. He was given 30 minutes and he made the most of them. This was by far the best he’s played. Yes, he still looks like he’s not sure where he should be at times, particularly when defending corners, but he did show us today signs of what Parkinson must see in him in training and that he’s got something to offer. These are pace and fairly good close control. Nous is yet to be identified. He’s worth a loan extension on this showing though.

This won’t be everyone’s view today, as the City fans were still a bit grumpy – well the game was really poor by now. For example, when on 67 minutes they were singing “take me home..” it came over more as a plea than an attempt to lift the team, who by now were looking half-hearted, knackered or looking towards next week (delete as is your wont).

To exacerbate things, Mark Yeates was using his energy to prove that he’s not a left winger by consistently turning back inside and either shooting wildly or whipping crosses in with his right foot that a gazelle would be hard pressed to get on the end off.

Meanwhile, Yeovil were well into their pantomime baddy act, routinely falling over, kicking the ball away and taking their time. This used to drive me mad when City did it under Terry Dolan. It was driving the City fans mad today, who retaliated by taking their frustrations out on the referee who’d made a few strange calls but nothing deserving the vitriol he got.

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Tempers were clearly frayed amongst the City fans and the last ten minutes of nothingness wouldn’t help. Yeovil were reduced by now to sitting back and having the odd break and pot shot from distance, such as Folley’s drive that was stopped, dropped and then grabbed by a grateful Pickford. City meanwhile brought Alan Sheehan on for Davies very near the end (88 mins) who closed matters out with City’s last effort, hitting a good free kick just wide of the upright four minutes into injury time.

In truth it had been a game to forget. Unfortunately, it was a bad day at the office for the team and fans and things got worse as the players came over to applaud the away following at the end.

It all got a bit splenetic with several of the City crowd telling the nearby Knott what they thought of his performance. We had got what we deserved on the pitch but he didn’t deserve that.

City: Pickford, Darby, McArdle, Davies (Sheehan 87), Meredith, Morais, Knott, Liddle, Halliday (Yeates 59), Hanson, Stead (Zoko 59)

Not used: Williams, Routis, Dolan, Kennedy

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Categories: Match Reviews

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9 replies

  1. Firstly I’m glad it was only a two hour round trip for me!

    I agree Yeovil edged the first half. City looked decent when they played it on the floor but too often it was a big hoof and as their 2 centre backs were about 8 foot tall, unsurprisingly we got little from this tactic.

    I feared this game would be after the Lord Mayor’s Show and so it proved. City probably deserved a draw in the end, not least because of Yeovil’s 2nd half performance.

    And that is my major point. I stood there towards the end and walked back to the car feeling utterly cheated and robbed. I don’t feel cheated because City didn’t play well or because they lost (heavens I’m used to that since 1975). I feel cheated because I didn’t get 90 mins of football. That’s what I paid for at the ticket office. As my eldest boy summed up, the 2nd half was about 35 minutes long. I don’t really blame the keeper for his routine time-wasting or the Yeovil players for throwing themselves down at every opportunity. I blame the referee.

    I must say at this point I rarely blame the officials. It’s a tough job and they get blamed for everything and as the author said he got very little wrong decision-wise but what he was guilty of was a total abdication of responsibility in respect of time-keeping. The fact there were only 5 minutes of injury time was an insult but was also no surprise as he had ignored it throughout.

    I would love to know how long the stoppage was when the lad had a head wound taped up. It must have been at least 3 minutes. Why it wasn’t done off the pitch will be a mystery to everyone.

    The referee did nothing about the keeper,that he never got booked was a disgrace. Also he did nothing about the ball boy behind the goal doing ‘keepy uppies’ every time the ball went out. I could go on but I lost enough time yesterday to waste yet more here! 12 minutes stoppage time would have been more appropriate.

    I’m not sure what Parky was complaining about at the end but I’d guess it was this. I felt that every time City looked like getting up a head of steam, the game stopped.

    As you can probably tell I’m still angry…. And as for all those whinging about tickets. We only have 6000 not 60000, you can’t all go (and no I didn’t even try).

  2. Good write up David and some good points Rob. Just a 2 and three quarter hour each way journey for me and just as per David’s experience it started with utter stress at hoping the ticket office would answer my email with a call (I caught like loads with the “bought several replay tickets but all allocated under one ST number” fiasco).
    Of course the ticket office call never bloody came even though they had my mail relatively quickly Friday evening with every conceivable bit of evidence they asked for and more.
    Worse was the regular updates from a distraught and thoroughly frozen sibling being rained and snowed on, and ultimately unsuccessful in getting anywhere near the front of the queue in Bratfud after five miserable hours of queueing.

    So utter misery…but the game itself …it was truly, truly awful and after over 40 years of watching City I know an awful game when I see one.
    Such a come down after Weds but basically we were outmuscled and “out long-balled” all day. Knott AND Halliday were totally anonymous. No City player deserves ANY abuse – I didn’t hear or see what apparently was said, but a few City players need to take a look at that performance. I was surprised at PP’s defence of the team, suggesting they only lacked a bit of quality in the final third. Don’t buy it – it wasn’t a “Parkinson performance” – we lacked any cohesion or quality all over the pitch yesterday, and whilst I wouldn’t accuse the players of simply taking care of themselves with Chelsea coming up, as there was lots of huff and puff, that is what it was mostly, aimless huff and puff.

    Oh and Rob – chap next to me had the watch on the head injury stoppage (including the age taken to eventually walk to the touch line) – 3 minutes 20 seconds. Add 3 minutes for 6 substitutions, plus all the other time wasting at each throw in, goal kick, free kick etc..and you are well over 5 minutes.

    God what a miserable day after such euphoria last Wednesday..

    Still no-one has died and we have next Sat to look forward to; the deserving few will be there, and represent us all magnificently I have no doubt – even if a few do not know the names of our players…

  3. re James Meredith chant. Long ago, living in Liverpool, I was familiar with the “Mark – Mark – Mark – Mark – Lawrenson” chant that would scan in James’ name. Shame I can’t type a tune or think of a well-known use of the tune.
    (The Liverpool fans used to chant “Zico” for Phil Neal – ironic, I’m sure.)

  4. …and 4 minutes stoppage time in the Arsenal/Man City game today where was one 30sec stoppage in the entire second half! That ref would have given 20 at Yeovil!

  5. No such luck as a 2 hour drive for me, a full 276 miles each way.
    The game was, as well described by David truly awful, not lack of effort just lack of quality, although I would also agree that Morais never stopped trying and tried tirelessly.
    After so many poor away days I suppose I should be used to it but I thought even City could not mess it up against a team as fragile as Yeovil must have felt.
    Their poor home record and our tremendous away record meant only one result surely.
    Wrong again, add it to a long list of feeble away showings that I have been unlucky enough to witness.
    Whilst the time wasting was ridiculous, I don’t think we would have scored if we had played all night.

    • City have previous following an excellent cup performance. They didn’t win any of the matches immediately following the 8 league cup games in “that” season.

  6. Truth is, as poor as we were, on another day Hanson would’ve got two or three. Knott struggled, we were off the pace and didn’t find enough time on the ball. Morais, Zoko and Meredith played well. Despite winning, I fear for Yeovil as they stuck at it but were very poor.

  7. I Agree Tim – I think that is the major frustration – Yeovil were truly dire – and that after they handed us our backsides earlier in the season at VP and outplayed us magnificently that day. But on Sat they were truly there for the taking….

  8. I agree Mez needs a song so, to the tune of Waltzing Matilda…

    Mezza’s our left back, Mezza’s our left back
    He’ll go a waltzing around you today
    And we sang as we watched Mezza dribble past the lot
    He’ll go a waltzing around you today

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