Yeovil Town 1
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Categories: Match Reviews