Filipe Morais comes to the rescue as Bradford City struggle balancing league and cup

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Bradford City 1

Morais 77

Colchester United 1

Porter 5

Saturday 31 January, 2015

By Jason McKeown

The stunning football from last weekend was lacking in Bradford City, but the character and spirit that caused Stamford Bridge shockwaves remained in evidence. The Bantams dug in, kept plugging away and eventually earned parity after they trailed from minute five. And whilst a draw at home to a team fourth-from-bottom rarely looks clever, the point rescued was a point made.

There’s a backbone to this team, one which was evidently lacking earlier in the campaign.

Staring a third straight league defeat in the face, the soundtrack to the weekend was easy to imagine. Just at the point of crashing into the play offs, this team would stand accused of throwing promotion hopes away by allowing themselves to be distracted with the romance of the cup. That a squad lacking in numbers could not multi-task.

Filipe Morais’ late half volley dug his team out of a hole, and ensures they retain a healthy interest in the play offs. They stand eighth and two points off the top six with a game in hand. In what is proving a hugely competitive division, City are firmly in the hunt to climb out of it.

Morais’ goal and performance summed up his side. No one was ever going to match the standards of last week, and the Portuguese spent most of the game frustratingly taking the wrong option. Again and again he took on the outstanding Ben Gordon, and again and again he lost the ball. Yet Morais never gave up or looked downhearted. And after Jon Stead produced some magnificent hold up play on the opposite flank, before sending over a cross; the winger spotted the opportunity and charged into the box to smash the ball into the opposite corner. 1-1, and another great moment from a player whose reputation continues to grow.

It was rough on Colchester United, who were terrific here. They kept men behind the ball but broke at speed, with Chris Porter playing on his own up front and impressing greatly with his strength, intelligence and work-rate. The former Oldham, Motherwell and Derby County man was only signed from Sheffield United last week. It looks a shrewd piece of business by the division’s sixth-lowest scorers.

Porter got Colchester’s early goal with a brilliant run and lob that posed some questions of Jordan Pickford’s positioning. Either side of this superb strike, Gavin Massey should also have netted. First, at 0-0, he took too long with a shooting opportunity from close range, allowing Rory McArdle to get a block in. Then with his side a goal up, Massey had time but screwed his effort wide. Two minutes later, Sammie Szmodics charged through and forced a good save from Pickford.

The game was not 10 minutes old and the Us had already created four brilliant chances.

That Colchester only managed one goal during that period would later come back to haunt them; but they remained the better team throughout the remainder of the first half. They routinely found gaps between City’s midfield and defence, whilst Andrew Davies continued to come off worst in his battle with Porter. It is a rare day indeed to see Davies lose a physical tussle, and the influential defender struggled for much of the afternoon.

City just couldn’t get going. Stead had forced a good early save, but in general the home side’s build up play was laboured and little was created. There can be numerous theories thrown up for this below-par offering – after the Lord Mayor’s Show, and the ridiculous state of the pitch, for example – but credit should go to Colchester too. Just like Scunthorpe United a month ago, the visitors offered proof that the gap in quality between League One’s top and bottom is narrow.

And perhaps more significantly, for 63 minutes Colchester also demonstrated that there is a way to stop City’s attacking prowess. United packed the midfield, including deploying a holding player who stayed glued in front of his back four. Manager Tony Humes had done his homework and knew that his team’s opponents like to play it through the middle. He made sure City could not.

Billy Knott was denied the space in his role behind the front two; Andy Halliday and Morais were heavily pressured when in possession. The wide threat of Stephen Darby and James Meredith was neutered by ensuring the ball was rarely worked out to them. The game might have been over had Pickford not made a superb save from Gordon after 62 minutes.

It was only after Phil Parkinson threw on Mark Yeates, a minute after Gordon’s chance, and City went to a conventional 4-4-2, that the balance of the game changed. The Bantams were finally able to instigate pressure on the United goal by adding width to their game, and the tempo was increased a notch. They were more direct, getting the ball up quickly to James Hanson and Stead. The crowd, which had been silenced for a long period of the game, re-found its voice.

All the chances came at the Kop end City were attacking. Morais saw a shot strike the post, and shortly after screwed another effort wide. Hanson’s header fell the wrong side the post. Eventually Stead found Morais for the equaliser, and the momentum was firmly with City.

Stead, who once again had an excellent game, came the closest to winning it with a superb curling effort that whistled wide of the target. There were other goalmouth scrambles, and Yeates was a constant threat. But time was against City, and three minutes of stoppage time came and went too quickly. Colchester deserved something for their superb start, although City merited a share of the spoils in the end.

They kept going. They never gave up or felt sorry for themselves. And they worked out a way to stop Colchester’s game-plan succeeding. Character and mettle proven yet again.

In a sense afternoons like this feel like we are just killing time before the real prize comes back into view. The outlook has completely changed on the Bantams season, in more ways than one. Whilst the early rounds of the FA Cup went a long way to giving the players confidence to turn around their dreadful autumn league form, these games initially seemed enjoyable distractions. A day off from the bread and butter. But ever since Chelsea’s name was picked out of the hat, the FA Cup has completely dominated the focus.

The league is not forgotten, but by getting distracted about the cup, a fantastic league position has been downgraded to a decent one. This week the cup will once again be the centre of attention, as Tuesday night’s replay at Craven Cottage is followed with keen interest.

Whoever City end up playing in the fifth round of the FA Cup, there are still two important league games to get through first. It’s time to put talk of beating Chelsea, and of being in the last 16, on the backburner for a few days. It’s time to stop talking about the cup and to concentrate on the league.

Otherwise, City risk going into the final few weeks of the season having nothing to talk about.

City: Pickford, Darby, McArdle, Davies, Meredith, Morais, Liddle, Halliday (Yeates 63), Knott, Hanson, Stead

Not used: Williams, Sheehan, Routis, Kennedy, Clarke, Zoko

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Categories: Match Reviews

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8 replies

  1. Good report. I really enjoyed the game, well refereed, good football from Colchester, great effort by CIty,tremendous support.Sadly, the pitch was the winner, and Parkinson’s interview on Radio Leeds said it all.

  2. Parky has had a go at the board over the state of the pitch and he has every right to. They have slashed his playing budget and at the same time demanded a successful and entertaining side and he has delivered. The board also ignored his warnings over the state of the pitch last November and you saw the outcome of his warnings today. Parky is now in a really strong position to get things sorted as they can hardly sack him for his criticism. The board are fortunate to have Phil Parkinson as manager as he has got them out of some sticky financial predicaments with some quite amazing cup results and of course promotion. I give them credit for appointing him in the first place but they really owe him big time and maybe they will start to listen to him,but I wouldn’t have much expectation that Rhodes and Lawn will listen.

    • I know Parky is in a really strong position after his recent achievements but I would suggest that he doesn’t air his dirty laundry in public. Of course they can’t sack him for criticism but it is in everyone’s benefit to maintain a united public face. These things never tend to end well.

    • I admit that I’ve not listened to the interview yet but believe he singled out Roger Owen, the director in charge of the pitch (?) Wasn’t this the same director who publicly criticised City legend McGod? Hmmm. Maybe he should stick to supermarkets?

    • Does anyone know what would happen to our FA Cup game against Sunderland or Fulham if the pitch is this bad? Is there a risk of the tie being pre-emptively moved or would it depend on the referee’s inspection on the day?

  3. City were slow out of the blocks & Colchester played the conditions better than we did. Porter & Massey caused a whole host of problems running onto long through balls that held up on the valley parade surface. City could’ve been 4-0 after the first 20 mins but slowly played their way back into the game and were well worth a point against a well organised and disciplined Colchester side.

    The valley parade pitch really is a disgrace and is not conducive to free glowing football. Considering thousands were spent a little over a year and half ago on solving the drainage problem it’s worse now than I can remember.

    Any kind of a prolonged down poor before or during the game would’ve resulted in a postponement or an abandonment. Considering there is no reserve team football played on the pitch and there has been roughly 16 first team games played on it this season it’s in an awful state and frankly becoming an embarrassment.

    Lawn’s comments in relation to derby county winning the old 1st division title on a pitch worse than the valley parade surface are cringeworthy given that was over 40 years ago. His outbursts about city not been on live TV for the FA cup fifth draw if picked would have only had the TV audience agasped about the state of the valley parade pitch and not the free flowing football we play under parkinson.

    City’s league results at home this term has been very disappointing and the poor state of the pitch although same for both sides is not winning us any friends nor helping our free flowing & passing style.

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