Swindon Town 2
Luongo 15 + 34
Bradford City 1
Tuesday 24 February, 2015
Written by Kieran Wilkinson (images by Mike Holdsworth)
The signs were probably there before kick-off. Swindon’s poor run; our injury concerns; the flat performance against Walsall.
Perhaps there was a certain inevitability about the defeat at the County Ground. Whilst the first half of the match would have led one to come away from the evening depressed, the second half showed at least some positive signs, which can be built upon for Saturday’s tough trip to managerless Peterborough.
The only change to the starting line-up was Nottingham Forest loanee, Oliver Burke, being brought in for Mark Yeates. Yeates’ recent performances have done nothing to dispel his reputation of being somewhat of an enigma – when he’s good, he’s very good (see Chelsea and earlier this season), but too often he is ineffectual (see Walsall last Saturday).
This would prove to be somewhat of a baptism of fire for Burke. In the first half he struggled to involve himself in the game and contributed little of note. However, I certainly wouldn’t want to be over-critical of a young player making his debut in a tough environment – any issues seemed to be more due to a lack of familiarity (with his team-mates and the system they play) rather than a lack of ability and Burke did have some brighter moments in the second half.
The opening 45 was probably one of the most insipid first halves of the season. The team looked out of sorts and struggled to string more than a few passes together. This was a very one sided-half – it was no surprise when there was a virtual parting of the white sea to allow Massimo Luongo to place not one but two shots from the centre of the box past Jordan Pickford. Both goals made all the more unbearable by the PA system blasting out the Dave Clark Five for too long and at slightly too loud a volume. Glad all over? Far from it…
Far too often Swindon were allowed time on the ball and were able to carve us open at ease. This was uncomfortable viewing.
Things could have been worse, with Swindon’s Andy Williams going close between Luongo’s two strikes – no doubt he would have had a happy heart had his shot not rebounded back off the bar.
It seems odd to say that the bright spot of the first half was a booking for City, but we took some comfort from the fact that Gary Liddle’s booking meant that he would be banned for the next two games but back for the Reading game. Less fortunate was James Meredith who was lucky to be on the pitch after an early booking and then a final warning from referee Carl Berry just before half time.
It was definitely a relief to get to half time only two-nil down and to have a chance to regroup. City hadn’t mustered a single shot on target or a corner in the first half.
The second half introduction of Alan Sheehan for Meredith was no great surprise (though of course it was Sheehan himself who was red-carded in the home tie against Swindon).
City seemed a lot brighter in the second half and didn’t have to wait too long for a goal. A ball played into the centre of the box from Jon Stead caused confusion between goalkeeper and defender and Billy Clarke pounced. A bright spot at last!
After the goal, the match was much more of a contest and, at the risk of going all Corporal Jones, it was clear that Swindon didn’t like it up them. City certainly looked like achieving more by being in the Swindon player’s faces.
There is, however, one thing which became more prevalent in the second half which, writing this report nearly 24 hours later, still leaves a sour taste in the mouth. Unsurprisingly the same thing which marred the loss to Swindon at home in September.
To be blunt, certain Swindon players are an embarrassment to their club and football in general. Yet again, we had Swindon players throwing themselves down and feigning injury at the slightest contact. The irony is that they seem to be good enough as a team not to have to resort to this.
Brian Clough reportedly said to that team east of Pudsey “You can all throw your medals in the bin because they were not won fairly” and whilst Swindon haven’t won anything, there is a similar feeling that Swindon’s players are doing themselves a disservice with such theatrics. No doubt this will be dismissed as bitterness because we lost, but it is a shame to see the game played in this way.
Give me honest endeavour any day – I’d like to think I would be equally disgusted were our own players doing this. Parkinson’s post match comments on this issue were spot on. Whilst the amateur dramatics didn’t really affect the overall result, it still irks.
Despite an increase in chances for City, Pickford was still called into action with a fantastic save denying Luongo a hat-trick.
Oliver Burke’s pace began to cause some problems and he almost got lucky with a cross which Wes Foderingham in the Swindon goal had to tip over the bar. It was good to see that the youngster hadn’t let the first half put him off his game (and presumably credit would go to the management for whatever was said to him at half time in this regard).
City used their final two subs by bringing on Francois Zoko and Yeates for Stead and Burke. Presumably the hope for Zoko was that he would do what Steve Claridge did for City at the County Ground in 2005 – come from the bench to turn a 2-1 scoreline into a 2-3 one. I was surprised to see Jon Stead taken off – whilst perhaps not one of his most effective matches, the Zoko/Clarke partnership had looked toothless at Leyton Orient last week and I always feel we stand a chance of creating something up front with Stead on the pitch.
Not surprisingly, there was no Claridge-style super-sub role for Zoko. If the jury has been out on Zoko, I think it is close to returning its verdict. Yet again, this was an ineffectual performance from the Ivorian. It really is difficult to see what he offers the team, save for perhaps playing out a victory (as he did against Sunderland). Yeates again flattered to deceive and was wasteful in possession on a couple of occasions.
City did have a fair shout for a penalty when a cross from Darby appeared to strike a Swindon arm. However the ref (consistently awful for both sides) disagreed. The other two claims made by Parkinson post-match were probably less blatant.
Still, the damage done wasn’t too bad. We’re still right in the middle of a play off fight and still plenty to look forwards to. This team can go places…
City: Pickford, Darby, McArdle, MacKenzie, Meredith (Sheehan 45), Burke (Yeates 75), Liddle, Knott, Halliday, Clarke, Stead (Zoko 75)
Not used: Williams, Dolan, Kennedy, Routis
Categories: Match Reviews