Bradford City 0
Bristol City 6
Tavernier 17+73, Bryan 35, Ayling 54, Flint 65, Wilbraham 79
Tuesday 14 April, 2015
By Jason McKeown
Well that’s that then. It’s certainly over now for Bradford City’s play off hopes. Mathematically possible, but logically impossible. Tonight was the night where even glass half-full supporters joined the glass half-empty lot in calling last orders on the Bantams season.
Bristol City strolled this one. They overcame limited home resistance, and never looked like letting slip the chance to seal promotion. They are a side packed full of talent, one that will next season be gracing the Championship. The home side will not be joining them. Unwanted hosts here to a West Country knees-up.
Phil Parkinson’s side were set up to attack, but carried passengers that they could ill afford to. For all the criticism of James Hanson’s shift to the left hand side over recent weeks, bringing Mark Yeates onto the left wing instead left the Bantams woefully lacking in off the ball cover.
Yeates probably sealed his future with a wretched first half performance that saw him hauled off at half time. At times he has threatened to be a very big player for City, but such fleeting form is not the stuff of promotion-winning sides.
The defence was unusually shambolic. There was little midfield support. Bristol City were two goals to the good at half time, and there was no way back. Especially after Ben Williams pathetically let in a third just after the break. 4-0. 5-0. 6-0. A biggest City defeat since Manchester United beat the Bantams by the same scoreline in 2000.
Valley Parade emptied long before the end. I gave up at 5. It was too much to bear. It was appallingly bad from the Bantams.
Bristol City ran rings around their opponents. It was utterly embarrassing how easy it became. With their strong financial backing Bristol City are on course to be a force in English football. They were fantastic. And this is not their peak moment.
And for Bradford City, we must redouble our efforts in making sure this isn’t our peak season.
There has been a polarised reaction to the unexpected sudden collapse in City’s play off bid. There are those upset and angry over the team and manager’s failings, and the way in which results have fallen away. Then there are those who argue it has been a great season anyway, and that promotion was never expected last summer. That as a club we are progressing in the right way.
Everyone is right, in my view. Of course this goes down as a brilliant season. We beat Leeds. We beat Chelsea. We beat Sunderland. We made some excellent summer signings who have fitted in very well. We have played some excellent football – especially on the road. We have been involved in some memorable games. We have challenged at the right end of the table.
But equally there is no doubt that these positives helped to raise the bar of expectation, especially at the turn of the year. We might have feared a relegation battle before a ball was kicked, but at the half way stage we stood fifth in the table. And for the middle part of the season, we hardly lost a game of football. And though the FA Cup endeavours came at a price, we emerged from defeat at Reading in a very healthy position, ready to kick on.
If you’re not bitterly disappointed by the way this season has fizzled out, what was the point of bothering to challenge for the play offs? There’s an argument that City aren’t ready to be a Championship club, but this isn’t even about that. We spent most of the season competing for a play off place, then fell over on the home straight. That really sucks. That really disappoints.
Tired, run out of ideas, just not good enough – all legitimate factors in failing to make the play offs. But there has to be a wider inquest. More thought and consideration. What was missing? What can be done differently next summer? It’s not a bad analysis to have, because there is so much to build on. We go into the summer in a slightly downbeat mood but still in a position of strength. How do we keep this going?
The squad does not need an overhaul, but it needs more quality. It especially needs more depth. That’s not a criticism of Parkinson. From day one we know he has preferred a quality over quantity approach to player recruitment and this was emphatically the right call. Whilst his predecessors Peter Jackson and Peter Taylor presided over bulky squads with no heart and little ability, Parkinson has found big characters and fostered an incredible team spirit. But he needs more big characters.
The summer is going to be very interesting to say the least. Width of a Post understands that the board are in talks with a significant investor which – if a deal is reached – could significantly alter the financial strength of the club (we have a name, but best not disclose it for now). It is perhaps because of these talks that season tickets for next season are as yet not on sale. But whoever is responsible for selling them, they will have a big target market to go at.
Because ultimately this is a fantastic football club. The spirit in the team is shared in the stands, in the wider city itself. And it has been strengthened by the events of this season, even if the ending has turned somewhat sour.
We have made progress in 2014/15, even if it is not the level we threatened to make just a few short weeks ago. And we must continue that progress. So that the next time Bristol City are at Valley Parade, it is for a Championship fixture.
City: Williams, Darby, McArdle, MacKenzie, Meredith, Morais (Routis 75) Liddle, Knott (McMahon 75), Yeates (Stead 45), Clarke, Hanson
Not used: Urwin, Dolan, Zoko, Halliday
Categories: Match Reviews