The welcome distraction of ending Bradford City’s dire league form

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Sheffield United 1

Holt 57

Bradford City 1

Clarke 84

Saturday 18 April, 2015

By Mahesh Johal (images by Thomas Gadd, see note below)

Billy Clarke was the hero once again as he rescued a point against South Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United. His eighty-fouth minute equaliser ensured that City had a positive finish to what has been a turbulent week. After Tuesday’s six goal horror show, the news of a potential takeover from Gianni Paladini and Martin Fletcher’s new claim surrounding the Bradford Fire, it’s fair to say that this has probably been the most challenging week for Bantam fans during the Phil Parkinson Era.

The amount of media attention surrounding the club has been unsettling for some. The images of Bristol City celebrating on our patch. The images of Paladini. The harrowing images of 1985 and the front page splashes on all the national newspapers. I’ve had Bradford City overload this week.

Speaking to my best friend today, who was on Wembley Way in blue and white; he pointed out how he had read more about City that he had Reading. We’re not used to this “limelight” and from a personal point of view; it didn’t feel right other people meddling in with our club. To come to Bramall Lane it was nice to get away from the media circus and just concentrate on 90 minutes of football.

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City started the game brightly with both Andy Halliday and Billy Knott going close with long range efforts. Clarke then looked to have put City in front but his shot was blocked off the line by Chris Basham. The two Billys looked the most likely to unearth opportunities for the away side, and Clarke was a real threat coming in from the right flank of a front three.

Knott looked to be enjoying a more central role and he was involved with a possible penalty shout for the Bantams. After he and James Hanson combined in the area, a Terry Kennedy arm appeared to stop City’s progression. However, the claim fell on deaf ears.

The Blades carried their own threat and Jamie Murphy should have worked Ben Williams with his shot from outside the area. United’s midfield grew more influential as the half carried on, with Jose Baxter pulling the strings. City’s midfield trio were being overrun and the hosts entered the Bantams penalty area on several occasions. Thankfully Rory McArdle and the returning Andrew Davies were up to the challenge.

With ongoing takeover negotiations, contract talks for all players (bar Stead) are on hold. Once discussions commence, I would find it hard to not offer Davies a new deal. Yes, he misses a large quota of games; but the confidence and strength he brings to this side is immense. It is no coincidence that are our form has dipped since his hamstring injury against Oldham. Would things have been different against Bristol City or Preston? Probably not, but his presence in this side can’t be underestimated.

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United continued to pressurise and went close to opening the scoring in the second half, but Steven Davies’ effort cannoned off Williams’ post. The ball did appear to go out of bounds in the build-up, however play continued. The Blades didn’t have to wait long though for a goal and Jason Holt was on hand to rebound after Williams had saved well from Michael Doyle.

Mark Yeates’ introduction coincided with an improvement for City; the Irishman going close with a volley inside the area. In a similar fashion to last season’s encounter, we needed someone to grab this game by the horns. Whilst some will argue this team misses the brute grit of someone like Gary Jones, it does possess the gift and guile of skilled technicians.

None more for than Clarke. And it was the striker who popped up to score with five minutes remaining in front of the 2500 traveling fans. After a free kick was hit deep to Davies, the defender’s knock down fell to Clarke, who passed his shot in the bottom left hand corner. He has now become City’s leading scorer with 12. Not bad, for someone who has typically played deeper than Stead and Hanson, at the tip of the diamond.

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Was the goal deserved? Probably just about. Whilst United had the majority of the play in the second half, they were unable to really penetrate and cut us apart. There are 11 points between the two teams in the table, but it didn’t feel like there was a huge gulf of class on the pitch.

Yes, they looked more a threat when attacking, but so they should considering they were the home side. One thing is for sure, the basis of a very good Bantams squad is already here, and a couple of new recruits will be the difference between this team falling and jumping that last hurdle in the play off race next time.

City finished with 10 men after Rory McArdle rightly being sent off for a second bookable offensive. The Bantams dealt with the man disadvantage and the sound of boos from the home crowd at the final whistle was a signal of job well done.

We will now all wait, impatiently, about news over Gianni Paladini and the takeover. As of yesterday Width of a Post understands that claims made by others that the deal was done were premature. Talks are ongoing and still have a way to go, with due diligence taking place. It is unclear the names of the financial backers that Paladini can call upon, but we understand that Bernie Ecclestone is amongst the people providing support to the Italian.

Whatever the outcome, I hope those in charge think of the fans who make this club so special. He may have caused controversy this week but Martin Fletcher is right on one aspect, “Bradford City belongs to the community of Bradford”. If any changes do occur, the fans and community need to be thought about first…

City: Williams; Darby, McArdle, Davies, Meredith; Routis, Knott, McMahon; Clarke, Hanson, Halliday (Yeates 63, MacKenzie 90)

Not used: Urwin, Dolan, Liddle, Zoko, Stead

With special thanks to the very kind Thomas Gadd for allowing us to use his brilliant photos. Please visit Thomas Gadd’s website for more details or click here for more photos of the game.

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Categories: Match Reviews

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9 replies

  1. Nice to have 90 minutes of football as the focus after having so much to take in this week. On the topic of the “potential” takeover however, if/when it does go ahead it’ll perhaps be time for the various supporter’s groups/trusts to re-emerge in slightly more vociferous, collaborative and proactive incarnations. This is by no means meant to demean the great work currently done by different groups, it’s just that, “ticketgate(s)” aside, we’ve perhaps been little spoilt by the decent club-supporter relationships and perhaps risk getting caught unawares and unable to affect things under a new set-up. 👍

  2. Another decent away day with the Bantams support once again in good voice backing their team, which can’t be said for Sheff Utd.
    I thought Hanson and McArdle were immense together with Billy Clarke.
    I believe the takeover is just a matter or crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s so let’s all thank the outgoing for everything and welcome with open arms the incoming for a bright future together.

    • Sources close to the club suggest this is not the case and still a way to go. Due diligence etc. Looks like it will happen, but not imminently.

  3. Davis must stay even if he only plays half the season that’s a good 50 points in the bag when he plays.a quality winger a quality stopper and some quality back up players I think that should do the trick

  4. Just as an aside, not really related to City/United but to the game in its wider context. When buying a programme yesterday with my wife and daughter a Sheffield fan came up with a bunch of flowers saying they were in memory of the fire victims asking if they could be put on the memorial . What a gesture – brilliant.

  5. The thing that struck me most yesterday was the feeling of togetherness at the end of what, for us, was a relatively meaningless fixture. Fans, players and coaching staff are closer, more united, than they have been in years. Nobody knows how a takeover would work out but I hope we don’t take the risk of losing what we have now. We all want to make ‘the next step’ but is it worth the risk?

  6. When Davies was injured a few weeks ago, I fell into the camp of maybe he was an expensive luxury, taking into account his reported high earnings balanced against his injuries and resultant availability over a season.
    After the last few games and obviously in particularly the Bristol City game, compared to the improved performance yesterday, maybe he is more important than many of us realised.
    Maybe we should look at keeping him on some revised deal for next term.

    • I’d like to hope so, also with his absences this season one thing I think many of us (myself included) have been guilty of overlooking is the fact his first spell out was for the arm break. This was more about rubbish luck rather than his being pre-disposed to breaking down.

  7. Davies gets injured a lot because of his physical style of play – take that away and he’d be half the player he is. If you want to keep the Davies we all know and love, then it has to be job lot, and I for one would keep him. PP has done a superb job with McArdle this season (especially if you think back to the raised eyebrows when he signed a 3 year contract last summer), making him a good leader of the back line with or without Davis. A third good centre half (at least) will always be needed, and maybe MaKenzie is going to be that man.

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