Swindon Town 4
Byrne 52, 61 + 68, Obika 70
Bradford City 1
Saturday 8 August, 2015
Words and images by Mark Danylczuk
Penalties. Player vs Goalkeeper. The psychology. The mental strength. Some say it’s a cruel way to decide a game and decide a game it did on Saturday.
Billy Clarke was the unfortunate one. A chance for 2-0, to give distance between us and the opposition. On the road to three points. But alas, and it was not to be. A game changer but for the wrong reasons. 1-0 was not enough and back came Swindon with a second half onslaught to inflict an opening day defeat on City.
The phrase ‘Football is a game of two halves’ was fully epitomised in this game.
Bradford City – the first half goes to you. Swindon – you take the second, and by a country mile.
It was entertaining, it was end to end, there were goals and incidents, but ultimately it is a loss and a heavy one to take.
City started the game with a number of new faces from last season; Nathan Clarke joined Rory McArdle at the back, Tony McMahon paired with Billy Knott in the middle and Josh Morris took his place on the left wing. City went with 4-4-2 with McMahon sitting further back in midfield and Knott further ahead complementing the attack of Billy Clarke and James Hanson.
The game and season was barely underway when only four minutes in, City grabbed the opening goal. It was a McMahon pass across the box which Morris beautifully side footed first time into the top of the goal. The City support in near capacity were ecstatic and rightly so – it was a fantastic goal.
Just over 10 minutes later, it could and should have been two with that penalty. The lively Morris made a run inside the left of the box, was checked and went down with the referee awarding a spot kick. Billy Clarke went for placement to the bottom left corner but it was a comfortable height for the keeper who pushed it away.
Swindon in the meantime were starting to get into some sort of a rhythm with a pleasing purist passing style and the added influx of pace and precision in the attacks. Attacker Jon Obika was cutting inside and dragged a few shots wide and the penalty miss was a much needed wake-up call for the home team.
City had another two great chances in the first half to extend the lead. The first was unexpected and a resulted from a good spell of pressing with City obtaining possession just inside the Swindon half and Billy Clarke tried an exquisite lob over the keeper which looped agonisingly wide of the goal. Moments later it was Clarke again in midfield who slipped in the ever willing Morris to cross in and the sliding Billy Knott agonisingly couldn’t get on the end of the cross to convert. So a solid first half – a superb goal, some excellent pressing and direct attacks particularly down the left with Morris and Meredith linking well.
My friends who knew I was writing this report said it wouldn’t be easy writing about this game. It’s been okay this far but as for the second half, well…
It was a capitulation. Four goals in 18 minutes including a wonderful 16 minute hat-trick from Nathan Byrne finished City off. The ex-Tottenham youngster has played a variety of positions from defence through to midfield, but looked the real deal in attack with a number of excellent finishes, particularly the third goal taking on the static City defence from right to left to score his and Swindon’s third. Jon Obika completed the rout.
Swindon played well and deserved to win the game. The fast pace and incise passing of their play dominated proceedings and they were good to watch. It’s early days, but I fancy them to be up there or thereabouts, trying to avenge last season’s playoff final defeat to Preston.
From a City perspective, there were a number of areas it went wrong after the initial early promise of the first half. McMahon and the midfield were far too easily over-run; it was crying out for Gary Liddle to come in and take some authority and leadership. Chris Routis playing on the right midfield was another baffling decision – City were worryingly lacking pace and options and it was only a late introduction of Mark Marshall which attempted to rectify this. Billys Clarke and Knott drifted in and out of the game far too much, lacking consistency in making an impact. Hanson didn’t get much service and the introductions of Steve Davies, Marshall and Paul Anderson failed to change things too.
It’s early days though and the Bantams go to York in the cup on Tuesday to try to get the season underway with a victory. We can expect changes as Parkinson tinkers to find his ideal 11 and the squad aim to impress to influence his decision. The opening home game against Shrewsbury next Saturday and the roaring voice of 18,000 City fans should provide a platform to bounce back and get the season underway with some points on the board.
City: Williams, Darby, McArdle, N. Clarke, Meredith, Mahon, Routis, Knott (Anderson 72), Morris (Marshall 76), B. Clarke (Davies 63), Hanson
Not used: Cracknell, Sheehan, Liddle, James
Categories: Match Reviews