Today is tomorrow! It happened

Image by Thomas Gadd (thomasgadd.co.uk)

Image by Thomas Gadd (thomasgadd.co.uk)

Bradford City 2

McArdle 45, Brown 51 (OG)

Bury 1

Rose 90

Tuesday 20 October, 2015

By Damien Wilkinson

Phil:  “What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?”

Well it may only be the 20th of October, but City fans could lately be wondering if they were stuck in some sort of time loop akin to the February 2nd scenario of the classic 1993 film, Groundhog Day, when Phil Connors (Bill Murray) wakes up every morning to find it’s the same day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

Replace the Punxsutawney Phil weather forecasting groundhog with our Phil Parkinsin, and pick any one of the following repeat events from letting 1-0 leads slip, poor second half performances, indifferent home form, DVD collections of Hanson non-‘fouls’ and you start to get the picture.

Phil:  Do you know what today is?

Rita:  No, what?

Phil:  Today is tomorrow!  It happened

Tonight the Bantams entered ‘tomorrow’ in some style, managing not only to record an impressive victory over a form team tonight, but coupling this with a performance with a potentially wider significance than just the three points gained.  For the first time this year this felt more like a season changing performance than what we have witnessed so far and there was definitely something ‘different’ in the BD8 air here.

Make no mistake there was a long overdue return of the Phil Parkinson hallmarks of solidity, passion and swagger on show at Valley Parade and the Bantams turned in an impressive performance over a full 90 minutes, which fully capitalised on the last two away victories, achieved in different manners, accompanied by strong performances throughout the team.

Radio DJ:  “Okay campers rise and shine and don’t forget your booties, cause it’s coooold out there today”

City last played Bury in January 2011 when Omar Daley’s volley just before half time secured a 1-0 victory.  A match very quickly upstaged by news of an approach from Newcastle United for then City manager Peter Taylor.  Despite the Bantams agreeing compensation, Taylor had rejected the offer to join Alan Pardew as assistant manager, feeling his City side were finally on the up.   Subsequent events begged to differ though with the ex-England caretaker boss relinquishing his post towards the end of the following month.

The Shakers, promoted at the end of last season, boasted an impressive away record having not lost since 31st January this year, and had chalked up four wins in their six away League One fixtures so far.  Furthermore a 0-0 draw at home to Rochdale last Saturday, had extended their overall unbeaten run to 10 league games, losing only once this season (to Fleetwood), and they sat fourth in the table going into the match.

They also sprang a surprise by announcing the capture of former Man U starlet Chris Eagles, signed until the end of the season, the winger having previously training at Coventry and Wigan recently, but he didn’t make the squad tonight.

As anticipated manager David Flitcroft, ex Bury player and younger brother of ex Man City player Gary Flitcroft, named a 4:5:1 line up with Leon Clarke leading the line up front, looking to add to a return of nine goals so far this season.

City on the other hand were looking to bolster only one league win at home so far and Parkinson made one change to the side that won at Doncaster Rovers last weekend, replacing Gary Liddle, who had an fairly indifferent game, with Billy Knott.

Bury started the game well and the confidence from their recent form clearly showed, passing the ball well and they enjoyed a great deal of the opening part of the match.  With Leon Clarke a lone striker, a substantial amount of play was fairly direct, aiming to play Clarke in on goal as much as possible, and this looked an effective and well deployed tactic.

However, despite some pressure, City managed to remain firm and began to exert some influence of their own.  It is fair to say this was a gradual process and whilst beginning to enjoy more possession after the first 20 minutes or so, the Bantams were then let down by the quality of passes to Kyel Reid and Devante Cole in particular, the former struggling to get into the game for some time, mainly due to the lack of service to him.

After some Bury pressure, City’s gradual improvement gathered momentum and coincided with a greater involvement from Reid, who was able to get some telling crosses into the box, one of which Cole was unable to divert into the goal, and there was also some intelligent interplay with James Meredith, the latter being brought down after 30 minutes with the resulting free kick causing problems and leading to a corner.

The latter part of the half saw a spate of free kicks and corners to City (though many against them from a whistle happy referee) which they weren’t able to capitalise on until the dying embers of the half.  Another good run from Reid saw him brought down, but with the referee apparently waving play on, a potential handball shout was then also denied and the ball went out for a City corner.

From Tony McMahon’s set puece, Rory McArdle was finally on hand to deliver a trademark glancing header into the net and City were delighted to go into the break 1-0 up.  Flitcroft and the Bury players surrounded the referee on the way to the changing rooms claiming Reid had handled in the build up to the initial corner.

So another 1-0 lead, what could possibly go wrong?

Thankfully nothing.

City started the second half and after a couple of early scares – some slack defending led to a Bury shot which went wide and an off the line clearance from Reece Burke minutes later, City cranked things up and were rewarded on 51 minutes with a further goal.

A corner had been initially swatted at by a Bury defender resulting in a second corner, and from this Burke was able to divert the ball, courtesy of former City loan defender Reece Brown, into the Bury net.  A massive goal and coming so soon after the first goal represented a major body blow to the Shakers, who then began to look shaky indeed and started knocking passes astray.

Manager Flitcroft took swift action, bringing on frequent Valley Parade ‘thorn in the side’ striker Tom Pope, replacing Hallam Hope, in a tactical switch to two strikers (Hope having been brought on in the first half to replace the injured Danny Pugh on 20 minutes).

This opened up the game, though City continued to enjoy the best chances, but they were rocked by an injury to Steve Davies, the big striker going to ground after 55 minutes, and was eventually replaced by James Hanson.  Reports after the game suggested Davies has suffered medial ligament damage to his knee, which unfortunately adds to City’s catalogue of woes on the ligament injury front.

Bury then threw further caution to the wind on 61 minutes removing defender Brown and bringing on Danny Rose, to go three at the back.  However the best chances continued to fall to City – good work from Cole saw a Billy Knott drive tipped over and Lee Evans had a good run into the box which was ultimately thwarted.

The match was strangely punctuated by an impromptu and unexplained light show mid-way through the half with sections of the Kop and Midland Road lit up with flashing lights from mobile phones.

It was also certainly not lights out for Bury and there was a near miss after a corner on 66 minutes and Williams saved well from the second corner.

Hanson and Cole began to link up well and Cole shot wide after a knock down from his striking partner.  There was a massive penalty shout on 75 minutes when a Hanson header seemed to strike a Bury arm as it deflected upwards, but the referee was again unmoved.

Reid left the field on 80 minutes to wide applause and was replaced by Mark Marshall, who subsequently had a couple of good chances to add to the lead, but was thwarted by the keeper.

As the match approached its end and five minutes of injury time was signalled, City continued to look solid, and despite a very, very late goal from Bury, Rose hooking a shot past Williams deep into stoppage time, the result never really looked in doubt and City were good value for an important win.

The second half performance was especially pleasing and whilst the whole team contributed with strong performances, particular mentions are worthy for Devante Cole – despite the absence of a goal this was arguably his best performance in a City shirt – a great mix of skill and graft causing the Bury defence no end of problems, Billy Knott – very industrious in the centre and kept things simple but effective, and the whole defence – the back four were immense and well supported by keeper Ben Williams who made several good stops.

After a slow start (and illness) Tony McMahon has now found some form on the right and has made a not insignificant contribution to the last three league wins – adding a certain rigidity to the team not to mention a little of the ruthlessness/nastiness we seemed to be lacking in the early part of the season against more cynical sides.

Rita:  “This day was perfect.  You couldn’t have planned a day like this.”

Phil:  “Well, you can.   It just takes an awful lot of work.”

So after three consecutive league wins we have the small matter of the next in-form team, Wigan Athletic, to visit Valley Parade this coming Saturday.

Let’s hope Phil and the boys can put in the necessary work again to create another perfect day!

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Footnote/health warning:

Phil:  Do you ever have déjà vu, Mrs Lancaster?

Mrs Lancaster:  I don’t think so, but I could check with the kitchen

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City: Williams, Darby, McArdle, Burke, Meredith, McMahon, Knott, Evans, Reid (Marshall 80), Davies (Hanson 56), Cole (James 88)

Not used: Jones, N Clarke, Liddle

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Categories: Match Reviews

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