Bradford City 2
Leigh 61, McMahon 76 (pen)
Aldershot Town 0
Wednesday 18 November, 2015
By Phil Abbott
Fairytales are meant to have a ‘happily ever after’ ending. Unfortunately for a plucky Aldershot Town team at Valley Parade tonight – and rather happily for Bradford City – this is a tale they won’t be telling too often in the future. It’s not a tale with much to tell in truth – some parts of the game reflecting the dismal weather.
Returning from their excellent home draw with the Bantams once upon a time (well, last week), the Shots came into the return match full of confidence and belief. As the second chapter of their 1st round story wrote itself on a blustery, wet Valley Parade evening, it soon became clear that the front-foot action they served up on home soil just over a week ago would not be re-kindled in front of the BT Sport cameras.
In a first half that failed to warm the extremities of the sparse Valley Parade crowd, City struggled to find any rhythm. A combination of difficult weather conditions, sloppy passing and a dogged Aldershot defensive effort meant that the Bantams rarely found second gear. A 12-2 half-time free kick count in City’s favour could have been even more but for a string of sensible advantages played by the referee. City were beginning to get frustrated by the niggles.
The tone of the half was set within the first 20 seconds of the game as Devante Cole shot wildly over from 15 yards, whilst seeing the offside flag raised in synchronised fashion. As if to match Cole, in the 6th minute Richard Brodie had an equally wayward shot blaze into the Kop. If this had been the first page of a Grimm tale, if we’re being honest, many would have been forgiven for closing the book at this stage.
However, determined to make their mark, it was Aldershot who created the first decent chance of the half with another Brodie strike, this time of sufficient quality to force Ben Williams into a good save low to his right. Williams parried well and the danger was averted.
Devante Cole’s pace was causing some concern in the Aldershot back ranks and when he beautifully controlled a searching ball on the edge of the box, he saw his low shot blocked by Bantams’ Old Boy Luke Oliver. Strained shouts for a penalty as the ball deflected onto the arm of an onrushing defender were short-lived; ball to hand.
During the middle third of the first half, City winger Mark Marshall emerged as the main Bradford City threat, as he forced two saves from Shots stopper Phil Smith; one pushed onto the post with a fine save, only for the rebound to evade James Hanson who was steaming into the box.
Frustration began to build as City gave too much possession away and Aldershot grew in confidence. Happily for the Bantams, the southerners failed to find the back of the net during their best period of pressure which followed, and the teams played out a goalless first half.
Whatever instructions Phil Parkinson’s insistent team-talk contained, they took time to materialise in the 2nd half following the stop-start opening exchanges. Even after Nathan Clarke had headed narrowly wide from a corner and Tony McMahon had shot over from distance, City were still struggling to make the unfolding story one of interest. When Walker wastefully shot over from a good position, City were finally shaken into life. As the rain fell with greater intensity, so upped the Bantam’s work-rate.
But the Bantams game-plan suffered a blow when James Hanson sustained an ankle injury in the 56th minute and was forced to leave the field. This soon revealed itself as somewhat of a blessing in disguise. With the introduction of Billy Clarke, City soon turned to a fresh page and began to create a more noteworthy approach, being forced to ditch the long-ball tactics and play the ball to feet.
Within minutes, the highlight of the evening saw City take the lead. A perfectly timed cross-field ball from the busy Billy Knott found Greg Leigh with plenty to do. He played his first touch in front, and used his pace to glide into the area and slot sublimely beyond the helpless, advancing Smith in the Aldershot goal, with a classy chip shot. It was an effort that would have graced many more deserving games than this one, and the moment of brilliance that City needed to ultimately shake off their tenacious visitors.
City had seized full control and only four minutes after replacing Devante Cole, substitute Luke James effectively closed the book on the plucky Shots. His persistence and direct running won a disputed penalty after Omar Beckles was drawn into a tired tackle on the edge of the six yard box. Despite the impressive Smith getting a hand to Tony McMahon’s fiercely struck spot-kick, he couldn’t stop it registering and cementing City’s place in the 2nd round.
Marshall and McMahon continued to trouble a tiring and deflated Aldershot team in the closing 10 minutes and closed out the victory with considerable comfort.
It was not much to write about. City have another home game in round two against non-league opposition and will expect chapter two to have a similar outcome, even though nothing is taken for granted in the land of fairytales. For Aldershot, their dream is over, for City, theirs are on the horizon, perhaps…
Now. Sleep tight, because it’s Chesham United next.
City: Williams, Darby, McArdle, N Clarke, Leigh, McMahon, Liddle (Routis 81), Knott, Marshall, Hanson (B Clarke 59), Cole (James 70)
Not used: Cracknell, Morris, Reid, Mottley-Henry
Categories: Match Reviews