The Match Before Christmas


Image by Kieran Wilkinson

Chesterfield 0

Bradford City 1

(McMahon 72)

Saturday 19th December, 2015

By Kieran Wilkinson

“T’was the match before Christmas, at Chesterfield’s ground. A chance for the Bantams to try and rebound. Would the players be able to start a new run? To get in the playoffs and out of League One?”

City went into this match hoping not to be haunted by the ghost of Christmas past. You have to go back to 2011 and Phil Parkinson’s first season in charge for the last time that we managed to win the last match before Christmas Day – an 88th minute Luke Oliver goal bringing back an unexpected three points from Southend. The players certainly needed to buck the trend of the last few seasons in order to avoid a Blue Christmas. It is however worth noting how things change over four years – whilst eyes in 2011 were firmly placed on the all-too-near trapdoor to the non-league, the 2015 version of City are, like the three wise men, looking firmly upwards.

Chesterfield went into the match still managerless (rather than manger-less), Dean Saunders having been told that there was no room at the inn on 28th November, coincidentally the same day as City’s last league game. Notwithstanding the distraction of the F.A. Cup, the three weeks since that Walsall defeat will have given Phil Parkinson plenty to ponder on – it would be a test of the mettle of the team whether they could bounce back.

Chesterfield, on the other hand, were approaching Christmas with the same sort of gusto with which a turkey approaches the festive break, having lost six out of the last seven games (and five league defeats on the bounce).

To a certain extent, the City team picks itself at the moment, the only change being Garry Liddle being brought in for Billy Knott – a tried and tested away game “swap” for Phil Parkinson this season.

After a fairly even opening ten minutes (the most notable City incident being Tony McMahon fluffing a through ball from the ever-impressive Reece Burke), City quickly upped the ante. Tony McMahon got a second bite of the cherry to put the ball in the box after a corner and Billy Clarke glanced the ball against the upright. City denied by the width of a – no, sorry, I can’t think of the phrase.

City were well on top here, with a number of chances going begging and McArdle and Burke mopping up at the back. The swirly, gusty weather was having an impact on proceedings though, with a number of crosses and long balls for both teams “wind assisted” beyond their intended targets.

Chesterfield’s best first half chance came close to the break, O’Neil driving the ball over the bar after a Rory McArdle clearance. Reece Burke then failed to hit the target after another City corner. The first half then just had time for an off-target header for former City trialist Sylvan Ebanks-Blake.

Half time and all square: City no doubt feeling that they could and should be in front, Chesterfield presumably happy to be still in it after their recent wretched run. A very decent first half with plenty of promising performances – Reid and McMahon providing the ammunition, Hanson dominating, Clarke looking tricky. However, there was one vital thing that was still missing at this stage.

Whilst we often moan about repeats at Christmas, no one in the City end was complaining about the second half being much of the same – City continued to boss the game. It was pleasing to see the likes of Reece Burke and Greg Leigh provide an attacking outlet on occasion. Yet again the width of a… (no, still can’t think of it) came to Chesterfield’s rescue when their Keighley-born stopper, Tommy Lee, turned a Kyel Reid piledriver onto the post. Lee then followed this up with a smart save to deny James Hanson from the resulting corner.

It was now a question of when, not if, surely.

However, Chesterfield showed they were not prepared to just face one-way traffic, with Burke being forced to concede a corner after O’Neil surged into the City area.

Chesterfield were the first to get the ball in the goal but only because of a petulant shot from Ebanks-Blake after the offside flag had risen.

Ebanks-Blake was the centre of attention again a few minutes later after a bit of argy-bargy with Rory McArdle, both players ending up receiving the bad tidings of a booking from the referee.

City continued to threaten, Billy Clarke coming agonisingly close. City then had a goal disallowed for offside and the nagging feeling that we were going to rue these missed chances was starting to take over.

However, Billy Clarke burst into the box, levelled to Tony McMahon who made no mistake. One nil and the very least that City deserved.

City then went on to do exactly what they needed to do, seeing the game out to the inevitable “Jingle Bells” chants from the near 1,500 crowd in the away end. There weren’t too many worrying moments and City are now looking adept at seeing out victories (the very opposite of the start of the season).

I suppose the only minor gripe you could have is the same one that we have pretty much had all season – the fact that we don’t score more. However, I think it would be a little “bah humbug” to dwell too much on that today. Let’s take pleasure in the three points. We needed to show that the Walsall defeat was a blip and that is certainly what we did. If we can get a couple of similar results in the coming games, the ghost of Christmas yet to come may be looking pretty healthy.

“The ref went to his pocket, to the teams gave a whistle. And away they all flew like the down of a thistle. But I heard I heard Parky exclaim, ‘ere he walked out of sight “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night””

City: Williams, Darby, McArdle, Burke, Leigh, McMahon, Liddle, Evans, Reid (Meredith 91), Hanson, B. Clarke (Cole 81)

Not Used: N. Clarke, Marshall, Knott, Bowery, Cracknell


Categories: Match Reviews

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7 replies

  1. A very fair summation, Katie, and the festive spirit drawn in too. However, the Bantams also helped with this theme, as their domination was not as profound insofar as results go.
    City REALLY must start putting teams to the sword ….. one can only be merciful so many times before that lack of an act comes back to bite you.
    But, ’tis the season of goodwill, and perhaps grace was shown yet again – so as to spare Spirite blushes. If the next four games are as productive in Citys favour, then we are all in for a Happy New Year, too.

  2. Great report Kieran, I felt very festive reading it!!! Talk about three big games coming up – on the evening after the Gillingham game we will certainly have pointers as to which star we are following this year…..

  3. And after the goal, Mcmahon straight to Parkinson for a hug : Simply Brilliant!

  4. Looking forward to the Burton game, hoping for a ho ho home win

  5. Parky’s leadership in evidence. Contrast the performances of City and Milwall yesterday. Following the postponements last weekend City had a training session and PP went to watch Chesterfield. The Milwall boss sent his players home. No further comment needed.

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