Return to the Lost Chance Saloon

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Gillingham 3

Dack 4, Donnelly 11, Loft 89

Bradford City 0

Saturday 2 January, 2016

Words and images by Kieran Wilkinson

OK, so here’s the deal. Surely you don’t really want to read a report about a 3-0 loss, right? And you must know that I don’t want to write it? Why don’t we pretend that I wrote it and that you read it? No one will know any different and we can all go away happy. Deal?

What are you still doing here? Seriously? Oh, go on then…

In his managerial career, Phil Parkinson is well used to a New Year hangover. Despite nine previous attempts at the game immediately following the end of the year, Phil had only managed one victory (Colchester beating Forest on 2 January 2006, since you asked). Sadly, this went on to become yet another unhappy New Year for Phil.

The one thing that did change was the line-up from the last match. Parkinson showed that he wasn’t too set in his ways by giving Devante Cole a start for the first time since we played Blackpool at home in early November, with Billy Clarke dropping to the bench. Greg Leigh (after an unusually poor game on Monday) made way for James Meredith and the final change was Billy Knott being brought in for the absent Lee Evans (it being revealed after the game that Evans was likely to be recalled by his parent club, Wolves).

A windy, rainy day is not the best one for an away fan to visit the Priestfield. The open, exposed away end offers no protection whatsoever. It was therefore very refreshing to see that the stewards were willing to use some common sense and allow a number of City fans to move to the cover of another stand, side-by-side with the Gills fans. Nice to see away supporters being treated as adults for once and being trusted to use the same facilities as the home supporters.

That being said, plenty of City fans still had to brave the elements. In the “Top Trumps” of away trips, those fans gained maximum points.

Phil Parkinson had promised that City would learn the lessons from the loss at Bramall Lane. New Year’s resolutions are there to be broken but, even bearing that in mind, conceding after four minutes was a fairly inauspicious start to the year. Midfielder Bradley Dack, the scourge of City when Gillingham beat us at Valley Parade earlier in the season, shot from outside the box and Ben Williams was beaten in the bottom left hand corner. A sadly similar start to that endured at Bramall Lane.

The chances of City getting anything out of the game got slimmer very quickly. Dack turned provider in the eleventh minute, setting up Rory Donnelly to score. Were it not for a Stephen Darby goal-line clearance a couple of minutes later, it could have been three for the Gills, after a Donnelly chip.

City did however begin to regroup after this torrid start. However, the biggest gripe of the first half (and the match as a whole) was the number of golden opportunities to get ourselves back in the game that were spurned. Whilst the game was arguably thrown away in those first eleven minutes, it was also those lost chances that did for us.

Gary Liddle perhaps should have made it two in two games for himself after getting on the end of a Tony McMahon free kick but his header was well saved. McMahon then had his own chance after a neat Devante Cole backheel but again the Gills keeper was up to the task. The resulting corner saw one of those “how on earth did we not score?” goalmouth scrambles with Reece Burke and our own Rory conspiring to not put the ball over the line.

The persistence of Kyel Reid in closing down a Gillingham clearance led to a decent chance for Devante Cole who couldn’t hit the target. Cole ended up in the back of the net but the ball didn’t.

Other chances came and went and half time arrived.

Early in the second half, Reece Burke came off second best to an advertising hoarding and had to be substituted as a result. The initial reports after the match suggested a broken wrist and, if this is to be the last we see of him in a City shirt, it is a sad end for a player who is surely destined for greater things.

As far as getting back in the game went, the second half saw little to write home about. There were not as many chances as in the first half for City. Phil Parkinson eventually threw caution to the not-inconsiderable wind (and rain) by first sacrificing the disappointing Billy Knott for Billy Clarke and then Darby for Mark Marshall. The feeling was thought that the chance(s) to get back into it had been blown already.

City’s best chance of the half came late on after a good ball in from Reid but despite the efforts of both Cole and Clarke, the side netting was the only thing hit.

It was then definitely game over as City conceded a soft goal to make it 3-0, a cross which should have been dealt with being turned in by captain Doug Loft.

There was still time left for a red-card for Nathan Clarke. Clarke had done a reasonable job after coming on for Burke but his common sense deserted him in injury time. Gillingham’s Elliot List had the beating of Clarke and would have been clear through on goal, were it not for a cynical pull back. The referee had very little choice.

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Given that the game was already over, a fourth goal would have been preferable to a red card which now leaves us with defensive problems for next week’s game at Bury. Poor decision making from an experienced player who should know better.

So, where do we go from here? Whilst a loss at one of the best sides in the division should not be something to agonise over, what does cause concern is City’s failure, once again, to take the chances that were presented to them. A new year but same “auld” City.

Phil Parkinson’s City team are well used to bouncing back and no doubt we will see that in the coming weeks. From a squad point of view, January will be interesting. What will happen with the loan players? What impact will the returning Steve Davies and Josh Morris have?

Whilst this hasn’t been the ideal end to the old year and start to the new year, it doesn’t warrant an over-precious reaction. Two poor results do not mean “season over”. There is a plenty to play for and, if we can start taking those chances, we still might be up there come May.

City: Williams, Darby (Marshall 79), McArdle, Burke (N. Clarke 53), Meredith, McMahon, Liddle, Knott (B. Clarke 61), Reid, Hanson, Cole

Not used: Cracknell, Leigh, Routis, James

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Categories: Match Reviews

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2 replies

  1. Bury is now a proverbial ‘Cup Final’..an excellent match report from Gillingham now needs to see an excellent response from City to a miserable week. Three points :- 1) beat Bury and draw a top Premier League team means we can invest in the squad ; 2) win home against Oldham & Fleetwood and away at Port Vale in January and we’ll sit sixth on Feb 1st; 3) we have three home matches to rearrange – get that done and storm all three of them and the play offs are ours!

  2. I was at the game (thankfully sitting in the stand!) and, apart from the 5 to 10 minute spell early in the game when, as Parky said, we were second best I think we played ok and matched Gillingham in all areas apart from chances taken. Put simply they took all theirs and we missed all ours. Had we pulled a goal back at 2-0 we might have seen a different outcome and, once caution was thrown to the wind (rightly in my opinion), there was always the danger they would get another. Easy to over react after two big defeats against teams we’d like to think we should be as good as but we mustn’t do that. As one Gillingham supporter said as we left the ground ‘that was the most one sided 3-0 win I’ve ever seen’ – meaning one sided in favour of City! Perhaps an overstatement but nevertheless an indication they were somewhat flattered by both the result and the score!

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