Wigan Athletic 1
Bradford City 0
Saturday 19 March, 2016
By Kieran Wilkinson
And so Bradford City returned to the scene of one of Phil Parkinson’s greatest of nights as City manager. Wigan – that most northern (in soul) of Lancashire towns. Birthplace of Roy Kinnear, the Verve, the Dynamite Kid, Joe Gormley and George Formby. Whilst the home side did leave with the spoils, it could have turned out nice again for City had Billy Clarke been more clinical in front of goal.
City rightfully went into this match with some confidence after recent performances, with Phil Parkinson able to name an unchanged side despite worries over Tony McMahon and Josh Cullen (the latter having endured 120 minutes for West Ham’s youth team during the week).
Wigan’s morale was equally buoyant – the home side being on a long unbeaten run stretching back to before Christmas. Names of interest to City fans on the Wigan teamsheet included former Bantam’s loanee Stephen Warnock (the left back having signed on loan a couple of weeks ago) and Haris Vuckic, linked heavily with City a couple of seasons ago (and a thorn in our side when playing for Rotherham. It’s always also worth mentioning when a team has the excellently named Max Power in their lineup, the Wigan number 6 usually getting a chuckle from fans of The Simpsons.
City did come under a fair bit of pressure in the first half, with the home side having eight corners, but ultimately they coped with it well. That isn’t to say that it was all one way traffic – Jamie Proctor and Kyel Reid tested former City triallist Jussi Jaaskelainen early on. Reid was cynically chopped down approaching the halfway line as City looked to break after a Wigan corner, which surprisingly did not lead to a booking from referee Darren Deadman.
Deadman and City are of course adversaries of old, to the extent that four years ago, Phil Parkinson made the request that Deadman never referee a City match again.
Wigan’s big chance of the opening stages came when Yanic Wildschut’s wild shot beat Ben Williams but thankfully hit the upright.
As with the previous two games, Jamie Proctor was looking bright again and was causing concern for the Wigan defence. Even though Billy Clarke isn’t quite at the top of his game, there clearly is an understanding between the two players.
Another cynical foul approaching the half way stage of the first half (this time on Billy Clarke and this time punished by a booking) led to a City free kick which the combination of Proctor and Lee Evans could not convert.
Wigan finished the half the more dominant team and there was the feeling that 0-0 at half time was a good result. However, this was far from one way traffic – City could be pleased with the way that they had defended and with the fact that they had managed to carve out one or two opportunities themselves. This was a decent performance against a decent side.
The big, BIG moment of the match for City came in the second minute of the second half. The lively Proctor pounced on a poor throw in by Stephen Warnock and put a ball into the box to Billy Clarke, only a few yards out. Moments like this change matches, change seasons. This was a real “on a plate” chance. Unfortunately, Billy Clarke’s weak flick propelled the ball across goal and away for a goal kick. Make no mistake, this was a massive opportunity and one that does not come along often against a team of the calibre of Wigan. It couldn’t have been more gift wrapped had Proctor stopped and put paper and a bow around it before crossing it.
If anything, the rest of the half was more even than the first half. However, genuine goalscoring opportunities were limited for both sides, with neither keeper being overworked. It felt like this was going to be a game where one chance would make the difference. The fact that Wigan were the first to make changes showed that City were causing them genuine problems. Lee Evans and Josh Cullen were guilty of spurning opportunities (the former hitting a shot well into the noisy City end).
It was however, one of those Wigan subs that broke City hearts. City failed to deal with a ball into the box and Vuckic nipped in to finish from a tight angle.
City threw caution to the wind with a triple substitution with James Hanson, Mark Marshall and Wes Thomas coming on for Proctor, Billy Clarke and Cullen. Thomas had an weak overhead kick and a couple of other half chances but Wigan stood firm and held out to the final whistle.
Downhearted? No. Despite the result, this was a very good City performance. We would have been good value for the point and, had Billy Clarke not wasted his golden opportunity, we might have been talking about much much more. Wigan did show their quality and on the evidence of our two matches against them this season, are the best side in the division. However, we are still in the mix and can take heart from the quality of recent performances.
Jamie Proctor has been a revelation and another man of the match performance from him today hints that his form may well hold the key to the success (or otherwise) of our play off push. The motto on the Wigan coat of arms is “Progress With Unity”. If City adopt that mantra, there is still plenty left in this season.
City: Williams, Darby, N Clarke, Burke, Meredith, McMahon, Evans, Cullen (Marshall 84), Reid, B Clarke (Thomas 84), Proctor (Hanson 84)
Not used: Cracknell, Routis, Knott, Morris
Categories: Match Reviews