Bradford City 1
Monday 28 March, 2016
Words and images by Mark Danylczuk
And now it gets interesting.
The topsy-turvy season and unpredictable nature of Bradford City seems to be making way to a more consistent upwards push towards the play offs and possible promotion to the Championship. Losing at home to the bottom club Colchester and the beating the top club Burton – it’s not been easy to predict which City side will turn up; but as of late the tide is turning and the excitement increasing as we build towards the season finale.
City came into the game on the back of a resurgence in form with three wins from the last four; the latest being the narrow hard-fought win over fellow play off hopefuls Millwall. There was just one change in the line-up today with Chris Routis coming in for Reece Burke. As for Crewe, the home side were adjusting to being the league’s new bottom club having lost 3-2 to Sheffield United last Saturday. It was one win in 17 matches for the Railwaymen and nine points adrift of safety.
Seemingly a straightforward three points for the Bantams on paper; but League One has proved that anyone can beat anyone on their day. So it was up to the Bantams to stay focused, be professional and get the job done.
And they did.
But it wasn’t easy. Those who saw the game against Millwall will have had a sense of déjà vu by the pattern of the game and indeed the final score.
It was a high tempo start from both teams, but it was Crewe who settled quicker, getting a grip of the midfield forcing City to press to obtain possession. Billy Bingham, man of the match Callum Ainley and the excellent Bradden Inman were controlling the midfield and finding gaps between the midfield and defence. This continued throughout patches of the game when Crewe were on top. The first chance occurred in the 14th minute when Routis lost possession in his own half and Lauri Dalle Valle dispossessed him but dragged his shot just wide of former Crewe stopper Ben Williams’ post.
City slowly got back into the game with the superb Jamie Proctor making intelligent runs, holding the ball up well and bringing others into play. It was Proctor’s hold up play that created City’s best opening in the 33rd minute when he played in Stephen Darby who released the ball to Tony McMahon on the right wing. His cross was glanced wide by a header from Billy Clarke. City were supporting more in midfield and getting more players in the box for crosses and the performance was improving.
Five minutes later provided an even better chance for the Bantams when a neat through ball from Billy Clarke left Darby one on one with the keeper, but he dragged his shot agonisingly wide of the post. Proctor continued to have lots of joy down the City left, released by Kyel Reid a number of times, and it was causing Crewe problems. The half ended with City on top and another chance with a Proctor header just over the bar from a McMahon cross.
It was only a few minutes into the second half when City grabbed the all-important first goal capitalising on the continuing pressure. Nathan Clarke floated a long ball forward and when Crewe defender George Ray failed to deal with it, Proctor nipped in and volleyed home superbly to give City the lead.
Crewe responded immediately and only a few minutes later had their best chance of the game to equalize. Bingham delivered a low ball into the box beating a number of players and Charlie Kirk miscued and failed to connect with the ball to test Williams.
Crewe were continuing their neat build up play but lacking quality in the final third. Williams didn’t have a save to make all game yet City were making it difficult by sitting very deep and inviting the pressure. The front two of Proctor and Clarke were, like Saturday, again substituted for the second forward pairing of Hanson and Davies in the 70th minute to add some fresh bite to the forward line. Proctor departed to a deserved standing ovation – everything about his play was superb today and he is the current number one choice for the City forward line.
The closing moments became Millwall all over again, with anxiety and desperate defending as the game progressed to its conclusion. City did continue to create chances though with Clarke having a disallowed goal and Davies having a good penalty shout turned down with a few minutes to go, but the Bantams defended a number of corners in particular well, ran the clock down and held out to victory.
It was another superb team display today, full of grit and determination. Defensively solid with Nathan Clarke continuing to improve vastly. Midfield dogged with Billy Knott working hard and McMahon as influential as always. Clarke, for me, is still to convince as the main second striker to the superb Proctor, but it’s our winning forward line at the moment and Parkinson rightly sticks with it as the competition continues from the supporting cast of Hanson, Davies and Thomas.
It was also encouraging to see Filipe Morais on the bench and the increasing squad depth is coming at just the right time, ready for the business end of the season.
Like recent performances, it wasn’t always pretty at times; but City are finding the knack of doing what all top teams do – grind out victories and get points on the board. With another two home games to follow in the coming weeks, we can hopefully expect more points on the board to further consolidate our prized play off spot.
City: Williams, Darby, N Clarke, Routis, Meredith, McMahon, Thorpe, Knott, Reid (Morris 90), B Clarke (Davies 72), Proctor (Hanson 73)
Not used: Cracknell, Leigh, Morais, Anderson
Categories: Match Reviews