A stumble not a fall

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

Shrewsbury Town 1

Akpa Akpro 84

Bradford City 1

Proctor 71

Saturday 16 April, 2016

By Damien Wilkinson

In a match absolutely dominated by the Bantams,  a fifth consecutive 1-0 victory eluded the promotion-chasers who had to settle for a point.

City’s lack of a killer touch came back to haunt them today  – despite  17 corners and 16 shots on goal, the Bantams simply could not finish the home side off, with the Salopians understandably looking delighted to snatch a draw from the game, the result mirroring the reverse fixture last August.

Thankfully other results at the top of the table weren’t too bad from a City perspective and the draw managed to maintain the 4th place spot in advance of a busy week.

Phil Parkinson kept faith with the side that has ground out the last two of City’s recent flurry of 1-0 wins, naming an unchanged starting line up and bench.

Shrewsbury, without a win since beating Coventry on the 8 March, approached the game hovering above the League 1 trap door in 20th spot, one point above Blackpool.  Manager Micky Mellon faced a number of selection headaches; keeper Mark Halstead missed the match through suspension and faced the loss of defender Mickey Demetriou following a knee injury earlier this month.

The Shrews have two games in hand on their rivals albeit including trips to Walsall and Gillingham, which also may well play a part in City’s play off fate, as well as their own survival.

The Bantams dominated the match right from the start and the bulk of the first half was played down the far end away from another vociferous away following.

City controlled the play and possession and it looked like they had taken the lead on nine minutes when Billy Clarke turned the ball into the net. But the assistant linesman raised his flag for offside, a decision Phil Parkinson contested after the match.

As the half progressed, it looked like a matter of time before City made the breakthrough and further chances began to emerge.  Jamie Proctor was in the thick of things, heading across the box after a smart free kick from Tony McMahon, and then forcing an important deflection when through on goal.

The Shrews will have been thankful to get to half time on level terms and started the second half with a bit more purpose, exerting some pressure on the City defence. Mellon had interestingly played his cards early; after a late substitution in the first half, he made his second and third substitutions right after the break bringing on Shaun Walley and James Wallace, perhaps in recognition of how far adrift his team had been in the first half.

However, City soon got back into  their stride and began to up the ante. As in the first half chances came and went, a number of crosses into the box couldn’t quite draw that killer final touch, and Proctor was manhandled to the ground after a corner which the referee waved away.

Phil Parkinson made his first change of the day on 65 minutes bringing on striker Steve Davies for his now usual 30 minutes or so outing.

Just when it looked like all the pressure would be in vain up popped Jamie Procter to bullet a header into the far corner on 71 minutes after a cross from Tony McMahon.  1-0 and business as usual – or so it seemed.

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

Image by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

Indeed at that point City looked good value for either seeing out another 1-0 victory or adding to the score to end the game comfortably.

Unfortunately neither outcome happened.  Despite further pressure and chances, City couldn’t make their dominance count further and were hit by a classic sucker punch on 84 minutes.

Shrewsbury had begun to create some openings and were enjoying more possession in the final third, but a fairly hopeful ball from Mat Sadler into the box managed to draw Ben Williams out of his goal, fail to reach the ball and allowed Jean-Louis Akpa-Akpro to guide the the ball into the empty net for the equaliser.

A bitter blow and a rare lapse of judgement from keeper Williams  who has made some match saving stops recently as he has racked up clean sheets. It always looked like a tall order for Williams to claim the ball amongst a crowded penalty area, and it looked very much like a rush of blood for him to race out to try to claim the ball.

Despite a late onslaught and chances, and further changes with James Hanson and Filipe Morais replacing Proctor and Reid, the Bantams failed to restore their superiority in terms of the scoreline and the match finished all square.

To be honest it was probably always going to be a big ask to see out yet another 1-0 win, and showed the precarious nature of such a scoreline. There is always a risk that despite being under the cosh, the opposition always has a chance to retrieve something from the game whilst it remains finely poised.  Furthermore, the magical five wins on the spin continued to elude Phil Parkinson in his time at City so far.

So what about that killer instinct?  Were City guilty of not going for the jugular?  Well my opinion was that we certainly didn’t shut up shop and did try to get the second goal for the bulk of the game – it was one of those games when it just wouldn’t arrive and City were also thwarted by keeper Jayson Leutwiler, who made some good stops. Ultimately there was a striking similarity with what we have seen all season – underlined by 48 goals in 42 games, and a tendency to struggle to finish teams off.

Whilst it was a frustrating outcome, it is worth remembering that this consistency has got us to where we currently are placed.

Jamie Procter had another great performance and, crucially, the switch of bringing on Steve Davies and later James Hanson didn’t quite have the impact we have witnessed in recent games. However, Filipe Morais looked lively when introduced and carved out some good chances albeit they couldn’t be converted.

Overall it probably just was one of those days; things often even themselves out and despite showing a greater superiority and performance than seen in the last few matches, there may be some arguments that it offsets some of the ‘luck’ we perhaps have had over some of our previous games.

At this point, a slight return back down to earth might not necessarily be a bad thing and help reignite the focus on the remaining four games and hopefully beyond. With Wigan losing today we would have probably been talking about a late surge for the top spot had we won this!

Expect some more twists and turns, ups and downs, as we navigate our way through the next four games. How we react to them will be crucial in where we finish and perhaps more importantly how we approach the play off fixtures should we get there.

So, some disappointment but no cause to be downhearted, the point today might turn out to be useful as the season reaches an exciting climax.  The attention now turns to Coventry on Tuesday night, which will hopefully set things up nicely for the mouth-watering visit of 3rd place Walsall to Valley Parade on Saturday.

City: Williams, Darby, N Clarke, Burke, Meredith, McMahon, Cullen, Evans, Reid (Morais 82), B Clarke (Davies 65), Proctor (Hanson 78)

Not used: Cracknell, McArdle, Morris, Knott

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Categories: Match Reviews

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4 replies

  1. An excellent team performance from city and looked every inch a promotion team on that performance. Proctor lead the line superbly and was given nothing by the referee. Some better finishing would’ve have seen us win by a handsome margin but it was good to witness a city side carving out some great chances and playing with purpose in an attacking manner albeit against a poor Shrewsbury side on the day. Let’s hope we can take this attacking mentality into the Coventry game and convert the chances into 2 or 3 goals. A win on Tuesday will set up the biggest game of the season so far at Valley Parade against a excellent team in Walsall which in current form we are quite capable of taking all 3 points.

  2. By the end of the season:
    Two more wins and we’ll finish in the play offs
    Three more wins and we’re at home for the second leg of the first play off game
    Four wins and we might make it straight up
    In the play offs Burton would be best, but looking unlikely it would be them. Dale worst and it could well be them.

  3. Goals is what will stop this train and it’s too late now to change things much. Perhaps, Davies/Proctor, two out and out strikers, is worth a try. Certainly Billy Clarke isn’t the player he was pre-injury and pre-new contract.

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