Match review: Bradford City 2 (Wyke, McMahon) Gillingham 2
By Tim Penfold
This sounds remarkably familiar, doesn’t it? Bradford City have the better of the game, but fail to take full advantage and come away with a draw. But, for all of the feelings of deja vu, it was in many ways a day of firsts.
It was a first game for my friend Thomas and his two youngest daughters, Rosa (8) and Ella (5), taking advantage of cheap tickets on the club’s excellent #BantamsFamily initiative. They at least had an entertaining game as an introduction to Valley Parade (unlike Jason McKeown’s run of 0-0s when he first started going) and saw Bradford City come away with a share of the points (unlike me – it took me three games to see anything other than a defeat!). They weren’t the only ones either, with the crowd being boosted to just short of 19,000 and the Midland Road stand looking the fullest it’s been since the cup runs.
It was also a first game for our big-money new striker Charlie Wyke, and he impressed. His link up play with Clarke looked promising, and he provided a good physical presence up front. Most importantly, he powered in a fine header from Mark Marshall’s cross shortly after Gillingham had taken the lead. Hopefully it will prove to be the first of many.
The visitors’ early goal had come slightly against the run of play, and provoked tears from Ella and worried groans from the rest of the City support. City never looked comfortable dealing with the lofted balls and throws into the box – a far cry from the days of Andrew Davies dominating the box and heading everything clear. There were three City players attempting to clear Ryan Jackson’s long throw but it didn’t get out of the box, and Josh Wright ran into a worrying amount of space to volley past Colin Doyle.
City responded immediately though, and managed to gain control of the game, particularly after the impressive Bradley Dack went off the boil somewhat following a silly booking for dissent. Wyke’s equaliser got the team straight back on terms, and they took the lead shortly before half time with a fine set piece.
Billy Clarke’s free kick deserved a goal on its own but it was well saved – however, Tony McMahon, who had dummied the free kick, ran in untracked to smash the rebound into the goal. At this point City were in complete control and Clarke’s long range effort went narrowly over just before the break.
After half time, however, Gillingham came out strongly and City started slowly, which led to a soft equalising goal. Again, City failed to deal with a high, looping cross and everyone seemed to stand still as the ball fell straight to Deji Oshilaja in the six yard box, who made no mistake with the finish. There’s been a worrying tendency in recent weeks to concede preventable goals – Shrewsbury, Millwall and now this one were all caused by either individual errors or the defence being too passive and not reacting.
Gillingham then decided to shut up shop and take the point, challenging City to break them down, and the Bantams nearly managed it. Josh Cullen, who had a quiet game by his standards, had one shot well saved and another fly narrowly wide, while Wyke had a header from a corner cleared off the line. The substitute Jordy Hiwula had a lob drop agonisingly wide of the post, and the Gills headed clear numerous crosses and corners.
However, aided by some time-wasting and a bobbly pitch slowing down City’s attempts at quick passes, the visitors held out. City lacked the guile to break down the massed ranks of blue, without ever really looking hugely threatened on the counter.
Another frustrating day, and another missed opportunity to close up on rivals who dropped points, but it wasn’t all bad. Charlie Wyke might just be the striker we’ve been looking for all season, while Thomas, Ella and Rosa enjoyed it enough to want to come back.
We may just have got a few more Bantams hooked for life.
Categories: Match Reviews