By Katie Whyatt
“As soon as the ball went through, and the keeper’s running out, I just thought, it’s here – again,” Tyrell Robinson said post-match, when the boy who only ever scores winners recalled how he had pulled off that favourite trick of his again – the second time in a month he has sealed all three points for Bradford City – where the turf opens out before him, the keeper makes way and an open goal gapes temptingly in close-range. Had he looked in his rear view mirror he might have seen blue shirts scrambling helplessly behind him – even Paul Taylor, rushing into the box to meet the prospective cross, was struggling to keep up – but Robinson persisted, a whir of pace and nerve, spindle-legs galloping and leaping as he greedily devoured the yards.
Charlie Wyke had collected the ball from deep, spun and picked out the onrushing Robinson – miles onside – with a through ball weighted to perfection. Two touches later and Robinson had dragged the ball past Josh Lillis; by his third he had sealed all three points for Bradford City and was haring to the other side of the Kop, arms outstretched, conducting the orchestra, living the dream. Forty three minutes earlier, at the same end, he had sprinted the length of the backline to plant a game-saving challenge on Matt Done, before pinging back into his place like taut elastic. Remember how Looney Tunes characters would run so fast their legs would turn into circles? Well, that. Again and again and again.
The frightening part is that is a player who, terrifyingly, is 42 days younger than yours truly. In other words: Robinson is scoring winning goals in front of the Kop at an age the rest of us are struggling to parallel park.
By that point, both sides – one exasperated, one elated – could look back on 70 minutes packed with incident, in which goal seven – arguably the best of the bunch – rounded off a frenetic afternoon. Today saw the most goals in a Bradford City home game since December 2005, when Barnsley won 5-3 in FA Cup tie – but even that one was after extra-time. There were four goals in the final six minutes of the first half. Matthew Kilgallon opened the scoring eighth minutes in, latching on to Nat Knight-Percival’s flick on from Tony McMahon’s (who else at this point, really?) free kick. Rouven Sattelmaier denied Ian Henderson from the penalty spot. Charlie Wyke made it two. Henderson responded for Rochdale from the restart. Dominic Poleon turned in Alex Gilliead’s cross. Then Henderson got a second. Former Bantam – always a pesky breed – Steve Davies thought he had clinched his side a point on 75 minutes. 180 seconds later, a wild Tyrell Robinson appeared.
How City found the resolve to win that, we may never know; equally, had they lost, they would have been in-line for a bruising post-match inquest in which someone, somewhere, would have tried to shed some semblance of light on exactly how, two goals to the good three minutes before half-time, McCall’s men had conspired to concede two as City’s grip on proceedings slipped and skidded into a more precarious hold. As it was, their post-match exploits can take on a more festive feel: McCall confirmed the squad’s Christmas party takes place tonight and, if nothing else, one has to both admire their stamina and feel relieved Robinson was on hand to save them from a night of sullenly staring into their pints.
Instead, McCall’s side spun and whirred and thumped and crossed and sprinted their way to their first home win since September, and took the spoils from a contest both sides had controlled for spells. Momentum switched hands like a hot potato; there were moments both sets of supporters watched through latticed fingers as each side lay siege to either goal. Both midfields looked porous at times; both sides counter-attacked; both teams had moments of precision in the final third, all cutting through-balls, arcing crosses and taxing aerial duels. If the last few weeks have seen City’s home form dominate the debate – City wading through backlines glued tight and holed up for winter, searching for a tad more cunning to try and carve some sort of opening – this felt like a marked shift in tone.
City’s defence had some shaky moments and the penalty was the result, more than anything, of a miscommunication between McMahon and Knight-Percival, a ball gone astray that forced Sattelmaier into what looked like a beguiling double-save. On the second, however, he had brought down Oliver Rathbone, and Darren Bond displayed no hesitation in pointing to the spot: Henderson hit his spot kick low and hard to the left but Sattelmaier was equal to it.
Largely, at that point, City were in control, and there was an inevitability about the moment McMahon, via a free-kick, picked out Wyke for a header that rattled off the underside of the crossbar before careering in for his tenth goal of the season. Not for the first time this season, however, McCall will have to ponder City’s shape immediately after scoring: inside the next minute, his team found their two goal advantage sliced in half, as Callum Camps’ low shot bounced back into Henderson’s vicinity for him to apply the finish from the one-on-one.
There were spells in which McCall’s deep midfield pairing of Vincelot and Law rotated well and took a stranglehold of proceedings, but equally there were instances of vulnerability about his midfield and backline in a game fraught with counter-attacking. Rochdale’s second was slightly less preventable – Henderson doubling his tally after latching on to a Calvin Andrew flick on from a goal kick – but there were times Rochdale cut through City with concerning speed.
Rochdale enjoyed the lion’s share of possession after the break as City soaked up spells of pressure – in all fairness, the hosts probably would have led with more guile of their own had they not been winning. The contest swung back and forth, like some bewitched pendulum, Kgosi Ntlhe tipping a header onto the roof of Sattelmaier’s net before Lillis stood firm to meet Gilliead’s low shot. Counter met counter, Wyke evolving into a Herculean architect as he fended off men left, right and centre to pump through ball after through ball into the final third.
These clubs have always enjoyed a curiously shared history – think Stephen Darby, Rory McArdle and Gary Jones – and, naturally, Steve Davies, drawn from the bench all of two minutes earlier, capping off a mazy run by firing through a pack of bodies to draw level. City were staring a fifth home league game without a win in the face but responded by manically thrashing through the gears: Wyke twisted on a pivot and, with his sixth assist of the season, unleashed Robinson to reel in Lillis.
“It’s probably the most disappointed I’ve ever been as a manager at Rochdale Football Club,” said Keith Hill, after the game. “The players have got to make better decisions. We do our due diligence and we plan all week, but it gets thrown out of the window by bad decisions and we get heavily punished. [Bradford City] also created chances but we didn’t defend their set-plays.” And they could have got away with it, too – if it wasn’t for that meddling kid.
Categories: Match Reviews