|Bradford City 1|
By Tim Penfold
What can you take from a game like tonight? In Bradford City’s case, the £5,000 prize money for the draw (nothing extra for winning the penalty shootout sadly) will be the main positive from the evening, but the performances of a few fringe players – Sam Hornby and Reece Staunton in particular – and the extra minutes in the legs of Lee Angol will also rank highly on that list.
It was the deadest of dead rubbers – the home side were already through and would top the group with a point, while the Bantams were long since out of the competition and required a ridiculous victory to even think about overhauling 3rd placed Manchester United U21s on goal difference. It showed in the selections, with both sides giving younger and fringe players a chance, and if anything there was a surprise that Derek Adams didn’t go even younger with his selections – there was no room on the bench for Olivier Sukiennicki or Charlie Wood.
As you could expect, the game started slowly, but the Bantams grew into it. Staunton impressed with his composure on the ball, while Lee Angol looked positive and willing to run at defenders every time he got it. There weren’t many clear openings, but there were a few set pieces and it was from one of these that the visitors would take the lead.
The ball wasn’t properly cleared and eventually found its way to Staunton on the left. Staunton took on his man, got past him and fizzed a ball into the six yard box where Theo Robinson turned it home for his third in four games. It was a piece of genuine class from the young defender, and showed his main strength over his competition – there’s nobody as good on the ball in our back line.
There was nearly a second shortly after, as Charles Vernam got into space on the right flank and stung the keeper’s hands with a drive, but at the other end Sam Hornby pulled off a fine save to keep the score in City’s favour going into half time.
The second half could’ve fizzled out entirely, given the game situation and the substitutions from both sides. Lee Angol came off at half time, whilst Vernam and Robinson lasted an hour – withdrawn to protect them, given our injury issues up front. In between the changes, Sunderland grabbed an equaliser when a ball over the top caught out both centre backs and Everton loanee Nathan Broadhead drilled the ball past Hornby.
However, the game remained a good contest. Sunderland continued to push and had a great chance to take the lead, breaking through City’s back line and racing in on goal. Hornby made a fine save, but the rebound fell straight to another home forward and the goal was gaping until Staunton, seemingly out of nowhere, came across to clear off the line. At the other end, Levi Sutton drilled one shot narrowly past the post, then with a few minutes to go Alex Gilliead blazed wide when in a good position.
Neither side settled for the draw, and Sunderland came closest to snatching it when Alex Pritchard hit the bar with a stoppage-time free kick. City’s last good chance came with the last attack of the game, as Sutton slipped in Callum Cooke who had a shot tipped wide. And so it came down to penalties, and a shootout even more meaningless than the game.
This was the least stressful set of penalties that I have ever watched. The extra point for winning would make no difference to either team – summing up the pointlessness of this competition at times. In the end, it was City who won the shootout – Elliot Watt had his spot-kick saved, but Cooke, Sutton, Scales and Evans all found the net whilst Sam Hornby made his case for a recall by saving two Sunderland spot-kicks.
Meaningless though this game was, it was surprisingly good fun. It seems like City have got everything they wanted from it – minutes in the legs of fringe and younger players, no further injuries and a reminder from the likes of Staunton and Hornby that they have the ability to be part of this team.
Categories: Match Reviews