|Harrogate Town 1|
|Bradford City 2|
|Cook 15 (pen), Wright 73|
Words and image by Adam Raj
Ok, it’s not really a derby day. Not in the eyes of City fans anyway. That’s a different story for Harrogate, however, who have an image of their first victory at Valley Parade plastered on their home terrace.
Thankfully, the run is finally over. Bradford City’s embarrassing EFL record against Harrogate Town has come to an end as the Bantams took their first points off of their North Yorkshire neighbours at the fifth time of asking.
This wasn’t a vintage performance from the Bantams, however. Far from it. In fact the script very much mirrored last week’s performance against Wimbledon. Thankfully the result didn’t.
Romoney Critchlow was brought back in to replace the slightly unfortunate Timi Odusina in one of two changes to the back four. The other was more predictable as Brad Halliday returned to the side after suspension to replace Luke Hendrie. Tyreik Wright was a welcome return as he replaced the injured Scott Banks.
As in previous weeks, City started on the front foot and were rewarded with an early goal. Harry Chapman found himself 1v1 with Harrogate defender Kayne Ramsay, forced him backwards and backwards inside the penalty area and with a quick step over, drew a terrible tackle from the former Southampton youngster and referee Peter Wright gave the easiest penalty he’ll have to all season.
No one other than Andy Cook was ever taking this. City’s number nine planted the ball on the spot for City’s first penalty of the season and expertly lashed home into the bottom right corner of Pete Jameson’s goal.
City continued on the front foot, without creating an awful lot else. Richie Smallwood and Alex Gilliead were recycling the ball well, with Harrogate defenders chasing the shadows of Wright, Chapman and Dion Pereira as the attackers dropped into the pockets between the Sulphurites midfield and defensive line. But at times, City tried to be too cute. An extra and unnecessary pass rather than a shot or cross lead to losing possession and wasting some really promising positions.
City made the home side look every inch the poor side that their league position suggests. Bottom of the form table, four successive defeats, over 10.5 hours without scoring from open play – it all pointed towards a real derby day banana skin. But so far so good.
As you would expect, Harrogate, being the home side, had a spell of pressure, with the perennial pest Jack Muldoon looking lively. Harry Lewis was forced into a superb save by Luke Armstrong with Harrogate flashing a couple of crosses across the face of goal, thankfully with no takers.
The Bantams had done enough to be leading at half time but in similar fashion to recent games, had dropped off after a very promising opening 15 minutes and given the opposition some encouragement that they really shouldn’t have allowed.
That message was clearly reinforced at half time by Town manager Simon Weaver as his side had that elusive open play goal within two minutes of the restart. Halliday was unfortunate as the bounce of the ball, following his full blooded challenge, fell perfectly for Jaheim Headley, just inside the left corner of the box. The wing back took one touch before lashing a fierce left footed strike past Lewis to level the contest.
What followed was very scrappy, very bitty and from a City perspective, very sloppy. Harrogate constantly went long towards Armstrong (Rory McArdle with that trademark diagonal), with Critchlow and Matty Platt dealing with that aspect fairly well. But Smallwood and Gilliead were too slow to second balls as they found themselves too far away from their defensive line. Harrogate picked up the loose ball but lacked the quality to turn that into chances. City would then win the ball back, but lacked the composure they had in possession in the first period. It all lead to turnover after turnover in possession and a very uneventful contest.
Mark Hughes responded with a double change. Lee Angol replaced Chapman who had faded whilst Levi Sutton replaced Pereira after another fairly quiet performance from the winger.
Sutton really struggled. Hughes seems to prefer the former Scunthorpe man in a wide right position but he looks like a rabbit in headlights at times.
Angol on the other hand, made the impact he was sent on to have. Picking up a loose ball on halfway, City’s number seven drove forwards before playing an inch perfect pass between McArdle and Ramsay where Wright burst past the defensive line and perfectly dinked Jameson to give his side the lead once again.
If there was any concern that his penalty miss in Ireland’s U21 heartbreak last week could have an adverse affect on his club performances, this performance put that to bed. Wright was comfortably City’s best attacking player this afternoon, with the on loan Villa winger demonstrating a real confident performance. And his goal was excellently taken too.
City saw the game out fairly comfortably. Harrogate never forced a hearts in mouths type moment as the home side lacked any real quality in the final third. It was pleasing to see City defend hopeful crosses strongly with Platt a commanding presence. Matty Foulds was equally excellent as he establishes himself as the first choice left back.
This was an important victory. City are now seven games unbeaten and have won three away games on the bounce – everything you’d want from a successful side. But they need to stop needlessly handing over momentum to the opposition once going in front. This isn’t a case of Gary Bowyer’s or Derek Adams’ style of go one up and park the bus, but City do seem to take their foot off the gas and invite pressure.
Fortunately, the strength and depth of the squad means we are still capable of producing moments of magic in games. But against better sides we may not be as fortunate.
Categories: Match Reviews