The sweetest type of victory

Mansfield Town 1
Swan 69
Bradford City 2
Smallwood 30, Cook 53

By Adam Raj

Generally speaking, the mantra to win promotion is to win your home games and draw away. Bradford City seem to have read that the wrong way round. Tonight’s magnificent victory at Mansfield was City’s sixth game unbeaten on the road and fifth win in that period. Away wins at promotion rivals Tranmere, Salford and now Mansfield make City’s away record seriously impressive. 

Whilst not wishing to dwell on the performances of the match official too much, Simon Mather’s full time whistle made the victory feel even sweeter. As one City fan’s shout of “he’s got a fiver on Mansfield” drew chuckles from the away end, you started to take his comment seriously when the board went up for ten minutes of injury time.

Still, City made sure that the football did the talking. They made sure that they walked, or maybe limped, away from Field Mill with a thoroughly deserved three points. 

The Bantams couldn’t have looked any different from the side who dropped out of the FA cup in the defeat to Harrogate at the weekend. High press, one and two touch football and a real direct edge to their forward play, spearheaded by the excellent and unplayable Tyreik Wright, Harry Chapman and Scott Banks.  

And it was the Crystal Palace loanee, Banks, who had City’s best chance in the opening period. Chapman’s drive across the pitch saw Banks make an intelligent run inside of fullback Elliott Hewitt who was caught out by Chapman’s excellent reverse ball to set City’s number twelve through on goal. Banks’ first touch was just a bit too heavy which allowed Mansfield keeper Christy Pym to smother the ball. Pym couldn’t gather, however, but did well to close down Wright’s follow up effort. 

But City didn’t have to wait too much longer to take a deserved lead. Banks again caused problems for Hewitt as Brad Halliday came flying down his right on the overlap. The right back was fed the ball in the right channel, and his deflected cross came out to skipper Richie Smallwood who slammed the ball home from the edge of the area, leaving no chance for Pym. 

The Bantams didn’t sit on that single goal lead. Mansfield were penned in their defensive third for several periods, with Chapman, Wright, Halliday and Matty Foulds finding tonnes of space on the outside of Mansfield’s diamond midfield.

As half time approached, the only disappointment from the first period was that City had not found that second goal. Mansfield couldn’t even muster a shot in the opening 45 minutes and were unlikely to be as poor in the second period. And as of yet, City had put in few, if any, full performances over the course of 90 minutes. You can forgive City fans for thinking it could be a case of deja vu.

But then again, City have Andy Cook. Seven minutes into the second half and the City striker took it upon himself to give City the breathing space they needed. Matty Platt’s lofted ball into the channel looked to be under control from Mansfield centre half James Perch, but through sheer persistence and determination, City’s number nine wrestled back possession and left Perch on the floor. After embarrassing one defender, Cook showed fantastic composure to cut inside Forest loanee Riley Harbottle and slam the ball past Pym with a low left footed drive. Cue pandemonium in the away end.

Cook loved it. Every second of it. He jumped into the City fans who had swarmed forwards to the pitch side barriers to embrace the man who is in the form of his career. Cook was quickly joined by his team mates and as the stewards tried, but failed, to hold them back, the togetherness and bond between this squad and the fans was fantastic to see. 

It wasn’t all sunshine and roses however. Wright had been struggling with what appeared to be a back problem for the past few minutes and was forced off for Abo Eisa straight after the goal. It is a massive blow to lose the winger who has been excellent since his deadline day move from Aston Villa and it’s to be hoped his injury isn’t too serious. 

The good mood took a further hit just after the hour mark as Platt found himself sent off for a second booking after needlessly kicking the ball away. Platt’s first booking came five minutes into the contest and was a little harsh but the foul that led to his sending off was a laughable decision from the referee. Mind you, the City centre half should’ve known better than to kick the ball forty yards into the stand. Having said that, the referee wasn’t going to give anything until he was swarmed by several Mansfield players. 

From then on, the game plan had to change. City had to make the remaining twenty five minutes the most disgusting spectacle they possibly could. That looked like it was going to be a tall order for a side who don’t tend to do the dirty time wasting stuff very well at all. 

But the City players have had plenty of good demonstrations from the sides who have rocked up at Valley Parade this season and had executed that plan superbly. Thankfully, it looks like they have been watching. Banks, Halliday, Smallwood, Cook, Foulds, Gilliead and Chapman all took it in turns to go down for a brief moment and take the sting out of the game. The home side started to rush things and the home crowd began to get frustrated – it was exactly what was needed.

City did make the job harder for themselves as Will Swann pulled a goal back for the hosts. The striker bundled the ball home after an in swinging corner caused pinball in the Bantams’ box. 

Prior to that goal, Harry Lewis pulled out yet another magnificent save to deny Lucas Akins. The half time substitute spun inside the box and got his left footed shot away which deflected towards the top corner, only for City’s number one to pull out a big left hand and prevent a certain goal.

In what was an incredibly quiet night for Lewis, he demonstrated what a top quality goalkeeper he is by keeping his concentration to make a save of that level.

City managed to shut the back door after Swan’s goal and were quite comfortable in seeing out the remaining 20 (+10) minutes without any major concerns. Yann Songo’o was faultless when he came on at centre half but Halliday, Foulds and Romoney Critchlow were equally superb and defended their box extremely well. 

As the full time whistle blew, City players celebrated in front of the away end with a visible sense of relief and satisfaction that they had got the reward that their efforts had deserved. As the 1,400 travelling Bantams chanted Mark Hughes’ name, the City gaffer made a point of signalling to his players as if to say this victory was all on them. And whilst that is undoubtedly the sort of characteristic that has endeared him to the Bradford public, he was spot on. It was a real bodies on the line performance to come through with three points.

And whilst the football for the first hour was superb and thoroughly merited a two goal lead, the backs to the wall performance that was necessary in the last half hour was equally satisfying to watch. They are the sort of testing moments and circumstances that all good sides have to overcome – and the Bantams did so with flying colours. 

Categories: Match Reviews

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18 replies

  1. That was some goal from Andy Cook. Nothing to do with systems or tactics – and everything to do with individual endeavour and skill. Goal scorers win you matches. Great to bounce back like this.

  2. wow that was intense and a big win. You cant help but fall back in love with your team when their desire to win is as big as the fan’s. City matched and bettered a very good side in a proper good football match, both technically and physically – this was great to see. Special mention to Gillead, i thought he was excellent. Just hope they’ve got something left in the tank for Saturday – when the team has to put their bodies on the line to get the result like that, the squad gets tested to the full. Platt should have to train on his own today – silly boy.

    • Why should Platt have to train on his own today. He made a rash mistake in a sport that emotions run high. Yes he’s a silly boy but it happens.

      His team got him out of it yesterday in the same way he’s put his body on the line throughout the season. He should be thanking all his team mates in the dressing room and that should be the end of it.

      • Well said, very poor from the referee, was never a foul, wasn’t giving the yellow until he was surrounded by Mansfield players. Platt has been immense this season, it was his ball that lead to Cooky’s goal. I’m sure Sparky will put his arm around him and tell him to forget it.

      • train on his own maybe a bit harsh then – but he still had enough time to remember he was on a yellow before booting the ball away. Different if he times a 50/50 tackle slightly wrong. We just cant afford to be losing important players in that way half-way through games, it very nearly cost us points and we cant afford to do that. Fair play to the rest for going the extra mile to cover for him, hope he is grateful to them and hope they can all recover in time for Saturday.

  3. Magnificent performance fully deserved the win. WOAP ran an article bemoaning time wasting a few weeks back and I said one team’s time wasting is another team’s game management. Mansfield fans are fuming at our time wasting yet this article praises it.
    Also the ref’s decision to send off Matty Platt was not “laughable” as the author says, everyone knows booting the ball “40 yards into the stand” is a mandatory yellow card.
    I do agree our performance was great and Songo was excellent. The man typifies putting your body on the line and his colleagues were right with him.
    What’s going on with flares and City fans? Someone needs a good talking to or this could lead to trouble for the club in terms of fines and even ground closures.

    • He writes that the ‘foul’ that play was halted for was laughable, not kicking the ball away.

      Watching on ifollow I initially felt that the yellow was harsh given the very short amount of time between the referee blowing the whistle and Platt following though and kicking the ball, but admittedly on repeat viewing (without sound) it does look pretty stupid.

      The time wasting discourse is interesting – city did it very well and were able to slow the pace down at key moments. And the referee responded by giving a huge amount of injury time. This seems reasonable – whereas what we see frequently at VP is an equivalent amount of time wasting but a max of 5 minutes added on.

    • Totally agree with all your comments Ian. City fans at VP should never ever complain about time wasting from opposition ever again. We took it to the limit last night. Although unusual with 10 mins added time it was probably right. 6 subs I think used, Wright, Banks and one of there’s requiring physio etc. for a period of time , plus ball in crowd . Game manage perhaps , all teams do it , even us now!

    • Mansfield fans can fume all they want, they got the time-wasting because their players surrounded the referee and implored him to send off Platt. I hate time-wasting and all the chicanery witnessed in modern football but badgering the referee to send off a fellow professional is a deplorably low tactic.
      Whilst I acknowledge that kicking the ball away is technically a yellow card offence, it wastes what? Ten seconds? You lose more than that at any throw-in. So why is time-wasting not treated similarly? We’ve seen opposition goal-keepers eat up more time at Valley Parade whilst messing around from the fifth minute of the game – how many have been carded?

      • Agreed.

        Plus Platt didn’t thwart a quick free kick attempt by booting it away – it did just wast about 10 seconds. It was daft of him undoubtedly and the referee applied the law but I think a stern talking too would have been more appropriate

  4. 1.76 points per game enough for promotion any season over 46 games and we are getting better and more cohesive.

    There will be games where we don’t play well, games where we play well and don’t get results, games where we play crap and manage to find a way.

    Close to half a season in and we are on track to be in the automatic picture. When was the last time we could say that.

    Let’s get behind this team through the good and the bad!

  5. Great result. I was pessimistic before kick off. I thought same old midfield selection witch imo hasn’t been great. I expected changes, eg East replacing Gilliard. I was proved wrong. Bradford were strong all-over the pitch. Played with flair and determination. Despite the sending off of Platt, we managed the game well. The response of the away support, the players, management, and subs at the final whistle was superb. All I can say MAGNIFICENT. Also sorry for any doubts I had regarding team selection.

  6. Great result but as for consistency awhy can’t they do this at VP?

  7. Credit where credit is due. I’m one of the first to criticise if we don’t do ourselves justice, but the players were magnificent last night.

    Chalk and cheese compared to Saturday. If only we could convert performances like that to home games!

  8. Great win. Thought we were by far the better side until the red card. In fact thought it would finish 2-0 or even better.

    Personally I don’t think the time lag between whistle and kicking the ball was sufficient for Platt but even then I think the ref needs to show a bit of common sense. First yellow wasn’t worthy of a card and surely just look and see who it is. You don’t want players sent off for that. Unfortunately yet again the ref was unduly influenced by the players. Actually I don’t even see a foul for the 2nd one anyway!

    I thought anything other than 3 points would have been a travesty so well done everyone.

    As I said after Saturday, we are in a good position so don’t get too despondent by the odd setback.

    It will be interesting now to see the side Saturday as Platt and Wright will force changes. I think Songo will get the nod against a physical opposition but the other change could be interesting.

  9. Terrific game, I thought and a great result. I don’t normally have a go at the refs but he got Platt’s first booking wrong and the foul that came before his second one was a shocking decision but then so was Platt’s when kicking the ball away.
    Cook’s goal was brilliant. He showed remarkable desire and not just a little skill.

    I have sat and listened at home to our fans berating the opposition for time wasting believing that it’s what we do as well but last night we took it too far. Keeping the ball in the corners for example “wastes” just as much time as falling about and feigning injury and it doesn’t get added back on!!!

    The first 68 minutes were a magnificent effort. The last 34 minutes not so (and yes, I CAN add up)

  10. Best performance of the season.

  11. At no stage did we have players feigning head injuries.
    We’ve seen two players at the same time yards apart rolling around holding their heads at Valley Parade on occasions!
    Never ever seen 10 mins added either at VP .
    We did disrupt the game whenever we could since the sending off which the ref was never going to give until harangued.
    We have to even up the playing field.
    I’ve hated how badly teams do this to us but equally I’ve been unhappy at how we have not done it back.
    We did it well and not in a totally embarrassing way.
    Yet it didn’t do us any favours at all in running down the clock it seemed to work against us

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