In stasis: Bradford (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

27 October 2007

Why is the Mighty Mariner wearing a giant drawing pin?

Grimsby Town 1 Bradford City 1

It's just another day in the way-out café, with a thousand Yorkists gathered together in a cave and grooving with their verbal tics down in the Osmond Stand. Don't worry, there were Town supporters present too, for only the cut-price booers had been jettisoned after the Rochdale cowpat.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Barnes, Logan, Fenton, Whittle, Newey, Till, Hunt, Boshell, Toner, Butler and Shankin' Rankin. The substitutes were Montgomery, Bennett, The Lump, Taylor and Clarke. Butler is taller than I remember him; perhaps it's the stripes. Whatever would Rankin look like in hoops, eh?

Shall we just get on with it or bake some Turnstyle Tuna instead?

First half
Bradford kicked off towards the Pontoon with Whittle and Logan switching positions in expectation of a Neweyian wallop towards the big man creeping up the touchline. It's only love. No, no, no, it's only make-believe. Yes, that's right, Barry Conlon - less a footballer more a retired drayman. Eventually the ball did arrive in close proximity to Old Ned, but Old Whittle brushed him aside with a yo-ho-ho and a trot down Oil Drum Lane.

Rankin rumbled, the Bradfordians grumbled as Town were given a free kick 20 or so yards out on the right. Toner stroked it effortlessly against the thigh of the man two in from the left of the wall. Did you expect anything else? One minute gone and that's a shot, isn't it?

There was dibblage and dabblage and after five minutes or so Town's featherweights avoided tackling, avoided challenges and simply stood away from the Bantamweights, watching them tickle and tease and ease a long, long pass over from right to left. Logan retreated, Nix knotted his tie and nicked a pass to the unmarked Ndumbu-Nsungu, 15 or so yards out in the centre of the Town area. He swung his pants and a shot scribbled low and hard, but straight to Barnes.

Town bombled along, even trying to pass to each other now and then. Newey rolled the ball to Rankin on the centre-right of the Bradford penalty area. Rankin bustled, shimmied, shammied and did his little limbo dance between Bower's legs. He advanced, waited for the keeper and, from a narrow angle just five or six yards out, tried to clip a shot with the outside of his right boot. Evans blocked it aside for a corner. You'd have thought the crowd would be excited by that. Ah, but we know Isaiah too well.

The corner? Toner took it, so of course, nought came of this.

The game stumbled on, with Bradford fitfully breaking and Town fitfully waking. Butler's chest got much pummelage from Town plopping long punts. There was hardly any passing, with the right side a total exclusion zone. Everything moved left, stayed left, and there's nothing left to tell you. Come back in five minutes, I'm having a snooze.

After quarter of an hour Town finally remembered their right, with Logan and Till za-zooming forward and rolling the ball to Rankin on the edge of the area. Isaiah walked backwards, forcing the defender to sink towards goal, creating magoogles of space before tapping the ball out the Till, who crossed marginally above Butler at the far post. Toner retrieved possession, stroked a pass infield and Newey curled a whipping, dipping cross in the near post. Rankin and Evans collided; the ball was cleared and the keeper remained on the ground, motionless. After a couple of minutes of treatment he got up clutching his left shoulder.

Wahey! They've got a one-armed keeper! This is going to be fun.

Toner crossed deeply and Till flicked a volley straight at Evans from ten yards out. The keeper collapsed, grimacing and holding his left shoulder again. Oh look, they haven't got a spare keeper. Have they dropped a ricket leaving out Ricketts? Or is it that Ricketts keeps dropping the ball?

Town were still an ephemeral presence in midfield, with Hunt unusually fey and diffident in tackles. Bradford had a player stationed half-way inside their own half to collect every single clearance. Their right winger, Omar, was allowed to rip and run unimpeded towards goal, meandering around the pitch like an enthusiastic Jack Russell, mouthing "sausages" at any passing Townite. Thank heavens for Fenton's sloppy bottom, as a shot canoodled off his backside and squished softly to Barnes.

Are we going to make their immobile keeper move? Newey crossed to the far post and Rankin, unmarked, rose majestically to head hugely over the crossbar; that's a no then. Evans didn't even take the goal kick, for he was in such agony that he couldn't kick the ball.

It's déjà vu all over again: Omar bubbled along at will, Town retreated and Ndumu-Nsungu crackled a shot straight at Barnes from the edge of the area. At that Bradford finally took off Evans, who'd only had to touch the ball once in his 12 minutes of personal torture. Bower, a big centre-back, went in goal while the even bigger Clarke arrived to take his place. The crowd rose in anticipation licking lips and tootling their pips; all we had to do was kick the ball towards goal. Simple.

Bradford roared in to tackles, threw themselves at anything which resembled a shot and started digging trenches and latrines in their own penalty area, preparing for a siege. Wetherall stood on the edge of the area defiantly singing "On Ilkley Moor bar tat" as they waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Where are these attacking hordes? Bemused and slightly befuddled, Bradford sent a raiding party into the hills. A garish gamboller fell spectacularly when Logan didn't touch him and a free kick was given, in the centre, 20 yards out. From broken down centre-forwards and fading midfielders Town constructed a mud hut. Law coiled the ball delicately over the wall and over the bar. LAW! Nicky Law had a son and called him Nicky: that's about as imaginative as his tactics in charge of Town.

While you wallowed in bad memories of bad management past Town got a corner. Wild eh, attacking! Fenton headed it over. And that is your lot from Town in the first half. Literally nothing else went near their non-goalkeeper. That's scandalous.

On the other hand Bradford kept indulging in some guerrilla warfare. Nix crossed low towards Old Ned, who fell over his own hind legs, reared up and neighed as the ball rolled through the six-yard area and out for a goal kick. After 36 minutes Bradford had their first corner, which was crackled hard and low to the near post where Fast Eddie Johnson ducked and snucked a glancing header which crawled over the crossbar and rolled along the top of the net. Was Fast Eddie Johnson in the Hustler, or did he win the world snooker championship in 1986? No, that was Joe Johnson, wasn't it? Or wasn't he... too much time, not enough football and the mind wanders down strange roads. Is watching Town the sporting equivalent of an LSD trip?

Oh, it's half time as the newspaper taxis appeared on the touchline to take them away for a touch of teacuppery.

Town had no cohesion and no oomph. No-one tried to shoot and no-one did the obvious thing of humping a few high balls at the non-goalkeeper. Actually no-one tried anything after their real keeper went off.

Second half
Town emerged several years before Bradford. And waited, and waited. They've conceded and we can all go home! Yay, it's the way forward!

Darn it, Bradford eventually ambled out and the second half kicked off at five past four.

After the usual dodgems and British bulldogs Town got a rhythm of sorts going, even trying some of that pass and move stuff. With four or five minutes gone Town attacked down the left, with a pass rolled into Rankin's feet in the centre of the area. Shoulders slumped as the ball dribbled behind the defence to no-one and out towards the corner of the box. Big Clarke zimmered over as Bower walked up behind him to pick it up. Clarke tried to hoof the ball clear, but only clipped it at Logan, just outside the area, who controlled the ball with his lower left shoulder and adjusted the crosshairs on his gun-sight. Bower waddled towards goal and Johnson hurtled backwards as Logan lofted a delicate chip towards the top left corner, the ball flying in off a despairing Yorkist head.

Perhaps this was a mistake. In the next five minutes Bradford could have scored five. Ndumbu-Nsungu jumped into his Triumph Spitfire, waved at the local ladies and went to the discotheque. Snivelling down their left, he whipped Fenton's shirt away, leaving the bow tie untouched, cut infield and, from the corner of the Town area, bazoomed a shot goalwards. Barnes plunged way to his left and parry-punched the ball aside. On Bradford poured with Nix cutting in from their right and dragging a shot low towards the bottom left corner. Barnes stayed calm and plunged to pluck.

There's more. Ndumbu-Nsungu got some night fever going down their left. He knows how to do it, and he knows how to show it and Fenton's not praying for this moment to last. Near the bye-line N-N fizzled a low cross-shot into the centre. Barnes dropped to the floor and emerged with the ball. Thirty seconds later they were back, but only after the referee had ignored a series of small foulettes on Town players, but miraculously seen murder most foul in an equal challenge by Whittle. From 30 yards out in the centre, Eyup Heckingbottom, thar knows, walloped a dipping, curling shot over the wall, which Barnes tipped over the bar. The corner was cleared, but back they came with Disco Tex and his sex-o-lettes running from the halfway line, bumping Fenton off the dance floor and clicking a shot against Barnes' shins from half a dozen yards out.

Phew, we've survived the usual 54th- to 59th-minute implosion.

It's our turn now. For the first and only time Logan had a run forward, drifting through two challenges and clapping a shot from 20 yards out on the centre-right. Bower dived to his right and the ball slapped off a defender's inner thigh, spinning and skipping gaily through the warm afternoon and a foot wide. Boshell clipped the corner into the centre and Fenton rose above all to magnificently thrump a header against the inside of the near post. The ball was smuggled out of the area, but Town retained control and Logan danced with the corner flag, inviting and inciting these bulls. A free kick was awarded, in almost exactly the same spot from which Rochdale scored. Newey posed and was poised; Rankin ran in front of his marker and, at the near post, ducked and flicked a header onwards. The ball looped and managed to miss by an inch.

Still Town pressed and, after a further corner was cleared, Boshell levered the ball back into the area, tempting the keeper off his line. He jumped, the ball dropped and there was scrambled egg on toast with some baked beans thrown onto the plate too, with the ball spinning to Till, who spun and chipped the ball way over the bar from the edge of the area. A Toner shot was deflected wide and the corner was cleared. Bradford broke; a man was free and Till, the nowhere man, emerged from his nowhere land to sweep danger away.

And then... nothing. No other Town attacks were made in the last 20 minutes. Not one. Zilcho-roono. No crosses, no pressure exerted, no controlled possession and no intelligence. Just barging and sweating, occupying space and hoping.

With about 20 minutes left Till was replaced by Bennett, with Logan moving to the right wing. It added height and that's all; Logan still didn't get the ball. For one brief moment Town threatened to get into the Bradford half, but Boshell was legged up and the moment passed. Maybe next week.

Have you worked it out yet? Absolutely nothing was happening at either end of the pitch. Both sides had had five minutes of supremacy and supreme adequacy - the rest of the time was just minutes between substitutions. Taylor replaced Rankin with about 15 minutes left. I think he may have touched the ball; I may be wrong.

I don't know why but Town got a free kick with ten minutes left, about 20 yards out on the centre-right. Newey stood tall, stood back and arced a drifting floater over the wall towards the top left corner. Bower hopped and popped his little fingers up to tipple the ball over the bar. OK, so I fibbed: there was a Town effort, but just this one, which came from a free kick anyway, not open play. The corner? What about it?

As the game crawled towards its burial Bradford suddenly upped their tempo and decided to have one last go. Town retreated and couldn't get the ball. Clearances went straight back to Bradford or out for throw-ins, which were hurled high and long. With about five minutes left one throw was hurled to the near post; flesh rubbed against flesh and bone against bone. Humans were flattened, the ball booped towards the far post and Newey fell gracefully on the line as our feathered friends celebrated. The whistle had long gone. Ah, you see, "the referee's fantastic". We can forgive all his little foibles for this most excellent decision.

The referee turned to the fourth official, holding what looked like two fingers up. A-ha, two minutes of added time then. Err, no, that's three. Fenton swiped a clearance into touch, a Bradford semi-attack was repelled and an aimless hoof was whelped downfield towards Barnes. Yes! This is the end.

The ball floated towards Barnes and the Bradford substitute, Medley, ran hopefully forward. Barnes held up his hands, caught the ball and stepped back. So far, so humdrum. Medley suddenly started jumping around like he'd got ants in his pants and the linesman flagged furiously. Oh dear. Up went a red card and off went Barnes in a huff. Man, there was a cat that really was gone. It was a shame how he carried on after he'd caught the ball. Or did he? You, the jury with your digital re-enactments, can work that out over the coming years.

There was pandemonium down in the Osmond end, with Taylor replaced by Montgomery and the Town players surrounding the referee with dark demeanours. As the wall lined up Wetherall flung himself to the ground and Fenton went bananas, having to be hauled away by Whittle, Bennett and Newey. There was much shoving and shouting, the air fevered and a free kick imminent. Some Yorkists whacked it hard to Monty's right. He soared, he brilliantly pushed it aside, but only back towards an onrushing Bradfordian, who dived and headed wonderfully over the open goal.

Yes! That's surely it! Match of the Day starts in a few minutes.

Play continued. Bradford continued to press all the stops in their church organ, blaring out show tunes, show tunes. Town cleared! Town broke! It was three against one and Hunt, in the middle of the Town half, delayed; his pass clumped against the mighty chest of Matt Clarke, the ball rebounding forward. Clarke passed into the Town area on the right, where Medley flew in front of Whittle. Brother Justin forced him wide, eased him towards the touchline and Medley fell over, with the ball rolling out of play. The referee pointed to the penalty spot, which one must observe was displeasing to the majority of those present. Ndumbu-Nsungu drolly swiped the ball low to Monty's left, where it crept underneath the flailing hand of hope. Half of Bradford poured on to the pitch; they'd done it again, hadn't they. What is it about Bradford that sends refs all gooey at Blundell Park?

The game ended immediately, with not even a restart. There had been six minutes of added time.

The ending was bitter and painful in the extreme, but what went before was poor. Bradford had played ten minutes with a one-armed keeper, and then 70 without a keeper, and all Town had managed were two shots on target and about three crosses. Appalling really. We can only blame the players for that, for they were the ones with the ball.

Town collectively and individually malfunctioned today. There is no leader within the team, that's the biggest concern. Perhaps it's time to go back to 4:5:1 - at least we didn't win with some style.

There's always next week.

Nicko's Unsponsored half-Man of the Match
No-one performed with any consistency. The least mundane was probably Shaleum Logan, simply because the ball was near him so few times he couldn't make that many mistakes. He scored, he had another shot and that's about it.

Official Warning
It wasn't just the final act that brought the cat-calls, for Mr D Foster had displayed a rather bizarre attitude throughout. He started each half making sane and rational decisions which were, to any sentient and neutral observer, rather excellent. He let the game flow just enough to see whether advantages arrived after fouls, but halfway through each half the silicon chip inside his head seemed to flip to overload and he became wilfully blind to Bradfordian excess. He was the first recipient of sustained ironic applause for finally making decisions in Town's favour, which he clearly loved as he strode towards the Pontoon beaming brightly. After he'd disallowed a Bradford goal it was inevitable that he'd give them the next decision. And he did. Even from 120 yards away it looked an unnatural fall.

But, as always against Bradford, the referee's a fig leaf covering our own ineptitude. But he did ensure that victory was avoided so there is no reason to give him a score of 8.453: he gets 3.015.

The Others
They had more gumption going forward than Town did. They had more shots than Town did. They made Town's goalkeeper make more saves than Town did theirs. They had the ball more than Town did and deserved the point more than Town did, on general play. They have a lot of names, but were a little tame.

As a team they are somewhere close to Shrewsbury in brawn, but nearer to Lincoln in application. McCall clearly thinks that being big and basic is the way forward; it is if you just want to avoid relegation. They do have tricky individuals, though they played as individuals. They will finish above Town because they have more shots and will, therefore, score more goals.

They are in the mould of their manager and would describe themselves as feisty; others would say on the snide and sneaky side of dirty.