Any way the wind blows: Bradford (a)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

31 January 2009

Bradford City 2 Grimsby Town 0

Load up on buns and bring your friends; it's always fun to lose at befuddling Bradford. Oh look, there's our own, our very own Paul Bollard hanging around a fire exit looking cold, lonely and lost. Well hello Bolly, your knee's looking swell Bolly. Get back inside and have a cup of Yorkshire tea made from Yorkshire water.

Town lined up in the de rigeur, de facto, de profundis 4-4-2 formation as follows: Barnes, Clarke, Bennett, Atkinson, Widdowson, Jarman, Kalalalalala, Sinclair, Elliott, Proudlock, Mr Ak-Ak. The substitutes were Monty, Llewellyn, Bore, Heywood and Boshell. Start spreading the news, he's returning today; he wants to be a part of it, Akpa Akpro. The rest? Let's hope Town's blue motion speaks for itself: they were in all blue.

As the wind whipped shopping bags across the divots, one couldn't help noticing that their phoney Premiershipmania has bitten the dust; they ain't got no swing, they're a club that's everywhere and nowhere.

For the sake of decorum we shall overlook the tannoy announcer's spoonerism when calling for a celebration of a deceased City fan from Shipley.

The referee's shorts are too tight; these are not reasons to be cheerful. One, two three, let's go.

First half
The Bantamweights kicked off towards the stand in which the thousand Town fans weren't, but used to be. Bennett headed, Jarman flicked, Clarke crossed and we "ooh"-ed a silent "ooh".

Flip the page over: Bradford walloped forward, Daley delivered and Boulding sniggered a sneaky header across the face of goal. Two minutes, two things yet nothing on Ceefax. The cocky Bantams had men with strange fruity boots, particularly Jones, the left-footed right winger who couldn't tell the difference 'tween lemon and lime. The home fans had the pain and the pleasure of his drifting and wafting. He cut in and smiggled a shot through the thicket of ankles. Barnes plunged low and skiffled the ball on the line. Thorne flew in and studded the keeper's chest.

Town cleared, they smeared back. Ping-pong, whiff-whaff, a honky-tonk piano in the corner and a man with a bowler hat. You hum it, he'll play it son, as long as it isn't Abba. Too much Scandinavian sadness underneath the cheery pop exterior, apparently. A corner from their right curled in to the six-yard box. A big man grazed on, the ball flicked off Boulding's chest on to Barnes's shoulder and dropped on the line, slowing bouncing up and along. Time froze like a family-sized chicken tikka lasagne: the whole ground was drawn towards the terrible inevitability of some tummy turmoil. But then we remembered that on our last trip we discovered what these Earth people ate. Widdowson mashed and Kalalala smashed: temporary respite, despite their kite flying. Jarman turned, Clarke burned, Daley drifted and drecked a pass across the penalty area. Bennett's blue leg of friendliness appeared; like Town's guardian angel, he's always near.

I'm pretty sure that by this point Town had passed the ball to each other towards the Bradford goal. Shall we blame the pitch? Too many bumps and scratches.

After about 20 minutes of hang-gliding Town hung themselves. A humdrum knock forward was humdrummingly knocked back high down the middle. Boulding gripped Atkinson's shirt and the Blond Bob grappled with Boulding's identity. The once Quickly-Mickly was quite tickly and fell as Atkinson pulled his shorts, right down the middle, 35 yards out. Sixth tackle coming up! Oh dear, there was no human between these schoolboy wrestlers and Mr Phillip Barnes. Out came the red card, off went Atkinson, and over was the game, master Luke.

Clarke retreated to centre-back with Jarman a temporary right-back. Their beefy but leapy Lee smackerooned a little arrow of a free kick straight down the middle. Barnes fell to his right as the ball was diverted a dozen yards out. Some maroonish poltroon snagged a shot towards the bottom left post, Barnes raised his drawbridge and levered away with his left boot . Back in, back out, hugga-wugga, hugga-wugga, Oi, ow, ooh, oh, ahhhhhh, the four French vowels, a thousand blue socks and shirts in mock heroic poses. Off the line, off near the line, off the wall, off the magic dragon, off with the their head, offal and chips with fried onions.

Daley dreamed past Jarman, Bennett swayed and saved. Daley grimed past Jarman, Bennett swayed, but Daley rolled the ball cross the penalty area. Mr Lemonboots casually strode across to stroke his little white cat, Barnes stood legs apart watching, watching as the ball thumped against the post and entered a period of introspective reflection deep inside the Town area. Did they shoot again? Did they cross again? Did Town harrumph the ball away from the line again?

Ah, now Bradford's calling to the faraway Town. War was declared and the battle came down to a patch of mud in front of Phil Barnes. Come out of the cupboard and stop booing Heywood, who replaced Jarman after 25 minutes.

It was fast, furious, frantic and not a funicular railway. Funny that, I never thought it was. Whatever gave you that idea? Barnes scuttled across his line to plunge and pluck, Barnes scootled across his line to hop and hope. Daley dillied and dallied, hippied and harried down their left as Ak-Ak hurtled back in pursuit. Daley cut in, Bennett and Kalala forced him to traverse the penalty area while his team-mates queued up in the 10 items or less aisle. He passed, the ball disappeared in the fog of collective memories to become a small anecdote in someone else's old age. A blue man diverted danger. Hail whoever: it was someone, but it was everyone.

Ak-Ak rolled his wrists but he wasn't baking a cake or getting down on the dance floor; the hamstring had twanged and off he limped. Radioactive Peter Bore was on: testosterone in a Town shirt.

Bradford have an effective one-way system; it's impossible to get off once you're on it. You just have to go with the flow and hope you see a way out. A header bonked into Barnes, a leg stretched, an arm flailed. The Bradford fans could almost be heard in all their excitement. Law shot, Barnes saved. How?

Hmm, I see the ice is slowly melting, here comes some fun. Elliott sans bandana and trilby waddled free, picking pockets and pickling peppers to begrudge a mishit wide. Elliott put on a silk waistcoat and wobbled through three handshakes and a doff of a cap to dimple a shot across Evans, temptingly near the not-stretching Bore. Town were breaking, Proudlock was aching but baking these dough balls. Elliott gargled some mouthwash and sang beautifully for his supper, slipping into a medley of old Val Doonican hits. Confused by the cultural gap, their centre-backs Petula Clarke and Brenda Lee scratched their heads and watched Elliott launch a subtle bombler goalwards. Evans flew low to his right to parry the shot aside.

In added time Omar Daley stretched his limousine legs once more, knocking the ball past Clarke. Omar flew in the air and the referee's hand flew into his pocket to book the poor, unfortunate Panda driver. Come on Omar, you know it's all in the game, it's all in the game.

With one last flourish of naffness by Daley the half ended. After Atkinson's long march Town were just gripping onto the last pebbles on the beach as the tide crashed in. Barnes was magnetic, Clarke and Widdowson stout and sturdy, and Bennett stood on the bridge: "Lash me to the mast, me hearties!" No-one was shirking, but some were clearly working using their back-up generator after Tuesday's attack of the killer rabbits. Sinclair was barely able to move, Kalala was snapping and snarling, wheeling and sneezing, while Proudlock was a one-man fighting machine, chasing rainbows.

Was the inevitable really inevitable? And what is inevitable? Whose inevitability is it anyway? Oh, It's Bradford isn't it: all bets are off. That's the definition of inevitable in that there Wackipedia.

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time. It was getting colder, you'd have thought they'd put on a jumper. Tsk and pfft, young people these days, too busy worrying about style and forgetting substance. I bet they don't eat a good breakfast either.

Oh, Mr Slimeboots wallowed wide. He drifted past three tackles and bedraggled easily and nicely past the left post. And he did it again. And again. Low left, high right, straight at Barnes: a royal flush, and he did blush too.

Has anyone got any more guy ropes? The tent is starting to fly to the moon. Over here, on the left, we need a couple of stakes. Now over to the right! That's better. Woah, someone please close the front door. Who is going to sew the roof up? Limeboots was charged down, Daley was delayed, Widdowson scuttled raiders infield, Kalalalalala shuttled them towards Sinclair. Bennett came out to block and all the while Bradford were forced to play around and around and around but never in between. Shots were long, then longer still as Town's dreadnoughts patrolled the fjords of West Yorkshire. Barnes caught a cross that was a shot, or was it a shot that was a cross? A shot across the bows perhaps.

Slimebootyboy whistled wide and hummed high. Rehman the faulty full-back slabbered a cross-shot against a Town back; the ball wibbled through the area and wide. They crossed, they crossed, we clattered, they crossed. They crossed, they crossed, we held heads high and mighty. Furman fibbed flashily wide, Law scrunched straight at Barnes, and Daley drilled holes in the back of the stand. All close, but from far, far away.

For once they penetrated the veil of secrecy. And Thorne leant back at the far post to head nicely over. Boulding and Thorne rolled around the centre-backs, as Bradford desperated. Heaving and weaving, corner after corner, Town were huddled like penguins against the wicked westerly wind. Some kind of scramble, Clarke whacked away from inside the six-yard box. How did it get there?

Ah, Town made the fatal mistake of attacking. Proudlock beautifully constructed a foul from an old washing-up bottle and made up a scene from Crime and Punishment using only crepe paper and some glitter. Sinclair clobbered it straight into the wall and Bradford broke.

Proudlock swiftly made that difficult second album with a medley of cover versions, winning another free kick. He ran his fingers through his hair, gave a sly come-hither stare. Well, Matt Clarke, that's witchcraft. Elliott claymored the free kick into the wall and on such an ancient pitch the ball would not sit still. The scramble was a ramble through the garden of nearlyness.

With a quarter of an hour left, the game started to wobble like a gnome on the phone. Barnes parried, Barnes plunged: a shot, a save, a rave review for the close shave. Barnes opened up his best eau de cologne and waited. The ball was lobbed this way and that and suddenly it was Barnes-ward bound. Heywood was bundled a bit by Thorne as ricochets and rebounds fell the way of the Bantam. Son of Nosferatu Nick-ee Law ran on to the ball, on the edge of the area, and levered a low shot straight at Barnes. Oh dear, what can the matter be? Phil Barnes jumped over the crazy fox, the ball rifling past him, where his right boot had been milliseconds earlier. Law had scored.

It's over, it's over, it's over. An hour of fortitude in vain?

Town threw themselves forward but there was no fun in this fair. Passes to Proudlock were overhit, underhit and he was overwhelmed by giant squids. Bennett volleyed a cross-shot or shot-cross to Evans. In truth it was nothing, but there was almost something for a brief moment of time. Town tried and tried and tried and tried, but we were no happy jacks.

But hark, yon Bradfordians are reet rubbish. Their Clarke controlled the ball out of play for a throw-in. Hurtled in, cleared daftly, Town had a corner. In, out, Bantams shaking and quaking as the ball dropped into a vacant space ten yards out. Sinclair spun and twisted to meet the bounce and he stretchy-poked a kung-fu volley goalwards. Evans stood and stared, the ground fell silent as the ball crawled a few inches over the bar. That, sirs, was a, and indeed the, moment.

These little Town blues are melting away, we'll have to make a brand new start of it in Lu-ton, Lu-ton. No! It ain't over, fat Barry hasn't sung yet. Conlon replaced Thorne with a slow motion substitution and Bradford tried to waste time but ended up panicking the ball out for Town throw-ins and corners. Sinclair clipped to the unmarked but surprised Kalalala lurking on the corner of the penalty area, who miscontrolled it back. Well, the linesman musta thought it was quite a joke, and it got a lot of laughs from lots of folk. Sinclair was hilariously given offside. I'm still laughing now.

There were two minutes of added time.

Bradford panicked again, upending Proudlock. Clarke lumped the ball to the edge of the penalty area, hoping for Heywood to flick on. He didn't. Two granite monoliths fell from the sky and nudged Heywood into bonking the ball back to the halfway line. Suddenly, Widdowson was against three attackers. An elaborate game of chase the lady resulted in Conlon being spoonfed some creamy chocolate pudding. Zoom, just one look and his heart went boom. Fat Barry should be banned for missing, or perhaps Barnes be lauded for excellence in repelling the bumbling Bee from six yards out.

In the fourth minute of those two minutes of added time Town were given another free kick and another dimpler was lumped towards Heywood on the edge of the area. Bradford's lumpyboys bonked another clearance upfield and had another three versus one game. Alas, they learned from previous mistakes and avoided Conlon. Jones the boy with the lemon boots, rounded Barnes and tapped the ball in from a narrow angle.

Not one more thing happened, that was the last kick.

Town had been magnificent in adversity. Everyone was running and running and running, fighting, blocking, tackling and voracious in their desire to protect Barnes. When the thin blue line was breached, Barnes stood up to everything, but fell down at the wrong moment. Just salute the bravery and desire. That's all you need to know and all we can take away.

Bradford had boiled Town for 20 of their minutes then they smashed us all to bits. There's only so much pounding the iron hull can take.