Bradford City 2 Wetherall 15, J. Johnson 65 (Wetherall sent off 56)
Cheltenham 2 Finnigan (pen) 57, Odejayi 60 (Spencer sent off 90)
[For those not interested in yet another rant in its entirety, the game can be described in one word; desperate]
Todays ironic quotation is taken from the Bradford Telegraph & Argus. In the review of the footballing year, in September Donovan Ricketts said
It’s better this year. The fans are behind us now, they don’t boo at half-time anymore.
No, now we boo during the match and at the end…..
Tis the season to be jolly? Oh no it isn’t! Just when you thought you couldn’t see as bad a performance as on Boxing day, along comes another. Cheltenham had taken 7 points from the previous 51 (thats P17 W2 D1 L14), and, with the exception of their front two, looked like it. Cannon fodder for the rest of the division, City didn’t have a clue.
In mitigation, the conditions weren’t great for football today. Driving rain made for very heavy going on the pitch. For 15 minutes nothing at all of note happened. Then, from Bridge-Wilkinson’s free kick, chaos in the Cheltenham ranks, a fumble by the keeper, and Wetherall smuggled in his first goal of the season. A bit of a shock to the fans who’d seen 7 failures to score in the previous 9. But City didn’t get the second goal, and Cheltenham edged back into it before half time, forcing several corners, and keeper Ricketts being kept on his toes by the dangerous frontmen of Cheltenham.
Into the second half, and it all came unstuck. Rather than keep the ball, the midfield reverted to the tried-and-trusted “hoof it long and make JJ chase” tactic. Didn’t work! Instead, Wetherall (having been booked for taking him out in the first half) felled the lively Odejayi in the penalty area, resulting in a second yellow. For all the referee’s ineptitude today it was the right decision, Wethers does now have the turning circle and pace of a supertanker and Odejayi was far too fast for him all day
Visiting skipper Finnigan could count himself fortunate with the resulting penalty going through both of Ricketts’ hands. There didn’t seem to be much organisation at the back in the aftermath of the dismissal, and watching the second Cheltenham goal unfold was like watching a car crash in slow motion. Bridge-Wilkinson had moved from left-midfield to right-back, Cheltenham piled in unopposed down the left, and two players were unmarked for the cut-back from the goalline. The first horribly miscued, but you could see the second player lurking right behind him, and Odejayi curled home a fine shot into the bottom left corner. Boos echoing round the stands, chants of “Todd Out” clearly audiblle.
What to do if you are a BCFC player? If you are David Graham, you (allegedly) respond to general dissatisfaction from the crowd to you by giving “the two-fingered salute” to the home fans behind the goal. Who were not amused, to put it mildly. He was almost immediately replaced. Good. Let the malingering, unmotivated mule go back to Sheffield Wednesday reserves to count his money. For the “on loan hall of donkeys”, that one.
City rearranged into a 3-4-2 formation; Bower flanked by Parker and Doyle, Colbeck on the right, and JJ went up front. At last some pace up front!! And within 5 minutes it paid off. Windass flicked on yet another long ball and Johnson raced into the area to beat the keeper. And that was pretty much that really, with the exception of a glaring miss by visiting striker Spencer who, faced only with the keeper fired well wide when unmarked 6 yards out. Spencer was then dismissed in the 90th minute for a wild lunge on Bentham, his second yellow of the afternoon.
Another very unhappy day at the office. Midfield was abominable again. And compare the two teams strikers. What we have been missing all season was writ large this afternoon; mobile, strong, fast strikers will give teams problems. Short, slow, old ones won’t.
More boos at the final whistle; we still need you-know-who.
MOTM: Bower, for keeping things together when all around him was chaos
City (4-4-2): Ricketts – Doyle, Wetherall, Bower, Parker – J. Johnson, Schumacher, Bentham, Bridge-Wilkinson – Windass, Graham (Colbeck). Subs not used: Howarth, Edghill, Brown, Ainge.
Cheltenham (4-4-2): Higgs – Caines, Duff, Townsend, Wilson – Melligan, Connolly, Gill, Finnigan (Yao) – Odejayi, Spencer. Subs not used: Brown, Gillespie, Guinan, Foley.