Bradford City 2 Johnson 49, Medley 78
Wrexham 1 Roberts 54
So here we are the August after the annus horribilis before. The first time in the footballing dungeon since 1982. But a new sense of optimism. A new manager (the returing Ginger Legend), new chairman, no debts and 12,000 season ticket holders. So far this season there has been a 1-1 draw with Macclesfield that City dominated, and a narrow defeat at last years losing play-off finalist Shrewsbury, many people’s tip for one of the automatic promotion spots. People were keen to see City finally break the home hoodoo that had seen no home wins since December 13th 2006.
Following the defeat last week, Barry Conlon was recalled in the ‘targetman’ role to partner Big Dave, and Kyle Nix came in on the left for the injured Alex Rhodes. It shows the level City now shop at when Nix (a former England U-18 player with Aston Villa and Sheffield United) came in from non-league. Another huge crowd were keen to see City get off to a flying start. Moulded in McCall’s image, the opening 25 minutes would be what everyone wanted to see when he returned to the club for the 3rd time; tigerish in the tackle, passing the ball on the floor, pressing all over the midfield. Chances came; Big Dave’s (I cannot type in Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu in every time. ‘Big Dave’ is a device used by Gillingham fans, from whom he is on loan)deflected shot was tipped onto the bar by visiting keeper Williams. Paul Evans had a long range volley tipped over.
Only once did Wrexham threaten, when left winger Peter Done had a long range shot tipped over by Ricketts; he came into the game more when Darren Williams limped off injurd after 22 minutes. Replacement Simon Ainge (normally a centre back) came on and had a nightmare. But the first 45 minutes were satisfactory enough- complete domination but no goals.
Into the second half and a breakaway from the tigerish Nix – who put in two or three fearsome tackles on the Wrexham right back – looked like petering out after he, Dave and the infuriating Omar Daley got in each others way. The ball ran loose, 20 yards from goal. Like a flash, Eddie Johnson pounced like a pound-shop Frank Lampard to drill home into the bottom right corner. I remarked to Gott the younger “I wonder what our response will be now”. Initially it was good; Bower’s header from Nix’s corner brought another fine save from the visiting keeper. Then it degenerated to defending like a pub team for 10 minutes, culminating in a succession of corners not being cleared and former loan striker Neil Roberts headed in from 6 yards. For 20 minutes afterwards it was a real struggle; City couldn’t keep the ball and the left winger Done was having a field day against the struggling Ainge.
Eventually, McCall tired of seeing the ball come straight back from the labouring Conlon (he seems to run out of steam after an hour) and introduced 18 year old Luke Medley. Medley had been released by the Tottenham academy at the end of last season, but had performed well in the first two reserve matches. His first touch was to receive the ball in the inside-left position with with no-one to cross to in the penalty area. Whereupon he let fly from an impossible angle (about 10 yards from the goalline, just outside the area). And found the back of the net with a goal so out of keeping with what had gone before it was greeted with stunned surprise.
Wrexham had to come and attack and Medley’s pace troubled the visitors. Evans had a free kick well saved by Williams and Medley headed a Daley cross inches over. Five minutes of added time meant an “everyone behind the ball” 4-5-1 but City hung on.
Another curious afternoon. In 3 games, City have been barely troubled defensively from open play. Yet idiotic lapses of one form or another have resulted in a goal in each game and City playing catchup. The play is generally on the floor rather than hoofing it, and up to the final third of the field the attacking football is good. But it is a struggle to score goals. Hopefully when Thorne returns this will be remedied somewhat. but the service from the flanks must improve. Daley has the pace to beat every full back in this division, yet for 80 minutes he cut inside and moves broke down. The 2 times he got to the byline he got crosses in that should have been goals. The same is true to a lesser dergree with the left midfield position. The abject lack of pace in the back 4 and the wobbly goalkeeper are still a concern
But as the saying goes, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The attitude of the team is good, and so is the work ethic. A bit of tweaking here and there and they won’t be far away
Man of the Match: Big Dave. Pace, strength, skill. Looks a real handful
City (4-4-2): Ricketts – Williams (Ainge 22), Wetherall, Bower, Heckingbottom – Daley, Johnson, Evans, Nix – Conlon (Medley 76), Ndumbu-Nsungu (Phelan 82). Subs not used: Colbeck, Joynes.
Wrexham (4-4-2) A. Williams – Spender, Pejic, Hope, Valentine – Llewellyn, D. Williams, Mackin (M. Jones 86), Done (Johnson 86) – Proctor, Roberts (E. Williams 75). Subs not used: M. Jones, Evans.