Bradford City 1 Paynter 62
Northampton Town 2 Johnson 64, Deuchar 87
So predictably unpredictable. We should all know better by now. Can they do it again on Saturday?
In a way, I suppose they did. There are three things certain in life; death, taxes, and wildly fluctuating performances in BD8. On the way to the ground we were discussing the last time I saw us win. It’s nearly 6 months since. I suppose, given Tuesday’s win, that retaining the shape and dramatis personae was a sensible thing to do. However, while the numbers 2, 3, and 5 are not that scary to most normal people, rearrange them into a particular order and to any Bradford fan it’s a like a wooden stake through Dracula. The last time we played 3-5-2 was 10 years ago in our last succesful relegation escape; we persisted with it for 44 games, got damned near relegated, changed to 4-4-2 and won 2 games in a row to stay up, something they didn’t do all season.
It was clear it had been done to match up formations with the visitors, as it had been on Tuesday. However, Northampton were better at it. That’s not to say they were good. They weren’t. Just the latest in a very very long line of teams to come to these parts very low on skil, technical merit and aesthetic appeal but high on physical fitness, organisation, and being…er…’competitive’. And it became plain after about 10 minutes that this was going to be another one of those afternoons.
The conditions of howling gale and bouncy pitch made for difficult football, but you don’t need an IQ of anywhere near 100 to realise that if the ball is on the floor the wind isn’t going to affect it more than if you try and hoof it long down the field. And so the first half was devoid of almost anything vaguely resembling excitement. Bentham nearly headed an own goal at a corner, the ball going inches over, but that was it. The only relief was that Captain Moan wasn’t sitting to our left. “Son of” was having a good go in his stead though. The good thing was the crowd was behind the team. Had a Colin Todd team served it up it would have been met with cacophonous booing (if that’s possible when the ground isn’t even a third full…).
So to the second half. Not much happened. Then some rank bad defending let the Northampton striker Robertson amazingly sidefoot wide seconds after he’d been denied by keeper Ricketts from point blank range. A turning point? It seemed so, as 5 minutes of pressure was capped by Paynter heading in unmarked from 12 yards from Bridge-Wikinson’s corner. Maybe the lucky 1997 shirt was paying off after all. But here’s why I’m really annoyed today. Rather than take responsibility and take control of the game, the response was predictable; sit back and let the other side have the ball. And so 90 seconds later with about a million (alright I exaggerate, about 20) chances to clear their lines, defending so bad that shock has erased it from my memory let midfielder Johnson lash in from 6 yards.
And that was that. City put in a last 30 minutes worse than the first half. It looked like a point was going to be coming for a poor performace, but Northampton had the freedom of their right wing to counterattack and Kenny Deuchar – otherwise dreadful – steered home from 6 yards. Stunned silence all around. Wetherall went up front in injury time, but more long balls were gleefully dealy with by the obligatory man-mountain centrebacks.
On the radio after the game, Wetherall says he saw “lots of positives”. I saw one; Billy Paynter. Kicked from pillar to post, he didn’t give up. Others did…time to get the knives out. Steven Schumacher had a pop at people this week in the local newspaper for “saying bad things about us, like we don’t care”. Well Steven, if you think yourself, Craig Bentham, Marc Bridge-Wilkinson, Joe Colbeck and Ben Parker can be called professional footballers this evening you’re gravely mistaken. You’re flimsy, spineless, charlatan impostors of footballers that should all be drilled out of the club at the end of the season, irrespective of what division we are in. Even the most basic of skills are missing, they can’t pass, tackle or control a ball. Some couldn’t even trap a bag of cement.
How on earth Schumacher captained England at under-20 level is a mystery up there with dark matter, the Higgs Boson and string theory. Similarly, Parker has the positional play of a pub player who’s been out on the lash the night before (both goals from his side again) and Bentham and Colbeck have done the usual thing our youth products do in the main, and that’s go backwards in their second season. But the trouble is because there is noone else in the squad, they will be picked as a matter of course. Followed by more glib platitudes in the (never even remotely critical) paper about how “we’ll turn it round next week. That wasn’t the real us. To say it doesn’t hurt isn’t true” etc etc etc
In 1997, there were the likes of John Dreyer, Eddie Youds, Nigel Pepper, Edinho, Wayne Jacobs, and others. Not the best footballers, but they fought. I remember a game at Tranmere on a Friday night. We lost 3-0 and relegation seemed certain but they kept going to the very very end. They got a standing ovation from 3,500 travelling supporters. I can accept losing. I can’t and won’t accept doing so without a fight. I bet there weren’t 3,500 people in the ground at the end today. If today is a yardstick for the rest of the season, we’d better be dusting off the map to glamorous places like Dagenham, Rochdale, Accrington, Macclesfield and the like.
I feel sorry for some in the team; principally those either side of the midfield. The defenders are offered no protection and the forwards are given no service. All that remains at the end of the year is a huge clearout. Of the entire weakness-in-depth playing staff, how many would you keep? Bower, Wetherall, Ricketts (at a push), Paynter (not even our player!). Whoever takes over has an onerous task, whichever division it’s in….
MOTM: Youga. Kept his head under aerial bombardment. Honourable mention to Paynter. The rest of them were rubbish.
Bradford (3-5-2): Ricketts – Youga, Wetherall, Bower – Colbeck, Schumacher, Bentham (Barrau), Bridge-Wilkinson, Parker – Paynter, Ashikodi. Subs not used: Howarth, Daley, Johnson, Ainge.
Northampton (3-5-2): Bunn – Hughes, Doig, Pearce – Crowe, Hunt, Gilligan, Bradley, Holt – Robertson (Kirk), Deuchar (Taylor). Subs not used: Dunn, Aiston, Dyche.