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August 25, 2007

Gold Medley

Bradford City 2 Johnson 49, Medley 78

Wrexham 1 Roberts 54

Attendance: 13,546

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.

August 10, 2007

It's like Christmas

I can’t believe it’s been nearly 3 months since the last entry. Usually the footballing close season of an ‘odd numbered’ year drags on since there is no summer football tournament to watch. This summer has been largely occupied by work, job interviews, writing papers and research proposals (on waffle factor 10) and trying – and failing – to avoid the rain.

Tomorrow being the 11th of August means it’s time for the football season to begin again. It’s a little bit like Christmas eve when you are 4 years old. And for once there might just be a little cause for optimism. After a 3rd relegation in 6 years, BCFC now reside in the old Division 4, for the first time since 1982. The spectacular implosion of last season (1 win in 17 home games, 4 in 34 overall) has meant widespread changes again, not least in the managers chair. Somehow, chairman Julian Rhodes has managed to persuade The Ginger One to make a 3rd Coming in BD8. Ginger Wayne is back as the assistant manager. New co-chairman Mark Lawn has written off the debts, meaning the club is essentially debt free. We’ve slashed the prices of season tickets, selling more than 12,000, meaning there might be an atmosphere for a change. Will there be a winning team?

Darren Williams (from Hartlepool, free). Signed as a right back, the ominous phrase “utility defender” has been attached. Not very tall
Paul Heckingbottom (from Barnsley, 6 month loan). A fabulously Northern name, and player of the year in 2003-4 which wasn’t saying much. Has been given the chop by Barnsley, and forms part of the very old back 4 that has no pace at all.
Paul Evans (from Swindon, free). Like Hecky above, left in the 2nd administration in 2004. Excellent from set pieces and once had an on-pitch scuffle with assistant manager Jacobs. We need 10 goals from him
Peter Thorne (Norwich, free). Once scored 30 in a season for Stoke, now spent most of the last year in the treatment room in Norwich, scoring a whopping 2 goals in 42 appearances. Is already injured…
Barry Conlon (Mansfield, free). Signed to be the “Big Forrad”, knows this division very well. Is prematurely bald
Alex Rhodes (Brentford, free). Has been signed to fill the problem left wing position, where there has been a gap since idiotic Scotsman Jim Jefferies decided Peter Beagrie’s “legs had gone”. Coincidentally has the same name as the chairman’s wife…
Guylain Nbumbu-Nsungu (Gillingham, 6 month loan). French striker who Gills fans are euphoric to see the back of. Has been signed for being “fast, but wildly erratic”. Had a couple of productive spells in this division. Is apparently known as “Big Dave”
Scott Phelan (Everton, free). Captain of the Everton reserves, and has represented England at junior level. We’ve been here before with ex Evertonians. If he is like a pre-injury Kearney, this is good. If he is like the latter-day Schumacher this is less good…
Kyle Nix (unattached). Once played for Aston Villa and Sheffield United at junior level (from where McCall knows him), more recently he has been playing in the Rotherham Sunday League. Has been given a monthly contract, but no squad number.
Nathan Joynes (Barnsley, loan). Spent last season on loan at Halifax and Boston. Has not shown up very well in preseason….
Thomas Harban (Barnsley, loan). Spent last season on loan at Tamworth. You know you’ve fallen a long way when Barnsley are using you as a feeder club for untried kids.

Marc Bridge-Wilkinson (Carlisle, free). Very skilful and excellent dead ball striker, wanted to play in central midfield all the time despite being very flimsy. Not to be missed
Steven Schumacher (Crewe, free). Went seriously downhill after a good 2004-5, to the point where he gave fans the 2 fingered salute at Chesterfield when relegation was confirmed.
Richard Edghill (Macclesfield, free). Another entry for the “worst right back I have ever seen” awards. Will not be missed at all.
Russell Howarth (released). Reserve keeper to Ricketts. Couldn’t catch a cold.
Ben Muirhead (Rochdale, free). Expect him to run rungs round us when we play ‘Dale, and then revert to “Run Forrest, Run!” in the other 44 games

The team
As with last year, the first 11 looks good. But there is precious little else behind it when injuries and suspensions begin to hit home. Eddie Johnson has been moved back into midfield and looks at home there. If he and Evans can get 20 goals between them, and Conlon/Thorne/Big Dave get 30 ish we might be nearly there. Omar Daley has had a good preseason and looks the most dangerous player and he has a scorching long range shot. Worries remain about the lack of pace in the defence (and their age), and goalkeeper Ricketts needs to forget his annus horriblis of last year, in which an awful lot of shots went straight through him. How will they do? I think 3rd, behind (don’t laugh) “Big Spending” Peterborough and the MK Dons.

May 17, 2007

Here he is…..

Writing about web page

We’ve been a bit quiet on here of late. Partly because I’ve been on holiday (see new photo gallery bottom left, not finished yet), but also because there’s not been much to blog about. And to be honest, till 5.25 pm things had generally been a bit rubbish today.

Not now!

Three cheers for the internet spreading the news in about 5 minutes….the day we thought we’d never see following relegation. Just about the only thing to stall the descent down the league and get rid of that big black cloud hanging over BD8.

The Third Coming of the Ginger Prince. A bit of feelgood factor about the football club for a change. And whisper it, maybe a little cheer for the chairman as well…

December 30, 2006

Bad Wether

Bradford City 2 Wetherall 15, J. Johnson 65 (Wetherall sent off 56)

Cheltenham 2 Finnigan (pen) 57, Odejayi 60 (Spencer sent off 90)

Attendance: 7,264

[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.

December 26, 2006

Heffed Off

Bradford City 0

Doncaster Rovers 1 Heffernan 14

Attendance 10,069

Lets look back at something we (rather foolishly) said here back in September:

Early days admittedly, but there is something different about this season. Two wide players who are a real threat to the opposition and not a hindrance to their own side makes such a difference. And a striker to partner Windass who can score goals is a real help. The next 3 games are a much sterner test, but if they come through, a good season looks on the cards. Only 2 clouds on the horizon; the left-back slot is still a problem position, and the loan players may all leave in January. But enjoy it while the sun shines. This was so much different to the last 3 or 4 years.

Oh dear oh dear oh dear. How it has all come unstuck again. New Year’s Resolution: Not to waste any more time travelling up here to watch games. I’ll go and watch the Cheltenham game on Saturday, because I’m here, but I’m not wasting another penny piece this season on coming to anymore games.

It was so grandly inept today as to almost defy lucid description. To describe them as a rudderless, leaderless, disorganised shower is not overstating the case. From the word go, only one side ever looked like scoring. They wore all blue, but that’s where the Chelsea comparison ends. Doncaster were efficient, but no more. They didn’t have to get out of first gear today, and so yet more points leave VP. This division is the pits. The standard of football is generally awful, 20 sides are as good (or is that as bad?) as each other, yet we cannot put these sides under any consistent pressure at all, especially in midfield areas.

“Oh”, I hear the reader say, “here he goes again”. Damn right he does. The Bradford City midfield cannot pass water, tackle their way out of a wet paper bag, or cross a road. The only thing they can press is the self-destruct button. Most matches are lost before a ball is kicked one way or another. Carlton Palmer may look like Ronaldinho in comparison. JJ, so often the only threat to teams this season, looked very disinterested today. Schumacher was nothing short of atrocious, Bentham battled away but 3 games into his season after 4 months out injured it was a struggle for him, and MBW, shunted out to the left was horribly ineffectual.

So it came to pass that with noone pressing the ball, Doncaster worked a throw-in 25 yards from goal down the right, and without a tackle in sight, Paul Green crossed and Paul Heffernan headed in from 6 yards. Game over. After 14 minutes. Doncaster should really have added to the score when Forte fired wastefully over from 6 yards after City were carved apart down their right. But apart from that, Ricketts had not a lot to do. But the visiting keeper had even less.

Second half should have been time for the kitchen sink, but all the paying idiots Bradford public were treated to were aimless long balls at the ineffectual front two. Graham was replaced by Brown, but this is the footballing equivalent of rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, I will make a professional centre forward before Joe Brown does. And yet with almost the last kick of the match, City nearly equalised, when MBW’s long distance free-kick crashed off the angle of post and bar in the 95th minute of the match. But that would have been a travesty.

We keep thinking it can’t get any worse, but it does. Someone said to me “it’s worse than Docherty or Law”. I wouldn’t have agreed with them then, but I do now. Where, on the pitch is the leader? Where is the beating heart that drives them forward and rallies them when trailing?

The club seems to be inexorably spiralling downwards, and no-one seems capable of stopping it, from the permanently invisible chairman, to the equally invisible board of directors, to the useless buffoon of a manager who insists that Matt Clarke or Mark Bower must be the overlapping left back, when they have played most of their career as a centre back and there is a left back on loan from Leeds who only gets a game on the left wing or centre midfield!

The apathy in the crowd today was remarkable. Most sat in near silence. The two biggest cheers of the afternoon were reserved for the score from Sunderland. Gallows humour was the only way to pass the time. A child played his Nintendo DS for about 25 minutes of the second half. I was sat there, like thousands of others, not vaguely interested in what the result was. As the song goes (rather ironically titled ‘Mess’)

There are rooms in this house, that I don’t open anymore
Dusty books of pictures on the floor

It is time for someone with the feelgood factor. Someone who is not on one last fat contract before he retires, and who actually cares. They could bring in some players with the same motivation and pride in the shirt, and the attitude of not giving anything less than 100%. It is time for The Ginger Prince. It is time for The Third Coming…

MOTM: Doyle. Says something when he was stretchered off after 75 minutes and he’s still MOTM. Oh for 10 other players with the same level of commitment and enthusiasm. And he’s not even our player!

Bradford (4-4-2): Ricketts – Doyle (Swift), Wetherall, Bower, Clarke – J. Johnson, Bentham, Schumacher, Bridge-Wilkinson – Windass, Graham (Brown). Subs not used: Howarth, Parker, Penford

Doncaster (4-4-2): Smith – O’Connor, Lee, Lockwood, Roberts – Forte (Guy), Wilson, Coppinger (Thornton), Green – Heffernan, McCammon. Subs not used: Budtz, Dyer, Noble.

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