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Question of the WeekWhat do you think of the new timekeeping rules?
|Them were the days|
By: Andrew Doherty
IN conversation, the world divides into proper clubs and the rest, which immediately brings Stevenage to mind. You can't get more of a proper club than Bradford City. In the league since 1903 with their Valley Parade ground dating back to the nineteenth century but impressively upgraded.
This is a club which rates high on fan engagement, a fact which is not difficult to understand when season tickets cost £174 and 15,000 spectators at home games is common. It almost seems an anomaly that they are in EFL League 2. Fifth when we played them earlier in the season, they now sit in seventh place and so just in a play-off spot. It was always therefore going to be a tough fixture for Town, but with the home side extra motivated it's harder. This said, we have reserved our most impressive performances for games against the high-fliers and our performance against Crawley gave us plenty of encouragement. I always look forward to going to watch Town, but this was my first time in Bradford in spite of seeing Bradford City, Bradford Park Avenue, Bradford Northern and Bradford Bulls numerous times in my 56 years of watching football and rugby league. So it was one for the latent groundhopper in me, and a good atmosphere could be expected too.
19,011 were here today, among them 2211 Town fans, a considerable uptick on the last time I was in Bradford. That was for the Ageless Void tour at the now-defunct Rio. There were 6 spectators. It was more like the Human Void tour. I remember Norwegian and Polish bands taking part shared out the pizza that the venue had provided. Such magnanimity doesn't exist in the commercial world of football where supporters are expected to be altruistic, and sponsor players' kneecaps, nostrils or any other fundable body part.
Town's ground game was at the fore on Tuesday, and effective it was too until we tried to put the ball in the net. Today's team in the end-of-season experimentation was: Crocombe - Emmanuel, Smith, Maher, Glennon - Holohan, Green, Clifton - McAtee, Lloyd - Taylor. This suggested a different approach. Town lined up in pink today, facing the traditional amber and claret of Bradford. It's all a far cry from the days of Subbuteo where you got a team in red and white and a team in blue and white, although I did get the black and white stripes team as soon as pocket money allowed.
It was a grey, damp and cloudy day with bright spells in between but conditions seemed good for football. Bradford started the strongest, and on 6 minutes should have scored when Walker shook off Emmanuel and Smith and forced a fine save from Crocombe. But Town failed to clear and from a Cook layoff Gilliead rammed home from inside the box. Bradford 1, Town 0. Bradford came close when Glennon almost let Banks in. The home side seemed to have a greater drive, apart from McAtee who was flying in to win balls in midfield for Town. A corner from Banks sailed over the defence and ex-Mariner Cook ghosted in, but put his volley wide. Town were second best, playing high balls and poor crosses. On 16 minutes Cook twisted and turned and was pulled down by Maher. Bradford attacked in numbers. The diminutive Walker, who to look at reminded me of one of those players you see in team photos from 1912, headed against the bar. A foul was given. Crocombe's clearance was awful. Bradford attacked again. 21 minutes had passed and Town had done nothing. A cross pass from Emmanuel entered the box. Clifton ran after it and was upended by Bradford keeper Lewis. Holohan stepped up and calmly slotted it home. 1 -1. A rejuvenated Town broke in the 26th minute after a Bradford attack. McAtee and Clifton linked up before McAtee headed wide. Town were back in the game but Bradford continued to be dangerous. Cook mishit a shot after a Gilliead cross, then Maher had to backhead out a cross with Cook lurking. Bradford won a corner after a run from Old Man Walker. Town won a corner themselves on 36 minutes after a McAtee cross. Glennon delivered. Maher rose but the keeper gathered the header. Holohan then set Clifton in motion - halfway line, into the box, stumbled, picked himself up, won a corner .... human dynamo Clifton in a nutshell. Holohan managed a header but it lacked power. As Town pressed, Lloyd was fouled in the corner while turning Chapman. The ball was headed out for another corner. 42 minutes had passed. The ball from the corner was flicked on by Taylor. A mass of players descended on the ball. A scramble ensued. Smith was on hand and bundled it over the line. Town went in at halftime leading 2 -1 and after a wobbly start, deserved to be in front.
The second half started with a foul on McAtee. Town battled hard as the game was played out in midfield. Maher found himself repelling the advancing Cook. On 52 minutes Banks raced forward and passed to the unmarked Gilliead who languidly curled a shot into the stand. wasting Banks's good work. Green did good work to start an attack but McAtee's pass was then intercepted. The game was opening up. Crocombe was forced into a near post save from a shot by Banks. Neither side were playing with any fluidity as passes went astray. Town looked to be marking time, a bit early with 30 minutes left. The consequence was that Bradford started to peg Town back. There were signs of tiredness. Glennon was guilty of being slow but Maher was in hand to stop Banks from advancing too far. Glennon's poor control then led to the concession of a free kick on 61 minutes. The ball was played over to the left and played through to Walker. Crocombe blocked the shot but the alert Walker was on hand to drill the ball home, defying his 100-plus years. 2 - 2. Town won a corner on 63 minutes. The ball came out from Glennon's corner to Holohan who fired well over the top. Two minutes later Bradford launched an attack. Cook was involved. Gilliead shot from 20 yards out but Crocombe gathered cleanly. Bradford continued to dominate and on 67 minutes won a free kick in Town's half after a foul on Gillieard. Town's box filled up with players. The ball came in. Cook and Walker descended. Crocombe dropped on the ball as Stubbs homed in. Bradford claimed the ball went over the line. The referee disagreed and awarded a foul on Crocombe. We held our breath. After Crocombe was forced into another save, this time from Halliday., Clifton was intercepted as Town started a rare attack. Smith was calmness itself as he saw off the threat but now Bradford's attacks were coming in torrents as they brought urgency to their play. Green was penalised following a tussle with Cook. Another bad pass from Glennon put Town in further trouble. Smith again came to the rescue, cutting out the cross. Town were hanging on, and on 80 minutes a triple substitution was made, as Amos, Morris and Khan came on for Glennon, McAtee and Clifton. Almost immediately Holohan was dispossessed in midfield. Derbyshire ran up the right, crossing to Cook whose timing was perfect, enabling the Bradford striker to clip it past Crocombe with ease. Bradford 3, Town 2. Town, freshened up by the substitutions, responded, but Lloyd and Taylor were unable to make any impact up front. Town battled hard but struggled to get through the defensive line which Bradford had put up. 5 minutes were added. Amos found Morris but there was no one in the middle to finish off the cross. On 92 minutes Holohan was fouled in Bradford's half. Town packed the box but Khan's delivery was woeful as the ball went sailing over everyone and out of play. A complete waste. The game ended with Town defending. The whistle went: Bradford City 3, Grimsby Town 2. The end was frustrating but it had been a cracking game.
At the start of the season most of us saw Bradford as promotion contenders, and today they proved it. After being overrun in the first period, Town came back strongly and were the better side at the half. Although the game was even in the first part of the second half, Town seemed to take their foot off the gas and looked to be running down the clock with 30 minutes left. This allowed Bradford to push us back and their equaliser was an inevitability. Town started tiring and without the substitutions would have had no chance of getting back into it. But Bradford had the momentum by then. I have no complaint at all about the result which went to the better side overall, but I would question putting Taylor and Lloyd in the starting line-up together. It was as if we lost a player when we really needed to bolster the midfield, especially in the second half. It's always a disappointment to lose but unlike some of the tinpot places we visit, Bradford is a proud footballing city with a good stadium and an army of loyal fans. The game was entertaining and the atmosphere was excellent. This was a proper game of football.
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