Bradford Park Avenue 2 County 0 : ( Conference North) 18 February 2015
I suppose I should have known as soon as I heard “ and a warm welcome to the Horsfall Stadium”...twice, and “ lets welcome back......” another once in the Bradford team announcements pre-match. Our opponents had spirited some new faces in to bolster their forces- I told myself.
Whether this `in the blood’ pessimism was justified or not, in the end I suspect that it was less a case of being undone by an apparent influx of fresh bodies, and more a case of those at the disposal of County not having the equipment to sufficiently influence events as they unfolded. The result was 2-0 to Avenue and I am hard pressed to say that we deserved any more from the game!
Bradford, despite lively showings from Craig King, Luke Dean and Chris Howarth, did not look anything special. The problem was....County looked similar......OK the defence ...the back four ,marshalled resolutely by Mark Lees, worked hard and did pretty much all they were reasonably asked to do, but elsewhere there was plenty of dash but little cohesion, as County settled for the hopeful ball, which with hurricane Herbert giving forth was always a loser tactically speaking.
That said.......... if County could have produced something, and with Wilkinson on after the break, my hope was that they might, defeat could have been avoided, and they might have been able to come back after conceding two rank bad goals.....the first a highly debateable penalty smack on half time, won and put away by Richard Marshall....the second a raging wind fuelled fluke. The facts were that County had nothing to show up front and paid the price, and the second of these blows ended all hope of getting anything from a game many looked on beforehand as a banker!
Bradford were buzzing early on as I risked all and took up position pitch side behind the Avenue goal. The wind was bitingly cold, as Dean and Patterson took turns pushing County back.
A Woolfe cross caused an issue or two for a moment , but the home defence stood firm ensuring that John Danby in the Bradford goal was protected.
Baker had a go after this, but his shot failed to disturb Danby`s piece at all ,and it took a foul by Jamie Price on Moses to bring any change about. County had a free kick, and then a corner as Glovers kick took a deflection. The Avenue defence kept this out if without ever looking totally in control doing so, thus County had a second corner, and Danby was in all manner of difficulties with this , and his side were somewhat fortunate to survive the experience intact with the score still 0-0.
That was 14th minute....the 15th saw a tsunami of sound emanate from the County following, to match and better that swirling over our heads, when Glover surged forward onto a Moses prompt, to be thwarted by keeper Danby ,who then proceeded to carry the ball outside the box. Well......cue thoughts of the County keeper getting marching orders for similar at Birmingham ( when Steve Bruce was the referee you recall) ....but life is cruel is it not.... thus.....referee Tom Bramall looked oblivious to any misdemeanour , and Avenue were saved the probable match losing indignity of being reduced to 10!
Chances came and went at both ends next.....Chib Chilaka causing something of a flurry of excitement with a run into the box for Avenue, and Jacobs doing his best by robbing the otherwise excellent Howarth , but finding no one in position to finish his break off!
Alex Pursehouse and Simon Ainge, the Avenue captain, both did good work after this denying Glover and Woolfe with clear headed defending, but already I was thinking that it would not be long before County would assert themselves. Instead I looked up to see a break by Dean end with Hurst hurriedly pushing the ball over the bar. Two shots followed the corner....thudding into yellow shirted defenders....a third was less lethal and was cleared easily.
A Sharp shot.....a run from Duxbury, and a free kick late in the half all offered hope that things might turn out OK, but when the plaintive cry of “ handball” from the County specs, as Billy Priestley ushered the ball back to Danby under pressure from Dennis, was met with the same lack of enthusiasm from the referee as had Danby`s earlier walk about, it began to dawn that maybe this was not our night after all!
Well....another 60 seconds or so, and that dawning was writ large before us as, at the other end, with Lees and Jacobs in tow, Richard Marshall treated us to the best dive I have seen for quite a time. It was a brilliant effort and the referee was mightily impressed and pointed to the spot immediately, showing equally great haste in blowing the whistle for half time the second that Marshall put the penalty past the diving Hurst!
The re-start saw Ryan and Wilkinson on for Sharp and Woolfe who had been the providers of width in the first half. Despite the late reverse we had suffered I found myself still clinging to the rickety leaking raft of self delusion, thinking as ever, taking Mr Macauber as my guide ,that `something would turn up’ especially with Wilkinson `s skills to admire!
Oops......the sound of elusions being gently shattered came next via Chilaka who almost pierced the previously un- breach able County back line- it took a great bit of work from Jacobs to keep him out, and within a couple more minutes the ex FCUM back had to do a repeat as the lively Dean sped clear down the left!
This was not what we were looking to see at all, and the mood did not improve seeing Dennis`s shot on the turn miss out by the narrowest of margins....or Hurst not long after have to make a save with his legs as Dean threatened again!
I was encouraged to see a foul by Howarth tee us up for a decent pot at goal via the resultant free kick, and Dennis did really well to get to it in the box, but his header flashed inches wide with Danby beaten.
This was followed by a Glover shot that whistled past a post, but whilst it was good to see them getting a shot or two off, the whole picture was one of largely uncoordinated attacking with balls sent hopefully forward.
Unbelievably.....I was still in optimistic mode, now telling myself that ` some of the BPA players look leggy- they are tiring!’.....hmmm....that may have been so, but despite pressure from a free kick from Glover, they resisted stoutly offering County but scraps to feed on! Chilaka and Dean even found time to have a go at County, Chilaka`s finish lacked a fair bit , thus County were not greatly troubled, but they weren`t making any progress either and we were now only 5 minutes off the game`s end!
And then it happened.......Jacobs had the ball on half way, but as it bounced in front of him Luke Dean swung a boot at it. To be fair he connected regally with it, but as it ascended to the heavens in the swirling maelstrom above our heads, he cannot have thought anything other than ` that`s got rid of that’....but no......the ball twisted....dipped and came down eventually being carried into the net on the wings of a small tsunami- Hurst was a gob smacked groping spectator......he was not alone!
It was now 2-0 and game over really. O`Halloran lifted one high above us, and Dennis tested Danby with a snap shot , and Wilkinson, Ryan, Glover and Baker even treated us to a neat bit of inter passing , but it was far too late.
We were offered the dubious life line of a whole 5 minutes added time, but I just wanted to get to the warmth of the Flyer and get off home, as a Wilkinson shot thudded into the increasingly safe hands of keeper Danby.
To lose this game was a disappointment, but that, for me, is all it is. It is not a signal to abandon ship or opt to panic. At the start of this season, I felt that a mid to top half table finish was what was likely to happen, anything better would be a bonus. That is still my view- there is a wagon load of talent coming our way via AL’s pipe line, and if we miss out this season, next might just see it emerge and flourish to our benefit!
County line up:
Hurst, Jacobs, Lees, O`Halloran, Duxbury, Moses, Baker, Sharp( Ryan 45), Glover, Dennis, Woolfe( Wilkinson 45).
Subs not used:
Bradford Park Avenue line up:
Danby, Pursehouse, Howarth, Price, Ainge( Qualter 70), Priestley, King( Hotte 94), Dean, Chilaka( Barraclough 90), Patterson, Marshall.
Subs not used:
Attendance : 553