League Two Table
Question of the WeekHow important is data in League 2 football?
|Which way does it blow?|
By: Andrew Doherty
I didn't manage to get to any of the pre-season games this year, but the word coming back was that without giving cause for unbridled excitement, Town's new squad looks promising and more than capable of holding their own.
A win at Morecambe doesn't determine a season but it's a very good start. On paper Mr Jolley seems to have strengthened all areas, so let's hope. And as they say, it's the hope that kills you.
If you were to read the media and not know about our division, you'd think that Salford City were the only team in it. Today's opponents Bradford have been in existence since 1903, 25 years less than us. We haven't played them in a while, but I have memories of two games, both involving the same score. In 1968/9 I was in the Osmond stand when we lost 1 - 5. Mike "you're rubbish" Hickman almost scored a sixth for the visitors with a trademark overhead bicycle kick onto his own crossbar, with a helpless John Macey in Town's goal looking on. Then 10 seasons later we won by the same score in a night match with a Tony Ford hat trick, and goals from Bobby Mitchell and Bob Cumming. As for now, it's always hard to assess relegated teams as players leave, but I'd expect Bradford to be one of the big hitters in league 2. They certainly have the support, hence the 1pm kick-off. Dining arrangements rescheduled, here I was with my mate Andy Humbo to witness our first home game of the season.
Town's line-up today was: McKeown - Hewitt, Davis, Öhman, Hendrie -Hessenthaler, Clifton, Whitehouse - Green, Hanson, Rose
With 6882 spectators present thanks to the healthy away support and all-round early-season optimism, there was a good atmosphere at Blundell Park. Hardly a day goes by without the weather people gleefully issuing a warning - is it me but why do we need warnings these days and names like Storm Ivan the Terrible and the like? - and today's meant wind. Not in the flatulence sense, but that blowy stuff that's been around ever since my childhood in Cleethorpes. "It blew over my plant pots", declared Andy. BBC News missed that one.
The rain came in and joined Town and the wind as they attacked the Osmond end for the first half. Bradford in all orange looked like a bunch of track workers, or as Andy observed, "sponsored by Easy Jet". Within two minutes Öhman, who I never saw last season due to suspension or injury, received his statutory yellow card for crushing Donaldson outside the box. Gibson's header from the resultant free kick went wide. Town won a corner on 4 minutes. Ping - ping - ping … it was good to see Hessenthaler, Whitehouse and Rose all having a go. Two further Town corners later, Bradford broke. Clifton slipped, Anderson raced forward but was repelled. Town looked to take advantage of the following wind and showed plenty of desire. Whitehouse won a free kick on the edge of the box after cutting inside following a move with Hendrie, but the same player wasted it, as he tried to loft the ball over the wall. A Clifton interception then set up another run. Town's bright start was disturbed on 19 minutes when Rose pulled up while chasing a ball. He was immediately replaced by Ogbu. 5 minutes later Hendrie won a corner after a surging run. Two minute later Donaldson fouled Whitehouse as both players committed themselves in midfield. This was a game where both sets of players were committing themselves and the referee was allowing the game to flow. After this, the game started to lose momentum. For all Town's endeavours, Bradford's resolute defence and Town's inability to factor in the wind meant there had been nothing to challenge O'Donnell in the Bradford goal. Now Bradford started to win possession. On 36 minutes Anderson pulled down the impressive Whitehouse, and Hessenthaler's curled free kick tested O'Donnell for the first time before Green closed in to force urgent action from Bradford's keeper. On 43 minutes Clifton played a deft through ball to Green but great defending by Richards-Everton foiled the threat. Other than that Bradford kept possession for the latter part of the half, and the wind in their favour for the second 45 minutes, would have gone at half time the happier of the two sides. Town showed endeavour but didn't test O'Donnell enough. The second half was going to be a challenge.
Town started the second half well by playing the ball on the ground. Hanson and Green were involved in a move where Clifton won a corner. Another good move from the skilful Ogbu and Green found Hanson whose shot on the run went over and into the Pontoon stand. On 51 minutes Bradford had an attack when a deep run from Henley found Anderson. Then moments later another swift attack and cross found Vaughan whose bullet header left McKeown stranded. Town 0, Bradford 1. Town attempted to provide an immediate response when first Hanson had a mishit shot, then Öhman battled in the six-yard area but there was no-one around to finish. Town battled on against the wind. On 59 minutes there was a huge scramble in the Bradford box. Clifton battled and found space before chipping O'Donnell. The ball came down off the bar. Ogbu followed up and slammed the ball home … disallowed for offside. The horizontal rain returned. A Clifton run resulted in another corner. Town were putting in 100% effort. On 65 great work by Ogbu on the right resulted in a cross to Green, who turned and forced a great save from O'Donnell on the right-hand post. Hessenthaler's corner found the head of Hanson who fired an unstoppable header past the keeper. Town 1, Bradford 1. Cue mass celebrations at the Pontoon end. Town deserved to be back in the game. Town now had the momentum and continued to attack. The ever effective Ogbu-Clifton combination won Town a corner, but Davis's header was inadvertently blocked by Whitehouse. Town were on top as the game flowed. More good hold up play from Ogbu led to a move with a Clifton and Hewitt as Town won another corner. The game stopped on 78 minutes after Öhman and Vaughan clashed heads. Öhman was too groggy to continue, so Pollock came on in his place. Almost immediately a Pollock mistake let in Donaldson who found Scannell on the right. A pair of magnificent low stops from McKeown saved Town. Bradford won a corner on 85 minutes but Town defended their position for the remainder of the game. The game ended: Town 1, Bradford 1. It was a good game in which both sides showed their best qualities.
At this level, we can't expect miracles or world-class football, but it's not unreasonable to expect maturity, composure and commitment. We haven't seen this in any sustained way in recent seasons, as cracks have appeared. It's early days of course but today's performance from Town showed all these qualities, plus plenty of skill and character. I saw quality all over the pitch from Town, but I was particularly impressed with the contributions of Ogbu and Clifton today. Bradford were organised and dangerous and should do well this season. They were well placed after the first half and Town faced an uphill task, particularly after Bradford scored and Town then had a goal disallowed. But Town fought back and were terrific for a long spell in the second half. Three points would have been nice, but it was just great to see Town playing so well as a cohesive unit, and nullifying Storm Bradford.
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