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The Battle of Bradford
By: Andrew Doherty
THEY came in their thousands - 1,223 out of today's sell-out crowd of 8,020. With an average home attendance of over 16,000, this was not surprising. Today's opponents Bradford City sit in 5th place, but we're only two points and five points behind.
We have to be happy with this, even if our home form has been variable. Bantams, which is Bradford's nickname, are lightweight chickens. With their crowds and backing they are one of the division's big boys. Our task was to see if we can punch above our weight in what was always going to be a tough game today.
There's been some stability about the line-up of late. During the week Mr Hurst told us of illnesses in the squad so changes were expected. There were no changes. Town started today with: Crocombe – Efete, Waterfall, Smith, Glennon – Green - Kiernan, Holohan, Clifton, Khan – Taylor.
On the way here, I met some nice Bradford supporters. At the ground, it was good to see Bradford's manager Mark Hughes signing autographs and willingly being photographed with supporters. Big man, big heart. All love was now lost as the game kicked off. The game started at pace. 2 minutes in, Green was fouled when surging forward but the referee allowed play to continue. Glennon crossed, Taylor connected and won a corner. Two minutes later it was Bradford's turn. Chapman was clean through and was only fouled by an immaculately timed tackle by Smith. The tackle was worthy of poetry bur there was no time right now for Shakespearean eulogy. The battle for midfield supremacy continued. Holohan made a good interception but Kiernan gave the ball away, and Bradford attacked. Once again Smith denied Chapman as the Bradford striker homed in. Smallwood's corner was headed towards goal by Platt. It needed a header off the line to prevent Bradford from scoring. On 16 minutes Clifton found himself clear. Khan received the ball. His shot was blocked. Waterfall headed over from Glennon's corner. Town were playing with skill and purpose, and provided a threat in all areas. Kiernan and Smith showed skill to start moves but it was the overall work rate and skill level that were most outstanding. On 21 minutes, Clifton was tripped 25 yards out but Glennon's free kick struck the wall. Town then moved impressively out of defence. Khan crossed but no-one was there. The ball came out. Green ran on and crashed his shot against the post. A Green interception then found Kiernan who cut inside but his left foot let him down. Another interception, this time by Clifton, found Glennon who was hauled down. Bradford attacked. Clifton disposed of the threat. Kiernan worked the ball upfield and won a throw deep in the Bradford half. Town continued to play well and win the ball in midfield. Kiernan was booked on 34 minutes for tripping Halliday when it appeared the other way round. Chap man then put Wright clear, forcing Crocombe to save with his feet. The ball fell to Halliday who should have done better than to drill his shot wide. On 43 minutes Kiernan was dispossessed and Gilliead missed a good chance after a headed assist by Cook but offside was given. Right on half time a Kiernan run led to a cross. Holohan advanced and had a great chance to score but seemed to slip and scooped his shot into the Osmond stand. This had been a good open game with plenty of intensity. Bradford had most of the possession and looked a decent side. But Town were enterprising too and well in the game.
Morris replaced Kiernan at the half in a bid to provide further strength in midfield. As the game became more physical, Wright was booked for tripping Efete. A Waterfall volley was then blocked. Returning to his normal role, Waterfall then brilliantly cut out an attack by Chapman, timing his intervention perfectly. On 51 minutes a Foulds cross had to be tipped over by Crocombe. Chapman then had a low shot which seemed to be going in but the unsighted Crocombe pulled off a fantastic save, pushing the shot onto the post before Pereira blazed over. Town attacked movements later. This time Lewis had to pull off a super save after Khan shot from a Clifton cross. Town attacked. Holohan came close to sending Clifton through before good work from Green led to Clifton earning a corner. A fantastic tackle by Green found Holohan whose cross evaded everyone. The crowd was buzzing as Town were battling hard. A Morris through ball through the centre found Holohan who couldn't beat the keeper before Bradford attacked. Efete cut out a cross and conceded a corner. 61 minutes had passed. Morris won the ball, as Town broke away. Khan's pass to Holohan was short but Town still won a corner. The ball came out but Green's curler was well wide and over. This was increasingly becoming a hard physical battle with a number of heavy tackles and fouls as both teams scrapped. On 65 minutes Bradford won a free kick on the corner of Town's box. Smallwood's curled free kick was well wide, to the delight of Town's fans. Great anticipation from Khan won a corner as the Town player shook off the defender. An ambitious Clifton volley went wide before Town a free kick following another foul in midfield. Efete's delivery was aimed at Holohan who from close range had to squeeze the ball past the defender, which he did but the shot was wide. Bradford retorted with a crisp volley from Foulds. Shortly after, Bradford broke again but Smith once again was up to the task with a fine tackle. On 78 minutes Richardson replaced Holohan who received great applause for his tireless performance in the game. This was typical of Town as a whole. Within a minute Efete found Richardson who cut outside and fired in a shot which Lewis was forced to push over. After successfully using experience to control the game, Mr Hurst was turning to youth to provide extra pace and energy. Great interplay between Green and Khan launched an attack, and Richardson stole the ball from Foulds, following up with a low shot which was pushed away for a corner. Bradford's main striker and ex-Mariner Cook was replaced on 82 minutes, having been marked out of the game by Waterfall and Smith. On 84 minutes Clifton broke and played a one-two with Taylor whose shirt was pulled. Clifton went down after a body check. The referee waved play on. Bradford attacked but the threat was averted. On 87 minutes Maguire-Drew replaced Khan. Clifton's endeavour won Town a throw. Bradford regained possession. A cross came in after Maguire-Drew backed off, this being noticeable after Town's relentless intensity and ferocity in seeking to win every ball today. But all was ok. Waterfall was thee to mop up. Four minutes were added. Bradford pushed forward for a winner. Anglo was booked for elbowing Efete in the face. Bradford dominated the final part of the game. Morris was booked for a foul on Angol 25 yards out. Wright crossed into the box. The ball was headed back in, but like a book in mid-sentence the referee blew his whistle for full time. So it ended 0 - 0. This goalless draw had been packed with blood and thunder from beginning to end.
Today was dedicated to the Rainbow Laces campaign. Town were the Rainbow Warriors. This was a game of non-stop physical action, with plenty of purposeful play and opportunities for both teams. Town wisely played an experienced side with soldiers like Green, Holohan, Clifton and latterly Morris strangling the opposition in midfield until the youthful Richardson came on, joined the physical battle and showed pace and skill. Smith and Waterfall were supreme for Town. Crocombe gave a masterclass in goalkeeping, and everyone contributed to a resolute team performance. Bradford are in the heavyweight category for this league. Town couldn't knock them down but more than played their part. We matched the big boys today in the Battle of Bradford and everyone in the Town camp can be satisfied with the efforts that our warriors put in.
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