You mark Bower

Not an easy name to forget – Claude Gnakpa – but it was that Peterborough defender’s absent mindedness that gave Bradford City a tough and morale enhancing in at Valley Parade as two of the more fancied teams in the division battered about a game which may prove significant at the end of the season.

£600,000 has been spent at London Road by Darren Ferguson building a team up for the physical demands of League Two and possessing some – it not much – skill. At Valley Parade cash flows less easily but enough recruitment has been made to give Stuart McCall a team capable of winning this game.

McCall and Ferguson have much in common. Both are sons of footballers, both have played at higher levels and both are being watched as the progress in management. Ferguson will have been pleased with the early play in this meeting of managers as his Posh team – playing with the grace of a pub side – began to pummel City’s midfield. With Eddie Johnson once again up for the cut and thrust away from Carrington and in proper football City had a chance but injured Paul Evans – on the bench with a plaster the size of his head on top – being replaced by a lightweight Scott Phelan the Bantams risked being overrun.

Phelan had a game to forget but forget it he should. He is a good player and this tussle came too soon for him. First half he struggled to a point where City’s Donovan Ricketts was pressed into action – although not that often with midfields being the war here – and should both rookie managers need a definition of how football games are won then it would come in the difference between The Posh’s inability to put ball in net and City’s sneaking of a chance when it came.

Nevertheless that chance was hard fought. McCall is crafting a City team that obsesses on numbers in attack and while Peter Thorne – on his home debut – looks a cut above GNN, Joe Colbeck and Omar Daley lack cohesive ideas on patterns of play and reply on exciting but often fruitless dribbling to move the ball forward. One recalls Peter Beagrie, Lee Mills and Robbie Blake and the telepathy that went between them. One hopes that this City team can built the same. At present attacking is a random process – exciting but often frustrating.

Such frustrations are uncorked and freed when Thorne won a free kick to be delivered by an increasingly excellent Paul Heckingbottom which Mark Bower stole in between defenders to head home freely for the decisive goal of the game.

Step back to the free kick that Heckingbottom delivered. The ball arcs over from his left foot and Gnakpa and Craig Morgan both fix eyes on David Wetherall leaving Bower unmarked. After the goal Gnakpa argues furiously with Morgan who in two simple arm movements explains the defending structure of a mortified Gnakpa. “I mark him, You mark Bower” it screams and Gnakpa stand with his finger tips pressed along the sides of his head in full knowledge that the ten other players in blue are blaming him for the absent minded slip that was his fault and cost the fruits of a good away performance.

Gnakpa wanders back to continue the game the loneliest man on Earth. He is removed in a few minutes and watches the rest of the game knowing that he has – for his second long slip up – cost the game.

Such are the fine lines that football can operate within. Your heart goes out to Claude Gnakpa but three points goes to Mark Bower’s winning goal and Bradford City who move to seventh – a play off position – and march on.

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