Issue For another year

As told by Michael Wood

Bradford City 1 Mansfield Town 2 – League Two

Mansfield Town’s players punched the air in delight after beating Bradford City 2-1 at Valley Parade. They out fought the Bantams – the second consecutive match at Valley Parade where the home side were found wanting for effort – and they deserved the win that moves them closer towards escape from the relegation zone of League Two.

I suspect that we will see the Stags at Valley Parade next season with the Bantams play off hopes rising and falling with the all too common away wins of this division. With ten games left the consensus has been reached that Stuart McCall’s side are gong nowhere. McCall seemed to have come to this conclusion some time ago and continues to experiment with players while the squad has a generally low level of engagement. Mansfield, like Stockport and Dagenham & Redbridge, wanted to win more because they needed to win more and so City rumble out the last third of the season in trying style.

For forty-five minutes the Bantams were lifeless – flaccid even – as a series of getting by performances saw little in the way of forward motion. Indeed from the first half only Joe Colbeck – reliable in his effort – and Barry Conlon could claim to be have been in first gear. Conlon went close to scoring with a dipping drive from outside the box and nodded his third goal from open play just before half time but by then City trailed to a goal by Nathan Arnold which took a large deflection from David Wetherall’s arms and represented the visitor’s old shot on target of the half assuming that the arms of Wetherall did not prevent it being blazed wide.

Such is the painfulness of defeat. Mansfield were worthy winners – they got a second though one time Nicky Law target Michael Boulding after half time following a Bantams rally – with Arnold impressive throughout but anything other than a first gear performance would have seen the Bantams win with some ease. The Stags managed two shots on target all game. They came for a point and ended up with three and are probably amazed at how they managed it considering that from the point of view of creative chance making rather than passion and effort they were bad.

Not that City were better but one got the feeling that City are multiples better than this performance it was Mansfield at full tilt. Indeed the whole of City’s season can be summed up in today’s performance by Paul Evans. Some people said nice things about BfB this week and included was a quote about Evans being the best player in League Two which I stick to and stand by. His can pass superbly, he has a great engine, he tackles, shoots, heads and he can bend a free kick to boot. He can do all these things but he does not.

Today he blasted the ball too far rather than playing simple passes, he had no coordination with Eddie Johnson his midfield partner and he did nothing other than his base role of protecting the back four. A very talented player doing very little with his talent with the challenge for Stuart McCall to make Evans play like Evans does when Evans plays well because application is all that is missing from this side and it is McCall’s job to add it.

McCall’s job was murmured on the way out of the ground and someone swore on their first born that the next manager would be better except of course they did not and all talk of McCall’s position should be given short shrift unless someone can come up with a statement as to why the club was improved by sacking any of the last four managers. For a change the handful murmuring against McCall were not the greatest abominations of football support today with the racist chanting from the Mansfield end taking that honour. One can only hope that Nathan Arnold heard it and gets on his way.

As for City changes are afoot and McCall is to make them. The likes of Alex Rhodes, Tom Penford, Eddie Johnson, Darren Williams and Evans all will be the subject of decisions on the futures soon and next season’s team will look different to this one. One hopes that with ten games to go next season things will not be – as they are now – over for another year