Saturday 4th October, 2008

From jeers to cheers to where?

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Bradford City 1 Luton Town 1 At Valley Parade in League Two, 2008/2009

The frustration was clear at the final whistle when rain lashed Valley Parade and the players as they trooped away seemed to realise that two points had been lost.

Stuart McCall saluted the crowd but seemed heavy shouldered as if he recognised that the late goal that gave the visits what they wanted – a draw – was as avoidable as it was annoying.

Avoidable because a ten men City side had allowed Luton Town to score an easy equaliser when Michael Spillane headed in Ed Asafu-Adjaye’s cross under no pressure in the middle of the penalty area. That City had dropped back to a 441 to try soak up pressure showed some inexperience in analysis of the way the game would flow following the Bantams taking the lead with reduced numbers but regardless of how McCall told them to play the way the players dropped off and allowed the cross to come and the goal to go in was disappointing in a game so hard won.

The first half was marked with a strong wind that pushed the visitors into attack for the opening twenty minutes but resulted in little in the way of good play. Former Bantam Lewis Emanuel picked up the ball to take a corner and was booed by the Kop for a few seconds until those boos were drown out by recognition and applause.

Emanuel had left City for bigger and better but it turns out that Luton were – according to the FA – cheating and making illegal payments. I mention this cause I remember them beating the Bantams in the FA Cup one year and as a victim of their misconduct I find it hard to amass the sympathy that others seem to have for the Hatters.

The tide of the first half changed as – aside for a booking for Paul Heckingbottom for fouling the excellent Claude Gnakpa – the game moved into the Luton half to stay. The nervousness of the is most apparent in games were City are on top. The Bantams tried to work the ball out of the back – I assume they did this because the wind would render long balls fruitless, because the returning Peter Thorne and Michael Boulding are not target men and (to be honest) long ball football is moronic and we hated John Docherty for doing it so why would we want Stuart McCall’s side to? – but such efforts were greeted with grunts to get rid of the ball.

Paul McLaren lead the Bantams in frustration as he looked for Omar Daley, Joe Colbeck and Michael Boulding to come deeper to look to take the ball from him but often had to dally in possession. Those three players need to begin to make themselves targets more than they are now because at the moment too many City players are waiting for things to happen.

Which is not to say that Daley and co played badly just that they wanted for play to start and engaged in the second phase rather than drifting into the Luton midfield to start it. Daley’s running was impressive and threatened often.

Nevertheless at half time honours were even but possession not and sure enough the Bantams started the second half taking the game to Luton who had withdrawn Emanuel and resolved to make sure that they would have more defensive resolve. Typical of this was Paul McLaren in midfield looking for City players and seeing ten Luton players in the cone from him to the edges of the penalty area.

City this year – as with previous years and to be honest most of football – found such resistance hard to breakdown. Peter Thorne saw a header clawed away by Conrad Logan but the rain and darkness started to come in and it seemed the Bantams would struggle breakdown the back line and this assumption seemed to be fact when Paul Heckingbottom – lunging in on Gnakpa who muscled him off – was sent off for a second bookable offence.

It was not odd that Mr G. Laws – who we know like to invent his own rules – decided to punish the two bookable offences which Heckingbottom will have few complaints about but it was curious as to why those two bookable offences would be punished when others were ignored. The officiousness that saw him book Heckingbottom twice was absent when he allowed Rossi Jarvis to go with a warning for kicking McLaren or only booked Chris Martin for diving after the Luton striker had shouted complaints at him.

It says much about Referees and respect that they will only book you for diving if you shout at them and it says much about how Mr Laws referees that he allowed Asa Hall to swing a leg, miss the ball and fully make contact with Omar Daley as the City winger struggled to control the ball in the box. It was a soft penalty to give away but it was a penalty but Laws being Laws he seeks some kind of romantic reasons to give decisions rather than observing the events on the field and giving the decisions as appropriate.

Laws escaped without the booing that some City fans reserve for our own players. I observe that Barry Conlon is booed as he stands at the side of the field and when he comes on for Michael Boulding there is a mixed reception for this player who – in my estimation – gives all he has in his tank every time he pulls on a claret and amber shirt. He is not the most talented player in the squad but he gives the most effort and – I believe – when you boo Barry you give licence to other players to put in 90%.

Nonetheless his first name was still being sung by his advocates as a bouncing ball caused confusion in the box and Conlon was on hand to put in from the six yard box. He celebrated having turned the jeers into cheers and we celebrated what should have been a hard won win – all of use – even the ones who booed him onto the field. It is what we call a brassneck around here and I think they should be made to formally apologise to Barry at half time next week but no one listens to me.

That should have been that but with ten minutes of winding the clock down McCall got it wrong putting on Luke O’Brien for Peter Thorne but one doubts that McCall told the likes of Dean Furman and McLaren to sit off and let the visitors play which we did and the goal resulted.

The goal – headed into the back of the net from about ten yards – the ball nestled behind Rhys Evans and the visitors doing cartwheels and cheering in front of their own fans. The ball in the back of the net and them enjoying this draw they had come for and got. The ball being returned not by an eager striker trying to get the game restarted to try win it but by City. Them celebrating getting the point that moves them to minus eighteen and leaves us in sixth but not trying to win the game.

They never wanted to win the game. I mention this because this Luton Town address the football community as if they are wronged. They want your sympathy and complain about being punished for the massive misdemeanours and for exiting administration without a CVA. They want your sympathy and they come to your ground with the express aim of getting a draw and dragging out a dull afternoon of football where they try stop any football being played. I would not miss them.

Luton’s fate though is decided elsewhere while City’s is still up in the air. Three games without a win the Bantams go to Accrington Stanley next week with the team slipping the wrong way. The players seem to lack a freshness and labour over games. We are a team who need an early goal break to get in the habit of being in front again.

The quality is obvious but the belief starts to slip and McCall has to find a way to inject the freshness back into the side who seem to spend all game worrying about not having scored yet. Everything is being over cooked, passes over thought out, runs fretted over.

We are stuck in third gear and to find the spark to shift up because results like this are causing confidence to ebb.

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7 Comments

  1. joey d says:

    Emanuel had left City for bigger and better but it turns out that Luton were – according to the FA – cheating and making illegal payments to players. I mention this cause I remember them beating the Bantams in the FA Cup one year and as a victim of there misconduct I find it hard to amass the sympathy that others seem to have for the Hatters.

    This is simply untrue and lazy bitter writing.

    1. Luton Town did not make illegal payments to players
    2. We beat you in the FA when we were in administrative receivership* and being run by Barry Ward a court appointed receiver, so we were barely able to pay anyone legally let alone illegally.

    *Please note we were only in adminstraive receivership as a lever to remove rogue owner John Gurney. For more information see http://www.lutonfc.com/gurney.asp

  2. Michael Wood says:

    It may be bitter but why should Bradford City not be bitter about being beaten when Luton were – in the words of the FA speaking against the directors you have a strong dislike of – “run with a flagrant disregard for the Regulations laid down to protect the game”

    You may feel that the FA did not protect Luton Town from its directors but I would say that it did not protect football from your directors and as a part of football and as a club robbed of money from progression by those directors then we were more wronged than you.

    The fact that your punishment is retroactive is annoying for us because at the time – a half season away from our second spell in Administration – we could have done with the money that could have come from the 4th round of the cup and while progression was by no means assured it is also clear and not argued against that Luton were not playing on what we would call a level playing field. I understand the mechanics of football administration and can tell you that we too were still being run by a management who were answerable to administrators and were barely able to have a club. The fact that when we were on our knees you were behaving in a way that showed “a flagrant disregard for the Regulations laid down to protect the game” is hardly something that should engender sympathy.

    You benefited at our expense and we spent all summer raising money and almost lost our club. You want us to feel sorry for you and not be bitter? I’m using the word brassneck again.

    So it is not untrue to say that I do not have the sympathy for you that other people have.

    {note the text amend. “To players” should have read “in regards to players”}

  3. Rob Hunt says:

    Interesting – I didn’t think people were booing Conlon’s arrival. Around (and including) me it was frustration that with Heckingbottom sent off and a left back on the bench Stuart wanted to swop the centre forwards. I could easily see us conceding whilst playing with only 3 at the back.

    I also disagreed with your assessment above – going to 4-4-1 was the correct thing to do. Imagine what would have happened if we stayed at 3-4-2 with 5 minutes to go whilst one up and then they had equalised.

    Decent enough game I thought – but agree that we lack the spark of the first few games..

  4. Mark Williams says:

    A draw yesterday was a fair result in a game ruined by the swirling wind and certain City players having an off day – I won’t go into names but marked 5 down as below par and struggling to get more than 5 out of 10 (and that was for the effort only).

    I have no argument to vent with the Luton fans – what else can they do but carry on supporting their club the best way they can – the enormity of their task this season is clear to see and i wish them the Luton payers,staff/directors and fans the best of luck in trying to avoid the drop.

    Going back to City, well we stopped the rot at least yesterday – hearing on the radio that McCall wants an udefeated spell in October – and a draw was probable as a bet yesterday based on our lack of them this season.
    There are some who are questioning the abilities of McCall and Jacobs, to those i say shut the **** up and get behind the cause – our best option is to support them 100% not snipe and boo at substitutions and tactics.

  5. Wayne says:

    Rob Hunt… My seat is in the top tier of the TL Dallas stand and I was disgusted at the behaviour of our so-called fans towards Barry. He was booed and had been even whilst warming up.

    When we scored I turned to those same fans with clenched fists and gritted teeth and shouted, ‘Now f#cking boo him’. Yes, I could and probably should have been smacked, but I couldn’t resist having a pop back at the people who claim to love our club.

    With fans like that, how can we expect to win anything this season?

  6. Steve Baker says:

    Well said Wayne. Its like the Andy Cooke factor all over again. All Barry ever does is work his backside off. I was overjoyed when he got the goal and the fact then that he chased the defenders down after his goal just epitomised what he is as a player. If his team mates had worked as hard to stop the cross that lead to the equaliser, I dont think we would be sat here with one point in 9.

    I too carried on with people around me about booing Conlon. Its a disgrace. Similar circumstance to when Andy Cooke came on a few seasons back and got the goal to beat Gillingham on the last few minutes. In my opinion, Boulding was not effective on Sat due to the conditions negating his ability to get in behind. Now play Barry up there and at least you have a defender who is going to have to go with him to defend, leaving space for the Daleys and the Colbecks to make breaks onto the box.

  7. Anne Bell says:

    I thought that Barry answered the booing in the best possible way. Can’t begin to understand why those who boo him actually bother going to the match.

    Thought McCall should have taken Heckingbottom off before he was sent off – he could have gone earlier. However if we had stayed 4-4-2 I am not sure we would have made the breakthrough. Thought Clarke did alright trying to sort out Gnakpa who I thought was their best player and this seemed to galvanise the team.

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