Issue Too many bad days

As told by Michael Wood

The rain tipped down at Valley Parade, it never stopped. It was always going to be a hard game, not a pretty game and a series of bad days saw to it that it was not a good game.

Stuart McCall’s selection of a 442 pulling Scott Neilson into a right wing role opposite Chris Brandon on the left was the City manager’s bad day. All formations have a tendency to veer back to a 442 given time and it seemed that the City boss thought that he could plug the odd hole at the back with two lines of two rather than the 433 he moved back to after Accrington Stanley equalised in this game.

Accrington’s equaliser came from Michael Symes, a former City player who had more than his share of bad days while a Bantams and his goal aside looked not at all impressive. Symes will have empathy with Gareth Evans who missed a penalty in the dying minutes smacking a child behind the goal with the ball rather than ending the game in glory. Symes had done the same thing at the opening of his City career.

Not that that should have been an end to the glory for Evans who lashed a ball chested – or one assumes the officials must have judged handled – down by Michael Boulding. Evans and is strike partner James Hanson struggled on a blustery day but both kept going giving the Bantams a plethora of late chances to win the game. The last half hour should convince McCall to stick with his 433 formation if only because the game was far more entertaining after that point.

The Bantams had taken the lead when Michael Flynn – who had what was for him a poor game – had centred the ball and Phil Edwards put in his own net. Nothing else Flynn did seemed to come off but the mark of the man – and the City team – was that even when playing poorly the players kept playing.

Flynn, Luke O’Brien, Neilson, Evans, Brandon and James Hanson. None of them enjoyed great games but all of them played hard and ensured that personal negatives would not be carried over and contributed to a positive team performance. There are dozens of City players in the ten years since the slide from the Premiership who could not say the same and when they put in poor performances they let the team suffer.

The subject of the fall from the Premiership was recalled by the visiting Accrington fans in a song “Premier League, you fucked it up” or at least I assume that was what it was because it might have been the sound of the Stanley fans with buckets trying to raise money to keep their club going. I would rather than the sang the word “thank you” over and over as credit to people who came to their aid when they needed it so recently rather than behaved so gracelessly. Accrington Stanley had bad days, everyone rallied round, but those supporters made you wonder why?

Hanson toiled unsuccessfully although he would point to a head at goal which was pushed away by Andrew Proctor – a player who had already been booked – to give a penalty. Proctor seemed to hide in the box but he seemed to be no danger of a red card. Indeed he had got into a pushing match with Chris Brandon that could have resulted in a second yellow card but probably the fact that Referee had booked before probably saved him a card.

It did not – however – do his team any harm. Brandon had held onto the ball to complain about an obvious yet not given penalty when Steve Williams’s shirt was pulled a yard or so away from him in the box. Within seconds of Proctor not being booked Lee Bullock was, for something he said to the referee, following Symes’s goal.

It seemed to be a common tactic for a Referee to struggled all game. He dodged decisions – the penalty was given by his linesman – and ducked his responsibilities fudging calls so he was not required to use his red card but of the seven bookings that he issued five of them were to players for “dissent” – for which read “questioning the Referee’s decisions.”

No one has an idea as to why the goal Evans struck which was ruled out was ruled out but some mentioned handball by Boulding. A question of handball by a player who set up a goal? Really? This week in which a Referee was “100% certain” that Thierry Henry did not do the same.

I am tired of high handed Referees who cannot control a football match dealing with any questions with yellow cards. Stuart McCall, Michael Flynn, Gareth Evans and others had bad days but they did not have cards to silence critics. They applied themselves and deal with the results.

As Referee Steve Cook pointed to his watch a minute into injury time to tell new signing Simon Whaley that the three minutes to be added were under a stopped watch and then blew the whistle some fifteen seconds after the restart one could not say the same about the official. No control over the game save the threat of sending off, more bothered about telling off the players for talking out of turn like naughty school boys that trying to be a part of the game.

It was a poor game in poor conditions in a poor league with some players putting in poor performances but it deserved a better referee than that and it is hard to imagine it having a worse one.