Bradford City 2 (M. Boulding 20, Thorne 35)
Dale team: Russell, Ramsden (Wiseman), McArdle, Stanton, Kennedy, Toner (le Fondre), Keltie, Jones, Rundle, Dagnall, Shaw (Thorpe)
Sometimes the feeling of defeat is weakened by a feeling of injustice – whether this injustice you feel only exists inside your head barely matters. The loss you’ve just witnessed is immediately transformed into “the one that got away”, an unlucky loss, an undeserved loss. And you start to say to yourself that on another day, they would have won. Football is a funny old game, you say, you can’t win them all.
Sometimes you just wish you could have the day back and start again from the beginning. See how the match pans out a second time, maybe if we score first instead of them.
Sometimes a match is lost despite it being evenly balanced, evenly fought. If that free-kick hadn’t have been given, if that header would have crossed the line, if that cross was just 4 inches lower, it could have been so different.
In the end, these games have to be put to the back of your mind in a bin marked “Defeats (acceptable)”.
Now I may have painted a picture of the Dale being unlucky losers, but I thought Bradford deserved the win yesterday. Like I said, the injustice you feel is not necessarily warranted. It doesn’t help when the referee makes a poor decision or two. You just got the feeling that it wasn’t to be our day.
I’d previously been dismissive of Bradford’s tag of league favourites, but looking over their squad it seems they have a side capable of automatic promotion. They have quality throughout the side, and with Thorne and Boulding they have an experience front pair who are capable of scoring twenty each this season. And the crowds! 13,000 for a fourth division match. What the hell are they doing in this rubbish league? They really shouldn’t have spent longer than one year down here. We can do without the likes of Bradford City thankyou very much. Give us Yeovil, Hereford and Cheltenham back, teams we can compete against.
We lined up with only one change from the Barnet win, Ciaran Toner coming in on the right hand side of midfield in place of Kallum Higginbotham. After being blasted by the pre-match music in the away section, and singing a couple of chants, the match started; at a rapid pace which would continue throughout the ninety minutes. When two counter-attacking sides meet, the match is usually good for the neutral, and yesterday was no different.
Bradford were looking to play the ball direct to Thorne and Boulding, who are both capable of holding the ball up and releasing a winger or a surging midfielder. Omar Daley, the Usain Bolt lookalike on the left, was a source of constant pain for Simon Ramsden, so much so that the right-back had to be substituted after half-time. We were playing a similar style to Bradford, with Rundle and Shaw being the likeliest targets of Sammy Russell’s sprayed passes (again an excellent display of long range passing by the keeper). Aside from the quick attacks, we looked to play the ball through Clark Keltie, whose first time passes ranged from superb to overhit. Gary Jones was his usual self, flitting about, annoying the hell out of the Bradford midfield.
Every time Bradford attacked they looked as if they could score. There was that bit of class about the forward line which is so rare in League Two, with both strikers possessing excellent first touch and spacial awareness. As for our forward line, Jon Shaw impressed with his link-up play without looking especially harmful to the City defence, whilst Daggers was having what could be described as “an off-day”. He’s still class like, just the things he tried never came off – which is a situation virtually the whole team suffered from.
The first goal came from a Bradford counter-attack, Boulding laid off to Peter Thorne who returned the pass, a chipped cross, which Boulding headed in without challenge. You could point the finger at either Stanton or McArdle for not picking up Boulding’s run, but it would be a shame if every goal against your team had to be blamed on someone. I’ll put this one under “Goals conceded (good ones)”.
Jon Shaw had a good opportunity soon after when Rundle’s low cross found him in the penalty area, but the touch was too deft and the ball skidded across the turf and out for a goal kick. Daggers made a good-looking run into the box, but missed his opportunity to shoot and in the end the attack came to nowt. Jones had a couple of long-ish rangers, but they both were blocked, as they all seem to have been so far this season.
Omar Daley was running Simon Ramsden ragged down Bradford’s left. The Jamaican skipped and skated past the ex-Grimsby man two, three times, and Ciaran Toner was notable for his absence of defensive cover. It was clear to me and clear to Ramsden that he needed help, and fast. But it never came.
The second goal came via a long ball to Michael Boulding, who held it up and drew a foul from Nathan Stanton, just outside the area. It wasn’t one. I got up and shouted abuse at the referee until my head hurt like 1,000 other Dale fans, but he didn’t seem to take any notice (they never do these refs). Stanton was incredulous, and I was suprised he didn’t lash out at someone, as the length of his temper isn’t exactly the longest. But the furore finally died down and Peter Thorne crept in at the back post to head home the undeserved free-kick (isn’t always the way) and Bradford were two-nil up.
At half-time I couldn’t see any real problem with our performance. The midfield was effective (aside from Toner), the attackers faring well, we were creating chances. Yet we were two-nil down. You can analyse and theorise all you like, but the fact was that they scored and we didn’t. Do you blame the strikers for not scoring the chances they were given? In a sport where the result is ultimately decided by only one or two points, to take the opportunities you receive is vital. It’s probably the only thing that matters, come to think of it. Football is a team sport, but the results are decided by individuals – the scorers. And on another day we may have scored two or three. But it just didn’t happen.
In the second half, the sunshine faded as did our chance of a comeback. Ramsden came off for Wiseman, Toner for Alfie, and we played a 3-4-3 which was last seen at Darlington away I believe (a match very similar to this one). Daggers got through but fired straight at the keeper, le Fondre headed off the bar and watched the follow-up trickle agonisingly wide. The longer the match went on, the longer our odds. Gary Jones ran out of fuel after 75 minutes and the match fizzled out. Bradford had survived our attempted comeback.
To top it all off, Tom Kennedy hit the top of the bar with a free-kick in the final minute. Like the match itself, it was close but no cigar.
Bradford deserved their win though, they were incisive, attack-minded and defended well against a good attack. Reminded me of us last week.
And so I file this match under “Defeats (acceptable)” not because Bradford are better than us, but because every so often a defeat is inevitable. And believe you me, I’d rather lose in this fashion than be beaten because we played poorly. Sometimes you just have to give the other team some credit for beating you. After all, we’re not bitter souls us Dale fans, are we?
PS; Bury won, the bastards.