Saturday, 10 August 2013

Bradford City 4-0 Carlisle United

Bantams prove they can cut it in League One as Mark Yeates earns his Bradford City stripes.

Nahki Wells was among the goalscorers during today's rout;

   To anyone who still somehow thought it wise to write off Bradford City, today was a wake-up call they won’t be forgetting in a while.
   But even I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting a performance that close to perfection. I mean, aren’t newly promoted teams supposed to… struggle? Aren’t they supposed to wait a few weeks before registering a win? Aren’t they supposed to at least look as though they were a division below everyone else last season, and not play with the class and control demonstrated by the Bantams today?
   But Parkinson’s men don’t like to go by the script. Instead, it was Carlisle, a team who had finished 17th in League One the previous year and 14 places ahead of the Bantams on the league ladder, who looked like the out-of-their-depth, bumbling new boys experiencing their first season in the third division after a prolonged exile.
   We might be the newly promoted team, but don’t expect us to play by the book.
   That was a fine initiation into League One. A total statement of intent. Us proving to the doubters that we are worthy of a place in this division. Because, for all that their credentials as a third tier side the previous year should have served them well, Carlisle United crumbled and were like dazzled rabbits in headlights. City were clinical, rampant and ready to cause an upset.
   Bradford looked like a force to be reckoned with right from the off. Cool passing play up the flanks paved the way for efforts from Thompson, Wells and Hanson, and the Bantams were using the ball well.
   It was Yeates, who had been a lively presence down the left side, who started off the scoring. The impressive Irishman cut inside, took a touch and hit a powerful effort from just in front of the halfway line, which rocketed cleanly into the top corner, and there was nothing the Carlisle keeper could do; the ball span far beyond his reach. The Valley Parade faithful were sent into raptures and the chanting intensified. What a goal that was! What a signing he is! Ole, ole, ole, Mark Yeates!
   The dominance continued and it took just five minutes for the hosts to double their lead. Nahki Wells latched onto a defensive header from United’s Paul Thirwell to flick home his third in as many games. For the Bermudan, it was a chance to show Carlisle exactly why they should have been keener for his signature all those years ago - a sweet revenge for Nahki.
   City pressed on, Doyle the victim of a crunching Liam Noble tackle and subsequently winning a free kick. Yeates delivered a teasing cross but Noble managed the clearance.
   A minute later, Carlisle’s Danny Livesey slipped and lost Hanson, who sprinted through and clipped in from 15 yards to all but ascertain the result.
   Jones fired wide and Thompson’s effort forced a save from Carlisle shotstopper Mark Gillespie, while a Hanson header also flew wide. The Bantams continued to pile on the pressure. It was 3-0, but that didn’t matter. They didn’t ease off the Cumbrian side for a minute.
   The second half presented a more even game, but Carlisle, though they got forward on occasions, never looked menacing. Nahki Wells’ shot was blocked by Livesey, and Thompson thought he’d made it four after volleying a rebound wide and behind the goal.
   With half an hour to go, Wells broke free on the right wing and surged forward, playing the ball square to Gary Jones. And how fitting it was that our Captain Fantastic, whose energy and enthusiasm never cease or falter, got the final goal of the game to wrap up proceedings, celebrating with a knee slide to the main stand before giving his trademark fist-pump to the Kop. “Easy! Easy!” chanted the City fans, and, in all fairness, it almost was too easy: Carlisle didn’t show up.
   Let’s not get carried away. It’s early days. We’ve only played two league games and we still have scores of matches ahead of us, against some of the division’s toughest opposition. But, after today, one could be forgiven for at least daring to dream what other glories await in this division.

City: McLaughlin, Darby, Meredith, Davies, McArdle, Thompson (replaced by De Vita on 65 minutes), Yeates (replaced by Reid on 70 minutes), Jones, Doyle, Hanson, Wells (replaced by Connell on 83 minutes). SUBS NOT USED: Ripley, Taylor, McHugh, Ravenhill.  

Bantams Blogger’s Top Three:

1st – Mark Yeates: Controlled, creative and clean on the wings, and a bona fide contender for Goal of The Season under his belt. Superb, stylish display to mark his home debut.

2nd – Nahki Wells: The Bermudan sustained his goalscoring prowess with a pristine finish from an awkward angle. Constantly looked threatening and linked-up well with midfield.

3rd – Gary Jones / Nathan Doyle – Usual workrate from Captain Fantastic and a solid performance from Doyle. Both players demonstrated the eye to pick out that pivotal pass and dominated the centre of the park.

Friday, 2 August 2013

And So It Begins...

As the Bantams prepare themselves for their first season in League One for over half a decade, I ready myself for one giant leap into the unknown.

Can we expect another trip to Wembley this season?

   This Saturday, the wait is over. This Saturday, it all begins again. This Saturday, another season of passion, euphoria, elation, anger, despair, happiness, pride, pain and heartbreak commences with the opening game against Bristol City at Ashton Gate. This Saturday, Parkinson’s men get their first taste of life in League One.
   And I know how they feel, especially the ones who have never set foot in the third tier before. Because I’m in a similar boat: I’ve never seen City play outside of League Two. 
   As I mentioned in The Width Of A Post’s season preview earlier this week, League One is uncharted territory, and I have no idea what to expect. Any predictions I make are based on my knowledge of all the newly-promoted teams I’ve seen over the years: the ones who have had a dire campaign and just hung on in there by the skin of their teeth; the ones who have been mercilessly exposed as simply not strong enough for the division and who have plummeted straight back down again; the ones who have emerged as strong sides and have remained in the league for years to come; the ones who have somehow sailed on to secure back-to-back promotions.
   Which all leaves me wondering what will happen to us this season. Will we become the easy scalp, the club that others point at and jeer at and view as a nailed-on three points, as probably was the case during part of the League Two stint? Or will we tear every team to shreds and leave Coventry City cowering in a corner? Will every game be closely fought, or will we endure multiple throwbacks to cup final day, when a ruthless Swansea team showed their superiority? Will we go up again, or is talk of another promotion ill founded? Oh, we’re top of the table now – is that a good omen? Will we be able to sustain our current pole position, or will we languish at the bottom of the table? We’ve seen these players compete with Premier League teams before – they’re obviously ready for this level. But to produce that quality over 46 games? Can we do that?
   I look at our squad and see a competitive, experienced, sharp group of lads who share such a tight bond. I look at the wise Parkinson, who dragged this club off its knees and reenergized the Bantams. I look at the backroom staff, Nick Allamby and his acclaimed fitness programme, and I see the most professional and organised set up I’ve ever known at City. My knee-jerk reaction to the question, “Can we be successful in League One?” is to say, “Yes,” because look around – this is our best chance yet to keep moving on up to where we feel we ought to be. 
   For me, it’s just a case of maintaining this momentum and making sure that the progression from that meagre, feeble League Two side we cringed at under Peter Taylor, to a quality squad that enjoy great success, is built upon. 
   It’s not going to be easy. We are stepping up into a league with a lot of financial muscle, and there are ten or eleven clubs – including Sheffield United, Wolves and Bristol City - who all have their sights firmly fixed on promotion. It’s a tight division.
   But there’s no reason why we can’t compete with the other 23 teams there. I bet Brentford don’t have a Gary Jones, a Nathan Doyle, an Andrew Davies or a Nahki Wells.
   So, what can we expect? That remains to be seen, but, whatever happens, we know these lads won’t be going out on a tentative whimper.