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Question of the Week
Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?
Gooseberry Fool - Bradford Report
By: Tony Butcher
A WARM, overcast afternoon with a stiff breeze blowing down the ground into the Osmond Stand, which was inconsistently populated with perhaps 300 Bradfordians. The pitch was very soft, with half a dozen straight furrows down the middle, in the centre circle.
Grimsby Town 0 Bradford City 1
02 Feb 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
The buzz, or more accurately the hum, was that "they" were back. They? Yes, them, McDermott and Pouton, and the home based fans stirred to coo at the sight of a hulking great centre forward, for it was Big Bob himself. He even warmed up dangerously.
First indications were that the Bradford team was full of, not to put too fine a point on it, big girls blouses. Ooh, the hair, lovely. Ashley Ward had very poor highlights (he should have been singing Agadoo), with a long curl at the back. Similarly Lee Sharpe had that "strokeable" hair, ideal for running your fingers through when you've just missed an open goal. Surprisingly, McCall's flopped and bounced like he used Harmony hair spray. Well, does he, or doesn't he? And as for their kit, Sir, it was gaudy and garish. Aesthetically displeasing, and liable to induce migraines in the more sensitive amongst the Pontoon. You know, those who wear duffel coats.
The official match day magazine (aka the programme) was as amateurish as usual, with a little sticker with "Bradford City" over the away team's name at the back. Under the sticker? West Brom. The atmosphere was very low key, especially as Bradford brought so few. Even the teenagers couldn't be bothered to start many anti-yorkist chants.
Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation. The tannoy was drowned out by the crowd acclaiming McDermott, Pouton and Taylor. The back four was as you'd expect, with the midfield comprising Campbell wide right, Willems wide left, and the two indestructible destroyers in the centre. So we're back to the formation, and the central midfield, that saved us last year.
Town kicked off towards the Osmond Stand with a chip down the left, the end product of which was a Town throw in, 25 or so yards out. Gallimore flung it in long, towards the shiny topped Taylor, who back headed it towards goal.
The ball bounced off a Bradford player back to Taylor, who immediately hit a right foot shot with the outside of his boot, unfortunately straight at the goalkeeper at head height. Still, an unusually positive start from Town, and Taylor had already won over the supporters. A striker! A shot! Can life get any better than this for a Town supporter?
The next 10 minutes were mainly Town, with Bradford fluttering around on the break, principally down the Town right. Hah! You ain't gonna get anywhere there Bantamboys. Lee Sharpe flicked his hair around in a most Premiership manner, whilst Carbone snapped like a wasp around Raven and Ford's ankles. Bradford threatened just once, when Gallimore was bamboozled by Lawrence out on the touchline near the Police Hut. The cross zoomed into the near post, about 5 yards out, whereupon Coldicott, the caped crusader, leapt forward and headed just over the bar. Bradford, well, Carbone, had a couple of shots from outside the penalty area, both of which bounced just before Coyne, who held them easily as Ward followed up, waiting the train that never came.
Town were looking quite lively, with Taylor proving to be the big target man everyone craved. He held the ball up well, played intelligent passes to teammates, and won some headers too. How very un-Townlike, this will not do, call the schoolmaster. The schoolmaster, that'll be the referee, who had already become a minor irritant to Town fans. He absolutely insisted that every throw in and free kick was taken from the exact millimeter he deemed to be the "correct spot". Strangely he was more interested in "keeping the game flowing" when Bradford took their free kicks from the vicinity, with the ball still rolling. Likewise throw-ins were a general approximation of where the ball may have gone out.
Little things, but little things are important, they set the tone, and give clues to the mindset of individuals. And this man was a stickler when Town tackled, or even thought about tackling. Pouton was booked quite early on for a strong tackle just in front of the Police Hut. Nothing serious, barely a foul, but somehow that yellow card came out and was wafted dismissively in front of Pouton's nose. He was then brought back by the referee and lectured about his dissent (which seemed nothing more than a loud groan and face pull). Pouton was clearly told that he would be sent off if he said another word. McDermott received a lecture for winning a header - that's all he did, just jumped up and headed the ball clear. But only one man could see the truth, and that truth was a free kick to Bradford (that even they didn't claim).
All this rather detracted from the match, which as far as Town were concerned, was pretty good. There was passing, there was movement, there were shots - and some on target too. Town totally dominated the first 20 minutes, with Taylor having 2 or 3 shots from the edge of the area which were on target but were only slightly off centre, so the 'keeper didn't have to dive very far to catch the ball.
The best move of the half saw a Bradford corner cleared to Coldicott, way out on the Town right 35 yards from the Town goal. He raced off down the line, cut inside and, from about 30 yards out from the Bradford goal, on the touchline, chipped a superb pass over the defenders to Taylor's big manly chest, right in the centre of the goal, about 20 yards out. Taylor swiveled and hit a right foot shot low, just to the 'keeper's right. We "oooed" and it was worth it.
After about 13 minutes, Willems nearly scored when, after a Town break down the right, the ball was hit across the face of the penalty area. Willems turned and hit a first time right footed shot from near the corner of the penalty box. The ball curled low through the penalty area and past the 'keeper's left hand post by a foot or so. Pouton had a shot, and typically it was miss-hit and going yards wide, though a Town player retrieved it, spun round and whacked it through the area but straight to the 'keeper. A Town player? Yes, Taylor, a Town player. During this same period there were a couple of appeals for handball as Town hit hard crosses into the area towards Taylor and Boulding.
Then, after about 25 minutes, Bradford started to get the ball a bit more and started to attack down the Town left. This led to a few crosses, the occasional desperate last gasp tackle from Ford, Raven, McDermott and Coldicott, and a few shots from outside the penalty area. Nothing to cause too much trouble to Coyne though. The nearest they came was a Carbone shot, from just inside the Town area, in a central leftish position, which went through a few legs and hit the side netting. Coyne had it covered, so it excited the Bradford supporters more than it should. In fact, apart from Ward's bulk, height and aggression (which won a few free kicks and gave away even more), Carbone was the only threat to Town, though he was very greedy, with the ball tied to his shoelaces, and McDermott and Ford lashed to his shorts. It resembled a Benny Hill sketch on occasions. Cue the music.
Still Town pressed forward with yet more shots from the edge of the area, with Boulding, I think, having a curling effort from the left hand side which forced the goalkeeper to leap to his left and save well at head height. The referee caused some more annoyance when, in the middle of the Town half, Pouton did a huge sliding tackle to take the ball off Sharpe, who stayed upright, landed on Pouton, and appeared to stand on his ankles. The referee decided to have a chat with both of them. Mmmm, so he's a lenient one then. Wrong! In the last minute of the half a cross was sent up towards Taylor on the right hand side of the area, about a dozen yards out, five or six yards wide of the goal. Taylor headed on, very high, and tried to run around the back. His shirt moved in strange and unusual ways, and he appeared to have difficulty running. His legs moved, but he wasn't going anywhere. The goalkeeper ambled out and picked up the ball, readying himself to welly the ball upfield.
The Bradford fans gave out a hoot, the referee walked forward and sent off Taylor, who looked mightily unhappy. Not many saw what had happened, but it seems Taylor kicked out and missed whatever he was aiming at, if anything. The Town fans were very, very mystified, and very, very unhappy. The ground rocked to a series of chants aimed specifically at the "man" in green. I don't have to tell you what was chanted, work it out for yourself. The Town players seemed to remonstrate with the referee, a most un-Town like thing. A minute later the Bradford winger, Lawrence, tried to shield the ball from Raven, but succeeded in doing a forearm smash into Raven's face. Raven went down, the referee gave Town a free kick. And that was it. Now some in the Pontoon considered that this may have been a bit inconsistent. And some may consider that to be an understatement.
Half time: Grimsby Town 0 Bradford City 0
That was it, the first half over, ending in a resounding chorus of disapproval for the pompous Napoleon in green. What should have been an ovation for Town's dominance, spirit and attacking intent became gnarling, snarling rage at one man. Overall Town had been playing well, with only Campbell looking a but under par, but then again, he's looked under par all season. The defence had not been breached (when Bradford did get beyond them the offside flag was always aloft), being organised, committed and, well, solid. The midfield was equally solid defensively, though lacking in creativity, as there had been no chances inside the Bradford penalty area. But it had all been very encouraging - for 44 minutes 37 seconds.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"What did Taylor do? I didn't see owt"
The report continues in the second half.
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