What Morecambe Reported About The New Year Game
The New Year started off with an all-ticket game at the Globe which was witnessed by what tradition demands will always be one of the biggest home gates of the season: over three and a half thousand on this occasion. Many of these visiting a town once called Bradford Upon Sea were from Yorkshire and they probably went home less satisfied with the result than did the home fans. Before the match, the Bantams were expected to win at least by the bookmaking fraternity. Since ex-Morecambe hero Garry Thompson's goal against Arsenal and their ultimate penalty-shootout victory against the Gunners almost a month ago, hopes have been high at Valley Parade that City might be on the verge of reversing a decline which has seen them drop from the pinnacle of English football in the Premiership just over a decade ago to scratching round in the basement of the football league in recent years.
Bradford have ended up in 18th position in League Two during both of the last two seasons, six points behind Tuesday's hosts last time and only the same number of points off a relegation position themselves. Since their famous victory over Arsene Wenger's men, though, the fortunes of Phil Parkinson's team have been a bit up and down. They have won only one of their subsequent five games, being knocked-out of the FA Cup at Brentford and most recently losing 2-4 at home to Rochdale last Saturday. Despite this, they started Tuesday's game in fifth position in League Two, good enough to win them a place in the play-offs. Morecambe's recent form hasn't been brilliant either - they have won only one of their last six games, were knocked-out of the FA Cup by Coventry last month and lost to local rivals Fleetwood on Boxing Day to the only goal of the game. Jim Bentley's side started the match in 17th position.
There was strange weather at the Globe Arena during the game: drizzle fell occasionally and the sky looked steel grey enough for snow at times. Yet occasionally, the sun also came out and there was a very powerful rainbow to be seen to the north of the ground shortly after kick-off. On the field, a strong wing blowing off the nearby Irish Sea meant that goal kicks taken by Bradford in the first half and Morecambe during the second had a habit of drifting across the pitch towards touch nearest to the dugouts throughout the game. But the conditions didn't spoil the contest - both teams played some intelligent football at times and this game was never boring despite the eventual lack of goals. Matt Duke was the first of the goalkeepers to be called into action, confidently catching an excellent corner kick from Lewis Allesandra after three minutes. Up the other end, there was the first comedy moment of the game when City's ancient-looking Captain Gary Jones attempted a very optimistic volley from some range which would have cleared the home supporters` stand in normal conditions. Today, however, the wind was so strong that the ball decided to change direction in mid flight and dropped harmlessly out of the heavens into Barry Roche's waiting hands.
After eleven minutes, good approach play by the Shrimps saw Jack Redshaw played-in to the Bantams' penalty area but his first-time effort was pushed away by Duke for a corner. From this, Bradford quickly counter-attacked down the left-hand Morecambe flank and a dangerous cross from there was well blocked by the always reliable Chris McCready when the good Captain Jones tried his luck again with another shot. Lots of neat play by both sides ensued but Morecambe had the next half-decent chance when Allesandra was only inches away from connecting with a fine pass from midfield after 23 minutes. Just over half an hour was on the clock when Will Atkinson dragged a decent shot just to the left of Roche's goal. City had the next chance too - after McCready conceded a corner, Roche was only able to push away James Hanson's resultant unmarked header after 37 minutes. Two minutes later, Roche's opposite number was lucky to get away with a truly feeble attempt to palm away a cross but that was the end of the goalmouth action and the two teams came off level with Morecambe - with the wind at their backs - possibly just shading it.
Bradford came out for the second half having obviously received instructions to play at a higher tempo. They did so and it took a brilliant save from Roche to keep them out as he dived to his right to foil Rory McArdle's towering header after just a minute of the restart. Four minutes after this, a cross went unchallenged right across the Shrimps' penalty area from the Bradford left with no visiting player close enough to make it count and at this time the visitors were undoubtedly in charge of the game. Things looked worse for Morecambe when influential midfielder Stewart Drummond had to leave the field after 58 minutes following an earlier truly bone-crunching but fair tackle. But the ship was steadied as Jack Redshaw's clever spin and shot in the opposing penalty area narrowly missed Duke's goal just past the hour. The key moment of the match arrived in the sixty-sixth minute, however, when Barry Roche somehow or other but no doubt miraculously kept out a shot from substitute Nahki Wells - ninety-nine times out of a hundred, Wells would have bulged the net in identical circumstances. And the Morecambe goalkeeper earned his corn again after 71 minutes with another excellent save from the same player. Bradford didn't have it all their own way, though: McCready headed only just over City's bar after 80 minutes and the few chances the visitors contrived towards the game had more to do with the leniency of referee Lewis - who indulged Kyel Reid's seeming inability to stay on his feet for more then a few moments at a time far more often than was merited - than any actual sustained pressure on the home goal.
All in all, though, this was probably just about a fair result in a game which was always good to watch. Morecambe are now eighteenth in the table as a result - Bradford slip two places to seventh.
Afterwards, a Bradford fan I spoke to told me Morecambe would be lucky not to be relegated this season on today's performance. 'What does that say for your lot then?' I asked. 'Ah, nah then - that's different tha knoz!' Bradford didn't win today because norovirus is sweeping through the club. 'But I thought norovirus was norra virus!' I suggested. He looked confused. As well he might. Mebbe me West Yorkshire accent int reet oop to scratch these days. Sithee.
Whatever - Happy New Year to One and All and whether norovirus is a virus or not, I hope none of us get it...
Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 2 Nick Fenton (C); 15 Chris McCready; 22 Andy Parrish; 16 Stewart Drummond (3 Robbie Threlfall (Y) 58 mins); 8 Andrew Wright (Y); 18 Gary McDonald; 9 Lewis Allesandra; 27 Jack Redshaw (7 Izak Reid 83 minutes); 11 Kevin Ellison; 14 Jordan Burrow (10 Richard Brodie 67 mins).
Substitutes not used: 25 Andreas Arestidou; 6 Will Haining; 17 Andy Fleming; 12 Dan Parkinson; 19 Joe McGee.
Bradford City: 12 Matt Duke; 2 Stephen Darby; 3 James Meredith (27 Curtis Good 46 mins); 4 Ricky Ravenhill (Y); 8 Ritchie Jones; 14 Will Atkinson (Y); 18 Gary Jones (C) (7 Kyel Reid 72 mins); 9 James Hanson; 20 Zavon Hines (21 Nahki Wells 46 mins); 23 Rory McArdle; 24 Nathan Doyle (Y).
Substitutes not used: 1 Jon McLaughlin;17 Alan Connell; 25 Tom Naylor; 26 Blair Turgott.
Ref: Rob Lewis.