Date:Wednesday September 3 2008
Attendance: 20,128 (4,287 visitors)
The last time Bradford City travelled the short distance to Elland Road both clubs were plying their trade in the Premiership. Yet, just seven years and a series of catastrophic implosions later these two West Yorkshire sides are meeting in the FA Associate Members Trophy (sponsored by Johnstone's Paint).
After years of misery for both sets of fans the two teams are widely fancied to impress in their respective lower leagues and when the fixture computer threw up our neighbours the sense of expectation and excitement has been palpable.
And over 20,000 people were not disappointed by the 90 minutes of football to which they were treated. From before kickoff it was obviously going to be a highly charged game, the police presence was immense and as I walked to the ground two buses pulled up that looked like they had just returned from Baghdad given the number of smashed windows.
Stuart McCall made a host of changes to the side that had lost at Aldershot on Saturday. In came TJ Moncur at right back, in came Mark Bower in middle whilst in front of the back four he went with 5 across midfield that included Kyle Nix and Dean Furman making his first start for the club. Up front, Barry Conlon was given the responsibility to plough a lone furrow.
What had been often touted as a negative tactic last year was nothing of the sort last night as the match quickly got off to a frenetic start.
The game was only 7 minutes old when first blood was drawn. Paul McLaren was in the box covering in defence and failed to control the ball with his chest, allowing it to strike his hand. In front of 4,000 Bradford City fans, Andy Robinson stepped up, sent Rhys Evans the wrong way and put the hosts ahead.
But in truth that first ten minutes could have seen the visitors take the lead as Omar Daley pulled the Leeds backline this way and that but, typically, his two or three efforts went the wrong side of post and bar. Mind you, David Prutton had similarly had an cross-shot flash past the post with Rhys Evans well beaten.
However, after the initial blow City refused to buckle and continued to play football. At the centre of the five man midfield McLaren, Nix and Furman were playing cleverly and spreading the ball out to the marauding Colbeck and Daley well. And when the Bantams had the ball in the net it was no more than we deserved.
Tragically it was not to be. From a corner Graeme Lee had won the flick on, Joe Colbeck had smashed the ball through a sea of legs where it hit Leeds' Frazer Richardson on the line. Omar Daley poked home the rebound to see celebrations erupt only for the linesman to flag for offside.
The match continued to ebb and flow with Leeds firing balls across the face of goal for one of Heckingbottom, Lee or Bower to make a last-ditch saving upwards header (a pattern repeated throughout the game) and Andy Robinson crashing a shot against the bar whilst at the other end Barry Conlon really should have buried a phenomenal ball from Joe Colbeck.
To make matters worse for our bald Irishman his miss was compounded moments later when he failed to make any kind of effort to stick with his man from a corner. Robert Snodgrass delivered the ball into the box, Barry made some kind of half-hearted effort to challenge Luciano Becchio but gave up, probably believing he should have had a free kick, only for the Argentinian to nod the ball into the net.
It was really not the ideal way to end the half as we had looked good to go in only one goal down (well, had we had competent officials, level).
The second half continued at a similar pace but Leeds made the most of early mistakes by the Bradford midfield. Kyle Nix particularly being guilty of trying one too many fancy tricks on the edge of his box to present the ball to a Leeds player. And, when Frazer Richardson hit the post after relieving him of possession, it was a lucky escape for the midfielder.
However, those mistakes seemed to catalyse the Bantams and we began to exert some pressure on the hosts, pressure that in the 71st minute was rewarded. A move that was begun by clever link up between TJ Moncur and Joe Colbeck on the right wing saw Dean Furman deliver a beautiful ball to Kyle Nix just inside the box. He laid it off to Omar Daley who made a fantastic run into the box and pulled it back to Nix whose goalbound shot was poked into the net by Barry's outstretched knee (I honestly thought it was going to be disallowed for offside but fortunately his greed got away with it)!
2-1 and 20 minutes to go (although with the lack of clock at Elland Road we had no idea what time it actually was) thoughts began to turn to extra time. But, to make that happen we would need to make changes and go after the game.
Puzzlingly Stuart seems bemused by the concept of match-changing substitutions. When they came (Bullock for Furman, Boulding for Nix) they came with under five minutes to go yet it was evident that Furman was knackered and that in order to go after the game we needed to pile on strikers.
Perhaps Stuart was content to lose, and lose well, rather than have to contend first with extra time and then with penalties and then with a further cup competition. Although of course he would deny such a suggestion.
Anyway, the game became very stretched with Leeds players being given masses of time on the ball in the middle of the pitch which they used to good effect without ever really troubling the Bradford keeper (mostly due to tremendous last ditch defending from Bower, Heckingbottom, Moncur and Lee).
At the same time for all the exertions of the Bradford City midfield and forwards we never really put David Lucas' goal under too much threat to suggest that we might force the game beyond the 90 minutes.
Leeds themselves had obviously decided that we were going to be leaving empty handed as every two minutes for the final ten we were informed via the tannoy that 'for our own safety' it was suggested that we stay inside the ground. As we had no choice about the matter it was hardly a suggestion, and all it did was to increase the frustration amongst the Bradford City faithful.
We were being held within the ground because Leeds fans couldn't be trusted to grant us safe passage home.
Nevertheless, the fans who had been in incredible voice all night were afforded the opportunity to give the players a long, and well-deserved ovation and to continue singing such priceless classics as 'Champions League, You F***ed it up' and 'There's Only One Peter Ridsdale'. We were held inside the ground for so long that by the time we were let out the players had been out and completed their post-match warmdowns although not before they had been in stitches at our unified mocking of 'The Gay Boy in the suit', who to his credit did 'give us a wave'.
We might have lost but we certainly enjoyed our 'cup final' and will now look forward to Vale Park on Saturday in the knowledge that we have players in our side who are capable of playing really well against 'better' opposition.
Date:Wednesday September 3 2008
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