Match Report 2003-2004

Saturday 9 August, 2003, Division One

Norwich City at Valley Parade

Law's men play in fits and starts

Bradford City 2
Muirhead 1-2
Bbanch 2-2
Norwich City 2
Rivers 0-1 (pen)
Easton 0-2

The hot sun, the long shadows and the air of optimism the first day is either the wet paint on a boat as it moves out of dock or it is Christmas morning present opening wondering if that new bike shaped thing could be a new bike.

Today it was both.

Anticipation build up by rumours of pacy new signings and the return of Alan Combe and Dean Windass gave way to a mild confusion as Nicky Law unveiled his traditionally defender heavy team and excluded Combe for Mark Paston but that confusion reverted to the most familiar feeling at Valley Parade, annoyances at a Referee, just before half time.

For it was then when After Dean Windass's feud with Malky MacKay saw the City man left in a heap and the ball broke to the Norwich left that Paul Evans put hand on shirt, we are told, and a penalty was given. Mark Rivers hit the ball past Paston with all commenting that the more things change at VP, the worse the man in the middle gets.

Such affairs concluded an interesting first half where the visitors, looking a step ahead of the deathly average Canary sides one normally sees, gave back as good as the Bantams put out. Surprise starter Michael Branch look lively and seemed to work well with Windass who became bogged down with his Malky business but still did enough to show what the problem with Ashley Ward was. A club needs a target man, Ward was not a good one.

Windass is, he wins balls and generally upsets people and all were glad to see him back or so it seemed. Paul Heckingbottom, employed on the left side of midfield on his debut, looked quietly effective and combined well with Wayne Jacobs with most of the play going down the left. Right side was problematic with Andy Gray back on the wing and too slow to beat a man and Gareth Edds failing to impress. Edds it seems is the sort of defender who is better going forward and lacks the rudimentary skills at the back but considering he is following Gus Ulhenbeek and Gunnar Halle in the role this is not unusual for a Bantam number two.

So decent displays but City lacked a creative spark from the Tom Kearney/Paul Evans partnership, which was, if memory serves, the problem at the start of last season. David Wetherall and Simon Francis as a partnership at centreback looked impressive, the skipper commanding and his young apprentice peerless.

Second half and Clint Easton flattered the Canaries with a second goal that came after a bad offside call against David Nielsen who in a goalmouth scrambled that ensured saw the ball ricochet off his hand to stay in. Not a deliberate handball but considering that the ball would have gone out had the digit not interfered then one waited for the whistle. It never came and Easton got on the cut back with power.

So far, so bad. Nothing seemed to work and long faces all round when after Windass bane Mackay tugged and someone fell for Andy Gray to step up and plant a penalty firmly against the post. Add to that Dean Windass's Paul Scholes styled volley corner that cannoned off a poor East Anglian's face and away from the goal line and one got the feeling it was not going to be City's day. Wet paint on the boat and we were leaning against it.

Hope when it came it came in the form of Ben Muirhead who has the potential to infuriate with his wing hanging but when with a couple of minutes leff he picke dup the ball and jinked in and out of green shirts like a slalomist before popping the ball in left footed Garincha style, such potential was ignored. In fact when City mounted the Wetherall forward assault that brought an equaliser Muirhead's pace and tackle was Norwich threatened a brake was decisive.

Finally two minutes overtime and a ball over the top to Michael Branch who took it well firing inside Robert Green's far post. Everyone loves a debut goalscorer and Branch's energy deserved a goal.

Therein lay the answer to City's revival. The fitness of this City team today was impressive to say the least with the visitors, who had been able to sit back for everything over an hour, wilting. David Neilsen hugged turf with cramp and then at the end exhaustion as the sun took it's toll. Not for Nicky Law's Bantams though who trooped off heads, and shoulders, held high.

And the new bike on Christmas morning? Looks sturdy.

Man of the Match
Simon Francis

Today Simon Francis is a centre back but he still looks assured, calm and controlled.

Bradford City Team
  • Ben Muirhead for Kearney
  • Lewis Emanuel for Jacobs