Match Report 2003-2004

Tuesday 26 August, 2003, Division One

West Ham away

When you get it right, when you get it wrong

West Ham 1
Defoe 1-0
Bradford City 0

Nicky Law could not have asked for more for the Bantams who battled and lost at West Ham. No more spirit, no more commitment and no more fight. The Bantams brought their game and it was bested.

Law did things the right way, the way he seems set to live and die with. The packed and sacked midfield and defence with attempts to pick out Michael Branch's pace, see if Dean Windass can work something or if Andy Gray can be brought in on the flank are the sum of the Bantam forward movement but saying such is like suggesting that the men never really attacked the orcs much at Helm's Deep. Give Law credit for the courage of his convictions, he believes that this is the way to play and he is sticking to it.

The Bantams boss had been linked to a more to Upton Park to fill the dugout vacated by Glenn Roeder and occupied by Trevor Brooking tonight. Brooking is clearly not a man interested in management long term. His 433 looked like a Championship Manager formation and had the same resonation to it: It if doesn't work then no one will expect me to do any better.

Of course Trevor is a canny fox and it did work. One has to wonder if Brooking say in his Upton Park office thinking that to boost spirits he needed to go all out assault with three across the front or if he might have put an eye to Law's record and decided that the best way to break the stalemate the Bantams start defending, is to storm the walls.

Extending the metaphor the walls were breeched by a long range howitzer shot after Jermain Defoe wriggled free on the left and carried on running across the box to slam past the impressive Mark Paston. It was a Premiership goal. The mark of playing in the Premiership was that even the best back line would be broken by moments of Thierry Henry style quality and this was one of them. Remove Defoe, and there no reason why a player poached from Charlton by West Ham should be loyal to the Hammers, then this game is 0-0 because for all the stacking of the forward line Brooking provided he did nothing tactically that would have tipped the balance had this one piece of Premiership class not come to show.

That said Law stands accused of the same. We have heard of limited resources and restrictive squad selection but this club has won battles where we were out gunned in the past and normally that was because the manager managed to make up the shortfall. Bolton and Ipswich were both better squads on paper in 1999 but Paul Jewell's side went up.

Defoe goals aside West Ham have a battle plan formulating and it is based on the pace of the superb pair Matthew Etherington and David Connolly stretching teams and the brutality of Tomas Repka who's debilitating tackle on Dean Windass at the 23rd minute mark should have seen him sent off. Windass never returned to the field and despite all that has been said the Bantams looked worse without him. Odd to think what would have happened has we had a Repka to plough through the back of Defoe and remove him but we have David Wetherall and we are happy with him because at times the Hammers number two looks like the sort of no style hacker that is supposed to infiltrate this division from below, not come down from above. Who would have thought that one would end up pointing out the class of the Bantams central defenders over those who play what is an iconic position for West Ham?

Notes as well for Simon Francis and Mark Paston who both held there own in maelstrom that two years ago both would probably not have even dreamed about. Both are great illustrations of what Nicky Law is doing right at City. Both came in to be understudies and Law blooded both and on a night when City and City fans were left looking for something to suggest that if this match were not played one hundred times the next ninety nine results would not be the same.

Man of the Match
Mark Paston

This club has a long tradition of getting good goalkeepers and then making them do an unwholesome amount of work.

Bradford City Team
  • Michael Standing for Windass (injured)
  • Robert Wolleaston for Branch