Seven years is how long we have waited to feel like this on the opening day of the season. In 2001, and playing in the Championship, we beat Barnsley 4-0 at Valley Parade. The next Tuesday we went to Portsmouth in the League Cup and won 1-0, wouldn’t it be fantastic if history were to repeat itself again!?
History repeating itself is not something that the Notts County players will be in love with after Peter Thorne once again proved their nemesis in a match-winning performance that saw him grab two goals as, for 70 minutes at least, the Bantams looked to be comfortably on their way to three points.
The game kicked off with a great atmosphere around the ground as the Bradford End, reclaimed for the home fans, was making its presence felt. The 800 travelling Notts fans were also in impressive voice and just about filled out their two blocks of the Midland Road stand.
The Bantams were on the attack early on as Kyle Nix forced a good save out of Kevin Pilkington after five minutes but by that moment the fans were already scratching their heads over the day’s referee as he waved away a clear tug on Lee Bullock as he advanced into the box.
This was the first of five penalties that the referee ignored and set the tone for a shocking display from the man in the middle.
Yet even though they were playing against 12 men the Bantams did not look phased and went about the match with a coolly confident air, retaining possession and working the balls into good positions.
However, before the Bantams took the lead they had to contend with a scare at the other end when Jamie Forrester forced a good save out of Rhys Evans with his legs. Under ten minutes later Peter Thorne was wheeling away in celebration as he reacted incredibly well to a low cross from Paul Arnison and bulletted a header into the net leaving Pilkington no chance.
Straight from the kick off Notts County pressed and Delroy Facey should have done better when well placed (I don’t think I’m the first to say that about Facey) but again Rhys Evans was equal to it.
As half time approached things got a little scrappy but Omar Daley, who ran their left back ragged all day, madea tremendous burst down the flank and then brought it into the box only for his rasping shot to be well saved and go out for a corner. This prompted a flurry of chances with Barry Conlon somehow putting the ball into the side netting from a goal mouth scramble.
Just on the stroke of half time Peter Thorne gave away a dangerous free kick but fortunately the visitors were unable to use it to good advantage and so, for the first time in five home games the Bantams went into the break ahead running the rist of playing well but failing to score.
During half time Ian McParland clearly stressed to his players how important it was for them to start playing football as they looked a completely different side. They identified Paul Arnison as being unable to cope with Myles Weston’s pace and channelled most of their possession through him.
And for the first ten minutes it paid off as the Bantams looked under pressure. However, they defused that tension in the best way possible – by scoring.
The goal began life as a Notts County corner that broke to Omar Daley. He skinned the entire County defence and was on the brink of scoring the goal of the season (so far) until he hit his final shot too well meaning the keeper saved it (a scuff would probably have gone in). However, form the resulting corner we applied more pressure and when it came the chance was perhaps fortuitous, the ball having been lobbed back into the box was disastrously back-headed by a County defender and Peter Thorne, demonstrating his strikers quality, pounced on the opportunity and produced an overhead kick that gave the Bantams a two-goal cushion.
Being 2-0 up with 30 minutes to go should be a pretty comfortable position but the Bantams had waste chances to put the game to bed that would ultimately ensure a nervous final 18 minutes.
As the Bantams back line rocked in the aftermath of the goal the ball was cleared down our left flank. Unfortunately everyone was back defending meaning Kyle Nix was out of position. The ball travelled to their left and the continually irritating Myles Weston who beat Arnison and cut the ball back across the face of goal for Richard Butcher to net the easiest of finishes and so set up a frantic final period.
However, messy as it was, the Bantams kept a solid back line and prevented Notts County from really mustering a serious threat to Rhys Evans’ goal whilst at the same time looking very dangerous on the break – we had a number of chances to put the game out of sight.
So, the abiding memory many of us will have will be of that final backs to the wall performance but in truth this was a very organised and impressive display from a side that contained four new starting faces. And there are still players to come back into the squad. Stuart must be pleased by yesterday’s performance and the impressive turnout of the fans and their vocal support.
Bring on the Terriers!
League Two Lowdown
All the match stats from the game
How do I think the officials did yesterday? Terribly
League Two Lowdown
For a snap shot of League Two’s results