Date: 19th August 2009 at 8:46am
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I make no apologies for this match report. I anticipate that there are those out there who won’t find it palatable. Who will ridicule Vital Bradford for its opinions and decide they’re better off reading other sites.

Perhaps, if you think that might be you, you’d be better off going to work, getting on with your day and coming back to this in the evening after the raw frustration of last night has worn off.

Lincoln City beat the Bantams 2-0 last night. For the fourth game in a row that means we failed to score. It means that from 3 league games we have a single point. It means that we go into Saturday’s away game with Cheltenham with fragile confidence, little form and real concerns around the squad, management and season ahead.

Except that we played very well.

Stuart McCall and his players are no doubt receiving a lot of criticism on message boards, in comments and from opposition commentators. But, realistically, apart from failing to get the ball into the net, there’s very little else that last night’s hosts could have done to end up with the right result at the end of it.

In the first 45 minutes the Bantms dominated. Michael Flynn, Gareth Evans and Chris Brandon impressing with their running and use of the ball. At the back the hosts looked solid with Steve Williams and Zesh Williams imperious. Simon Ramsden again support the attack well as well as defending stoutly but Luke O’Brien, coming through a late fitness test, was visibly off the pace raising questions about whether Stuart shouldn’t have thrown Louis Horne in. After all, he has to make his debut sometime.

The fact that the scores was goalless at half time was unbelievable and the Bantams went off to generous applause. Goalmouth scrambles had come and gone. Michael Flynn had seen a penalty well saved (although questions must be raised about why either nobody knew who the penalty taker was or why three players argued over who should strike it).

After 55 minutes the Imps came back into the game and Zesh Rehman and Steve Williams between them managed to clear the ball off the line after confusion had reigned in the box. Simon Eastwood made a good save to keep the scores level but the youngster has a worrying tendency to make a move as though he’s coming for the ball and then decide not to. And it was from such a moment of hesitation that the visitors took the lead. The defence, normally very comfortable on the ball, had been passing it amongst themselves and Luke O’Brien knocked it across the box. It was a loose ball and it was from there that the way was paved for the Bantams to lose. Simon Ramsden reacted first but was slower than the Lincoln player who he brought down for a certain red card and a penalty (although I’d love to see if he got something of the ball). Rene Howe stepped up and confidently struck it past Eastwood.

60 seconds later the Huddersfield stopper was picking the ball out of the net after Chris Fagan had waltzed through the shell shocked Bantams and tucked a second. For all the hosts’ huff and puff and goal bound efforts – Gareth Evans somehow contriving to miss from the Kop’s penalty spot on two occasions there was no way past Rob Burch in the Lincoln goal.

Last night’s 90 minutes demonstrates that football is a cruel mistress. Lincoln wind their way home full of belief, even if that is blind belief and the Bantams look to Saturday with more storm clouds circling.

It would do some Bantams well to get a sense of perspective and an idea of history. 24 hour rolling news makes every result and every fixture something to agonise over and worry about. The season has another 43 games to run. 11 years ago in the 98/99 season (which might as well be 1,000 years ago) the Bantams started with 1 point from 4 games, taking 9 fixtures to get into double figures. That season ended well.

We played well last night. We were better than we were on Saturday and the Imps, no matter what their perspective on proceedings, were lucky to take 3 points home with them. This was the kind of away victory we used to pull off under Colin Todd – undeserved. There’s no luck at Valley Parade at the moment. Perhaps we’ll find it on a visit to Cheltenham next week?

Player Ratings

Simon Eastwood – 5
Good kicking but looking all of his inexperienced years at crucial moments. Had a part to play in our conceding both goals and looks like the communication between him and his central two needs to improve

Simon Ramsden – 7
Another very good performance from Ramsden. Must be frustrating for him to see such good defensive and attacking play undone by the curse that’s hanging over the goals.

Luke O’Brien – 5
Unfortunately OB wasn’t fit and he shouldn’t have been playing as it hampered his performance. Also I’m concerned he’s taking free kicks, we seem to have Paul Heckingbottom syndrome again

Steve Williams – 6
Apart from his mistake for the second goal it was a good performance from Williams. I have high hopes for the ‘Barber from Bamber Bridge’ on these two showings

Zesh Rehman – 7
I thought Zesh was faultless.

Michael Flynn – 7
Had a good game driving City forward and didn’t hide from possession, getting his foot in, or the fans (only he and Ramsden meaningfully applauded the fans at final whistle)

Lee Bullock – 4
Off the pace, hiding from the ball and ineffective. A worry that it took Stuart so long to withdraw him.

Chris Brandon – 7.5
Built on Saturday’s display and was again the driving force for the hosts

James Hanson – 6
Hanson is playing well, and working hard but questions must continue about using him as a player to lump balls forward to rather than getting him into the attacking line up

Peter Thorne – 5
By making Thorne captain he has become undroppable. Boulding should have started. While we play without wingers he is going to struggle to get chances to tuck away. This is a tactical concern.

Gareth Evans – 6.5
Should have had a hattrick and maybe one game this season he will. Looked the most likely to break the deadlock and you’ve got to hope that it will happen sooner rather than later

Joe Colbeck – 4
Very disappointing Joe. Hotheaded, impetuous and vicious cameo from the winger that should have ended shortly after it began with a red card. Get your head in the game Joe.

James O’Brien
Not long enough to make an impact
Also not given a chance to make a difference. Though should have done better with a chance that was offered to him.

Manager Rating
After going 2-0 down it took Stuart over 10 minutes to make a change.

His midfield was tired after 50 minutes.

And noone seems to know what to do with set pieces.

These things need addressing.