Unbeaten home records are there to be broken. Winless starts to seasons are there to be brought to an end. For the fans of Bradford City and AFC Bournemouth, yesterday was not expected to be the day that both those things happened.
But happen they did and in no way was the result an unfair reflection of what took place on the pitch. The ‘league-leaders`, a term we had delighted in using, looked lethargic and lacking in composure whilst their second-bottom opponents were full of vigour, no doubt inspired by Joe Colbeck`s assertion that he and Omar Daley would destroy Bournemouth. I make no value judgement in the youngster making that statement but recognise that pride always comes before a fall.
As we took our seats it was hard to imagine that we were approaching the end of September, as Valley Parade basked in sunshine for the entire game and perhaps the weather gave the City players the sense of pre-season as they certainly lacked any urgency or drive as the game got underway.
Too often the triangle of Rhys Evans, Graeme Lee and Matt Clarke passed the ball amongst themselves patiently before a sloppy pass or a wayward touch brought the men in white charging back at us. Before the game we had been told to be patient for the Bantams to break their opponents down but that seemed to give the players the freedom to stop thinking about how to beat the visitors and just attempt to play keep ball, badly.
Ironically it was just as City looked like they were throwing off their shackles and beginning to play more expansively that they fell behind. A flurry of chances at the Bradford End had gone our way before the visitors broke towards the Kop. Sammy Igoe ran at Paul Heckingbottom for about half the pitch which meant he had no difficulty at all in delivering a perfect ball across the box for Danny Hollands to head in. The cross shouldn`t have happened, and the header certainly should have been cut out by either Clarke or Lee who had disappointing afternoons.
Following last weeks boos it seemed inevitable that having gone to sleep for the first 39 minutes and conceded the same thing would happen again but pretty much from nothing Stuart McCall`s men found themselves level three minutes later. An innocuous ball from the wing dropped behind Darren Anderton and at Joe Colbeck`s feet. He ripped through the Bournemouth defence and hammered the ball between keeper and near post where it hit the post with such force that it ended up in the other corner. He`d had a quiet, and almost lazy, first half but perhaps that goal was a statement of intent for the second half?
As it was that equaliser seemed to lose us the game. I don`t know what Stuart said at half time but perhaps if he`d needed to break another watch we would have seen something from his side to suggest that the points weren`t going to the south coast.
Within 9 minutes of the restart the Bantams were behind again. Jimmy Quinn having sent his side out with purpose saw them get off to a great start as they put the hosts under pressure. Again, the goal came from their right flank as both Omar Daley and Paul Heckingbottom failed to clear the danger. The cut back came in, Jeff Goulding met it with power and Rhys Evans was again picking the ball out of his net.
It was in the build up to that incident that Omar Daley looked like he injured his knee. Certainly he was a spent force after the Bantams went 2-1 down. If he were injured then he should have been substituted, if he was not injured then for some reason he did stop running anywhere near he showed in the first half. And still should have been substituted.
As a result of our misfiring left flank most of the good the Bantams did came down the right but despite some great balls into the box everyone was having one of those days. AFC Bournemouth ensured that they had a man wherever they needed to be and had a much better level of discipline in their positional awareness than the Bantams could boast.
In many ways yesterday`s game reminded me of the Accrington debacle. As the visitors were given the time and the space on the ball to look like Brazil the Kop solidly chanted for twenty minutes. As with Accrington the deficit only increased.
This time it was from a corner. Wayne Cummins delivered the ball, (again from our left flank) and Jason Pearce met it with a fine diving header that ensured the points were going to the south coast.
The Bantams still had 20 minutes to haul things back but by conceding such a sloppy goal had little chance of restoring parity. And although Stuart brought on Barry Conlon for Graeme Lee and went to what was effectively a 3-2-5 the imbalance caused by a misfiring left flank ensured that we were limited in what we could do in the final third.
With three strikers on the field we did look more threatening but too often we didn`t throw the ball into the box, choosing to play a negative ball back to the defence or keeper or, on one occasion try and win a penalty by falling over (although why Omar should have been booked when Anderton wasn`t I don`t know). Although we did think we should have had two penalties – during one goalmouth scramble there was more than a hint of hand with the ball in the air and again a Bournemouth defender handled a cross from Michael Boulding. But try as they sort of might the Bantams ended up 3-1 down at the final whistle having been played off their own park. Even if we were still playing now I don`t think we`d have found a way of breaking through a well organised and spirited Bournemouth side. Jimmy Quinn has got a lot to work with. We played poorly of that there is no doubt but Bournemouth played well and should take the credit for beating us. Disappointing result, but as far as spectacles go light years ahead of that 0-0 draw a couple of years ago.
Besides, we`re still third in the table (although the Chester-Shrewsbury game might see us drop to fourth), two points off the leaders and still enjoying our best start to a season in years. We lost, it will happen, we`re not invincible, we just have to pick ourselves up and look to Saturday`s big game at Shrewsbury.
Whether or not Omar was injured he was painfully ineffective and whilst the injury to Arnison might have forced his hand we would have been better off restoring some balance to the team rather than throwing players up front.
Last week his half time chat did the business, this week it didn’t. Compare and contrast what you said and what the players did Stu, take the positives, bin the negatives.