Date: 12th December 2008 at 7:50pm
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It’s been a long time coming but here’s my reflection on last weekend’s game at Valley Parade.

Bradford City and Dagenham & Redbridge played out a 1-1 draw under the ‘watchful’ eye of the infamous Stuart Attwell.

The tone was set from the beginning when the D&R players encamped in the Bradford City half for the first ten minutes and that was a warning we would have done well to heed.

It was another afternoon where the players were second to the ball and where the defence cleared the constantly threatening balls only to find them coming back at them straight away again and again.

As the statistics show, the possession, the corners and the attempts on goal were all in favour of the visitors. This was a home performance that didn’t include much to be proud of for the Bantams. The men in yellow were in almost complete control for most of the first half.

Ben Strevens and Paul Benson showed why they have scored so many goals as the visitors worked the channels and constantly looked to make incisive runs but the hosts had a pretty resolute back line to thank for thwarting most of the opportunities. And, when it wasn’t snuffed out then Rhys Evans was more than equal to what was thrown at him; his save at the end of the first half was incredibly important to allow us to go in level at the break.

Mind you, despite how abject we seemed, we flaunted a number of excellent chances ourselves. Kyle Nix was responsible for most of the positive contributions in the first half as he released Luke O’Brien down the left wing. His ball knocked into the box was left for Steve Jones who could only sky it over the bar. And then Nix turned provider for Peter Thorne at the back post who could only react with a foot stuck out hopefully and that too failed to trouble the Dagenham keeper. Michael Boulding wanted to get in on the act and again had a good game and threatened to score.

But those threats were fleeting moments of conter-attacking in the face of a dominant Dagenham & Redbridge.

The second half didn’t provide much respite but when an absolutely beautiful move, reminiscent of Barry Conlon’s first against Barnet a few weeks ago, was delightfully finished by Michael Boulding it looked like we might snatch an improbably, and almost entirely undeserved, three points.

Alas, the indiscipline within the Bantams undid us once again as a lack of structure and a lack of ideas ensured that the Dagenham & Redbridge players had plenty of time and opportunity to put the home goal under threat. The ball was cleared out by the constantly harried Luke O’Brien (who couldn’t really help but have a difficult game as he was targeted by the visitors but not supported by his left winger) but due to his midfield over committing into defence it was knocked out to the other flank. The D&R player beat TJ Moncur, took it into the box and had a crack. The otherwise outstanding Rhys Evans could only parry it out into the path of Matt Ritchie, on loan from Portsmouth, who finished well underneath Rhys Evans and past the Bantam defenders on the line.

The Londoners should rightly have returned to the capital feeling aggrieved that they didn’t get more from the game. They had us on the ropes at a number of different occasions – balls cleared off the line, woodwork hit, cracking goalkeeping from Rhys Evans and a blatant penalty shout denied.

But then such is football.

If Nicky Law hadn’t seen his excellent shot phenomenally saved in the second half, if Peter Thorne or Steve Jones had found the net, if Michael Boulding hadn’t steered his shot wide of the net, if we’d had any of the handballs that Attwell ignored then maybe we’d have scored the goals that would have won the game.

We did not perform yet we took a point. We have an entire midfield injured, mostly influential players, yet we’re picking up points. We’re third and that’s what’s important. The only slight concern is that we didn’t look like we wanted to change the momentum of the game.

A lot has been said about Billy Topp’s departure from the club but one of the most telling comments was that Stuart was looking for a player who could influence the game and make things happen. However, the managerial reaction to our side being played off the pitch was to do very little proactively but keep the 11 men on the pitch to do their job. Barry came on to replace the tired Thorne but if Leon Osborne offers the opportunity to try something fresh why not take that risk? And why load the bench with so many defenders?

I guess there are those who look at the bench to be something that can change a game and provide a plan B and C and then there are those who see it merely as a way of recycling personnel in case of injury. I fear that after 18 months in charge it looks like Stuart McCall is the latter. And I can’t help but feel I need to get to a position of being OK with that otherwise there will be continual frustration!

Roll on tomorrow’s trip to Brentford…