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Bradford City coast it against Morecambe but point is scant reward
Matt Duke is called into action on a day when City generally bossed proceedings but were unable to make the breakthrough
Morecambe 0 Bradford City 0
The journey home from the west coast of Lancashire has often been a frustrating one for City fans.
They turn up at Bradford-by-the-sea in their hordes but the results have rarely matched the hype and expectation.
There have been notable exceptions in the last couple of years but yesterday afternoon’s trip to the Globe Arena resorted to type.
An extremely comfortable goalless draw? More like a blown opportunity for an away win to propel them towards the automatic promotion slots.
In a game that took a long time to come to the boil, nobody will feel more frustrated than James Hanson, who missed the biggest and juiciest chance of the lot late on.
It was the sort of header from close range that the big man would fancy scoring with his eyes shut.
The fact that he didn’t put it away tempered Phil Parkinson’s reaction to a generally solid response to the Rochdale setback.
Parkinson was keen to make sure a bad day at the office did not turn into a bad week. Had Hanson sunk that header, it would have been a very good one – especially with some of the scores elsewhere.
After being exposed in midfield by Rochdale’s extra numbers, Parkinson had changed tack against a Morecambe side playing a similar way.
Ricky Ravenhill and Ritchie Jones were restored to fill the middle alongside Will Atkinson, while Gary Jones was pushed further forward to play behind the front two. Nathan Doyle also stayed in but dropped back to centre half in place of Tom Naylor.
The intent to tighten it up was clear after the shock of leaking four before half-time on Saturday.
City saw off three early Morecambe corners and then threatened on the break from the third. Ritchie Jones pulled away on the right before cutting back to namesake Gary but the skipper’s shot was blocked on the edge of the box.
It was a bitty opening on another wet and heavy surface and the large City following amused themselves by baiting Kevin Ellison and singing about Wembley.
There was little incident to entertain, with neither side enjoying a clear sight of goal in the first 25 minutes. The game was getting clogged up in midfield and nobody was getting any time to dwell in possession.
Ravenhill and Zavon Hines combined to try to set up Atkinson but his tepid effort went nowhere.
Morecambe finally mustered a first shot of their own in the 36th minute – and that was worse as Stewart Drummond’s volley from a half-cleared free-kick flew high over the away stand.
City responded with their second corner and at last a genuine chance as keeper Barry Roche blocked Hanson’s downward header from ten yards out with his left knee.
The boggy surface made decent football difficult, with the ball bobbling up unexpectedly in the rutted parts of the pitch.
City were not unduly worried with Doyle slipping effortlessly into his back-four duties. But the Hanson header apart, the visitors had not tested Morecambe’s defence much either.
It could not have been a bigger contrast to the first-half goal-fest at the weekend but far less painful viewing for Parkinson.
The City chief made two changes for the second half, with Nahki Wells and Curtis Good, both back from their illnesses, coming on for Hines and James Meredith.
The sight of Wells stoked up the City fans and introduced an immediate edge on the pitch.
Atkinson whipped a cross along the six-yard box, then Ellison hurriedly gave away a corner under pressure. Rory McArdle met it with a well-placed header but Roche pulled off an excellent save to turn behind.
It was much better from City and Wells fired in an inviting cross that was begging for somebody to touch home. No wonder Parkinson aimed a punch at the floor in frustration.
Robbie Threlfall came on to face his former club after an injury to Drummond. It was almost a year since his last appearance in a City shirt in the FA Cup defeat at Watford.
Still the visitors were trying to ask the questions against the backdrop of a constant din from their army behind the Morecambe goal.
City had to be on the their toes as Ellison’s attempted shot fell kindly for Jack Redshaw, who drove wide on the turn. And Jordan Burrow was not far off reaching a dangerous cross by Lewis Alessandra.
There was a scramble in the Morecambe penalty area and Stephen Darby had a shot blocked on the line but the right back was flagged offside.
As Kyel Reid stripped for action on the sidelines, Wells used the wind to force another save from Roche from 25 yards out.
Reid then replaced Gary Jones as City reverted to a more conventional 4-4-2 for a final 15-minute push.
Redshaw’s flick header was deflected wide but City looked to break from the Morecambe corner until Wells was levelled by Threlfall, who got a yellow card and a loud jeer from the away end.
Reid’s free-kick eluded everybody rushing in at the far post but the winger was soon back on the ball, only to be upended by Andy Parrish.
The free-kick, level with the Morecambe box, should have produced a breakthrough as Reid found Hanson unmarked right in front of goal.
But the striker’s header was poor and lacked power, allowing a relieved Roche to save comfortably. It was a gilt-edged chance that should have been buried.
Sub Richard Brodie nodded over for Morecambe as the contest continued to liven up but it was a rare excursion over halfway.
Play was camped in home territory, with Reid the victim of two more fouls by Parrish to maintain the pressure. Another decent free-kick picked out Good’s head but the youngster got too much on it from eight yards out.
Andrew Wright got a booking as Morecambe battled to hang on and Doyle joined him for a stoppage-time foul on Brodie.
But the relief among the home supporters that greeted the final whistle told the story. City will be kicking themselves.