Parkinson puts positive spin on rotation policy and Bradford City players happy to roll with it (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Phil Parkinson puts positive spin on rotation policy and Bradford City players happy to roll with it
York City 0 Bradford City 2
When Phil Parkinson asked for some faith over his team selection, he wasn’t just talking to the fans.
Those on the pitch have to buy into his rotation policy over the two-month run-in as much, if not more so, than those watching in the stands.
Making six changes for the previous game and another five on Saturday requires the full understanding of those directly involved. A disgruntled workforce achieves little in any walk of life.
So players will have to accept that they may be in one week and then out the next, regardless of their performance. That’s the only way it can succeed.
That’s how Zavon Hines found himself on the bench at Bootham Crescent. The right winger had been the shining light against Dagenham but was jettisoned for sub duties as Parkinson tweaked his system specifically for York’s pretty, if toothless, passing methods.
Hines sucked in any disappointment and when he did finally appear for the closing quarter of the game, filled the role he was asked to do admirably.
Parkinson said: “He could have moaned and sulked and 18 months ago might have done that. But when he came on, he played with the same drive as he did on Wednesday.”
But perhaps the best example of the squad backing the manager’s in-and-out selection routine came from Ricky Ravenhill.
Having been signed last year as a signal of intent, the club captain has been left to feed off scraps this term – reduced to getting the odd cup game here and there as the spare man behind the Gary Jones and Nathan Doyle midfield axis.
For a player of Ravenhill’s age and experience, it must be a shock to the system. But there has been no show of dissent, public or otherwise.
He got the nod at York to give a breather to Doyle, who has probably needed a break. Parkinson told him to stick to home playmaker Matty Blair, a role he performed with gusto.
The fact that Ravenhill seemed barely able to walk at the final whistle showed the huge effort that he had put in. It was the proof Parkinson was looking for of a dressing room that remains united.
“The spirit is still running strong,” said the City boss. “At this stage of the season, you normally get your disaffected players, ones who’ve been left out or you’ve fallen out with.
“You have ups and downs in a season, especially when you’re left out, but when called upon the lads showed tremendous professionalism. That is so important.
“Ricky typifies that. He’s been very unlucky not to play and hasn’t started a game for a long time. But he’s trained really well and done extra bits with (fitness coach) Nick Allamby, which enabled him to play like that.”
The stakes could not have been higher. While City were talking up the fighting qualities of rescuing a late draw against Dagenham, the need for three points was imperative.
Free-falling York were in an even worse boat – and manager Gary Mills was forced to walk the plank barely an hour or so after their 11th game without a victory.
The fear of a self-fulfilling prophecy among the locals grows with each week. When York last dropped out of the league, they did not manage to win any of the last 20.
Mills had them playing some neat football, lots of triangles and short interchanges. But it was hardly in the Swansea envelope.
The moves were too deliberate and too careful on a bobbly surface that totally negated that kind of measured approach. It’s not hard to see why they have won only four at home since returning to League Two in August.
Throw in the Yorkshire derby element and the football for the first 45 minutes at least was of the hot potato variety.
“We won at Wembley” taunted the home fans; “This is your cup final” came the retort from the sold-out away following of over 2,000.
And the young Irishman made an important intervention in the only first-half incident of note, carefully blocking Jason Walker’s angled shot in front of the line after the striker had wriggled his way wide of Jon McLaughlin.
City’s back-up keeper, as he has been in recent months at least, looked assured again and took every cross with the minimum of fuss. He also pulled off a decent save from Michael Rankine in stoppage time to put the seal on a well-deserved clean sheet.
Opposite number Michael Ingham had been largely untroubled until the teams turned round. But his personal embarrassment soon followed in front of the crowing Bantam masses behind the goal.
The match had thankfully livened up since the break with a flicker of hope at both ends, James Hanson glancing wide for City, Walker hooking over for York.
McLaughlin saved from Blair, then Ingham from Kyel Reid – who had a much more productive game compared with the previous one.
But the York stopper had a huge role in City’s breakthrough 13 minutes from time. Darby lofted a cross from the right, Hanson got in front of his marker to head downwards towards goal and Ingham obligingly let it squeeze through his knees on the line.
That threw York into full-scale panic mode. The main stand Jonahs were now in full voice with their “We’re doomed” predictions.
City needed the buffer of a second to avoid a Wimbledon-style late implosion. And they got it on the break after Rankine coughed up possession in their own half.
Ravenhill pumped the ball forward and defender Jack O’Connell, who had been the keenest of the home players, failed to control.
He only succeeded in taking the sting out the ball and sub Garry Thompson willingly accepted the invitation. Having missed a similar chance at Kingsmeadow – and how costly that turned out to be – he took a fraction longer to steady himself before coolly finishing past Ingham.
The first of the nine or ten wins realistically required to secure a play-off spot was in the bag. Parkinson was left extolling his side’s battling virtues.
“Games aren’t going to be pretty at this stage of the season. Every team across the board is scrapping for something. We played with discipline and then when the game slowed down a bit and there was room, we played with quality.
“The year we went up under Mark McGhee at Reading, people used to say we were a tremendous football team. Yeah, we were after 70 minutes after we’d run ourselves into the ground and battled. But it was the first 70 minutes that got us promoted.”