Bradford City earn welcome win bonus for long trip home from Kent (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Bradford City earn welcome win bonus for long trip home from Kent
Gillingham 0, City 1
It’s quicker to get to Boulogne from Gillingham than Bingley. For City, it has more often than not felt like trekking back from the moon.
The return journey from this distant Kent outpost is never usually a happy one. It’s not just the mileage, those hours on various motorways are usually accompanied by the memory of another pointless afternoon.
Before Saturday, City had won on only one of their previous eight visits, taking just four points from a possible 24 against these regular sparring partners. So the elation which greeted the first away win in League One was all the more for its location.
The league table will say this result was nothing out the ordinary. Just four months after lifting the League Two title, Martin Allen’s hold on the Gills hot-seat is beginning to look less than secure as they grope blindly for a first victory since promotion.
Bottom they may be but Gillingham remain a typical up-and-at-’em Allen side, revved up further for the weekend by a pre-match rallying call from chairman Paul Scally.
So City were well briefed for an encounter of the ‘kitchen sink’ variety. Only they too had been geeing up the troops with a Friday night pow-wow.
One defeat in three previous away games was hardly a major cause for concern but the form on the road had been patchy – particularly the lethargic manner of their first halves.
The solution was obvious: play from the first whistle and get straight into the opposition as they do at Valley Parade.
You cannot fault their red-hot start to the new campaign but the manager still felt there was more in the locker, particularly away from home. The message was taken on board; not just up top but everywhere.
“The whistle went and bang,” beamed Parkinson afterwards. “There were eight out of tens across the board. You can go through the whole team and everyone played really well.”
Gillingham may have finished 14 points better off than the Bantams last season but it looks a very different picture now. For long swathes of this game, you could be excused for thinking City were the home side.
The last win in these parts in February 2009, when we really thought that Stuart McCall was going to lead his beloved club out of the forgotten land, had been inspired by the exciting wing play of Omar Daley.
While Parkinson was reluctant to single out individuals from such a solid team effort, once again it was the wide man who was so instrumental in the result.
Like any winger, particularly those plying their trade in the lower divisions, Kyel Reid will have his critics. And often the speed and taunting trickery to beat the full back are wasted by a poor cross.
But when everything clicks, as it did at Priestfield, he remains a huge weapon in City’s attacking arsenal.
On-loan QPR defender Michael Harriman is no slouch himself. But the Gillingham right back will be mighty relieved he does not have to come up against Reid every week.
The left winger picked up the baton in the first half more than anyone, surging into home territory whenever he got a hint of open space. There was also a very healthy end product as he whipped several dangerous balls into the goal-mouth.
His impact was felt by others. Gillingham’s fear of leaving Harriman too exposed saw right midfielder Charlie Lee dropping back to offer more cover.
And that meant plenty of room for James Meredith to exploit going up the pitch – and the Aussie does not need any encouragement to do that.
Wells too, on his 100th appearance for the club, enjoyed more space to run the channel as defenders were drawn to Reid like bees round a honey pot.
The biggest surprise, then, was that neither Reid nor top scorer Wells were directly involved in City’s eighth-minute winner.
Both had a hand in the pressure leading up to the goal. Wells leathered a shot against keeper Stuart Nelson’s knees and, with Gillingham struggling to regain their composure, Reid saw an effort of his own deflected behind.
The goal – straight from the corner – will not feature on any end-of-season highlight reels. Not that City will give two hoots about that.
There the confusion begins. Jones immediately celebrated and was credited as the scorer – both on the tannoy and in the distant away end where strains of “he’s magic, you know” drifted into the Kent sky.
But Thompson jogged back to the halfway line jabbing his own chest to indicate that he had applied the final touch. Just to add to the uncertainty, some media sources even put it down to Davies.
Television replays – including the whole 15-second slot on the Football League show – failed to clear the smoke. So we’ll just have to go on the word of the players.
Thompson put forward the strongest case in the shadow of the team bus. He also said he would win any arm wrestle with the skipper on the trip home to settle the dispute! But there was no argument about the authenticity of City’s three points.
There were a couple of scares. Jon McLaughlin saved superbly from Adam Barrett and Cody McDonald somehow blazed over from close range.
But otherwise this was as convincing an away performance as you will see. Certainly the final scoreline did no justice to the way City had taken a grip on proceedings.
Wells could have had a hat-trick, fashioning a string of chances for himself. Hanson should have scored with a point-blank header. But nothing could knock the smile off Parkinson’s face as his side bounced straight back from a first home draw.
He said: “As the week went on after Colchester, I felt it was two points dropped. They were a team there for the taking.
“It was important that we made that point into a good one – and we certainly did that with this win.
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