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Bradford City hard luck story has a happy ending
Bradford City 2 Shrewsbury 1
So a day when events threatened to conspire against City turned out to be all right.
And that included the source of both comeback goals from the most breathless win of the season so far.
The dramatic nature of City’s fourth success in five attempts at home also once again underlined the indomitable spirit that seeps through every pore of Phil Parkinson’s squad.
So shame on those in the crowd who had taken a chance by sneaking off a couple of minutes early.
They might have just caught that bus by beating the crush. But was that any consolation when news came through of Hanson’s late, late show?
City’s day had got off on the wrong foot when Parkinson received a morning phone call from a sickly Rory McArdle. For only the third time since promotion, the boss had to contemplate a team change.
Things got worse just 90 seconds into the game as Shrewsbury caught the hosts stone cold through Tom Bradshaw’s header.
And they appeared to hit rock bottom when Nahki Wells got cracked on the ankle and was unable to continue. The first half was barely halfway through and City were facing a fightback without their deadliest marksman.
But without wanting to labour the point, this bunch of Bantams are built of the sternest stuff.
One fan joked on Twitter on Saturday night that writing match reports must be getting easier these days. The biggest danger, it seems, is repeating yourself by extolling the team’s virtues week after week.
But there is always a fresh element to the fighting qualities on display.
This time it was a goal at Valley Parade for Reid – his first on home soil in just over a year.
The winger had brought his exhilarating Gillingham form back with him, topping off another livewire display by answering his manager’s plea for more cutting edge in the penalty area.
“We’ve being telling him to get in the 18-yard box because that’s where goals come from,” said Parkinson. “Very few, in reality, are scored from outside there.
“We talk to Reidy all the time in training about how he can take his game to the next level. That’s by getting the goals, getting inside his defender and getting across people.”
Reid has seized the opportunity since winning a recall a month ago. But Mark Yeates, the man who made way, looked just as hungry when given his chance again by the Wells injury.
When City turned to Yeates for the second-striker role, it looked a slap in the face for Alan Connell.
Parkinson acknowledged Caleb Folan’s arrival on a short-term deal by stating that you can never have enough strikers.
Folan did make his first appearance at Valley Parade on Saturday, albeit in a pre-match warm-up tutorial with Nick Allamby as he waits for the red tape of international clearance to be sorted.
But Connell, another established forward, had to wait an hour longer than he would have expected to join the fray.
Parkinson’s decision to opt for Yeates instead raised eyebrows among fans – but it was a position where the Irishman had played many times before when the pair were together at Colchester.
And if Wells is sidelined for any length of time, expect Yeates to reprise the role as Hanson’s chief support.
Like Reid before him, the player’s positive attitude during the week had caught his manager’s eye.
Parkinson added: “Yeatesy has been outstanding since we left him out of the team. He’s probably been the best player in training.
“He gave us something different in that position and got better and better as the game went on.
“He’s got the ability to find little holes to get the ball into his feet. And when he turns, he’s always a dangerous player – he gave us a different dimension in the second half.”
City were a very different proposition after the break. Reid aside, they had been too anxious and frantic in the opening 45 minutes – trying too hard, in Parkinson’s words, to come to terms with that early setback.
Shrewsbury were missing their most creative player, suspended winger Jon Taylor, but his replacement Ryan Woods, shoved forward from right back, delivered a text-book cross which Adam Reach steered into Bradshaw’s path to bury.
The Wells-less hosts struggled to find their feet. Only Reid carried a direct threat to the Shrews, bringing the crowd to life with one surge that must have covered 70 yards.
As half-time approached, he jinked through three blue and yellow shirts before warming Chris Weale’s hands with a rising drive. That was better but City needed more.
The dressing room message banned any talk of hard luck stories. “Nobody wants to hear excuses,” Parkinson told his players, “we need wins.”
The challenge was thrown down to do it without Wells. Show League One this is more than a one-man team.
City emerged with more composure in their play; midfield got on the ball more and fed the flanks. The left wing, in particular, was a constant source of joy, with Reid supplemented by the ever-willing James Meredith.
Reid claimed the equaliser in the space created by Hanson’s step-over, taking a touch before firing home from a low cross from Yeates.
Bradshaw should have done better on the break with a lob over the bar but City continued to build a head of steam.
For the frenetic finish, they were facing ten men as Dave Winfield was red-carded on his Shrewsbury debut. He had been living on borrowed time.
Graham Turner thought the second booking for handling was harsh but if the centre half had been booked for his whack on Wells – which he should have been by over-lenient ref Geoff Eltringham – his game would have finished much earlier when he tugged back Hanson.
Connell finally got his call as Parkinson threw on an extra striker and City lobbed the kitchen sink goalwards for the four minutes of stoppages.
Three had passed when Steve Parkin turned to the home bench and promised there was time for one more chance.
True to his word, Hanson won a header and the ball dropped in a scrum of players. Connell engineered enough space for Yeates to line up a shot but instead it was Hanson jumping in with a swing of his right boot and Valley Parade was celebrating one more memorable moment.
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