What a waste! Thompson is guilty party as Bantams miss out on away treble (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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What a waste! Garry Thompson is guilty party as Bantams miss out on away treble
Crawley Town 1 Bradford City 0
The good news was the sight of Nahki Wells working his way freely across the Crawley pitch.
Unfortunately, only the early arrivals will have spotted City’s top scorer in action.
The Bermudian came along for the ride and the chance to get some more rehabilitation under his belt as the left ankle continues to improve.
His contribution on Saturday was purely on his own fitness, going through his paces with Nick Allamby an hour before the game.
How City are missing him. There’s no point in denying it any longer.
That was underlined with the two first-half chances that fell at the feet of Garry Thompson during this richly-entertaining encounter.
Both were begging to be buried, particularly the first from just six yards out. Both were squandered.
It was difficult to imagine Wells being as wasteful in the same scenario.
Those are the reasons why strikers earn the big bucks. The key moments when games are won – and lost.
The frustrated Phil Parkinson sensed it at the time. As the opportunities went begging, he knew that City’s hopes of a third successive win on the road were disappearing at the same rate.
Instead, he was left to contemplate back-to-back 1-0 defeats. Two successive setbacks since the equally talismanic Andrew Davies joined Wells in the Valley Parade sick bay.
Davies will be missing until the new year; Wells should be a matter of days from returning, although tomorrow’s visit to Preston is likely to come too soon.
Having ridden the wave of their promotion momentum, this is the first reality check for the Bantams. It is the first time they have lost successive league matches since January – and those defeats to Barnet and Oxford were split by beating Aston Villa.
City are still in a very healthy position with 21 points from 12 games. Ironically that was the same tally at the same stage the last time they were in the third tier – and we know how that ended up.
But those were very different circumstances. This is a side who have found their level and shown they can be a force.
That hasn’t changed on the back of two bad results. But City have been reminded they cannot take their eye off the ball.
Parkinson thought his team were too open. It made for a great spectacle – “it had the feel of a 4-3” in the words of the manager – but it was not what you expect from his sides on their travels.
It would be no surprise to see a more conservative approach at Deepdale for the second leg of this most demanding week of their campaign so far.
Parkinson did not name names but Nathan Doyle and Gary Jones were left to work overtime in the City engine room. Behind them, Rory McArdle and Matthew Bates were questioning the “massive” size of the pitch as Crawley made the most of the extra space.
Bates had not played since April and delivered a very promising debut. He also saved one certain goal with a critical touch to deflect away a Nicky Adams blast – even if he may not have known too much about it.
Along with McArdle, fresh from holding off Israel in Tel Aviv, the latest centre-back pairing worked well together. There were no obvious moments when you thought “if only Davies was out there.”
But it was a different story at the other end, where the continued absence of Wells is starting to bite.
None more so than in the 14th minute. Mark Yeates, who started brightly before fading, slipped a pass into the box which struck Kyle McFadzean on the hand.
Whether that touch put off Thompson in any way, he should still have hit the target when the ball fell invitingly in his path so close to goal. Instead he drilled it over the bar.
He could have made amends later in the half after showing good anticipation to gamble on James Meredith’s header back into the box from a half-cleared corner.
But having got into a great position, Thompson put too much on his attempted lob over keeper Paul Jones and it landed on the roof of the net.
Crawley had been equally wasteful up to that point but City had let them off the hook big time.
They inevitably paid the price soon after the restart as Andy Drury’s pass picked a hole in the back four and Emile Sinclair, a one-time apprentice at Valley Parade, fired underneath Jon McLaughlin.
It was his first goal at home since arriving for £100,000 from Peterborough in January.
For once, the silent majority in a crowd swelled by a remarkable turn-out of 750 away fans made their voices heard. Crawley started to stroke the ball around more and threatened a second.
Michael Jones should have capitalised on a miscommunication between McLaughlin and Bates. Kyel Reid responded with a rasping drive that was superbly tipped over.
Back came Crawley and Sinclair was denied a second as McLaughlin turned away his cross-shot.
“It was a case of you attack, then we attack”, admitted an exasperated Parkinson.
The City boss made positive changes, throwing on extra frontmen in Caleb Folan and Alan Connell while sacrificing Bates at the back. It nearly worked as the visitors twice went agonisingly close in the four added minutes.
Skipper Jones saw his shot smothered by a sliding block then McArdle was denied a repeat of his Bristol City header as keeper Jones somehow got something in the way on the line.
As Crawley stretched their unbeaten run to seven, home boss Richie Barker said: “I was anxious only in the first ten minutes and the last ten.”
That verdict was a bit harsh on City but they knew this defeat was of their own making.
Parkinson admitted: “When you have periods of pressure, you’ve got to capitalise on them. Those chances have got to go in.
“Sometimes you get two chances away from home and you’ve got to make the most of them. We’ve had four or five and should have got something.”
The man sat in the stand would have been the best bet for that. Get Wells soon, Nahki.
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