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Phil Parkinson pleased by Bradford City character in drab match
Crewe Alexandra 0, Bradford City 0
At the end of an utterly forgettable 90 minutes, a quick glance at the table showed City still in the League One play-off places.
Without a win in five games and hanging on to sixth place by their fingertips, but in that final spot all the same.
Phil Parkinson was pleased with the point.
It could yet prove pivotal in the final reckoning next May.
The Bantams boss pointed to the character his men showed against a struggling Crewe side who looked more likely to snatch victory in the closing stages.
It was the first time in five matches that City had not conceded a goal.
You could not fault the collective spirit of Parkinson’s players at a windswept Gresty Road and on a pitch not conducive to free-flowing football.
Parkinson repeated an age-old mantra during his post-match interviews.
“If you can’t win, then make sure you don’t get beat,” he said.
“It was important we got that clean sheet mentality back in the team.
“Despite playing really well over the last few weeks, we conceded two against Wolves and two against Preston.
“We had to get a clean sheet to get us back going again and I thought defensively we looked strong.
“English football is about adapting to the different conditions through the winter months and I thought we did that.
“The wind, rain and the pitch made it a real slog but I thought we competed well.
“We ran ourselves into the ground. The back four were strong and everyone worked hard.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to take a point. You always come for all three but we’ll take the point on the day.
“We had some good chances but probably just lacked that moment of composure and quality around the box to win us the game.”
City went closest through James Hanson twice in the second half. He scuffed a shot wide and then forced a fine save from Crewe goalkeeper Alan Martin with a far-post header.
It was not meant to be.
Still, it was pleasing to see Nahki Wells back in the starting line-up following his return to action as a substitute against Wolves.
The Bermudian striker is approaching full fitness after a month on the sidelines and he showed plenty of touches of class without seeing many clear sights of goal.
In truth, genuine goal-scoring opportunities were scarce throughout for both teams.
Struggling Crewe, who lie fourth bottom in the table, looked to be there for the taking.
But City, delayed by a motorway hold-up which saw them arrive at Gresty Road just after 2pm, never really suggested they were capable of doing that.
The inclusion of Wells was the only change from the side which had lost at home to Wolves seven days earlier.
The hosts fashioned the first opening inside the second minute when the impressive Byron Moore, an impressive outlet on Crewe’s right flank, found Kelvin Mellor.
He delivered a low cross into the box which Max Clayton could only blaze over the crossbar when well placed.
That set the tone for much of the afternoon.
City, backed by a huge following of 1,347 fans who filled one side of the ground, gradually steadied themselves.
Raffaele De Vita was booked for a challenge on Jon Guthrie in the 12th minute and three minutes later he headed straight at Martin following a short corner.
Hanson then wasted a decent chance when the ball fell to him 16 yards out after Crewe failed to clear their lines.
He could only blast the ball over the crossbar – and three minutes later McLaughlin produced a fine save to repel George Evans’ fierce low drive from 20 yards.
City’s leading scorer hit a thunderous drive which flew over Martin’s crossbar, before dragging a low, left-foot shot wide after being played clear by Nathan Doyle two minutes later.
As the interval approached, Hanson stretched to meet a right-wing cross from the impressive Darby but could not divert it on target.
Moments later, Wells fired wide from Hanson’s clever flick-on.
Crewe looked dangerous when coming forward but City’s goal was rarely in any serious danger during the opening 45 minutes.
McArdle led by example as the Railwaymen were kept at bay.
The onus was on City to up the tempo after the break and be more ruthless in front of goal – and in the 51st minute, Hanson should have scored.
Doyle’s initial shot was deflected into his path 12 yards from goal and looked to have sat up perfectly for him to fire home.
Instead his scuffed, right-footed effort trickled harmlessly wide of Martin’s left-hand post.
Four minutes later, Darby delivered a superb cross from the right to the far post, where Mellor was forced to head the ball clear for a corner with Hanson breathing down his neck.
In the 64th minute, Hanson drew an outstanding save from Martin when he connected with Meredith’s left-wing cross and planted a firm header goalwards.
Martin got down low to tip the ball around the post at the expense of a corner, which City could not make pay.
Hanson said: “The keeper made a great save from my header and I don’t know how he’s got there.
“There were another couple of half-chances for me and Nahki and another day we win the game. But we’ll take a lot of heart from that because we’re still in the top six.
“I thought the defensive performance was great. We kept a solid shape to the team and were hard to break down. It was just a little bit disappointing we couldn’t nick it.”
Garry Thompson replaced De Vita with 20 minutes remaining, before Mark Yeates and Caleb Folan entered the fray as City sought to make the breakthrough.
But it was Crewe who looked the more likely victors in the closing stages which saw substitute Bradden Inman curl a delightful low shot wide from 20 yards.
Inman then beat Darby down the left flank and whipped in a brilliant low cross which Meredith cleared for a corner.
Evans fired just over the crossbar in the closing stages of added time as the stalemate continued, leaving City in the final play-off spot heading into Saturday’s FA Cup tie at Rotherham.
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