Beaten Bantams in a New Year's daze as Parkinson grapples with dilemma of how to improve form with Wells exit looming (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Beaten Bantams in a New Year's daze as Phil Parkinson grapples with dilemma of how to improve form with Nahki Wells exit looming
Notts County 3 Bradford City 0
If this was a taster for life without Nahki Wells, it was terribly hard to swallow.
City signed off a horrible holiday period with the worst result of the lot. Happy New Year? Not from this side of the Trent.
Two very late goals might have added some gloss to the margin of victory but this was an afternoon as depressing as the weather.
And it will inevitably raise questions about how they will cope when, rather than if, their top scorer leaves Valley Parade for pastures new – a move that is set to happen within the next few weeks.
Wells did not travel because of his tight hamstring – not, as the cynics will suggest, just to protect him ahead of the January deal everyone is waiting for.
Matthew Bates was recalled to central defence for Carl McHugh, who was given a breather after coming back with two strong performances in the space of a few days. Parkinson had promised to rotate his options through the holiday spell.
Injuries had an impact with the subs too, with Nathan Doyle (groin) and Matthew Taylor (hamstring) both ruled out. So midfielder Jack Stockdill, a mainstay of the youth team’s success this season, found himself added to the youngsters on the City bench.
City had the driving rain and strong wind at their backs for the first half and should have used those advantages to exploit the home side’s fragile confidence.
Thompson’s running caused one early flicker of panic in the Notts ranks and then Kennedy had a chance in the box from James Meredith’s cross but could only shoot into the ground. But the pressure never materialised.
Notts were playing with three men behind former Leeds targetman Enoch Showunmi. One of them, Jamal Campbell-Ryce, shanked an attempted chip and then Jack Grealish picked out Showunmi to fire well over.
Mark Fotheringham, one of their two holding midfielders, also drilled wide from 25 yards from the game’s first corner.
Showunmi showed his defensive prowess to beat Rory McArdle to an inviting corner from Gary Jones. The City centre half did get his head on a free-kick from the skipper soon after but Bartosz Bialkowski saved comfortably.
City had not made the most of having the conditions in their favour, with Kyel Reid a particularly disappointing figure on the left flank.
And they paid the price after 32 minutes when Notts broke out to deadly effect.
Campbell-Ryce, a dangerous adversary in his Rotherham days, picked up possession just over the halfway line and made light of the heavy surface as he drove forward unchallenged.
Holding off Stephen Darby and then McArdle, Campbell-Ryce engineered enough space to squeeze a low shot into the bottom corner from 18 yards.
Just like the Swindon game, they had allowed the scorer to run unchecked – and paid the price.
With the Magpies’ tails up, City faced more trouble as Showunmi found room on the left wing. His low cross was bound for Callum McGregor at the far post but Bates slid across with a goal-saving interception.
Home morale was building against a City side looking devoid of attacking ideas. Darby pumped a decent cross into the mix as half-time approached but Manny Smith climbed highest to nod away and then Jones’s follow-up was foiled.
Parkinson chose to stick instead of twist for the second half, expecting the same side to do themselves justice. At least the rain had stopped.
City were nearly level within five minutes. Meredith’s cross was nodded down into the six-yard box by Thompson but Hanson was unable to wrap his foot round the close-range chance.
With the weather calming down, both sides took the opportunity to get the ball down more and Campbell-Ryce whipped an inviting ball across the face of the visiting goal.
McArdle glanced a header past the far post before Parkinson made the first change 11 minutes in. Predictably it was Oliver McBurnie coming on up front.
Thompson switched back to his usual wide position as Kennedy, who struggled in an alien role, made way.
Reid at least had upped his game and was scythed down by Campbell-Ryce as he burst into the box. The winger thought he was inside but referee Richard Clark didn’t agree.
The foul was given right on the line and Jones’s well-struck free-kick was fisted away by Bialkowski.
Mark Yeates took over from Thompson and the Irishman immediately fashioned a good chance on the edge of the box. At least his snap shot forced the Notts keeper into a proper save at the near post.
Reid was starting to enjoy himself against diminutive right back Mustupha Dumbuya and cut past him to unload a ferocious drive that brought an equally fine block from Bialkowski.
City were finally asking some serious questions of the bottom side. But they were indebted to a vital block from McArdle to deny Campbell-Ryce a second, smothering the winger’s blast at goal after a slip by Darby.
Campbell-Ryce then left Darby on his backside with another menacing move into the box but dragged his effort off course.
With time running out, Lewis Clarkson was thrown on for his first taste of action. But before the former Scarborough striker had even touched the ball, the contest was done and dusted.
Again Notts County proved lethal on the break. With City pushing forward, the home side broke with superior numbers.
Campbell-Ryce was once more at the thick of it but the finish across McLaughlin and into the far corner came from McGregor.
And the pain was not over for City. As the board went up for five added minutes, Notts rumbled forward and Showunmi squeezed the ball into the path of Grealish for another convincing finish.
County’s last two had been scored by loanees, Celtic’s McGregor and Grealish from Aston Villa. No doubt, food for thought for Parkinson in the transfer window.
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