Former Bantams boss Taylor avoids a blast for his past on return to Valley Parade (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Former Bantams boss Peter Taylor avoids a blast for his past on return to Valley Parade with Gillingham
Bradford City 1 Gillingham 1
It was a cheeky request from the Kop but they tried it anyway.
Having got Phil Parkinson to oblige with a wave after City went 1-0 up, they asked the same from Peter Taylor.
Given the history between the former manager and the crowd, it was interesting to see how many – if any – fingers would be lifted.
But the response was an immediate thumbs up.
The Taylor anti-party had never materialised; instead he got the type of reception usually saved for a friendly old uncle you’ve not seen in a while.
That moment of acknowledgment to the home supporters demonstrated how far City have moved on since the uninspiring year under his command.
The dark days of scrapping around the wrong end of League Two have been erased from the memory banks.
The upward curve that Taylor used to dream of launching himself continues to materialise and there is no need to rake up past disappointments.
Of course, three points on Saturday would have firmed up the immediate goal of consolidation in the first season back in the third tier.
And City will be wondering how they let Gillingham escape with a share of the contest when the visitors had spent most of the afternoon hanging on.
But with no damage from the results beneath them, the draw didn’t hurt either side’s ambitions of being in the same division next season.
Phil Parkinson is not planning ahead just yet – publicly at least. When asked afterwards, he would only say that his thought process does not extend beyond Shrewsbury next Saturday.
But Taylor reckons two more wins will do it. And given the way City played, that should not be too demanding a target from the final ten-game straight of the marathon.
If the final result seemed wasteful, it is hard to be too critical on the performance. Like Taylor, it was worth a thumbs-up all round.
Okay, the equaliser was sloppy as Cody McDonald seized on some indecision from the centre halves to poach a goal similar to the one he scored in the corresponding fixture last season.
And City’s final pass could have been more clinical when they got into the areas to hurt Gillingham.
But for the most part, the first half especially, City were very pleasing on the eye.
Parkinson was right to keep with the side that had dominated Colchester, a performance he had described as one of the best of the season.
That victory took the heat off having to rush Gary Jones back from his virus and his late appearance on Saturday was only due to Matty Dolan’s ankle swelling up after he twisted it before half-time.
But Dolan had done plenty to show that there is genuine competition in the City engine room and that he can be part of a bright future.
He linked up well again with Nathan Doyle, another having a good game, and his left-footed approach gave the midfield a real balance.
With Adam Drury looking comfortable at left back on his home debut, there was a genuine sense of round pegs in round holes and the team were much better for it.
Drury provided the cross for the moment that Valley Parade had been waiting two months for – an Aaron Mclean goal.
Adam Reach, who had the run of Gillingham’s backline for most of the game, picked up possession and laid it into space for the overlapping Drury.
The left back crossed first time, low and hard, and Mclean was on his toes to get in front of his marker and rifle home from six yards. A proper poacher’s goal to announce his arrival on the City scoresheet at the 11th attempt.
“His performances have deserved it,” said Parkinson. “The longer he’s been here, the harder he’s worked and the more the supporters have been patient with him.
“The minute you start talking too much about goals to a striker it does create pressure.
“The supporters have seen the player has done everything he can to get that goal. He’s made them for others and played tremendously well at Colchester without scoring.”
Mclean later left in a slight daze after a smack on the cheekbone. But he was virtually running on empty by that point.
His efforts should have been in a winning cause but City failed to turn territorial control into further goals.
For the second home game in a row, they suffered for not getting a second goal. The performance may have been far removed from the sloppiness of the Stevenage defeat but again there was a penalty to pay for not cashing in.
Credit to Taylor for changing Gillingham at the break. He had noticed like the rest of us that his team were being totally overrun in midfield.
So he went for the heavyweight option and put the visitors into “beast mode”. On came Adebayo Akinfenwa and the balance of the game started to tilt.
Akinfenwa always came out second best against the Bantams last season during his frequent battles in Northampton colours.
But he won this one, using his considerable girth and strength to wrestle back some of that lost ground. McDonald’s equaliser came from his pass after Andrew Davies had misjudged a bounce on the halfway line.
Craig Fagan celebrated it rather too enthusiastically and vocally right under the Kop’s nose and was then subjected to the kind of stick that Taylor had been braced for.
City felt like victims of a mugging having appeared in no trouble whatsoever up to that point.
They were not the same team after Gillingham drew level but the result should have been put beyond doubt by then.
But the point made it ten from the last six games, as Parkinson was quick to point out. That’s the return of a team comfortable in their surroundings – even if the manager won’t say so just yet.
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