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Another Evans wind-up caps a miserable day for Bantams
Rotherham 4, Bradford City 0
All the pre-match hype had been dominated by the name Evans.
In the eyes of the 2,200-strong travelling army from West Yorkshire, Steve Evans was the figure they were desperate to put one over.
Ninety minutes later, they were licking their wounds back up the M1 having been mugged by his namesake.
The controversial Millers boss may remain public enemy number one in these parts for his involvement in the Crawley fracas and alleged conduct outside the dressing room afterwards.
But former Bantam Gareth Evans won’t be expecting any Christmas cards from his former employers and followers after his pirouette in front of the heaving away end.
As we know from his two years at Valley Parade , Evans on a good day can be an athletic, dangerous striker. When his head is up, he is a threat to any defence at this level.
He didn’t have too many of those good days towards the end of his time with the club. Then came the ankle ligament injury from that no-holds-barred tackle by Michael Flynn last season.
So, for him, Saturday was some kind of football karma. For those of a claret and amber persuasion, it was pure agony.
It has become a depressing cliché in recent seasons that the bigger the away following, the worse the performance from City. Add this one to the list.
Alicia Keys may have called New York the concrete jungle where dreams are made of. City’s first jaunt to Rotherham’s tidy new home quickly unfolded into a nightmare with a goal from the home side’s first attack.
The impressive discipline and well-drilled shape from the early games had been left on the team bus. City were wide open from the start, inviting the Millers to find space and have a go – they filled their boots.
Few fans quibbled with Phil Parkinson’s decision to stick with the same 11 that had destroyed Wimbledon. Play both wingers, attack the opposition and let them worry about the consequences.
Except this was no Wimbledon ripe for the slaughter but a pumped-up Millers side still buzzing on adrenaline from their new surroundings and, no doubt, wound up to the extreme by their gaffer.
Evans senior was, to be fair, more restrained than usual. There was the odd moan at the fourth official, the pumped fists to the home fans and a Bantam-bating keepy-uppy demonstration before a late throw-in but generally he left assistant Paul Raynor to do all the gesticulating in the technical area.
Both managers did keep their distance. There was still no post-match handshake with Parkinson, who had spent most of the game arms tightly folded, pacing his own zone like an expectant father.
He had expected a lot better than this. While admitting that his team selection had been too open, he was right to question the laissez-faire attitude of players who had done such a good job on shutting down Fleetwood, another fancied opponent, 11 days earlier.
He said: “We can’t afford to take our eye off the ball as an individual player or as a team.
“It’s a good lesson for us. We’ve had a good couple of wins and there has been a lot of positive energy around the club but this shows we’ve got a lot of work to do.
“We had some great moments in the first half but we didn’t produce our final pass in the last third and they did. It was a case of ‘you attack, we attack’ but when they did they scored.”
Rotherham’s opening strike from Michael O’Connor was a belter. But the midfielder was given so much space to take aim – it was to be a recurring theme.
City did respond to that early blow and for 20 minutes looked the most likely team to score next. Kyel Reid was a threat on the left flank and James Hanson had plenty of joy in his aerial battle with Ian Sharps.
But Nahki Wells struggled alongside him and for all the build-up play, there was nothing incisive to really trouble Scott Shearer in the home goal.
Inevitably, Rotherham showed how it should be done midway through the half. City failed to deal with a cross, which dropped to the unmarked Evans, and his shot into the ground went through Duke.
Cue the madcap individual celebration, fury in the away end, and the feeling of inevitability that this was going to be a very bad day at the office.
City had to regroup to see it through to half-time. Instead they shipped a third to the impressive Ben Pringle. His run and shot, via the inside of the post, was excellent but again questions had to be asked about the lack of closing down.
Nathan Doyle, who looked a yard off the pace throughout, was too easily beaten in a challenge by Kayode Odejayi to allow Pringle to scamper away unhindered with the loose ball.
Parkinson tightened up at the break and sacrificed Zavon Hines for Will Atkinson but the damage had been done by the 35th minute.
The second half was better but Rotherham still possessed that much sharper edge in attack. Gary Jones, City’s best performer, headed off the line and Duke made a couple of saves to keep the scoreline in some kind of proportion.
City improved marginally with the addition of Alan Connell for Wells, a swap you expect we will see from the start at Accrington in the next game. But Rotherham – and that “other” Evans – had the last say with a drive that beat Duke at his near post.
Parkinson called it a “step back but only a step back”. The optimism and growing belief from the previous games should not be blown away by one awful result.
City’s balloon will not be burst like all those that referee Mark Brown twice halted play to pop. They have a free week now to right those wrongs in preparation for the uncompromising surrounds of the Crown Ground.
You can be sure it will be crammed full of away fans again. The display they witness will prove if this lesson has been properly digested.