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Bradford City see red as ref Andy D’Urso comes under scrutiny
Burton 1, City 0
It is 12 years since Andy D’Urso was famously chased by an angry Manchester United posse after daring to award a penalty against them at Old Trafford.
The sight of a snarling Roy Keane and five team-mates corralling the referee became an iconic image of player power gone mad.
D’Urso was lucky not to come under similar attack from City on Saturday after the incident which swung the match irretrievably against them.
It was the sort of big call that could have ended up with him being cornered by half of West Yorkshire.
D’Urso’s decision to banish Ricky Ravenhill for a phantom head butt following a shocking over-reaction by Burton’s Lee Bell left the visitors every bit as angry as Keane and his cohorts that day.
The fact that City managed to last until the final nine minutes before gifting the hosts a self-inflicted goal did nothing to improve the mood afterwards.
But Phil Parkinson, desperately treading on egg shells with his words, had sensed what might happen when he saw the Billericay official was down to take charge.
Parkinson clearly felt it was a case of a referee feeling the game was beneath him.
“I’ve had times with Andy D’Urso before and occasions when Premier League referees come down to this level,” he said.
“It’s cold, there are only 2,000 people there and the officials weren’t communicating at all throughout the game. It’s almost as if they didn’t want to be there.
“It’s probably difficult for them; a bit like a Premiership player coming down. You’ve got that feel about the officials. But that’s all I want to say because I don’t want to get in trouble.”
Parkinson had plenty to say about the way Bell had reacted – or “cheated”, in the manager’s words – to his contretemps with Ravenhill.
Bell hardly endeared himself later with a daft comment on Twitter, saying: “(I) went down like a girl, very poor from me. But it’s been a long time coming.”
Parkinson was equally scathing about home defender Nathan Stanton for gesturing to the large away following once the game had finished. He declined to shake hands afterwards, instead wagging an angry finger in the centre half’s face before reporting what had happened to safety officials.
Those unsavoury moments left a bad enough taste in the mouth for the manager and City fans. But confirmation that absolutely nothing went their way came with the injuries to not just one but both centre halves.
If there are two players who have been irreplaceable on Parkinson’s team sheet in the past year, it’s Luke Oliver and Andrew Davies. City had to play the second half on Saturday without both – and look like missing them for a fair while yet.
Davies’ twisted knee has certainly put the kybosh on his hopes of facing Wigan tomorrow night. If the ligaments have gone, he could be looking at a month out.
The initial fear with Oliver is that his Achilles injury is worse. Suddenly, in one fell swoop, the two rock-solid foundations of City’s back four have been knocked away.
Halloween may not be until Wednesday but it has come early for Parkinson ten times over. The team bus must have run over a family of black cats on its way to the Pirelli Stadium.
Carl McHugh was thrust into unexpected action alongside Rory McArdle and did an excellent containing job for 45 minutes. But it will be a huge ask for the Irish teenager to be pressed into combat as a regular starter until one of the main men is fit to resume.
At the other end of the scale, Parkinson would not have hurried Gary Jones back into the firing line so soon after his back injury. But needs must with Ravenhill’s three-game ban for supposed violent conduct.
So a week that had looked so promising with wins over Cheltenham and Northampton – one the reward for patience and never giving in, the other a model in away-day discipline – ended with a massive shock to the collective system.
The biggest fear about City’s quality over quantity policy with the squad numbers was injuries stacking up all at once. To lose two huge players – in the same position – is a hammer blow.
The game was no great spectacle. The fact the Bantams got within touching distance of what would have been a memorable point says all you need to know about the combined attacking capabilities.
City’s only shot on target came with a full quota of players, Nathan Doyle’s well-struck volley flying straight at Burton loan keeper Mark Oxley. Otherwise the home debutant spent the rest of the afternoon shivering in the bitter wintry wind.
Jon McLaughlin was not much busier at the other end, even with inferior numbers in front of him for so long.
He made one good block from Zola after Jacques Maghoma’s cross-shot came back off the bar. That apart, Burton could not pick their way through the wall of voltage cherry.
From the moment that Bell and Ravenhill squared up – and Bell fell like he had been downed by a sniper – the contest became one of attack versus defence.
With the rest of the team stuck in two rigid banks of four to protect the clean sheet, Hanson was left isolated to run and chase in vain for the slightest sniff of an opening. He did the job manfully but inevitably it meant little cutting edge.
The question was whether City could follow Rochdale’s lead from a month ago and survive intact with a man down for so long.
Burton’s frustration seemed to build with every scoreless minute. Without a win from their previous four games, they could see the opportunity slipping away.
Then City undid all their hard work for them. Thompson delayed fatally as Stanton clipped a ball over the top and McLaughlin got caught in two minds whether to come for it or not.
Damien McCrory seized on their indecision to get between the pair and drill a pass across the gaping goal. Zola threw himself to bury it and that was the game done.
Parkinson admitted: “We deserved a point for our efforts. I thought we were terrific with ten men but then conceded a sloppy goal.
“If we’d lost to a bit of skill or a good finish, you’d accept it. But we gave them that goal. One of them has got to take control of the situation.
“Nothing much more could have gone against us by half-time but the lads worked so hard.”