Bradford City 1 Macclesfield 0
It shows how low expectations have dipped when a win over the worst team in England will be seen as a surprise by some City fans.
Macclesfield’s last win came so long ago that Spurs were still in the title race and Manchester had two teams in Europe.
The biggest result on New Year’s Eve came at Old Trafford where Blackburn pulled off a stunning 3-2 win. Few paid attention to Macclesfield beating Port Vale in League Two.
But that remains the Silkmen’s last triumph of any kind. Four months on and their position at the foot of the Football League is a true reflection of a 2012 that has been awful beyond words.
And yet many seasoned Bantams observers saw Saturday’s home game as a banana skin ready to tumble on.
It has become a cliche that City are the ideal opponents to put paid to a winless run, however wretched.
Whether that is strictly fact or not, memories remain vivid of painful defeats in years gone by from the likes of Brighton and Stockport when they could not buy a point.
Twitter was full of doom and gloom predictions about “typical City” in the run-up to the game.
This season’s form has hardly dispelled the myth either. While the Bantams regularly pick off the bunch at the top of the table, results against the bottom half have been awful.
And Macclesfield had beaten them with the world’s softest penalty at the Moss Rose in late October.
Incredibly, the win over Vale was Macc’s only three points since that night. From the 63 on offer since the turn of the year, they have collected just seven.
They are bottom for a reason but with time fast running out City still needed to be vigilant.
It was not a game that will live long in the memory. Most fans will have forgotten it by the time they switched on The Voice.
But maybe that’s a good thing. Better that than another notorious episode to be trotted out whenever future relegation strugglers come calling.
Humdrum home wins are not something City do well.
Think back to that sequence of draws at the start of the year. The team’s performances against Burton and Morecambe were much brighter than on Saturday but points were tossed away willy-nilly.
Two or three wins during that five-match run would have taken the sting out of March. Maybe City, with that bit of momentum behind them, might even have flirted with the top half of the division
Saturday was mediocre at best but Phil Parkinson’s men walked off with their third victory in four. The home form that he is so keen to build on could add another addition to the win column.
And for the second week running, City had seen off a team in and around them. That doesn’t usually happen unless the opposition is Barnet.
There were few highlights and the scrappiness of the only goal summed up the contest.
Arnaud Mendy conceded a needless free-kick for hacking at Kyel Reid by the corner flag. James Hanson met Craig Fagan’s cross with a weak header that
should have been comfortably dealt with – instead Macc striker Ben Mills got his legs in a tangle on the goal-line and only succeeded in helping it in.
Mills probably got the final touch but he wasn’t going to argue with Hanson claiming his 14th goal of an increasingly-profitable campaign.
That was one of only two shots on target from the hosts. The first came just 90 seconds in when Nahki Wells was sent racing away by Ritchie Jones.
The stage was set for the Bermudian to carry on from right where he left off with his Northampton treble. Instead he took it too close to keeper Jose Veiga, who was able to smother.
A goal so early might have made for a very different afternoon, drawing Macclesfield out to play. Instead it became a paint-drying exercise in front of a disinterested crowd.
Matt Duke had it so easy that the Silkmen only called upon him once and Ben Wedgbury’s tame drive did not crop up until the 85th minute.
At least the City defence could look back with satisfaction on a second straight clean sheet at home. As Parkinson pointed out, they provided the foundations for the win.
Guy Branston headed off for a James Bond-themed party afterwards dressed as Oddjob. So that’s simply a bowler hat then, Guy ...
But the one-time skipper is proving far more than an Oddjob man at the heart of the back four.
Called in since the Crawley fracas, Branston has not put a foot wrong. Andrew Davies is finally available again for the Cheltenham trip but the loanee surely cannot dislodge the stand-in who has
made the role his own.
Branston is only halfway through the two-year contract he was handed by Peter Jackson but up to a few weeks ago his future seemed certain – anywhere but
Now, however, the picture may have changed. All will become clearer over the summer but Parkinson has definitely been impressed by his five-game flourish.
The City chief could not have asked for a better response after his defence was ripped apart in the aftermath of that mass brawl.
Parkinson said: “The morning after Crawley, I looked at who we’d lost – Seip and Fry (both injured), Davies, Oliver and McLaughlin. But we called Guy back into it and he’s been tremendous.
“He’s just done his job and Luke (Oliver) has come back and carried on straight where he left off.”
The nerves that accompanied the long trek back from Plymouth at the end of last month seem a long time ago. While City want to finish on a high, attention is once again turning to what needs to be
done to get the club out of this God-forsaken division.
For Macclesfield, it looks too late. Their return to non-league seems inevitable – without the memories of a final day in the sun at Valley Parade to ease the pain.