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Bradford City show determination to grind out results on home turf
City 3, Barnet 0
The noise, or rather lack of it, as the half-time whistle sounded was telling.
It showed how far this City team – and the public perception of them – has already come.
There were no audible boos; few, if any catcalls; just a polite smattering of applause.
Yes, the first 45 minutes had not been great. Far from it against opponents who had not mustered a single goal, let alone point, on their travels.
But there was an underlying conviction that the supporters knew City would improve significantly for the second period. They knew the team would get the job done.
There was no need for dissent or name-calling. Just a mature reaction in the knowledge that their patience would be rewarded – as was the case within 12 minutes of the restart.
How often have we been able to describe a 3-0 City win at Valley Parade as “routine”? Answers to that one on a postcard please!
The third home victory of this fledgling campaign will not stick around in the memory like that Wimbledon rout. But that’s the proof of a good side when they can grind out the result with plenty to spare, despite not being on top of their game.
The faith shown by their fans was picked up on by those in the City dugout.
Assistant boss Steve Parkin said: “Sometimes when you win a game 5-1 at home, people turn up next time and expect the same whoever you’re playing.
“The crowd did get a little bit frustrated in the latter part of the first half. But they were also intelligent enough to know we have got players on the pitch who are capable of creating things and scoring goals.
“We’ve worked long and hard to try and make sure the home form is something we can be proud of and our fans can enjoy.
“We certainly put the building blocks in place last season. We probably drew a few too many but in general, from November onwards, teams found it very difficult to pick up points here and thankfully we’ve continued that this season.”
With a three-week gap since that last appearance at the Coral Windows Stadium, City were due another win. Back-to-back home games offered the opportunity to gatecrash the leading pack once again.
Will Atkinson was unlucky to miss out after his busy efforts as the extra midfielder at Accrington but he was the inevitable fall guy when Alan Connell was brought in to partner James Hanson . Having dabbled with a change of formation the previous week, City resorted to the default 4-4-2.
Barnet predictably came to ‘park the bus’ and the onus was on the two wingers to get round them down the flanks. For 45 minutes, that never happened.
Kyel Reid, having an off day for once, seemed too content to hit early hopeful crosses which were easily dealt with. Zavon Hines was just as reluctant to take on the full back, which was surprising considering the joy he had the previous week.
Their caginess was out of character and frustrating. Without that threat to stretch the visitors and pull them about, too much of the play became stodgy and cramped down the middle.
It made for a plodding first half, especially after Connell fluffed a golden chance after five minutes.
The former Swindon man almost had too much time to think about it after John Oster had blindly passed back into his path.
The ball seemed to wedge under his feet and Connell was trapped between trying to round keeper Graham Stack or chip over him. His effort did neither and was comfortably batted away.
A goal then and it could have been another Wimbledon-style deluge. Instead, Barnet were not unduly bothered and even held an emphatic 7-1 advantage on the corner count without remotely worrying Jon McLaughlin on his first home appearance of the campaign.
City’s back four kept their concentration up well but the stand-out player, once again, was Gary Jones in front of them. His capture in the summer – which looked impressive at the time – gets better with each passing week.
Even when those around him were not at the races. The midfield dynamo was cajoling and tearing about the place with the energy of a teenager half his age.
Parkin admitted: “Jonah just defies logic. He’s 35 and he’s still storming about the pitch and closing down at the end.
“He’s a great role model for the rest of the squad and the younger players. He shows how much effort you have to put in to play as long as he has.”
Things had to improve after the break. The fans knew it and Phil Parkinson left his team in no doubt that the tempo needed picking up and passes had to be crisper.
City needed only two minutes to show the lesson had been absorbed.
Jones, appropriately, could claim the assist with the free-kick floated towards the six-yard box. Andrew Davies flicked on, fellow centre half Luke Oliver instinctively kept it alive and Hanson had the simple task of burying his fourth goal so far.
Barnet, their marking shot to pieces, visibly crumbled as their fifth defeat in six became a reality. A second City goal eight minutes on pretty much made sure.
Reid whipped in a low cross that Stack could not cling on to and Connell was ‘Johnny on the spot’ to stab the rebound past him. The early miss had been forgotten and three more points were in the bag.
Barnet’s back four went AWOL again from City’s next forward foray. Jones was the set-piece provider for the second time and Davies was lurking unattended beyond the far post to beat Stack.
The remaining half hour was simply a case of City closing the game down. All thoughts could turn to the next challenge against Morecambe and arch-nemesis Kevin Ellison.
Home and hosed again, it’s got a nice ring to it.