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Gem of a goal from Hines as Bradford City ditch the diamond
Nathan Doyle and Nahki Wells are the first to congratulate a back-to-form Zavon Hines, centre, following his superb solo goal
Bradford City 1 York City 1
So unlike James Bond, diamonds are not forever.
City only gleaned the latest point of their little sticky patch after reverting back to the tried and trusted 4-4-2.
The idea of playing Alan Connell in the hole behind the strikers, focusing on cleverness of thought and touch rather than more direct wing play, was abandoned straight after half-time.
It may have worked a treat for 45 minutes at Dagenham and looked pretty effective against Hartlepool but York’s wall of blue shirts were having none of it.
Who’d be a football manager, especially one in the bottom division?
Phil Parkinson had left East London trumpeting City’s new-look set-up and privately questioning if Zavon Hines could fill the boots of key creator Kyel Reid.
A week later and he was toasting the former West Ham flyer for a lively cameo performance from the bench capped by a superbly-taken goal.
With Garry Thompson, another with a point to prove to his manager, just as effective on the right flank, width was suddenly back in vogue.
At least it certainly appears that way at home against visiting teams set up more to spoil and frustrate.
Parkinson was keen to stress afterwards that players make performances not formations.
He said: “You can talk about systems and the shape of the team but we needed to do more in the first half than we did. We didn’t play with any intensity.
“We thought the shape of the team would win us the game but running and playing with intensity is what gets you results.
“We’d worked on the way we were going to play during the week and we did it at Hartlepool. But we looked very leggy until we made the changes.”
Fatigue was a factor. While some will no doubt scoff at professional athletes not being able to cope with three games in a week, the bumps and bruises have been piling up.
The continued absence of Reid and Gary Jones has stretched squad numbers and Parkinson’s search for a loan back-up will now intensify. With no international-bound Rory McArdle either, others such as centre halves Luke Oliver and Andrew Davies both soldiered on with problems when they could have done with the break.
Parkinson praised the way City got themselves going after the break to not only rescue a point but forge decent chances to go on and win. Nahki Wells was guilty of a shocking miss by his standards after being put clear by Nathan Doyle’s pass.
The biggest plus from a stodgy afternoon was the rehabilitation of Hines. Subbed after 45 anonymous minutes against Dagenham, the winger answered his growing doubters with a goal as good as any City will score at Valley Parade this season.
James Meredith, harangued with every touch by the army of York fans, showed his old team-mates a trick or two by riding three tackles on the halfway line. Each came with growing ferocity, the last taking his feet away, but the left back still slipped the ball out for Hines.
Then it was the winger’s turn to do the rest from 40 yards out. An instant acceleration took him into dangerous territory where Bantams old boy Scott Kerr and Clarke Carlisle dared not touch him for fear of giving away a penalty and probably a red card from pernickety ref Mark Heywood.
So scooting unharmed into the box, Hines nonchalantly slipped his shot underneath keeper Michael Ingham. Breath-taking stuff.
“It will do Zav the world of good scoring a goal and playing as well as he did,” said Doyle. “Everybody needs to kick-start their career and no shirt in the team is safe.
“You need to do yourself justice every game. Zav and Garry Thompson made a real difference on Saturday and Alan Connell has come on and scored a couple of goals a few times.
“We tried something different but the formation doesn’t stop lads from running hard and battling.
“The first half was disappointing but nothing to do with the system. We didn’t win our battles. But you look round our dressing room and there’s real quality.”
Nearly 1,500 away fans – the largest following City have hosted in years – accompanied York on their first visit to Valley Parade for 16 years. And they looked on the way to recording a first win on Bantams soil since 1980.
Connell and Wells had early chances but City looked increasingly sluggish against a neat-passing side who revel in playing on the counter. It is no coincidence that York’s best results are away from Bootham Crescent, sucking home teams in and then hitting fast on the break.
Connell could not find the room that he had enjoyed in the previous two outings. There were no obvious holes to exploit in a packed central area.
And the edgy crowd feared the worst when York went ahead two minutes before the interval, maintaining a remarkable record of scoring in 24 successive away games.
The volley from Ashley Chambers was top class, even if the set-up came more from luck than judgement.
Jon Challinor’s shot cannoned off the back of Ricky Ravenhill and popped up nicely to the other side of the box, where Chambers met it with the sweetest of connections.
Parkinson thought about changing tack at half-time but decided to give it a few more minutes. The sight of Dan Kearns testing McLaughlin with a curling effort soon after convinced him it was time.
The double substitution was made eight minutes into the half and straight away James Hanson, whose goals have suddenly dried up, nodded over from Doyle’s free-kick.
The switch in formation had opened up the game completely. At last we had a contest worthy of the crowd and Yorkshire derby tag.
Chambers was too close to a second for York before Hines, who had been on for only five minutes, delivered a goal that was even better than his opponent’s.
Freed from their shackles, City went hunting a winner and Thompson smacked a post after Wells had flicked on.
York had their moments at the other end and their fans were up in arms shouting for handball when Jason Walker’s shot hit the grounded Luke Oliver.
But City finally had the initiative and should have won it when Doyle released Wells against Ingham. The keeper committed himself into the dive as Wells opted for accuracy rather than power – he got neither, with the ball bouncing a yard wide as Valley Parade held its collective breath.