Aldershot 1, City 0
The Duchess of Cambridge wowed the crowds as she dished out shamrocks to the Irish Guards stationed in the army barracks.
Just down the road, shoppers in the town centre were tucking into the Italian market. There was clearly plenty to enjoy in Aldershot on St Patrick’s Day.
That is unless you were a travelling City fan or player. For them it was the same old misery that always accompanies the trek to north Hampshire.
For the fourth year in a row, the Bantams came away pointless. For the third season on the trot, they’d lost 1-0 in a nothing match. Away trips don’t get much more miserable than this.
A week that had begun with the buzz of a richly-deserved win over play-off contenders Oxford ground to a depressingly familiar end with a second straight long-distance defeat.
We’ve had three or four and deserved something. But those chances need to go in. Do that and then their goal wouldn’t be anything more than a consolationPhil Parkinson
To make it worse, Aldershot’s goal came from their only shot on target. A scruffy winner, tapped in from close range, settled a scruffy match.
And City came off to hear the news that their advantage on the relegation spots had been cut to four points.
Dagenham’s win maintained Macclesfield’s woeful spiral towards the bottom two – but Plymouth’s over Shrewsbury was unexpected and unwelcome.
While there are still six teams behind them – and the goal difference remains infinitely better – City have got work to do.
There may be no need for panic but an urgency is required again, starting at Gresty Road tomorrow night after yet another coach journey.
“They had one chance,” sighed a frustrated Phil Parkinson. “We’ve had three or four and deserved something.
“But those chances need to go in. Do that and then their goal wouldn’t be anything more than a consolation.
“We lacked a bit of sharpness first half but still had chances. I thought we looked better in the second and had the impetus in our play – that’s the disappointment for the lads.”
Parkinson had shuffled his pack once again, with five changes from Wimbledon. Chris Dagnall was thrown straight in after completing his loan move the day before. Simon Ramsden, the man who never loses, was also fit again to bolster the back four.
Bullock did not travel after being quarantined with a family virus. Syers, having looked strong on his return at Kingsmeadow, was on the bench and not called upon until the late hurrah.
His arrival in a treble substitution sparked City into late life as they pressed in vain to cancel out Namibian Wilko Risser’s first goal in English football.
It should have done enough to earn Syers a recall to the starting line-up at Crewe, though Parkinson felt he was right not to push him into another 90 minutes on Saturday so soon after his comeback exertions.
He said: “I just thought it was a big ask for Dave to go again after the other day. He’d been out (injured) and then put so much effort in when we played with ten men for a long period.
“That’s why I went with Flynny and Ravenhill again. It’s getting that balance right when you’re picking the team for so many games.
“We don’t want to put too many combinations out there that haven’t played together but they obviously have before. But equally we’ve got to pick a team that is fresh and sharp.
“That’s the challenge we’ve got again for Crewe. We need a team with good legs in them.”
Parkinson will first sit down with Football League referees chief David Allison today to talk over some of the contentious decisions that he feels have not gone City’s way of late.
There looked like another one to add to the collection when Dagnall was knocked over by keeper Jamie Young after seizing on a blunder from Darren Jones. Parkinson bawled at the fourth official, loudly demanding: “How’s that not a penalty?”
But Stuart Attwell, whose general performance was a breath of fresh air compared with Darren Deadman’s midweek showmanship, evened the score by ignoring a stronger-looking Aldershot claim when Luke Oliver’s outstretched leg ravelled itself round Risser.
The worst-case scenario would have been a spot-kick and a red card as last man for the big fella, who otherwise was as solid as ever.
Defensively, there was nothing wrong about City’s game. No blame could be attached to the only goal, Rob Sinclair’s deflected cross looping against the bar before Risser beat Marcel Seip to the close-range rebound.
The Bantams came up short at the other end, lacking creativity and supply out wide and a cutting edge when the chances did come around.
Kyel Reid had been outstanding in the previous two games and still carried the fight to Wimbledon even when the ten men were seemingly on the ropes.
But Saturday passed him by as the winger found himself starved of the ball. There was only one trademark run – and that should have produced a City goal towards the end of the first half.
Flynn supplied him in space and Reid stepped on the accelerator to beat Ben Herd and deliver the perfect cross. Will Atkinson attacked it and missed but the ball bounced off a defender and sat up invitingly for Dagnall.
The opportunity beckoned to follow the lead of Kevin Ellison, the last player to score on his Bantams debut 13 months ago. But his shot clipped a defender from ten yards out and flew left.
Dagnall’s movement and anticipation for James Hanson’s flick-ons suggested that he will be the quality addition that City are expecting to rubberstamp their League Two security. But he will be frustrated not to have opened his account.
City’s long throw-ins proved an effective route of attack and James Hanson nodded one into Dagnall’s path. But he could not get enough power behind a snatched effort which Young saved at his near post.
Aldershot had only managed one corner up to this point without testing Jon McLaughlin once. Then substitute Sinclair, who livened up Aldershot’s left side, found the room to cross and a striker who had come to League Two via Namibia, Germany and Malta bundled the ugliest of winners.
Syers led the late charge, with Andrew Davies adopting his customary emergency striker role. A few corners bobbled around the box and Nahki Wells, another of the subs, hit the side-netting. But the home side’s one shot, one goal policy proved enough.
Meanwhile, Kate was long gone and the Italians had packed up. They must have known what was coming.