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Travel-weary Bradford City clock up hat-trick of away defeats at Crewe
Crewe 1 Bradford City 0
Steve Davis was as precise with his pre-match view on City as his namesake used to be with a long red.
The Crewe boss looked at the players on the list and summised that the visitors had clearly under-achieved.
Of course he is right. But the table never lies, particularly at this stage of the season.
And the Bantams, for all the names and decent reputations, are still in the thick of trouble. With nine games left to secure survival, they remain just four points above the trapdoor.
A third away trip in eight days last night produced a third defeat. A lot of motorway miles for absolutely no return and the pressure cranks up for the back-to-back home games with Gillingham and Crawley.
For 45 minutes, City were very much second best. They improved massively after the break but there was no equaliser as they fired another blank.
The teams had come into the game in contrasting form. While City had lost on the bounce at Wimbledon and Aldershot, Crewe were unbeaten in seven and fresh from beating leaders Swindon.
Not surprisingly, Davis named an unchanged side and the fact that nine of their squad numbers one to 11 were on display showed how settled they have been over the season.
Having switched five players on Saturday, Parkinson altered three this time, though his plans were hampered late on when Craig Fagan and Ritchie Jones felt unwell at the ground. Both had been expected to feature.
Michael Flynn also travelled without being involved as the skipper was axed completely after a poor performance at Aldershot. Lee Bullock, fit again after a virus, got the nod over David Syers to partner Ricky Ravenhill in midfield as Parkinson focused on strength down the middle.
Crewe came out of the blocks with their free-passing style and Andrew Davies had to stretch to cut out Matt Tootle’s cross after a neat move on the right side.
But Davies slipped to allow Ajay Leitch-Smith room to fire a dangerous ball into the six-yard box. Simon Ramsden crucially got there before the incoming Danny Shelley before Luke Murphy blazed the loose ball over from 20 yards.
City were doing a lot of chasing in the early stages and when Chris Dagnall got the chance to go forward he had no support. Kyel Reid then picked out the on-loan striker with a superb long pass but Dagnall’s touch for the overlapping Deane Smalley had too much on it.
But Crewe were on top and drew first blood after 21 minutes. Ramsden fouled Shelley just inside the City half and Ashley Westwood’s long free-kick sailed into the box and through a crowd before bouncing up against Davies’ arm.
Referee Dean Whitestone pointed straight to the spot, ignoring Crewe’s claims that he should punish Davies further, and Harry Davis drilled the penalty past the diving Jon McLaughlin.
City’s state of disarray was evident as Matt Fry foul-throwed when the ball slipped out of his hands.
Reid tried to lift spirits with a determined dash but he was swamped by a sea of red shirts and his cross was smothered before it could get towards James Hanson in the middle. Crewe had done their homework and Reid found himself double-marked.
Ravenhill had City’s first effort on goal after half an hour but his effort from 25 yards, although well struck, was always rising.
As City looked for a foothold in the game, the captain for the night flashed another effort into the crowd.
Hanson did better when Ramsden picked him out, shooting on the turn and at least forcing keeper Steve Phillips into a save. Then Reid won a corner which Murphy comfortably cleared at the near post.
But Crewe, with teenage talent Nick Powell pulling the strings, continued to look dangerous and it needed a fine save from McLaughlin to keep out a second goal six minutes before the break.
Ravenhill’s foul gave Westwood the chance to ping in another free-kick, which he bent into the box. Powell, who is said to be interesting Chelsea, met it with a well-placed downward header but McLaughlin was equal to it and turned the ball round the post.
City were giving away cheap free-kicks and another fell to Shelley for a powerful drive that was charged down on the edge of the box. Dave Artell’s theatrical fall was ignored by the referee before Murphy’s long-ranger was easily gathered by McLaughlin.
Parkinson kept his powder dry at the break, leaving all the subs on the bench, but City came out brighter, with Smalley winning an immediate corner. Crewe struggled to deal with it but when Bullock fired back into the danger zone, his shot cannoned away off Dagnall.
But it was better from City and Hanson volleyed over on the stretch after Davies had knocked down a free-kick in the Crewe box. At last there was some urgency in the black jerseys.
City had a golden chance after 53 minutes as Ramsden swung in a cross that was begging to be buried but Hanson’s header flew wide from six yards out – he should have scored.
The home fans were getting anxious for the first time, with the Bantams enjoying far more possession than they had in the first half, but their shout for a push on Davies from a corner was waved away by Whitestone.
City were knocking on the door with four corners in the space of 12 minutes. They should have had two more but Hanson was twice left frustrated having clearly played the ball off a defender.
It was a very different story, with the visitors now asking all the questions as they pressed for an equaliser. But they still had to be careful at the other end and McLaughlin was watchful to deny Powell and Murphy in successive counter-attacks.
City made a double change with 19 minutes left as Nahki Wells and David Syers replaced Smalley and Bullock. The attacking emphasis was clear but it was Shelley who let fly from 30 yards, the ball sailing harmlessly over McLaughlin’s bar.
Crewe had regained their composure and were looking for a second to kill the game. Ravenhill dived in on Leitch-Smith on the byline but the decision was a corner and nothing more.
City launched a frantic late scramble but Dagnall, who had a frustrating night, dribbled a weak shot straight through to the keeper.
There was still time in the added minutes for Dagnall to set up Syers, whose effort squeezed through a gap but narrowly wide of the post. Another empty, frustrating night.
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