Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting TANEWS to 80360, or email
Three disallowed ‘goals’ deny Bradford City as James Hanson equaliser also has whiff of controversy
City substitute Nahki Wells hooks home with his first touch, only for his celebrations to be cut short
City 2, Gillingham 2
A ruffle of the hair and hearty pat on the shoulder gave the game away.
The Gillingham defender wasn’t checking on Paulo Gazzaniga’s well being as he lay prone on the ground.
No, he was congratulating him for winning the most generous of the day’s disallowed goal decisions and depriving City of a famous fightback.
Seconds earlier, referee Scott Mathieson had stopped home celebrations in their tracks after Craig Fagan lashed the ball home.
It was the softest of fouls awarded in the keeper’s favour, the type that drive forwards past and present bonkers. No wonder Ian Ormondroyd nearly punched a hole through the TV screen up in the press box.
The atmosphere was that good that it swayed the decision to give that goal. The volume to let the linesman know (he got it wrong) was brilliantLee Bullock
City themselves were equally adamant that the goal should have stood. But they were also realistic enough to know that the odds were going to be in Gillingham’s favour following the big call over their equaliser ten minutes earlier.
Then, James Hanson’s initial drive had been ruled out because Nahki Wells stood in an offside position right in front of the keeper. The Bermudian had tried to backheel it in but failed; the shot beat Gazzaniga anyway.
But assistant Chris O’Donnell’s flag went straight up – and not for the first time.
City, still sore at seeing substitute Wells denied a dramatic first-touch goal by the same linesman, were incensed and surrounded O’Donnell. Fagan led the protest towards Mathieson and the crowd howled in dismay.
Mathieson was persuaded by Fagan to have a word with the young official and, after 30 seconds of deliberation, the goal was given.
Cue pandemonium in the Gillingham ranks, with boss Andy Hessenthaler raging that his keeper could not make a save because Wells was directly in the way blocking his vision.
The thorny issue of whether offside players are active or not had reared its head once again. Whichever way Mathieson had pointed, the losing party would feel aggrieved.
But there was also the thought that last Monday’s pow-wow with Football League refereeing head Dave Allison had borne immediate fruit.
The feeling within the club that refs were going out of their way not to be swayed at Valley Parade had been raised among the DVDs. Had that filtered down to the man in the middle on Saturday?
On the evidence of the non-foul in stoppage time, apparently not. But at least the over-ruled second goal was a start.
It was no more than the Bantams deserved for refusing to crack when it seemed that everything was stacked against them. There was nothing fortunate about the comeback which maintained their four-point lifeline over the bottom two.
The recovery was as much down to the fans as the players. Mark Lawn put a few noses out of joint with his pre-match “moaners not welcome” motto but the joint-chairman must have been thrilled by the backing from the stands.
Even when City were two down and seemingly on their way out, the crowd did not start hammering the team – and after three previous defeats, that was a pivotal moment.
“If they’d turned at 2-0, it might have been a different story,” admitted Phil Parkinson. “But I thought the supporters were absolutely tremendous.
“We were getting beaten but they understood what was going on. Their team had given everything and a few things went against them but everyone kept going.”
The Bantams midfielder said: “The atmosphere was that good that it swayed the decision to give that goal. The volume to let the linesman know (he got it wrong) was brilliant.”
The power of positive thinking and support made its impact. Equally, it was a more positive approach on the field that brought City back from the canvas.
City went three at the back, while Chris Dagnall sat in behind Wells and Hanson in a front threesome intent on testing Gillingham to the limit.
Kyel Reid and Fagan provided the ammo from either side and Syers the willing support, while Bullock just as importantly held anchor. “It was like the red arrows swarming forward,” laughed Parkinson.
They certainly put on a display, with Reid in particular leaving blue shirts flagging in his wake. Not bad for a player who’d only driven up from London that morning after leaving his pregnant girlfriend’s bedside.
Wells surely played his way back into the starting line-up – but where? Whether Parkinson would try such a gung-ho approach from the first whistle is another matter.
He said: “Playing three at the back is something you need time to work on it but we have done it in games before. We’ve got experienced players who tactically know where they should be.
“Bullock was the key to that. Everybody wants to be the one who gets the goal but you’ve got to be careful you don’t concede on the counter-attack.”
The afternoon had started brightly enough for City through the haze as they forced five corners in the first seven minutes. But chances failed to hit the target until Gillingham midfielder Lewis Montrose outjumped Matt Fry to show how it should be done.
That knocked the wind out of the home side but heads were cleared at the break. Again City began the half on top – only to fall further behind when Ramsden lunged to cut out Jo Kuffour’s through-pass for Jordan Obita and diverted it past the stranded Jon McLaughlin.
As the ball rolled into the empty net, almost in slow motion, it looked another step towards the abyss at the bottom of the table.
Wells had been on the pitch less than ten seconds when he hooked home with his first touch. But that man O’Donnell risked universal fury by raising his flag – as he had done against Hanson’s tap-in during the first half.
Undeterred, Wells met Reid’s free-kick with a glancing header for his eighth goal of the season. Valley Parade sparked into overdrive.
Hanson’s disputed drive brought City level, before Syers was denied at the near post as the roof threatened to blow.
Still there was time for one late, great chance. Gazzaniga flapped weakly in traffic at Reid’s cross and Fagan blasted into the unguarded goal. But another decision City’s way was too much to ask for.