A Game Of Two Halves

Last updated : 20 January 2014 By deadbat_db

United controlled the game for long periods and went in at the break two up thanks to an early Jamie Murphy goal and then a header from Harry Maguire. However, a fortunate deflected goal after a shot from Gary Jones saw City back in it and then another ricocheted goal from Hanson after a dangerous Jones free kick saw parity. After this United regained control and had most of the play but despite numerous good openings made and most of the game being played in the City half, United could not get the deserved winner.

Manager Nigel Clough made two changes with Billy Paynter in for Chris Porter with Jose Baxter playing off him. Jamie Murphy came in for Connor Coady. Bradford gave a debut to Aaron McLean who partnered James Hanson and fielded former Blade Kyel Reid on the left side with two more ex United players Mark Yeates and Andy Gray on the bench. 

The game began at a hectic pace and City had the first chance as Hanson had a header that he maybe should have done better with but was straight at Long. Soon after another free header showed the physical threat City presented.

United finally got going and after some neat play by Baxter and then Flynn, they had a half chance that was blocked. United were then in front. 

McMahon made a good run down the right and his fired in cross was a beauty. MURPHY managed to get in front of his man (and Baxter!) to convert from close range. It was a cross asking to be converted but the Scottish winger did well showing his new found determination and scoring form. 

City came back at United and more poor defending from a corner saw a chance for McLean but he headed over. City were causing real problems from set plays. Another corner saw Hanson’s looping header hit the bar and from the rebound somehow Baxter saved on the line from McHugh. 

It was a pulsating game that saw numerous challenges from both sides with the home fans noting City’s physical play more than perhaps the referee. 

United were playing some good football and Flynn and Murphy were influential in much of what they were doing but Baxter was at the heart of many of the slick moves. Baxter’s looping header was just off target and then Murphy won a corner with strong running.

The dangerous Reid clashed with McMahon and seemed in some trouble after the challenge for the ball where there was no question of a foul being given. The former Blade remained prone on the turf for some time and had to eventually be stretchered off with what looked a potential serious injury.

Despite United struggling with corners at the other end, oddly City were having the same problems and Maguire saw one effort saved and another corner was scrambled clear as McLaughlin stayed on his line. 

United’s corners were giving them the chance to further the lead and it seemed inevitable they would get another. It arrived via the leading scorer MAGUIRE who headed it goalwards and it seemed to go in via a combination of the keeper and the defender.

Another corner caused problems and after the ball was headed down Murphy’s shot was deflected over but strangely this vital block was not seen and a goal kick was given.

The half time whistle came in a game where both teams had looked far better in an attacking sense than a defensive one.

City came out more determined and had a golden chance to get back into it when Collins lost the first header and then McMahons clearance lacked distance the ball fell to McLean who hooked over with the goal at his mercy.

Still United could not heed the warning and captain Jones was inspiring his team winning the sort of challenge Doyle had won in the first half for the home side.

JONES hit a shot that looked innocuous enough but hit a United player and span into the other side of the goal from where the original shot was intended. Long was completely wrong footed and had no chance. 

City sensed new impetus and were back on the attack roared on by a big away following behind the Bramall Lane end goal. Long saved a long distance shot but the home side suddenly had lost control. 

McGinn lost the physical battle to McLean and the former Hull man was wrestled to the ground leading to the free kick.

Jones whipped in a dangerous free kick and as Long dithered, HANSON got the touch although in truth did not know much about it as it caromed into the net.

All United’s good work had been thrown away in seven minutes.

Despite this United were able to actually revive themselves and after the goal they got back on top. Flynn was finding acres of space and getting into some excellent positions. A number of balls came across the box but could not be converted. Porter replaced a tired Paynter. United then got an opening McGinn got into a good position but his shot at the near post was well saved by McLaughlin who palmed behind. United were the side doing all the pressing and Maguire’s header was wide before Murphy beat Darby three times but his series of crosses and shots failed to trouble the keeper. 

Baxter surged forward and was upended and seemed in some bother judging by the reaction of both sets of players. It seemed he may have even lost consciousness and eventually limped gingerly off and was led round the Kop side of the ground as Miller replaced him.

McMahon took the free kick but it curled off target. Another good run by Murphy led to a penalty appeal but after the appeal was waved away Flynn curled agonisingly wide. Soon after with the keeper out of his goal Miller fed Murphy but he fired wide. United were getting into tremendous areas but lacked that finishing touch. Flynn and McGinn had chances blocked again. It was one way traffic and as the game entered the extra 5 minutes it was just a case of if the home side would get that break or show the quality. Sadly for them the additional time passed without a chance as Flynn’s poor cross evaded everyone. The final whistle came with the fans more frustrated than disappointed. 


United – We have played a lot, lot worse and lost this season. We really ought to have won. I cannot massively criticise the side today. We had a poor start to the game when they could have had a few goals and then a bad spell after half time. For the most part we were the superior side in chances, passing and overall play in most areas of the field. They did hit the bar but outside of this we had rotten luck today. I rarely have said that this season but two goals that were both essentially deflections and us having numerous chances other way that were pinballing around and did not go in sums up the day. 

Today was a really good game. Bradford came and had a go and it was really open. 

We scored good opening goal and had chances for more. Only poor defending from our own set plays saw us look like conceding (and we could have let a couple in). We got a second and it looked like we would score more. If we had gone in say 5 or 6-3 at half time it would not have been unjust as the game resembled a basketball game as both teams attacked well and defended poorly. It was a great game to watch due to this. Murphy had a chance deflected over (given as a goal kick!) right in front of the Bradford goal. If this had gone in the game was as good as done. Indeed we could have scored numerous times from corners at the end of the first half.

After the break we never really got going. They missed a few good chances and then got a fortunate goal. We sort of fell apart after that and even though the second had another touch of fortunate but was a daft free kick to give away and poor keeping/defending.

I feared for this after this as City kicked towards a big following and sensed a remarkable turnaround and a win but to be fair we kicked on again and had nearly all of the last half an hour. We got men forward and got into some in outstanding positions in the second half but so many times a combination of the ball not bouncing for us and sadly more often than not, indecision or a poor ball in the last third. McGinn had one effort saved and there were a few other shots or crosses blocked but for all decent passing and build up; I cannot recall too many outstanding chances or clear saves the keeper made. It sort of bounced around and the number of poor balls and complete lack of anticipation from our strikers meant that we did not score when really the amount of ball and openings we had; we should have scored 3 or 4. 

We have to get better forwards in. Murphy and Flynn have improved a lot recently and are doing well. We maybe could do with some more pace there but the former showed some real foot speed and determination today. Still feel we are a soft touch in the middle; Doyle actually did his best but McGinn was not always the best ally. When they had the spell and got level we went missing at the key time and lost the balls. This was the same at County and those vital spells between half time and 60-65 minutes we really seem to struggle (same at Walsall). We have to address this as our inability to ever score late goals in the league means if teams score (as they have every week recently in this spell) we do not tend to recover. I never feel like we are going to score late anymore as we simply do not do it. 

I can see weak links in the side. The hesitancy and poor play of Collins (and Hill last week). McMahon at times can be a liability defensively but good going forward. I feel McGinn does not contribute enough but for me the lack of pace/scoring/anything up top means we will struggle to win games. Today we were decent and deserved to win. Yes we chucked it away and defended badly with a combination of bad luck and poor play but we had enough opportunities and of the ball to have scored 5 or 6 today. We still look toothless where it matters in front of goal and that is despite some good performances from Baxter, Murphy and Flynn who were our best players for me.

Clough simply has to act. He cannot expect likes of Paynter and Porter to score goals to keep us up. The fact Maguire is leading scorer in January is embarrassing really to the forwards at the club. We have now picked up 1 point from 9 when with new players brought in we may have got at least 1 or 2 wins. We have been in great positions in all three games, leading all three and have won none of them. This is worrying as it shows we cannot finish teams off and if teams come back we often just fold or do not respond. Strangely we didn’t today but we will not score enough goals with current players we have. We must have the worst forward collection in the division. Outside of the cup win, the results despite some ok performances in some games, have been really poor recently and whilst there is no doubt Clough is far superior to Weir and has a semblance of a clue how to get teams playing and at least close to results, we are no better off really; only a point or so ahead of the position we were in when Clough came.

Whatever we say about bad luck, we made mistakes in not closing down and giving away the daft free kick and went to pieces for a vital spell. To have a two goal lead at home against a poor side and not win with the ball we had and opportunities to get balls in is not good enough whatever we say about elements of performance. It is not luck why we are where we are. 

The fact today’s loss of points is so worrying is the next 2 home games are against far superior sides in Peterborough and Brentford than Bradford. Today going we played a mid table side who have been struggling and we were 2-0 up with even some of their own fans moaning. We just had to start the second half solid but we failed to do it again. To all those saying well it was a lucky goal, yes it was but McLean missed an open goal not long before. It was coming. 

Now we face the prospect of going into the bottom four again as we are in the Cup next week and most other teams are playing. It is going to be a nervy time and our inability to win many games or go on any kind of run of results means it looks likely to go right down to the last few games. Relegation would be a disaster but is very much a possibility sadly. Nothing would surprise me what this side is capable of. On the surface they look like they should have enough but not sure when it comes to a scrap (like last week) whether our players have bottle when it matters. Many were around as they imploded trying to go out of the division the other way so not sure I am confident these players can pull out the big results when it matters. 

Bradford – They were fortunate to get a point. It was an odd performance from them as at times they looked awful and looked like conceding every time we attacked. Yet they also could have scored 3 or 4 goals first half particularly from set plays. The lad Reid who used to be at the Lane looked really dangerous (Yeates in contrast was awful when he replaced him) and they looked like scoring from their own set plays. They were maybe unfortunate to be 2-0 down at the break considering they had chances too but had contributed to their own downfall. 

Their defence was all over the place for long spells as they did not pick up, left our wingers yards of space and panicked when they attacked the full backs. The centre backs were slow and clumsy and for such a big team looked so susceptible on defending corners all game. The keeper for a big guy stay rooted to his line and often they did not know who they were marking. They lost the midfield battle for long stretches and were quite physical to the point of being dirty with aerial challenges featuring unnecessary elbows and some dire challenges (two potential red cards from the sub Doyle and a poor two footed almost scissor challenge on Hill in the corner in the second half). They looked more like a Rugby League side with big, physical players and their main tactic was just to get the ball forward as high and as long as possible and pick up the scraps from Hanson etc. 

They were very physical and made sure players knew they had been in a challenge. I felt weak referees like the one today help them massively as they just continue to leave elbows and feet in. In a game of pure football they would struggle as they did today. The fact we (as poor as we are) threatened to pass them off the field at times summed up how poor some of their players were. 

To be fair it has worked for Parkinson as they came up last year, had the cup run and have done well until recent times this season being in the top 6 earlier in the season. They demolished us at Valley Parade and have the power and physical presence to blow some teams away. I would not want to watch them every week as they are a pretty basic side in what they do and would have Charles Hughes giddy with excitement. However they are higher up the league than us and will stay up comfortably. They showed some good fighting spirit and after getting level they defended in numbers and with a touch of fortune and our poor play got the point.

McLean is a decent player and will do well at this level feeding off Hanson. He at least gives them something to replace the excellent Wells. Those two along will be enough to keep them away from trouble. The lad Jones is an experienced veteran who is a nasty so and so and reminds me of our own Doyle. Like him his best years are behind him and Bradford will miss him when he comes to the end. Bradford’s approach and the way they go about things is not pretty but it has been enough this season. My honest opinion is unless they introduce more technical players they will struggle next season and could be in a relegation fight without Wells.

Long 5/10 – Still not convincing me. Early on the ball was bouncing around the box and they hit the bar and a few other crosses/balls were asking for him to come out and take control but he stayed rooted on his line (so did their keeper to be fair). No chance on the first goal due to the deflection. Second goal he stayed on his line and even though the ball was decent he should have done better. He kind of guessed where it was going instead of following flight. As of last week at Notts County he is sadly making mistakes leading to goals most weeks. He was not totally at blame today but as a keeper you would be disappointed. 

McMahon 6.5/10 – Going forward mostly excellent with a great cross for the first goal and a few other decent balls and surging runs forward (few times he was not found and another he crosses when he should have pushed ball on again to spare man). He looked a real threat. Other way not so good. Felt Reid gave him a hard time and beat him quite a few times. He also tried to do too much and lost the ball and this nearly led to chances. Second half a few misplaced headers 

Hill 6.5/10 – Steady enough defensively. A few sliced clearances and loose balls but he did ok against a taller man on the wing in Thompson. He spent a bit too much time wrestling with his man instead of trying to just play the ball. A player that most weeks (apart from last week) is steady enough but another area where we need to upgrade. 

Collins 5.5/10 – Thought he was our weakest defender and at times when they attacked I was concerned if he was one on one. Lost a lot of headers or headed soft headers into the air that did not clear the danger properly. Too busy complaining to the referee instead of out muscling his man. He is surprisingly weak for a big guy and does not impose himself as he should. When he goes forward he often just heads corners up into the air or somehow manages to completely take the pace off the ball. 

Maguire 7/10 – Had a right old battle with Hanson that ended up about even. He battled him all game, scored one good header and could have had another. Second half Hanson nicked one in from a free kick to even things up. Felt Maguire was a better player on the floor but Hanson was a touch challenge in the air and maybe shaded things in that regard. At times his lack of pace and over playing leads to issues. 

Murphy 8/10 – Another very good performance where he terrorised the full back all game. He beat him from the start driving outside and inside. He scored a good goal anticipating the cross and had a few other shots on goal and was unfortunate not to get a third at a corner that may have sealed the game. After the break he had a spell where he was not in the game but then when it went 2-2 he suddenly came alive and then had 4 or 5 great runs where he beat the full back all ends up. Put a few decent balls in we could not convert but had a few others blocked or the one he telegraphed into the keeper at the end. If he retains his form of today he can be a major positive in the end to the season but needs a run of games. He cannot be taken out of the team week in, week out and expect to keep good form up. 

McGinn 5.5/10 – Thought he was not in the game for long periods sadly and often got muscled out of it but then had a few decent spells where he harried, chased and used it well. He is not as secure with the ball as you would expect for someone who is supposed to be technically rated. He gives it away as much as he keeps it. Got shoved off the ball and then committed the unnecessary foul in the lead up to the second goal. I still do not think he is physically strong or fit enough for someone we need in a relegation battle where midfield scraps often determine extent of possession and often chances and results. Think Coady would be a better option personally.

Doyle 7/10 – Thought he had a good battle with Jones all game. He got stuck in and won some loose balls/headers. Felt we had control of central midfield for long stretches and apart from the sloppy spell after the break; he probably won more loose ball than anyone. Some daft shots apart he was decent today. 

Flynn 7.5/10- For the most part he was really good. His control, touch and willingness to carry the ball forward was good to see. He was a threat all game; albeit the full back seemed around 20-30 yards off him most of the game when he received the ball which was odd. He worked hard and linked well with others. He showed a variety to his play coming inside and going outside. The one criticism is his final ball. He put a few good ones in but so often he took way too long and needed 6 or 7 touches before he crossed it and this lost the impetus when we had a numerical advantage on breakaways. At times he just needs to get it out of his feet and whip it in rather than be so ponderous. Still he has now put together maybe 3 or 4 good performances in last 5 or 6 games. Fair play to him. 

Baxter 7.5/10 – Thought he was very good. Some lovely balls both short and long and some deft touches and pieces of skill. Most good things we did came from him. He seemed to be at the centre of all our attacks and the ball seemed to gravitate towards him. He was very influential particularly in the first half. Picked up an injury when he ran at the defence and seemed to fall awkwardly and there was a suggestion that he actually lost consciousness. He was really groggy but apparently is fine for next week even though he had to come off after lengthy treatment. 

Paynter 6.5/10 – He did some ok things with some ok hold up play and a few flicked headers and I felt at times we at least had someone up there who could link. Did not look a goal threat though. At times he looked off the pace and woefully unfit but needs games. He is maybe even slower than Porter! Not that tall actually but does have a decent spring for headers. Felt he had at least got close to other players at times. Not sure he will score many goals or be the talisman we need to move away from the bottom. He was an improvement on Porter. Not that is saying much! 


Porter – Barely won a header nor was he any kind of threat. Numerous balls just went across the box both on the floor and in the air and he was often on his heels. Worrying if him and Paynter our seen as the men who are the focal points in our attack. Do not think McLean and Hanson are great technically but will get goals and be a handful. If they had played for us instead of our strikers I felt we would have won the game. 

Miller – Only came on in the closing stages. Had one jinking run but had his shot blocked. Had a few other half openings but never got any clear shots away. Did look more lively than he has done in today’s limited appearance.

Coady – Came on for McGinn right at the end.

Manager rating – Clough 6.5/10 – He brought Murphy back who did well. Paynter came on and maybe did slightly better than Porter. We played well for much of the game, had openings and should have won the game. At times we played some good football and moved it around well with some good interchange. We looked like we wanted to go forward at all times and were positive throughout. 

His changes were about the only things he could have done (with limited options on the bench). I would question him on how we start our second half. These periods are becoming the reason we are failing to win games. We need to address this if we are to stay up. On a bigger scale his failure to bring players in, yet let options (ok not great but surely offer more than some of the kids on there today) go for the rest of the season; could be a massive risk. He simply has to get players in now to allow us to score goals. If he does not then major questions have to be asked of him. We now have picked up one point from three games and we are three weeks into January. Another run of three games like that and we are in major trouble and sadly the next three look tougher than the previous three. 

Officials – Thought they were poor set of officials. A very weak referee who let almost everything go from the start. Bradford were very physical and put in a number of challenges that were let go. They escaped censure and any bookings until finally a horror challenge from the sub Doyle seconds after he came on. Bizarrely the referee pointed to a number of other fouls the man had supposedly committed when he had only been on the pitch for a matter of moments (maybe he meant his teammates fouls!). The same man Doyle committed another foul later on and was lucky to finish the game. I felt that he just did not clamp down on physical play (both ways) and at times it became a bit daft. Some will say it was full blooded but it needed stamping out earlier. 

He got no help from his linesman as a number of poor decisions or complete lack of decisions meant as bad as the ref was he had to do their job as well. A few throws in just not given and a few other moments where the linesman on the South Stand side may as well have sat with me as he seemed like he did not even want to be there. The one on the John Street Stand then missed an awful tackle on Hill that the referee who was nowhere near as close had to give. 

Crowd – Nearly 19,000 swelled by around 4,000 from Bradford I would estimate. The United crowd were quiet for long spells despite the lead and only came to life when we went for the win late on. The City fans were very vocal and always travel well when they come here. A few seemed to get carried away on both the goals and appealing for a few decisions. Not sure it needed the heavy handed stewarding as none to my mind came close to the pitch (just came to the front bit of the stand). It seemed ridiculous that they would be arrested and carted off for that. Just my opinion of course.