This winning lark is git easy isn’t it? We should have tried it earlier I reckon.
What is it about Bradford that makes us score four goals there so regularly? We’ve now done it four times out of the last five visits – or something like that. It is not as though we do it at so many grounds that Bradford just happens to be in our four-goal firing line from time to time. Still we’re happy to take it when it comes. This time the goals came in four completely different ways from four completely different players.
Mick Mac stuck with the side that had beaten Watford, which was fine for me. The non-inclusion of fit-again Trigger wasn’t much of a talking point beforehand – we were already well covered in central midfield. I am not sure our captain is actually going to get many games this season. Slightly more bemusing, to me at least, was that there was no room for Piper even on the bench. Is he not fit again? Something is wrong about Piper and it is starting to worry me. I think he’s a canny player – certainly better than Oster (who had a great game against Watford mind, so deserved his place).
The first goal came after 9 minutes but to be honest when I saw that in the official reports I was a bit surprised. We already seemed to have been dominating the game for quite some time and the goal when it came was inevitable. Considering we were away, it was astonishing how far up the pitch we were playing. Poom was not only a spectator; he was so far from the action that he wouldn’t have had much of a view of it. The goal came from a Thornton free kick on the left, beautifully weighted to the far post. Breen had pulled away from the Bradford defence and placed a perfect header, giving the goalkeeper no chance (I got that last bit from my “Big Boys’ Book of Things to say in Football Reports”). It is so nice to see us able to take dead balls again – although Thornton is the main dead ball taker, there are quite a few others in the team who are fairly handy. In the second half we even had Julio trying to do a Hutch by catching the wall out before it was ready. I don’t want to detract from Breen doing so well but where the hell were the defenders? Big centre half at back post from free kick? Not exactly the most original play is it? Unfortunately, cos I’ve got nowt against Bradford, they were pretty poor almost all game.
After our goal we went back into dominating the game and still didn’t let Bradford attack. A second was not going to shock anyone but it was another immensely pleasing goal from a team point of view. Regular readers of this column (that’s our lass and me son) will know that I am on constant Killa-watch, looking for effective moments of play from Kevin to share with his many legions of fans. Yet again, he didn’t disappoint. Someone (I think it was Thirlwell) tackled well in midfield and Killa collected the ball, spotting Stew’s run towards the penalty area, he threaded the ball beautifully through the Bradford defenders with just the right weight for Stew to run onto. Stew then fired the ball across the goalkeeper and solidly into the net. After worrying a bit about Stew at the beginning of the season and even suggesting that Proctor should be in in front of him, I am delighted to say that he is looking the lethal striker he once was but now with some real maturity to his game.
And so the domination went on. Then came along a piece of wonder. From the off the large and vociferous SAFC away contingent had got behind Julio and, as he had against Watford, Julio responded by playing with a confidence and flair we don’t see enough of in a red and white shirt. Then half way through the first half Bradford had one of their rare excursions into our half. To the left of the penalty area one of their forwards was on the ball. Julio delivered a crunching tackle, got himself onto his feet and came out with the ball all in one movement. He then started to advance up the pitch. On the telly it looks like no one comes near him (in fact I think the Sky commentator even says that) but that is because he kept feigning, looking to pass and then moving on. I was in the top left of the stand behind the goal and so was in a direct line behind Julio’s run. I had an excellent view of how he used his body to fool defenders while his legs were advancing forward with the ball, I could see defenders move towards him, stop, waiting for his pass and then start running after him in panic as they realised he was no longer there. And then he was at the edge of the box, two defenders had retreated as far as they could and now stood in his way. As though it was the most natural thing in the world, he weighed up the gap between the goalkeeper and the cross bar (the goalie was off his line but not that far), and then lofted the ball over the defenders – over it went and over 3,000 SAFC supporters held their collective breaths, towards the goalkeeper whose hand was suddenly on it, the SAFC supporters groaned in agony, but no he couldn’t get enough of his hand to it and it was still going, we all sucked our breaths in again and then it dropped marvellously into the net – where Julio had intended all along. How unworthy were we to have even doubted him. At moments like this you hope you have something profound to say, something that will complement the majesty of the moment. All I said was “F*cking hell!”, which while not stunningly articulate was perfectly accurate.
After what seems like a long time, we really do seem to have our Julio back. What is more he is looking more at home at left back than he did at left wing. Plus he is actually doing the defensive work that some (well, me) didn’t think he’d do. No one doubted Julio more than me – having one’s words rammed down one’s throat has never been sweeter.
The second half was just what it should be, although not what those of us at the match would have wanted. We showed we could play a good solid holding game. Well done to Mick Mac for getting them to do that. Kylie went off for an age to get yet more stitches – his head must now be more catgut than skin. Those of us on Killa-watch noted a couple of excellent moves to the by-line to get crosses in for Stew to come close. Killa then got injured making a brave tackle and went off to a rousing reception from the vast majority of the SAFC supporters. McCartney tried, from central defence, to do a Julio and bring the ball the length of the pitch – he didn’t manage it but it was nice to see – in a Craddock early 1997 sort of way.
Healy came on and was again impressive. He had a major part in our fourth goal (the only one at our end – boo! Score at our end yer buggas) which said a lot about the new improved SAFC. Stephen Wright played a neat ball to Stewart who spotted Healy making a darting diagonal run from the centre to the left side of the box. In a carbon copy of Killa’s pass to him, Stew threaded the ball through to Healy who went crashing to the floor. And then the new super-strength SAFC took over. Last year if any of our premiership overpaid lazy prima donnas had got into the box and ended up on their arse they would have sat there looking outraged with a “why wasn’t the ball handed on a plate to me to tap in?” look on their surly faces. But not Healy, only half standing, he managed to scramble over and knock the ball off the defenders legs and into the path of Kyle whose first-time shot was superbly saved by the goalie only for Thornton to come steaming in from the right and smash the ball into the net. Not the prettiest goal you’ll ever see but one that speaks volumes about the attitude the team is developing. Let’s keep it up lads eh? There are a lot of good signs. I’ll just mention two. First, when we score anyone within running distance charges over to congratulate the scorer and seems genuinely delighted that they’ve scored. I like to see the team as pleased as we are. Second, the team are now coming over to applaud us at the end (and not just cos we are winning – they did it at Forest as well) – given that we pay their wages and many sacrifice a lot in terms of disposable income and time, it is something I think players should do.
As we were coming out after watching our third successive win after such a long drought, we wondered if there was anything that could cheer us up a little more. Well, what do you know, there was. Apparently a bunch of women-beaters, racist thugs and perpetrators of more heinous crimes, led by a man who has won everything in football (err, well, everything there is to win in the Portuguese and Dutch leagues) had been beaten at home for the third time in a week. There were some titters.