Face-To-Face with the Bantams
Anyone who knows how football works will be lumping on Bradford City to win at Adams Park this weekend. It`s the return of the "old boys" and they all have a point to prove. If that wasn`t enough, it`s four league wins out of four for the Chairboys over their Bantam rivals. Sure they might be City Gents but there is only one thing that happens to sequences like that - they come to an end. Throw in our uninspiring (I`m being kind) home form and Peter Taylor, Tommy Doc and Luke Oliver will be taking three points away with them on Saturday evening.
There has been a fifth meeting between the sides which came in the F.A. Cup back in January 1997 when the Bantams escaped with a 2-0 win on an icy Adams Park surface. The first half had seen the Wanderers lay siege to the visitors` goal but found goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer in fine form. It was a memorable match for your scribe as he was participating in a "fantasy football" competition at the time and had just sold midfielder John Dreyer from his side. Guess who scored both goals? Sod`s law, it`s a bit of a…erm…sod.
For this face-to-face we`re going back just two years or so to May 2008. None of us knew it at the time but it was the last regular league game manager Paul Lambert would take control of ahead of an all-too predictable play-off defeat to Stockport County. It was effectively a dead rubber with Bradford City comfortably sat in mid-table whilst the Wanderers had already secured their play-off place.
The side went into the game on the back of a 1-0 defeat at Notts County which had seen both Rob Rice and Matt Phillips come off the bench to make their Wycombe debuts. There were nine changes to that side for the clash with the Bantams with only Fielding and McCracken keeping their places. McCracken switched to right-back in place of Russell Martin who dropped to the bench allowing Mike Williamson and Leon Johnson to form the centre-back partnership.
Craig Woodman replaced Sam Stockley at left-back. The midfield three of Andre Boucaud, Chris Palmer and Stefan Oakes were replaced by a four-man midfield of Matt Phillips, Gary Holt, Tommy Doherty and Sergio Torres. Up front Leon Knight and loan striker Delroy Facey started ahead of Scott McGleish and John Sutton. The biggest news was the full debut of 17 year-old winger Matt Phillips.
The Chairboys` line-up was: (4-4-2)
David McCracken - Mike Williamson - Leon Johnson - Craig Woodman
Matt Phillips - Gary Holt - Tommy Doherty - Sergio Torres
Leon Knight - Delroy Facey
Bradford City lined-up as follows: (4-4-2)
Ben Starosta - David Wetherall - Mark Bower - Paul Heckinbottom
Omar Daley - Kyle Nix - Sean Taylforth - Scott Phelan
Luke Medley - Barry Conlon
A crowd of 5,467 watched the game on a warm, sunny afternoon at Adams Park. Amongst the 600 strong away support were a number of fans in vast array of fancy dress. The home side started the game the better of the two sides and soon made the breakthrough. It was young Matt Phillips who created the opening goal, taking possession on the half-way line and running at the visitors` defence. He beat two men before playing the ball into Delroy Facey and he fired a low shot across goalkeeper Scott Loach and into the bottom right-hand corner of the net to make it 1-0.
Bantams` defender David Wetherall was making the final appearance of his career and he was given a torrid time by Facey. He held the ball up for Sergio Torres who ran into the box and fired a shot just wide of the post with 12 minutes played. It was Phillips who created the next opportunity when his in-swinging corner was met by defender Mike Williamson and he headed the ball back for David McCracken who saw his head crash back off the crossbar.
With 25 minutes played the Blues finally doubled their lead. Another Phillips corner was headed goal-wards and Leon Knight showed his predatory instinct to turn the ball into the net past Loach from just inside the six-yard box. The hosts were in cruise control but with just a minute of the first half remaining goalkeeper Frank Fielding made an error of judgement when he raced off his line to meet substitute striker David Brown and bring him crashing down to concede a penalty. Luke Medley coolly slotted home the spot-kick to make it 2-1 at half-time.
The second half saw City put the Wanderers under pressure but Fielding wasn`t unduly troubled. Facey then shot straight at Loach after being put in by Gary Holt`s neat pass. Fielding then pulled off a stunning save to deny Omar Daley an equaliser, diving full-length to his left to push away the wingers` powerful drive. Shortly afterwards Fielding was substituted with Jamie Young taking over between the sticks. The last half an hour tailed off in typical end-of-season style and Wycombe comfortably held on to take the three points.
The side finished the season in 7th place in the League Two table with 78 points, the joint highest total the club has achieved in the Football League. However the side lost the two-legged semi-final to Stockport County and with one or two things not sitting right with Paul Lambert he resigned shortly afterwards and was replaced by Peter Taylor. He matched that record points haul and it earned the side third place in the table and automatic promotion the following season.
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