Cardiff 0 Bradford City 2. Match Report.

Last updated : 18 August 2003 By NigelBlues

It's a tough baptism for City and with next weekend's visit to Nottingham's Forest's City ground. it's about to get even tougher. However whilst defeat always hurts and disappoints, there were plenty of encouraging signs and moments. In manager speak, a lot of positives but it's the negatives that Lennie and his team will focus on as City had probably three quarters of the play, domination and territory yet failed to score whilst Bradford had three chances and took two and with real aplomb to knock the stuffing out of City.

The couple of days leading upto the game brought new levels of excitement and expectation too as Cardiff clinched the signatures of Alan Lee and Richard Langley added undoubted strength and variety to City's squad, news that Gary Doherty from Spurs and another new face are expected to arrive next week causing a national radio station to hysterically speculate whether City are now ready for the Premiership. Then the icing on the cake came with the Planning Committee have recommended the new stadium development should be passed by the Councillors. Breathtaking stuff after years of decay and inactivity at this club before Sam arrived.

Ninian Park although well past its sell by date still cuts an impressive sight with 16,424 fairly packed inside, the mood all day was exciting, the pub was buzzing and the anticipation in the ground was immense. The only visible spaces, and there only a couple, were in sections of the Bob Bank and Grange End terracing but mostly in the 2,500(?) capacity away end as Bradford brought 271 fans to South Wales.

City made two changes to the side that battled for a hard point at Rotherham last week. Alan Lee, signed 27 earlier, was plunged straight into attack. Earnie and Campbell work hard but, being relatively similar, make the same sorts of run and do not click as a strike partnership. In midfield, fit again Gareth Whalley started against a club for whom he played in the Premiership with Mark Bonner unlucky to lose out after two fine displays. Elsewhere, Rhys Weston started having recovered from an ankle knock, Richard Langley took his place amongst the substitutes whilst Jason Bowen and Maxwell dropped out of the 16 due to the new arrivals.

Bradford, with well documented post-Premiership financial problems, were to be respected but not feared. The sort of team that City need to collect score points against to make a solid impression in Division One.

Managed by Nicky Laws (remembered as the Cheater-field boss when they financially frigged their way to Div Three Champions when City went up too in Sam's first season), they were a team of few "names". Best known were the commanding David Weatherall (ex-Leeds) as their defensive lynchpin, Wales' Paul Evans, once linked with City, in midfield and forwards of Dean Windass (ex-most northern teams in the land) and Michael Branch (ex-Everton).

They finished 19th last season and will do well to do much better this term. Opening day for them was a 2-2 home draw with Norwich where they showed their character and that they are streetwise by coming from 2-0 behind late in the game to snatch that point.

City attacked the Canton Stand for the opening period and walked off at half-time justifiably pleased with their efforts having done little wrong - yet they trailed 1-0 having to quickly digest the harsh realities of First Division life.

Cardiff, pushed, prodded, probed, showed imagination in their attacks, Lee's powerful front play immediately endearing him to the home support, they played some excellent football and the quality on show was certainly a step up for the fayre we've been used to watching and they created chances but didn't take any. Bradford meantime hung on and fought hard, often in uncompromising style, then devastated the Bluebirds with a wonderful 6th minute opener to take a half-time lead with their only shot of the half.

Bradford got forward in the opening moments, won a corner and planted a header well over then it was City's turn. Earnie won a free-kick, Kav's 25 yard effort tired to surprise Bradford's 6 foot something Kiwi keeper with unfeasibly long arms with a low shot to his near post but it skipped wide. Kav was in the action again as he fouled trying to win the ball then took a knee in the back that temporarily forced him off.

As he did, and from nothing, Bradford belted the ball forward and ANDY GRAY (Scottish, and with one international cap but not the Sky commenator), took the ball, turned, advanced and let fly from 25 yards with a looping left footed volley that hit the back of the net with Alexander still flying across goal to stop it. A special strike by an attacking midfielder hitting his 17 league gaol in 47 Bradford appearances, the sort of input City have been sorely missing.

It silenced the crowd but to City's credit, they came back fighting and a sharp, quick move almost straight from kick-off sent Rhys Weston clear inside the area and behind the visitor's defence but his ball across goal were cut out by those long arms of Paston.

It set the tempo for the remaining 38 minutes of the half where City gave the fans plenty to be encouraged and singing about without a goal to show for it. Alan Lee, took the eye adding a dimension to City's attack for has been sorely missing for many months. Strong, quick, physical, skilful, able to hold up and play off the ball, he gave Bradford's defence - especially in the first half - a torrid afternoon.

Firstly, he burst past them on the right before over-hitting his cross, then when Whalley found him, his pass inside sent found a charging forward Vidmar who was just dispossessed by the last defender, half-chances were blocked or snatched such as a corner ballooned over but he was very close meeting a Kav free-kick only to see his header sail just wide of the far post. Lee also burst forward to meet a John Robinson cross but didn't make the right connection and showed he can play both sides and he tore down the left, burst past a defender and hit a powerful left footed cross that Earnie and Co didn't quite reach.

City's football and quality throughout was excellent, Vidmar and Gabbi in control at the back and showing their usual skills bringing the ball out, City's midfield dominated with John Robinson, Whalley, Kav and Boland all impressing at what they do. Kav was everywhere having obviously lost some of his excess pounds and physically fitter with it, his set-pieces were of higher standard too compared to last season.

Earnie had his moments in attack but looks to be trying a little too hard and is not so relaxed. Incredibly, the little fella with 63 league goals in 95 starts plus 35 has only got 1 of those goals in his last 13 league/play-off games. Chances came his way again but it wasn't his day. He really should have equalised on the half-hour when Alan Lee broke, fed Robinson and his cut inside saw Earnie stretch and lean back to fire high over the bar in a great position. He was close again at half-time but his effort meeting a Gabbi cross lacked power but still had to be scrambled off the line.

Other Earnie shots were scuffed or blocked with the ever alert Weatherall didn't anything possible to disrupt him and all of City's attacks. Skilled in the Leeds way, Weatherall tugged, pulled, wasted time by kicking the ball away and purposely taking it forward yards at free-kicks knowing he would be pulled back. Referee Lee Cable, ironically the ref when City lost at home a year ago to Northampton, marshalled proceedings well - for a change! They were, as always, some decisions to disagree with. One was not being tougher with Weatherall who therefore carried out his antics all afternoon. He was eventually booked in the closing stages, it should have been so much earlier.

City were rampant and dominant but for all those moments, they had to reflect on only giving Paston two pieces of work. One was a flying parried save from Vidmar on the half-hour, the other a comfortable take from a Kav blaster which flew straight at him. There was plenty to commend about City and little to fault, it was just the lack of goals. They have to work out how to make pressure and play pay.


A sign that City's new signings need time to settle and gel came at half-time as Richard Langley cut a lonely figure playing keepy-up on his own whilst Collins, Margetson, Campbell and Bonner had a knockabout together. Langley only joining in at the very end of the break.

City carried on exactly where they left off. In the opening seconds, Earnie burst forward but was brought down. The resulting free-kick saw Gabbidon head just over the bar. A couple of crosses were cut out or taken by the goalie's tentacles.

Five minutes in, it looked like City had equalised as John Robinson with his back to goal took a low skimming cross, turned and hit a rising shot that the keeper touched onto the underneath of the crossbar. It dropped sharply towards Earnie who seemed to be cut down as he went for the rebound producing long and prolonged penalty appeal claims. Cable ignored those producing sixteen thousand hands on heads in agony rather than ayatollahing then booked a Bradford player who cynically checked out Boland earlier in the move.

A sign of City's dominance over play came as Neil Alexander held onto Bradford's 2nd meaningful effort of the game, Evans' powerful shot from distance which went straight at him - that was just before 55 minutes play.

Still City came, Earnie spurning four or five half-chances or being blocked and the hard working Robinson again looking set to score shooting from close range only to be denied by a lunging defending making a last gasp block, Lee had an effort blocked too and Paston was now punching instead of catching and not too cleverly either but the ball somehow always dropped safely.

It was getting to the stage when you wondered if City could snatch a point or whether it was just one of those days when Bradford scored with their only effort when, from nowhere, they unbelievably doubled their lead.

It was a goal from nothing as EMANUAL, on a couple of minutes earlier as a sub, took a sideways pass 30 yards out of the type you would expect him to nudge on or take on but, with little backlift, he hit an unstoppable rising with extreme venom that left Alexander clutching at air for the second time as it flew under his bar still rising and it seemed to be increasing in velocity too.

It was easily the best goal of Emanuel's career, it was his first ever goal in forty three appearances! If the 19 year old plays another 500 games, he will do well to better that wondrous strike. One of those strikes which even the City fans had to spontaneously applaud, grudgingly. Was it just Bradford's lucky day or is it what City have to be wary of in Division One? Only one such goal flew past them in that style last season, Marco Gabbiadini's effort for Northampton, and now it happened twice inside one afternoon. Moments later, it suggested it perhaps wasn't a fluke as another powerful effort whistle past City's far post.

Cardiff were understandably deflated and demoralised by events on the pitch. Bradford didn't wilt under pressure a goal ahead and they certainly weren't in the mood to let a two goal advantage go. Showing their commitment, Weatherall and Evans were yellow carded for bad fouls. Crosses were snuffed and cut off. The zip had gone from City's play too, partly as Alan Lee looked out on his feet after what was a tiring week so a focus of City's attacks was weaker.

Richard Langley came on for a debut and had a couple of efforts too but his free-kick and shots worried only the seagulls flying well overhead instead of the Bantams on the field.
Kav limped off too holding his back, a possible legacy of the first-half challenge on him, for Mark Bonner and Earnie was swapped for Andy Campbell but the game was now going through the motions as hundreds had already decided to leave and go home a little early.

City finished as they started still taking the game to their visitors. Willie Boland's 30 yard drive through a crowd making Paston save, he also had to punch away a Langley cross under pressure and save the last action of the match as Alan Lee planted a header across him meeting a Chris Barker cross.

It was a downer for such a huge occasion for City and after such a defining week for the club but it promised much. As Lennie rightly says, City have to get better in both penalty areas and they are clearly areas in which they must improve or we will be in trouble but he will also know that his team will play much worse than today this season and win too. It's too early in the season to worry though and the team showed plenty of promise to suggest they will be fine this season. The sooner they get that first win however, the better.

External reports.
Wales On Sunday
The Times
Western Mail