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Bradford survive

Pre-season tour
Gallen signs
Hornets sting Town
Owls shot down
Gray returns
Wijnhard crashes out
Worthington woe
Ayre departs
First home point
Bye Bye Brucie
New manager announced
Fans show anger
9 points to safety
First home win
Ndlovu at first sight
Town leap to safety
Macari wins award
More cup woe
Ndlovu joins Blades
Jamie jumps ship
Town hit rock bottom again
Morris' McApline move
Prodigal son returns
Biggest win
QPR doomed
Nearly there
The bitter end

Saturday 17th March.

Apparently, we have never beaten a team managed by Neil Warnock since his departure 5 years or so ago. Following the dismissal of Steve Bruce our first game was against Mr Warnock's ‘Blades’ and they out muscled us that day to beat us 3-0. We badly needed to get our own back today to keep in touch with the teams just above the drop zone.

It was a grey chilly afternoon, and the football did little to stir the corpuscles as the visitors tried to probe forward whilst Town were intent on letting them know that they were in a game with some strong and determined tackling. For some reason the players in the red and white shirts were experiencing gravity problems as they dropped like a sack of spuds every time they were subject to the close attentions of a Town player. Sheffield United had the edge in the early stages with a couple of early opportunities falling to Peter Ndlovu, but I don’t think he really wanted to score against the club he really wanted to play for.

After absorbing the early pressure Town began to look more self assured with the realisation that Sheffield United weren’t actually as good as their league position suggested and Simon Baldry headed wide after around 10 minutes from a Martin Smith cross from the left. The improvement in Town’s game was finally rewarded after 25 minutes with Martin Smith doing the damage against his former employers.

Martin Smith burst through from midfield and fed the overlapping Lee Morris who controlled the ball with a couple of touches before firing a cross towards the edge of the 6-yard box. Smith, who had continued his forward run, met the cross unconvincingly with the top of his head and the ball looped towards Simon Tracey’s goal. The keeper seemed deceived by the flight of the ball and the header skimmed the crossbar and bounced down in front of the goal line. The ball rolled agonisingly across the face of goal, but with Keith Curle racing back to retrieve the situation Martin Smith was alert and tucked the ball home from a foot or so from the line.

When you are struggling you need pieces of luck like this, and this was just the tonic we needed as we went in search of a second goal. Within seconds of the restart Simon Baldry made Tracey earn his corn from a sweetly driven shot, but once again this season we were unable to hold onto a lead as another defensive blunder gifted the visitors a goal.

We held the lead for 10 minutes, when a ball over the top from Sheffield United was weakly headed back to Nico Vaesen by Adie Moses. With new signing Carl Asaba lurking there was only going to be one outcome as the former Gillingham front man calmly tucked the ball into the bottom corner past the helpless Vaesen. Moses held his head in his hands and well he might, as we cannot afford stupid errors of judgement like this. Too many home points have past us by this season through slack defending, and we must cut these out now if we are to have a chance of playing in the same division next season.

The visitors looked to be lifted by this gift as they began to put the defence under more pressure as the half progressed and as the Town defence tackled harder, the Sheffield players began to hit the deck with frustrating regularity - none more so than Rob Kozluk who on occasions seemed to fall over when he wasn’t even tackled. Luckily for Town the referee who awarded free kicks for the majority of these ‘fouls’ didn’t brandish the cards too frequently. The half-time whistle arrived with a mixture of relief that we hadn’t conceded further, but frustration that we were now in danger in throwing away 2 more precious home points.

The second half began with the cold beginning to permeate my bones, as once again my corpuscles remained largely dormant in a very stale period of play. Neither side looked capable of threatening in front of goal. Peter Ndlovu was well marshalled by Jon Dyson who once again had a very effective game, whilst at the other end of the pitch Lee Morris didn’t enjoy one of his more influential games although in fairness the highly experienced Keith Curle kept him quiet. Once Adie Moses had got an early blunder out of his system just after the restart, the game settled into a struggle between two poor sides with Craig Armstrong working very effectively in midfield, adding some steel to that department and this was just as well because Dean Gorré is clearly struggling for form.

Town began to exert more dominance as the half progressed and again took the lead after 78 minutes. Craig Armstrong stepped up to take a corner from the right, and his beautifully directed place kick was met by the head of Delroy Facey who rose from a crowd of players in the penalty area. His header was perfectly directed down bouncing in front of the diving Tracey and into the back of the net. It was time for the home fans to taunt the visitors from South Yorkshire, but also time for the nerves to set in.

With our record of failing to hold a lead during much of the season the goal felt to come about 12 minutes too soon as we knew that Warnock would wind up his players for a concerted final push. Push they did, but despite introducing Paul Peschisolido in the 65th minute and Laurent D’Jaffo just after the second goal, the defence held firm. The tackles became more frenetic, and the diving of the visiting players became more excessive. A prime example was Rob Kozluk who went down on the touchline as though he had been pole-axed, but as soon as the referee told him to leave the pitch for treatment he got up totally unscathed.

Thomas Heary was brought on for the suspect Adie Moses in the 80th minute, and a couple of late introductions by Town saw the clock tick away slowly towards the 90th minute. There were still chances at both ends, with Lee Morris upended in the penalty area which inexplicably saw the referee award a free kick to the visitors and Tony Ford blasting high over the bar when it looked easier to find the target. Three nervy minutes were added to the 90, but these passed safely and 3 vital points were ours as the referee blew the final whistle.

As well as our own result, many anxious eyes had been checking the scoreboard that had shown Tranmere beating Barnsley 2-0 for much of the game. Barnsley pulled a goal back and there was hope that they might grab an equaliser and they duly obliged. Just as we were making our way out of the ground the final scores were being read out, Tranmere 2, Barnsley 3, what joy! They might have shafted us last week, but thanks Barnsley at least you did us one favour.

TOWN 2 (Smith 25, Facey 78)

Sheffield United 1 (Asaba 35)

Position in table – 22nd

Town – Vaesen; Jenkins; Lucketti; Dyson; Moses (Heary 80); Smith (Irons 90); Armstrong; Gorré; Facey; Morris (Gallen 87); Baldry. Subs not used – Margetson; Gray.

Sheffield United – Tracey; Kozluk; Murphy; Curle; Ullathorne; Ford; Montgomery (Peschisolido 65); Devlin; Asaba (D’Jaffo 76); Ndlovu; Brown (Jagielka 87). Subs not used – Suffo, Woodward.

Referee – Bill Jordan (Tring). Attendance 13,918



All words and thoughts by Chris except where stated.

A big thank you to Machala for putting up with me doing this and Ian for his support and my Mum for her proof reading.

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