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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 28th April.

For once the team selection was reasonably conventional with Kevin Gray continuing alongside Chris Lucketti, allowing Craig Armstrong to return to midfield where he looks far more comfortable. Macari always seems to be able to spring at least one surprise selection, and today’s was the inclusion of Chris Hay on the substitutes bench. The reverse fixture at the McAlpine was one of the lowest ebbs of the season as we let yet another 3 points slip from our grasp and looked like real relegation material, and we needed to show the fighting spirit today that has brought us back from the brink of relegation. West Brom had their own agenda as they have transformed themselves into play-off contenders this season and looked to secure the win needed to secure a top six berth.

The Baggies started brightly applying pressure to the Town back line as they looked to reward their fans who were in party mood, but for once it was Town who made the first tangible contribution to the game. A long punt out of the area was met by Simon Baldry whose lunge propelled the ball over the home defence where it was skilfully met by Andy Booth around 25 yards from goal. Booth needed no second invitation as Russell Hoult raced from his line, and he lobbed the ball into the back of the unguarded net. West Brom were immediately spurred into action as they looked to restore parity and could have equalised a few minutes after the goal but Nico Vaesen saved well from Lee Hughes.

As it was, the lead only lasted around 10 minutes when ex-Bristol Rovers striker levelled the score on 17 minutes. Richard Sneekes touched on a ball out of defence, and with the defence out of position the pass was collected by the suspiciously offside looking Roberts. He evaded a challenge from Steve Jenkins and a balloon and as he advanced towards goal knocked the ball around Nico Vaesen and tucked a shot into the back of the net. Straight after the equaliser Des Lyttle shot narrowly wide and then at the other end Delroy Facey sliced his shot wide of the target.

Both defences began to take control of the game and chances were at a premium although most of the opportunities went the way of the home side. Town survived a scare on the half-hour mark when the ever-dangerous Lee Hughes had a fierce shot blocked by the legs of Lucketti, and then seconds later collected a loose ball but, thankfully, his low shot was well collected by Vaesen. With the half-time interval looming Michael Appleton scuffed his shot wide when Vaesen was out of position and then Andy Booth had a glorious chance to restore the lead from a Craig Armstrong corner but sent his header the wrong side of the post. The remainder of the half was safely negotiated and it was just to be hoped that we could hold on for what could prove to be a vital point.

The second half served to illustrate how the gap between success and failure is frustratingly small this season. Apart from Blackburn and Fulham at the top of the table the rest of the division is very ordinary, and Town took control of a game that the league standings suggested they had no right to do. Town enjoyed periods of sustained possession without really creating too many clear-cut openings, with Andy Booth heading well over the bar and Delroy Facey having his shooting opportunity well blocked by an Albion defender.

The home defence had to work hard to resist the pressure as they continued to be outplayed, and Thornley was sacrificed for Kenny Irons as Macari looked to try to add some creativity to midfield with Armstrong and Holland having snuffed out much of the home threat. Unfortunately it was to be one of those games of few real goal-scoring chances, and the few that did prevail were wasted or were blocked by the home defence who were in no mood to delay their play-off party. On 76 minutes Kenny Irons created a good chance for Booth but his shot over Russell Hoult was blocked well by Larus Sigurdsson, it was a game of limited opportunities and a final shot tally of just 3 on-target efforts for Town and 2 for West Brom told its own tale.

It was a shame that Town couldn’t capitalise on their territorial dominance as a win today would all but mathematically secured their first division status, but West Brom weren’t quite finished and as the final whistle approached could still have stolen all three points. In the dying moments Albion won a corner and Larus Sigurdsson saw his close range attempt pass narrowly wide of the post, and then James Quinn who had only been on the pitch for a couple of minutes pulled his shot wide from 15 yards having escaped the attentions of Kevin Gray. The late onslaught was survived and Town and their 2,000 or so travelling faithful left for the M6 quite content with a point when little had been expected of this fixture.

With Tranmere and QPR condemned to life in division 2 next season and Portsmouth playing Blackburn tomorrow, the focus of attention today was on Stockport, Grimsby and Crystal Palace. Stockport beat doomed QPR to guarantee their own survival whilst Grimsby and Crystal Palace lost to Birmingham and Wolves respectively. The Mariners are almost safe although their terrible goal difference keeps them interested, but most importantly of all if Crystal Palace fail to win one of their last 2 fixtures, or if we win 1 of ours, then we are safe. Roll on Tuesday and bring on the Wombles!

West Bromwich Albion 1 (Roberts 17)

TOWN 1 (Booth 6)

Position in table – 20th

Town – Vaesen; Jenkins; Lucketti; Gray; Heary; Thornley (Irons 69); Armstrong; Holland; Facey; Booth; Baldry (Gallen 90). Subs not used – Margetson; Moses; Hay.

West Bromwich Albion – Hoult; Lyttle (Chambers 66); Clement; Butler; Fox; Sneekes; Hughes (Taylor 66); Roberts (Quinn 88); Sigurdsson; Appleton; Gilchrist. Subs not used – Jensen; Jordao.

Referee – Barry Knight (Orpington). Attendance 17,542



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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