MATCH REPORT: BARNET FC vs BRADFORD FC
FULL TIME SCORE: 2 - 0
Summary : Although it may have been due to some, frankly, horrific Bradford finishing, Barnet managed to scrape a two - nil win against a strong Bantams team. At the end of a mundane first half which contained very few talking points, debutant Taiwo Atieno connected with Elliot Johnson’s cross and easily slotted it past Matt Duke. Then, in the second half, the Bee’s lead doubled when, after a defensive mishap from Bradford, John Oster received the ball and coolly slotted it into the goal; what was especially pleasing about this goal was that it was right off the back of a very good Bradford chance. The last half hour was truly dominated by Bradford and one can only wonder in how they ceased to score: they had a goal disallowed for offside, scraped the crossbar, let fly with multiple shots which were inches off the post and yet they still couldn't manage to get the ball, legitimately, into the back of the net. Overall, Barnet were a quite lucky to win this encounter but they were owed some fortune after the officiating debacle that had occurred against Aldershot the previous Wednesday.
Bradford have been one of, if not the, stand out teams in League Two this year; they have got to the Semi Finals of the Capital One Cup after beating Wigan, as well as, more notably, coming out victors against full strength Arsenal side. Moreover, they are doing very respectably in the league, currently lying in the Play Off places, eyeing automatic promotion. For these reasons, therefore, playing the ‘Arsenal beaters’ looked to be a prospect that could only end in disappointment. To put it into context, a draw would have been a success.
Things looked even worse when the teams were read out. Davids, who was still injured, opted to put lead scorer Jake Hyde on the bench and replace with the newly signed Taiwo Atieno. In addition, fans’ favourite Clovis Kamdjo found himself still on the bench as a result of Curtis Weston retaining his place in the starting eleven. Mark Byrne was starting in place of the suspended, while most fans were pleased to see Johnson back at left back since he seems to be a bit better than Jordan Brown.
From the start it was extremely obvious that Bradford were a very direct side and their constant hoofing up to lone striker Hanson was causing the Bee’s back four some difficulties. This Bantam pressure almost paid off when a low Hanson shot was seemingly millimetres away from rippling into the net. Furthermore, whenever Barnet managed to get the ball at their feet, they were put under a lot of pressure which normally led to a sloppy pass and a chance for Bradford the attack.
Despite the burden that they were putting the Bees under, Bradford were struggling to create clear cut chances, tending to misplay the final, critical ball. Even so, credit must also go to Barnet back four who defended stoutly and were barely given a moment’s rest.
The breakthrough occurred just as the half was drawing to a close and people were leaving the stands to get their habitual half time snack; against the run of play, Elliot Johnson raced down the left wing and, drilled a grounded, sumptuous cross that fell for Atieno to score his first goal for the club. The crowd were both surprised and, of course, elated at this unexpected goal and it seemed to ignite a spark into the Bees. For the final five minutes of the half they looked much better on the ball and had a potential claim for handball after a Ricky Holmes cross looked to have been handled by a Bradford defender.
The second half proved to be just as fruitful as the first and a second goal came just three minutes after the restart. Bradford looked to have equalised when the ball fell kindly at Nakhi Wells feet but all he could do is drag it wide of the post. Just as Bradford were ruing on this missed opportunity Ricky Holmes, inside the area, placed a perfect pass into the path of Wales international and former Premier League player John Oster who, as coolly as a cucumber, passed the ball into the net. Ecstasy and bliss rushed through the stadium and it looked as if the Bees were cruising the three points that they desperately needed. Nonetheless, murmurs of the word ‘Southend’ could be heard echoing through the shivering wind.
It certainly looked like a comeback from the Bantams was very plausible and if they had just spent a little more time at shooting practice in training then this could have been a different story altogether. For the last half hour Barnet had next to nothing as far as chances are concerned while the players in pink shirts rang rings around the Bee’s defence only to fumble at the final hurdle. A special mention must go to Barry Fuller, my personal Man of the Match, who defended the dangerous right flank superlatively well. In fact, after the game a fan posted on Facebook that ‘Fuller should be tested for performance enhancing drugs after his second half performance’. This should take nothing away from the rest of the back four who were also very committed and provided some of their best performances of the season.
In the end, after numerous six yard snapshots flying wide and over the bar, in addition to a slightly dubious disallowed goal and a shot that skimmed the crossbar Barnet held on to record a very respectable win. It seems as if the Bees always perform better against the bigger teams in the league than they do against the smaller ones. To conclude, a good performance albeit with a bit of help from Lady Luck that puts the Bees in quite a good position for the perennial Relegation Battle.
Graham Stack - 7: Made some good saves but was not troubled too much thanks to Bradford’s wayward shooting.
Elliot Johnson - 8: Solid as well as providing attacking intent.
Andy Iro - 7: At points looked a bit shaky but coped, overall, quite well.
David Stephens - 8.5: Annoyed the Bradford attackers greatly and stopped lots of attacks.
Barry Fuller - 9 (MOTM): Made multiple crucial slide tackles. Contained the attacks on the right flank very well.
Andy Yiadom - 7.5: Gets better every game.
John Oster - 8: Aside from a few misplaced passes, controlled the game’s tempo and also scored.
Mark Byrne - 7.5: Given more of a defensive duty and played well there.
Ricky Holmes: - 8: Caused many problems in the heart of the Bradford defence. Got the assist for Oster’s goal.
Curtis Weston - 7: Although he did not make a big contribution he usually was intelligent when he got the ball.
Taiwo Atieno - 6.5: Scored on his debut which is always promising but his touch seemed quite off and he had a tendency to skill himself up.
Jake Hyde - N/A: Not enough time to do anything noteworthy.