Today’s headlines have not been written on the pitch.
Some will hope they’re written in the hours after the game, rather than right now, but in the grand scheme of things, today’s game is one that should be noted. Okay, it’s the Papa John’s Trophy, which would be best sponsored by Marmite in many fan’s eyes, but we’re through, comfortably, before some teams have even kicked off.
The effects of last Tuesday’s game might have been felt at the weekend, which wasn’t great, but we’ve signed off for a ten-day break with a comfortable win over a virtually full-strength Bradford City side. I saw their fans reacting to the line-up, and they felt it was a team going out to win the game. They didn’t, they never looked like doing.
From the opening whistle, City looked the business. Sure, we were strong too, with what I feel could be our first team midfield: Fiorini, Brdicutt and Bishop. They controlled the pace of the game, and had the right complement of players around them, Adelakun, Scully and Hopper are probably the first choice attacking players, whilst Eyoma and Poole are first XI players too. When you think about it that way, we should have been easing to victory. We were one kick away from the Championship and we’ve gone all-in on the encounter. Around the grounds, you’ll find reserve squads and unfamiliar line-ups, but if we draw the Bantams in the FA Cup, these two starting XIs could be the ones we see. That’s how strong they were.
That led to an end-to-end first half, with City looking very dangerous. Tom Hopper silenced a few of his critics with a goal early doors, just 14 minutes into the game. Hops has missed a couple of matches and whilst we’re talking about players coming in, a striker is top of the list, but he arrived to bag our opener like a player with a point to prove.
After that, the Imps just turned on the style. Lewis Fiorini looks better every minute he plays, and Cohen Bramall looked like a player battling to prove Jamie Robson is not a shoo-in for the left-back role. He was rampaging up and down the left flank with absolute danger, and he even got Jimmy Walker’s Man of the Match. Ted Bishop was utterly outstanding too, and it was him who hit the bar in the build-up to an outrageous Hakeeb Adelakun goal. The ball came back to the winger, and with a moment of pure brilliance he conjured up the Imps’ second. Game, set, but not quite match.
After the break, any threat Bradford had offered in the first half was nullified, and City just eased to another goal. Fiorini was involved, creating Anthony Scully‘s seventh in eight matches. Like a week ago, we went into the final portion of the half with a 3-0 lead, but unlike last week, we held onto it. City never really looked like conceding, with Sam Long as composed as a keeper with 100 games under his belt. It looked very routine, more so than last week. Bradford didn’t rally, City didn’t falter, and for the first time in ten matches spanning the end of last season and the start of this, City kept a clean sheet.
There’s no point in going any deeper, there were no points at stake (just £10,000, thank you very much), and this was very much a game we could use for fitness and almost one considered to be match practice. However, we didn’t disappoint, we went for it, battled hard and won the game partly through skill, partly through grit.
Right now, we turn out attention to the radio, and wait to see if some new faces will be integrating into the side as we enter an enforced, but wholly welcome, ten-day break.