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03/04: Reports:

Nationwide Division One, 09/03/04, 7.45pm
Bradford City
False economies
By Daniel Owens

You have to speculate to accumulate, we are told. Put a bit of spare cash in and hope to get a pocket-load back in return. It seems everyone in Bradford loves a gamble.

In the pub before the game, we were able to buy two pints and two plates of decent-ish burger and chips and still have change out of 7.50. Profit margins oop north must be slender, to say the least.

Even more so when you read a poster advertising the weekly Lottery bonus ball competition, "first prize 60". Christ, there's only 49 numbers and at a quid a number someone, somewhere looks to be losing 11 every Saturday.

With free admission for all, this game was win or bust for our relegation-threatened hosts. The six-pointer of all six-pointers.

With the backing of a full-house (well, full-ish...clearly some folk still believe there's no such thing as a free lunch) it turned out that the Bantams landed their gamble and can now count their winnings whilst plotting the unlikeliest of all last-ditch escapes.

It all started so promisingly. Within a minute Devlin and the returning Helguson combined to see the Icelander's shot blocked by a last ditch intervention from the impressive Simon Francis.

And that was about as good as it got.

Seconds later, Dyche was forced to make a last-gasp block to deny the burly and blunt-as-ever Dean Windass but it was all to no avail. A free kick twenty yards out, the Watford wall lined up way too far to the left, Pidgeley's far post an all-too inviting target. Thwack. 1-0. Basics, boys, basics.

The next ten minutes saw plenty of huffing and puffing but precious little quality. Relegation scraps are not all about pretty football admittedly but it would be nice to think that at least two or three of our players might have the composure to put a foot on it, look up and pick a pass.

Our tactics, however, involved humping the ball up to our five-foot-nothing centre forward, marked by two six-foot-three giants whilst our two big lads hovered in the wide areas waiting for the not-very-likely knockdown.

Incidently, our three forwards on show last night have scored eight goals between them all season. The two lads on the bench have scored a combined total of fifteen. Tactively naive? Hmmm...the debate continues.

Bradford corner. Dribbled in to the corner of the six yard box, a nothing ball. But Windass slipped his marker (not sure who as no-one was within five yards of him) and rifled a shot low and hard into the bottom corner.

2-0 down, twenty minutes on the clock, game over. And the players knew it.

Had it not been for a bit of a Hollywood save from Lenny to deny Windass it could have been three by half-time, which would have been quite extraordinary as Bradford were terrible. Don't be fooled into thinking this was a battling performance by a side clinging to their First Division lives. They were just as bad as we were, with the exception that they actually looked like scoring now and again.

The game was abject. The freebie ticket was actually about a fiver too much.

The glass-half full camp will say the second half was better. We saw the introduction of the Mayo long throw, which could yet prove to be a potent weapon if we could only get someone on the end of it, and we did have the majority of possession but we still failed to register a single meaningful shot on target.

Helguson had a header which bounced comfortably into the arms of the ample-nosed Vaesen but we were toothless. Brooocie tried hard and can consider himself unfortunate to be taken off but let's be honest, he wasn't going to score if he stayed out there until we next grace Valley Parade (I wouldn't like to say when that will be).

Cook, Fitzgerald and Vernazza all came on, none made a difference. Skipper-for-the-night Ardley departed after hitting the bar with a trademark free kick and it seemed as though the players wanted the captain's armband to go with him.

Micah Hyde, having his worst game for several months and that is saying something, eventually grabbed it. I doubt we'll be too bothered if he doesn't grab a new contract quite so readily.

Just ten days ago things seemed so much rosier. We still have forty points, we are still five points clear of danger but we have two fewer games in which to reach safety.

Two must-win home games follow. Six points and we are almost there. Four points will probably suffice. Lose both and we look very much in danger.

So come on Ray, let's go for it. Have a gamble, speculate to accumulate. You never know your luck.