| Ten man Bradford snuck away from the County Ground with a well earned point this afternoon, as Swindon failed to break down the visitors’ stubborn defence - paying the penalty for an under-par first half performance, and a general lack of quality in the final third.
The first incident of the game came very early on, when Wes Foderingham decided to pick up a ball played back to him - my first thought was that it was an obvious back pass - but he was adamant that it was a Bradford player who made the final touch, and it would have been a ridiculous thing for a keeper to have done. Nonetheless, a free kick was given inside the area, Foderingham busied himself in organising his wall, and to be fair to him he did a good job in standing his ground - when Bradford played the indirect kick back, the defence charged out, and I think it was Ritchie who blocked the shot on goal.
After that, the half descended into a scrappy affair, not helped by some over zealous refereeing - the officials far too eager to award free kicks. To be honest, I thought Swindon were mostly the beneficiaries of his decisions, though there were a few fifty-fifty challenges that didn't deserve anything either way.
Other than that, both sides were guilty of playing the ball in the air too often, resulting in head tennis in the middle of the park - the Bantams' defence was far better in the air than our forward line, so more often than not, any high balls or crosses we played in came straight back. The closest Town came to scoring in the first period was from a Ritchie corner - his ball in was diverted away by a defender under pressure from Flint, the ball coming back to Ritchie, who whipped a dangerous ball in, that went just over the bar.
If the ref was eager in the first half, he outdid himself in the first ten minutes of the second. It all began with a 50-50 challenge over by the touchline, which Caddis just failed to get to before the Bradford player, it was certainly a foul, but I didn't think it was worthy of the yellow card that the Scot was shown. The Town End responded with a chorus of ' you don't know what you're doing', Swindon won the ball back, and played it down the line to Jervis, with his back to goal. Bradford defender Davies slid in behind him and brought him down... a free kick, yes... thought a booking would have been a little harsh... but you could tell the ref had other ideas - he sprinted with intent towards the incident, flashing his red card as soon as he got there. Quite frankly, it was a ridiculous decision.
And in the end, I'm not sure the sending off helped Swindon at all. Bradford were already set up defensively, but the decision forced them to go even more so - they immediately took off one of their more attacking midfield players, and set up with two banks of four, with an isolated striker. It was going to be a case of whether or not we could break them down.
With our superior fitness, it was to be expected that we would be attacking towards the end of the game, and for the last thirty minutes, the away side hardly got out of their half, as we poured forward, looking for that elusive goal. I thought at this stage, di Canio should have made some changes a little earlier, to go a little more attacking sooner. To their credit, Bradford defended superbly, as ball after ball came into their area, some headed away, others flashing across the face of goal.
The Town's best chances at the end both fell to substitute Cristian Montaño, who had come on at the expense of the ineffective Raffa de Vita. For the first, Montaño was unlucky not to be able to get on the end of a ball played across the face of goal by Jake Jervis - a Bradford defender sliding in to clear away. The last chance came in injury time - after a rare foray into the Town half for Bradford, a quick turnaround and break found Montaño on the left wing with the defence backpedalling - the Colombian neatly cut inside onto his right foot, before aiming a shot at the far corner of the net - the ball going agonisingly wide, and equally agonisingly out of the reach of Jervis and others queuing up to get on the end of it.
Ultimately though, I’m sure that Bradford will feel they were well worthy of a point, especially after the unjust sending off, and I’d be inclined to agree with them. Throughout the game today, I felt that Swindon were too eager to try and make things happen - in the first half, this resulted in high and long balls when we needed to get it down, in the second, though the football was far better, at times it was rushed when it didn’t need to be. When the red card was shown, we still had over thirty minutes on the clock - I thought we could have shown a little more patience in the final third to open up gaps - too often, balls went in too early, or shots were taken from distance when we needed a bit of calm.
That said, this wasn’t a disastrous performance - far from it - if we keep our decent form up, we’re going to find that more and more teams come and ‘park the bus’ - this is something we will need to learn to deal with.