Thursday, 9 September 2010

Bradford Park Avenue 4 – 1 FC United of Manchester; 08/09/10.


Many of us sympathise to the scenario where you cheer your team off the pitch after another great performance, and wish a match would be on every day of the week. That's what I'm trying to do here. Less than a fortnight left of holiday and I should at least take advantage of having late nights open to me, so I did the obvious and checked out the Horsfall Ground to watch a big game for Bradford Park Avenue; one where they certainly had the potential to win, and would expect a crowd for it.

The place gives an impression of somewhere well-run. There is a stage in the bar for post-match interviews that we infiltrated with a Shaymen scarf, there is a tuck shop, the chips are proper wedges and the club shop's an immaculate effort. Above it all, blinged-up like a member of the mafia, Bob Blackburn leans from the officials balcony and the ash falling from his cigarette doesn't care where it lands. The impressive 1,800-seater stand is separated from the pitch by an athletics track, and though the other sides are unbuilt save the classy dressing room complex opposite the stand, there's a great amount of space to build on. Makes you wonder why Blackburn wishes to relocate the club to the other side of Bradford and build a 20,000-seating stadium from scratch. I mean, when you forget that just 400 turn up every week and 20,000-seaters don't come cheap.

At the shop I bought a club badge and a decades-old programme. It raises the old Euthyphro dilemma: do I not get any because I'm a sad act, or am I a sad act because I don't get any?

The players come out and the stand grows out from the center, as 500 or so FC United fans, without a single piece of sheet music in sight, go through a repertoire of oldies, replacing most nouns with the name of their team. Among them are Anarchy in the UK by the Sex Pistols, then Peaches by the Stranglers, then Dirty Old Town by the Pogues, but my personal favourite is one with a bit of falsetto to the chorus going "Watching Eff-Ceeheeee . . ."

The game kicks off at a decent tempo and FC United are lucky to put away one of their first chances in the 8th minute by Ovington. Riordan retorts for Bradford within a minute, and the United scarves will be never waved again. Not for tonight. But the shock of a quick comeback is nothing to stop a chant and the volume level doesn't drop. Then for a seemingly very long interval the FCUM goalie falls down hurt, and remembering his team despite having two other 'keepers never has any on the bench, decided to carry on. The teams proceed to fight a well-matched first half, though a few minutes after the second goal a well-targeted Bradford header is disallowed. Some chances come either side, but nothing that properly tests either 'keeper and very few that sear the wrong side of the post.

I am taken into the bar before the first half ends by the FCUM fans we were spending the time with, coming out a few minutes later to find they're still playing. I won't succumb to missing a minute of action for anyone else again. Even if I ever have a child who wants to leave matches early, then I shall tie them to the wrong side of the net and abandon them.

The second half comes with us now stood in the middle of the chants, getting a little attention for our Town shirts, and FC United of Manchester have run out of ideas. They either punt the ball up right into the hands of Sam Scott, or are closed down by an organised back four. That second half they never got close, but the songs carried on and drowned out individual disparaging comments from the fans, and flares were lit, resulting in the Bradford defense indifferently waving the smoke from their view. The Mancunians relied on their defense, and it was thwarted as near the end, Tom Greaves slid one in at close range, with the 'keeper stood helpless by the other post.

We walked out early, because apparently the last bus back to Town in a while was setting off. As we were doing this, we heard two further cheers, too small to be FCUM goals. Tom Greaves scored two more in just as many minutes, and as we ran back to the ground finding that the next bus went after full-time, Bradford were 4–1 up with half the United fans making a run for it. One Premier League principle they haven't abandoned is leaving matches early. Park Ave continued their late all-out, narrowly missing with a cross-shot hybrid, and the whistle blew to confirm that Halifax Town had crept up a place on goal difference. £16 or £17 spent on a nice night out, though ground-hopping without a driver's license is tricky beyond words.

Bradford 4 – 1 FC United of Manchester; att. 990
Ground: 6/10
Pitch: 9/10
Programme: 8/10
Talent: 2/10
Entertainment: 7/10


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