By Matthew Kermode
Bradford City WFC fans would have had a certain a sense of déjà vu this afternoon as their side came from behind to earn a point for the third league game in a row this season.
City’s fourth league game of the season, their first on the road, was away to last season’s runaway league leaders Barnsley, who this season only sit one point ahead of Bradford, but have played two games more.
It was clear from the kick-off that City lacked match practice, whereas Barnsley benefitted from having played last weekend, albeit a 3-1 defeat away to Newcastle United. It was the home side who started the quicker, dominating possession and exploiting the space down the flanks, but despite this they rarely produced a clear scoring opportunity, and City keeper was only called upon once to make a fairly routine save in the first half as she tipped a free kick over the bar.
The first half was a scrappy affair, with the home side claiming a number of free kicks that the referee waived away, and City’s well marshalled defence kept his assistants busy with plenty of offside decisions. City rarely broke through the Barnsley midfield, their first real chance came on 25 minutes when Harriet Jakeman shot wide with a long-range effort.
After the break City came out looking the stronger of the two sides, creating a number of half chances that were squandered. City manager Chris Hames looked to turn the game further in City’s favour by bringing on Sophie Hawkins and Amy Beck for the yellow-carded Jakeman and Monika Stube after an hour, but the misses looked costly when Bradford failed to clear their lines, and provided Csomor with an easy tap-in at the far post to give the Reds the lead after 66 minutes.
It’s testament to Hames’ management that his side’s collective heads didn’t drop, as they would have in previous seasons, and City continued to press, forcing Barnsley into conceding a number of fouls. It was one of these fouls that gave City a way back into the game. As Hawkins broke through, she was brought down from behind in the Reds box, and player-coach Charlotte Stuart coolly converted from the spot.
This galvanised the home side, who took back control of the game in the closing stages, on 81 minutes they had shouts for a penalty turned down as the referee deemed Woodcock’s last ditch sliding tackle as legal. City’s defence stood firm, although there were nervous moments as they managed to scramble away a 92nd minute corner that bounced around the box, before the referee blew full time.
City’s next game will be the first of five in January, as they travel to Chester-le-Street on January 3rd, the start of four consecutive away trips. While the Reserves start 2021 with home derbies against Huddersfield Town and Leeds United.
Hames recognised his side’s resilience despite the slow start, he said: “We didn’t play to the level we expect of ourselves, today. We struggled to play the football we wanted to. So that’s disappointing. But despite that, we have come to a tough place and earned a good point away from home.
“Similar to the Norton game earlier in the season, we have to take the result in context: We haven’t played a competitive game in seven weeks, Barnsley are fresh out of their last one a week ago; today was just our fourth league game of the season, it was their ninth competitive game. So it’s no surprise they were sharper, quicker, it’s just what you gain from playing.
“In spite of that though we were able to limit them to very few chances, despite their possession, and we looked more threatening in the moments we went forward.
“It’s the third time we’ve earned a point after falling behind, which isn’t a bad trait to have. It’s now about kicking on in the new year and believing in ourselves to push for the three points in games”.
City line-up: Richards, Thomas, Shepherd, Woodcock (c), Norde (Roberts, 87), Jakeman (Beck, 59), Lambert, Stube (Hawkins, 59), Gill, Prothero, Stuart
Subs: Douglas, Sales