Two first half goals were enough for Bradford City to secure their first victory in five attempts at the EBB Stadium as a sorry looking Shots side succumbed to yet another goalless home defeat.
With top scorer Craig Reid now out injured for at least a month, Shots manager Dean Holdsworth turned yet again to the loan market, securing the services of Stevenage's Dani Lopez and Southampton's Alberto Seidi in time for them to take their place on the bench for this vital League Two encounter. Scott Donnelly replaced Reid in the starting line-up and linked the midfield with Danny Hylton, Shots most advanced player, whilst Aaron Morris deputised for Tonkin at left back.
Shots home record has been poor for some time now, but they came into this game with an excellent record against opponents Bradford City, winning all four previous encounters at the Rec/EBB since Shots returned to the Football League.
There were few chances of note in the opening fifteen minutes. Bradford had a couple of hopeful efforts, whilst at the High Street End, Donnelly and Cadogan linked well at times, without an end product. On the quarter hour, Bradford had the best chance to take the lead as Nahki Wells found himself unmarked and Young saved his point blank header, unaware that the flag had already gone up for offside.
Holdsworth's charges plugged away in search of reward, but on 28 minutes, they suffered a huge blow as they gifted a goal to their northern opponents. Sonny Bradley was the unlucky player on this occasion, woefully underhitting an attempted back pass, which Wells nipped gratefully onto, before slotting comfortably past Young in the Shots goal. 0-1
If ever a five minute period summed up a season, it was those between the 35th and 40th minutes of this match. First up, a golden chance for Shots, Hylton connecting sweetly on the volley, inside the area, only for his effort to beat Bradford keeper Duke and cannon back off a defender on the goal line. Two minutes later, Bradford helped themselves to a second goal. The Shots backline was penetrated all too easily and Hanson found himself with time and space inside the area. Young did well to parry his shot, but as has happened so often of late, another striker was on hand to pick up the pieces and it was that man Wells again, nipping in for the easiest of finishes for his twelfth goal of a prolific season so far. Shots went in search of a goal themselves and once again, fate ruled against them. Danny Rose this time with an on target shot, this time it cannoned back off Hylton.
0-2 then at the break and things were beginning to look desperate for luckless Shots.....and for manager Holdsworth. There was a rather odd atmosphere around the EBB Stadium. Limp and lifeless. One could perhaps say it reflected the performance on the pitch. It was as if all hope had now been extinguished. In recent games there had been some signs of Shots turning the corner, but with our only chances spurned and Bradford two goals to the good, even the more optimistic Shots fans would have struggled to see how, who and where Shots could turn this one around.
Onto the second half then. No changes by either manager. Shots did most of the early pressing without troubling Duke, but Bradford seemed quite content with that, sitting relatively comfortably on their two goal lead.
On the hour, Holdsworth threw on his fiftieth different player in 21 months. Alberto Seidi replaced Donnelly and took up a place on the left wing, Vincenti moving up alongside Hylton as Shots reverted to a 4-4-2. No signs of a fightback. On 69 minutes, player number 51 arrived on the scene.....Dani Lopez. His shirt number for the record, was 37, but I'm sure you'll get my point. Michael Rankine joined him too at the same time. Vincenti and Cadogan made way. Still no sign of a fightback.
Meanwhile, Wells found himself unmarked, six yards out, and in going for the spectacular (acrobatic volley) somehow contrived to hit the post, when an efficient tap in would have sufficed.
On 80 minutes, Seidi sent over an excellent cross and Rankine rose to meet it unmarked. The result was not pretty. An upward header, over the bar and into the Eastbank.
There was an air of inevitability about proceedings as the game entered the three allotted added minutes. Hylton headed a half chance wide and that was that.
So another home defeat, another goalless game for hapless Shots and extremely sad times for the club we love. Something has to change. Our luck for sure, perhaps more? Who knows what the best way forward is?
Shots: Young, Herd, Bradley, Brown, Morris(A), Cadogan (Lopez) Rose, Payne, Vincenti (Rankine) Donnelly (Seidi) Hylton. Subs not used: Morris(G), Branston, Cooksley, Munns, Att: 2143 (274 away fans).