The last couple of Boxing Day home games I’ve been to ended in defeat. I’ll be a part of the record-breaking crowd this afternoon and I’m hoping the atmosphere won’t boost Bradford too much. At this early hour it’s looking very likely that Wyke will play for at least some of the game while Maja sounds doubtful. I hope Flanagan will return as of course we won’t be seeing Loovens again for a while, if at all. I reckon we’ll win today and if we can get an early goal, it might well be a substantial win. Our rivals Portsmouth, Charlton and Luton are all away today while Barnsley play Peterborough so something has to give there. Even with two games in hand on Portsmouth, eight points is a big difference so let’s make a start on that today. Match prediction: 3-1 to us.
You can always tell when there’s going to be a big attendance by the number of people standing outside Chaplin’s and today was no exception. After quaffing a couple of Guinnesses myself in Fitzie’s I made sure that I got to the stadium by 2.30 to avoid queuing problems and I got in easily. There was great news for us when we got in as Gillingham were beating Portsmouth 1-0 and soon it was 2-0, which was the perfect appetizer to the day’s main course. Maja was starting, which was also great news, and we had Baldwin and Flanagan back in the centre of defence, which was most reassuring. The place was jumping just prior to kick-off.
It was all us from the kick-off and we had two decent efforts in the first ten minutes with Maja making one of his characteristic swivels in the box before shooting just wide of the left post. McGeady had a decent shot shortly after that and then it was Maja again, who casually back-heeled one just wide of the right post. We were switching the ball from wing to wing as we repeatedly pressed forward but Bradford weren’t giving us much space at all and as time went by the crowd grew quiet. We won the first corner of the game in the twenty-sixth minute but Baldwin’s header was saved by O’Donnell. Five minutes later we finally took the lead and it came from a low McGeady shot after O’Donnell could only parry the ball out to him. We continued to have the best of the attacking but our passing left a lot to be desired. Anyway, we were still ahead at the break and Bradford had been no threat while Flanagan and Baldwin had barely put a foot or a head wrong.
During the break The Lake Poets came on to give a great rendition of his song ‘Shipyards’ and he received a great reception before and after. He sang it bloody well anall. The official attendance was announced 46,039 and Charlie Methven came out to announce that we’d broken the record. I was sure the announcer had said 36,039, which would’ve been a bit of an anti-climax.
We piled up the corners in the opening stages of the second period but couldn’t make them count. Bradford had a penalty shout just before the hour-mark but it was ignored, though they were starting to look a bit threatening on occasions and we needed that second goal to allay the communal nervousness. For a horrible moment I thought Flanagan was going to join the red card club after a tussle with Knight Percival, who was on the ground, but he got away with a yellow. We made our first substitution, replacing Maja with Watmore, with around a quarter of an hour to go and the latter certainly made his presence felt making one great galloping run down the left flank leaping outstretched legs like he was at Aintree. In the eighty-first minute it looked very much like Bradford had equalized when McLaughlin made a rare blooper and spilled the ball in the direction of his own net but mercifully he managed to scramble back and grab it. It looked to me from my position high up in the East Stand that the ball was over the line but the ref, thankfully, disagreed and we lived on. I was looking at the clock all the time and when four minutes of stoppage-time were announced, I very much could’ve done without it. We’d replaced Gooch with Wyke and Maguire with McGeouch by then and there were no further heart-stopping moments before the whistle went and we’d won.
This was a rather typical performance for this season i.e. we dominated but I felt jumpy a lot of the time. Portsmouth are only five points ahead now and we’ve still got those two games in hand. Net result? Happiness.