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Everton 2 - 1 Bradford City

Half-time: 0 - 1


Bradford City Logo
FA Carling Premiership 2000-01 – Game #36
3pm Saturday 28 April 2001
Goodison Park, Merseyside
Att: 34,256
« Arsenal (a) Ref: Paul Durkin Chelsea (a) »
[ Matchday Calendar ] League Position: 14th [ Results &  Table ]
 MATCH SUMMARY
The match had hardly begun when Everton were a goal behind and had set themselves a mountain to climb in this relegation nightmare.  A corner, a cross, a header, a goal.  Andy Myers (no, not the Everton fella) strode through the usually static Everton defence and nodded past the equally static Paul Gerrad.  The goal typified the story of this disastrous season under the guidance of Walter Smith and Archie Knox, who leave on-field organisation for the players to sort out in the first 15 minutes of every game. 

When they finally did get their act together, Everton started playing football, creating many chances, but predictably failing to score.  Unsworth got booked early on but continued to play with his heart on his sleeve, and came very close to getting a second yellow before Smith showed some rare wisdom and withdrew him at half-time. Tony Hibbert also came on to replace the unfit Richard Gough.

Duncan Ferguson took just 90 seconds of the second half to latch onto a long throw into the area.  It was controlled well by the Big Fella, who drove it fiercely past Walsh into the Gwladys Street net. YES!

Hibbert failed to clear and Watson got tied up with Carbonne, giving away a penalty that Robbie Blake steps up to take...  which Paul Gerrad saves BRILLIANTLY!!!!

Alexandersson became a hero too as he put Everton in front with a great shot after 70 mins.

Then unbelievably, just 60 seconds later, a second penalty is awarded to Bradford – this time for handball!  Carbonne steps up to take it this time... and fires it OVER THE BAR!!!

So, in high drama, Everton secure safety in the Premiership for another nerve-wracking season, and Bradford are relegated to Division 1.

 

  

 MATCH FACTS
   GOALSCORERS  Debuts
EVERTON: Ferguson (47'), Alexandersson (64')
Bradford City: Myers (3')
   LINEUPS  Subs Not Used 
EVERTON: Gerrard; Gough (46' Hibbert), Weir, Ball, Unsworth (46' Gravesen), Steve Watson; Pembridge, Gemmill, Alexandersson; Ferguson, Campbell.
Unavailable: Pistone (
suspended); Gascoigne, Jeffers, Naysmith, Xavier (injured); Nyarko (AWOL/quit); Myhre (on loan).  
Simonsen, Moore, Tal.
Bradford City: Walsh; Myers, Halle, Molenaar, Jacobs; Blake, McCall, Jess, Lawrence; Carbone, Ward. Nolan, Davison, Locke, Grant, Kerr.
   Playing Strips  Formations
EVERTON: Royal Blue shirts; white shorts; blue socks. 4-4-2
Bradford City: Brown & orange shirts; brown shorts; orange socks. 4-4-2
   Yellow Cards  Red Cards
EVERTON: Unsworth (15')
Bradford City: Molenaar (27'), Ward (39')
 Sports.Com Detailed Match Stats  

 

 MATCH REPORTS
 REPORTS BY EVERTON FANS
Mickey Blue Eyes A Tale of Rubiks and Gravediggers
Steve Bickerton Come Hell or High Water
Richard Marland The Everton Way
 NEWSPAPER REPORTS
ELECTRONIC TELEGRAPH Bradford fall is case of double jeopardy
by David Alexander
THE SUNDAY TIMES Bantams down and out
by Richard Rae
THE TIMES Relegation for Bradford
by Oliver Kay
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 LINKS TO OTHER INTERNET REPORTS
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 A Tale of Rubiks and Gravediggers
Mickey Blue Eyes
 

Doncha just hate those viruses that home in on your respiratory system and cause enough mayhem to make you miss the Arsenal away match?  As if the result wasn’t bad enough, you have to put up with symptoms that probably would have wiped out a whole village in the Dark Ages.  

Appropriate, that is, since – footy-wise – we happen to be living in the Dark Ages. But the Renaissance isn’t far away.  You have to keep saying that to survive.  You don’t have a choice.  Either that or you surrender now to Sky TV and the misery of an administration conceived and run by Murdoch Suits – people like Parry over there at the Pinkies... 

But it has been an interesting week.  Good news of the Kings Dock site (ownership issue aside) has to be tempered with reality.  Other Suits and their paperwork can still deprive our club of the long awaited quantum leap.  If we DO win it…. we’re on our way good style. 

Which is great news for all true Evertonians but a sharp and well deserved enema for the whining anti-Kenwright brigade crawling like cockroaches over the background.  And it is Bill Kenwright who got us in with a chance with the Kings Dock concept.  Doubtless the whiners will come up with something else though.  To hell with them and their ilk… they’re better off selling lemons in Great Homer Street market… much better to let them drown in their own bile.  They won’t be missed.

Of much more immediate concern is the state of affairs out on the pitch.  Parlous is the first word which springs to mind.  There are many others.  But you’ll be familiar with those, having used most of them yourself during most matches this season.  Gawd but we are DIRE!  

The thing is, you can’t see where the improvement is going to come from.  The team play is hopelessly inadequate and uninspired.  There just isn’t a spark of originality.  Drastic surgery is required.  The vexed question remains as to who will wield the scalpel this time around.  The temptation is to carry out the operation without anaesthetic.

The game against the Junior Sheepshaggers was a rambunctious, deeply erratic spectacle between two teams of relegation fodder.  There were only two good players on view, Michael Ball for us, and (of course) Benito Carbone for them.  All of the others made a fitful imitation of a production line on the late Friday shift.

The opening was of the sort which has you belabouring your forehead against the nearest hard vertical surface... After two minutes, the Sheepshaggers got a corner, left side in the Street End.  Carbone took it, bent it into the goal area, Paul – glued to his line as ever, and the centre of the defence watched without interest as somebody called Myers casually trotted to the edge of the goal area left centre and butted it in at chest height.  It was yet another awful goal to let in.  

After that, footy wise, Bradford ran rings around us, particularly Carbone who dribbled past our right side defence time after time as though on a Sunday promenade.  It was downright depressing to watch.

Funnily enough though we created most of the chances and could have been three or four in front before half time.  It began to look like One Of Those Matches.  Their keeper made a couple of wonderful saves, shots flew just wide, bodies interceded, misses were made.  Nevertheless, it was all strangely unconvincing. 

The mood of the crowd was one of resignation, not really excitement.  I freely admit that, by half-time, I considered us relegated.  Had we let in a second I doubt if there would have been any way back.  We were terrible.  Our only relief was Bally, who had a sterling game throughout and delivered a couple of tremendous last-man tackles to stave off certain goals and sure disaster.

At half-time, Smiffy spun his Rubik as he had to and Unsy and Goughy were taken off in favour of the Gravedigger and Tony Hibbert.  For once, the Rubik came up with the same colour on all sides and it turned the game.  Since I am Gravesen’s biggest critic, let me be the first to say he had a good game this time around.  He made a crucial difference in his own lumbering way.  Young Hibbert made another important step forward.

As the second half kicked off, I turned to my compadre and said, “Most of them look unfit or disinterested.  The Yin looks as though he couldn’t kick a suet puddn.”  At which point Bally took a long throw left side into the Street End, about 6 m from the corner flag.  It got to SuperKev and he nodded it backwards and it bounced once, went up in the air, the centre of their defence froze, their keeper stayed on his line and The Yin banged it through two sets of legs from the edge of the goal area right side.  

It was every bit as bad as the goal the Sheepshaggers scored in the first half.  In between mass embraces, everyone congratulated me on the acute accuracy of my foresight.  Game on, and the Gravedigger chasing everywhere to huge roars from the crowd.  I admit this is a love affair which passeth all this Belly’s understanding.

At last, we powered forward erratically and unevenly.  The Sheepshaggers began to wilt but they were far from out of it.  It couldn’t be otherwise with Carbone on the pitch.  Then the seemingly inevitable happened: they attacked down the left and the little hit man got into the box where he got felled by Stevie.  Penalty!  The Sheepshagger hit it perfectly, low down just inside Paul’s right post… and Paul made – and I shit you not – arguably the greatest penalty save I have ever seen.  The whole ground erupted with relief, resignation finally swept away on the belief that maybe our luck hadn’t finally run out after all.

So our attacks were renewed.  Bradford looked dispirited now, and a goal looked likely at any minute.  The Gravedigger was operating all over the pitch, for this once to good affect.  Even his passes found one of ours.

With 20 minutes left, we got a cross over from the left.  The Yin and SuperKev completely distracted the Sheepshagger’s defence and it went out right to Nic standing just beyond the right angle of the goal area.  From where he volleyed it left footed straight back into the net.  We were saved again.  

Oh nothing so DROLL, this is Everton and the School of Hard Knocks.... 

A minute later, one of our defenders handled the ball and they got another penalty.  They weren’t going to piss around this time and Carbone stepped up to take it.  Oh shit.  Then he hooked it left side just over the bar.  The ground erupted again.  Poor Bradford… heads went down all over the park.  You had to feel sorry for them.  We know only too well how they feel.

From there on in, it was us who threatened more goals but never quite delivered.  Full time brought us another season up in the top division and Bradford back down.  The other results were immaterial.  We stayed up by our own efforts – unlike in other seasons of the disastrous era we continue to endure.

We can be grateful we don’t go into our last two matches against Chelsea and Sunderland in dire need of the points. How ironic, since it is Chelsea who saved us from relegation on two prior occasions.

But, as we survey the wreckage of a fourth straight horrendous season, it is time for the powers that be to understand one thing: the fans have had enough.  I believe this will be reflected in season ticket sales unless there is some dramatic change, some clearly stated intent of genuine effort to improve the situation at all levels.  Action, not words.  Enough is enough.  Sports enthusiasm survives only where there is a clear sign of hope of improvement.  It is time to trigger The Renaissance.  Or pay the price.


   Up to Reports Index ]
 Come Hell or High Water
Steve Bickerton
 
The game was never going to be easy, but I'd determined that I was going to be there, come Hell or high water...  Figuratively speaking, both of them nearly got me, but I managed to wriggle away at the last minute and take my place in the Lower Gwladys Street, via The Netley.  After a few words about the King's Dock and the club's finances, a revisit of my own wallet showed that it was time that I moved to more salubrious surroundings; a new home, if only for a couple of hours where I could watch at first hand our climb to safety or our sinking deeper into the relegation mire.

The mire grabbed us pretty quickly.  Bradford started off full of confidence, belying their desperate position.  Maybe the depth of their desperation was such that they were able to play without worry, without pressure, and with a passion we only seem to find against the bigger clubs.  A nothing attack down the Bradford left almost found us off guard, but a corner was the final result and there and I felt a sensation of satisfaction that we'd managed to sidestep a trap door of our own making. 

False sense of security?  You bet! 

A driven cross was met by Andy Myers, unchallenged just on the six yard line.  A well judged header found its way over two defenders and into the roof of the net.  What is it about our propensity to allow small opposition players to go unchallenged?  Is there a new law which suggests that we have to allow at least one unchallenged header per game?  Whatever the reason, within 3 minutes we were one down.

Bradford had their tails up now and they pressed again.  Most of their activity came down their right and, fortunately for Everton, Michael Ball was calmness personified.  He repulsed Bradford's advances almost single-handedly, with some assistance from a fired-up David Unsworth.  Unfortunately for Rhino, though, today was not to be his day.  Adjudged to have led with his elbow in an innocuous challenge, he found his name in Mr Durkin's notebook early on and was on thin ice after that.  Rhino isn't built for thin ice, and he very nearly broke through to the waters below several times. 

With Idan Tal warming up at regular intervals it seemed that Walter was heeding the crowd's shouts to get Rhino off the pitch.  He wasn't.  It has to be pointed out at this stage, that this was no baying crowd shouting for Unsie's head, this was the voicing of concern that we might at any time be reduced to 10 men.  When Ward and Unsworth squared up to each other just before half-time, it seemed that the crowd's worst fears had been realised.  But, no – the referee saw sense and both players received no more than a lecture.

As for goalmouth action, well there was precious little in reality.  True, Walsh in the Bradford goal pulled off a terrific save from a spectacular Ferguson volley at a corner, but in all honesty it was not a display to inspire confidence, with too many players clearly not match-fit.

With a 0-1 score line at the end of the half, it seemed that we were set for more turgid stuff in the second 45 minutes.  The other half-time scores weren't dishing out much comfort either, with only Middlesbrough of those below us behind.  

The second half began with a shock.  Walter had clearly shared the concerns of the crowd for Unsworth's continuing participation; he brought on Gravesen to replace him.  This resulted in a shuffle in the midfield, with Pembridge moving to the left and Gemmill into left-centre.  Gravesen took up the right-centre midfield berth.  The other surprise was the replacement of Gough by Tony Hibbert.  Again a reshuffle in defence was needed as Watson moved inside to partner Weir and Hibbert took up the right-back position.

We suddenly seemed to have a shape and a purpose.  Alexandersson began to come into the game, the midfield in general began to take control, with General Gravesen the inspiration.  He was tireless throughout the half and was the catalyst for a lot of good stuff.  But it was Ball who was the foundation on which all that was good was based. 

One minute into the half and a Ball throw was launched into the Bradford box.  A flick-on by Campbell was missed by Alexandersson, but his presence seemed to confuse the Bradford defence and the ball bounced towards the far post.  Ferguson, sensing the confusion, strode towards the ball and struck it neatly under Walsh.  1-1 in double quick time.

Bradford looked despondent as Everton took control.  True, they still passed the ball well enough, with Carbone in particular their main threat.  But that man Ball kept him under tight control for most of the game.  We appeared to be getting well on top when a surge down the left by Bradford saw a collision between Watson and Carbone resulted in referee Durkin pointing to the spot.  Utter disbelief amongst the massed ranks of Evertonians, delight for the travelling Bantams' fans.

Blake stepped up to take the kick.  Someone behind me shouted "low to your right, its always low to your right!".  Gerrard, away at the other end, obviously paid heed as he launched himself right and pushed the ball towards safety and recovered in time to stop it going out for a corner.  Justice prevailed.

Everton pressed again but, with little or no pace from the front runners, we were unlikely to cause much damage to the visitors.  Then came another Ball throw into the box.  The ball bobbled about and found its way out to Gemmill.  He looked up and crossed into the danger area only for Campbell to be beaten in the air.  But once again it fell to an Everton player, this time Alexandersson, who stroked a wonderful left-footed volley just beyond the keeper's outstretched hand and inside the post.  2-1 and the sweet smell of security wafted its way around Goodison Park.

These days, under Jim Jeffries, Bradford seem to be made of sterner stuff than even last year.  They continued to venture forwards.  From a Bradford corner (I think) the ball was cleared and Everton moved forwards.  But there was chaos in the penalty area as Mr Durkin stood, arm outstretched pointing to the penalty spot.  Outrage surged around Goodison as there had been little, if any, Bradford appealing for a spot kick.  Nearly a minute of protest ensued, but Mr Durkin stood unmoved.  Amazingly nobody was booked in the incident.

This time it was Carbone who stepped forward to take the kick.  With Blake's miss obviously in his mind, he decided that he was going to hit the bal high, rather than low... and high it wend, right over the bar and into a delighted Park End.  After that, Bradford were there for the taking.  Campbell, on the turn swept the ball just wide and a Ferguson header was somehow pushed away by the keeper when a goal was more likely.  But we couldn't finish them off.

A great move saw Gemmill find Ferguson wide left in space.  The big Scot moved forward menacingly and spotting Campbell sprinting (do I exaggerate?) into the box he delivered a perfect cross onto the No 9's head.  A downward header and the ball was goal-bound, but somehow Walsh again was inspired and he pushed the ball over the bar.

At 2-1 the game was always fraught; another goal would surely have finished them.  But we held firm and assured ourselves of Premiership football next year.  For Bradford, it was a different tale as their lifeline was finally cut and they slipped into the Nationwide for next year.

Man of the Match:  There were a number of notable performances: 

  • Gerrard with his spectacular penalty save; 
  • Gravesen with his midfield dynamism; 
  • Weir with a continued level of consistency;
  • Watson with another whole hearted performance; 
  • Ferguson was worn out at the end, as was Pembridge.

But there was only ever going to be one winner: Michael Ball was in a class of his own. He is showing more composure and maturity as every game passes.  In the match program he states that his greatest ambition is to captain the club.  Next season may not be too soon.


   Up to Reports Index ]
 The Everton Way
Richard Marland
 
The Everton Way should be in there with Murphy's Law and the like: If there's an easy way of doing something and a difficult, convoluted way of doing something, lets take the difficult route.

A big game – a game that could put you safe if you win it – so let's concede a goal within the first three minutes.  Let's also concede two penalties, yet still manage to turn it around to get the win we so desperately needed.  Classic Everton.

I'm sure some would dispute Walter's selection and line-up; I thought he was spot on.  Gough was the only doubt in my mind – I thought that was a bit of a gamble but Walter obviously thought his leadership, and the drive he can contribute, made the gamble worthwhile. With two strikers and Alexandersson all available, we went for a routine 4-4-2 with Unsworth offering his own unique presence on the left of a central pairing of Gemmill and Pembridge.

We coped relatively well with the loss of the early goal.  Heads didn't go down and we continued to work hard in search of the equaliser.  The problem seemed to be that we tried a little too hard and a hint of desperation and edginess crept into it.  Campbell missed with a free header; Alexandersson snatched at a shot in the box and put it wide; Ferguson produced an excellent save from Walsh with a snap shot on the turn.  It wasn't pretty, flowing football... but we were creating chances and putting them under pressure.

Half-time brought a double substitution and again, Walter got it spot-on.  Gough was clearly struggling and he had to come off to be replaced by Tony Hibbert.  Hibbert went to right back and Watson moved to centre back.  Unsworth also had to come off – they must have been feeding him raw meat or something because he was a man possessed and was in clear danger of being red-carded.  Pembridge moved to wide left and Gravesen went to centre midfield.

The equaliser came quite quickly, Dunc finishing off some good work by Campbell.  That's when the fun really started.  Within minutes, they were on the attack: Hibbert and Watson failed to deal positively with a ball down the right and Carbone was away with Watson leaning all over him.  Carbone fell in the box – a fairly clear penalty.  Paul Gerrard then stepped forward to make some amends for his derby-match howler with an excellent penalty save.  The save was greeted with the same fervour as a goal – it was that important.

We continued to press forward, continued to create chances, and found reward through Alexandersson.  He was doing what right-sided midfielders should do – whilst the attack developed down the left, he came in beyond the far post and, when the ball came through to him, he swept it in on the half volley – an excellent finish.

That should have been that but, naturally, there had to another scare.  They had a corner; after the usual melee, the ball went behind for a goal kick... only Durkin wasn't signalling a goal kick: he was pointing to the penalty spot!  Disbelief on the stands and on the pitch... the disbelief heightened when Carbone blazed the kick over the bar.  Two missed penalties – this was going to be our day?

We continued to press our attacks without committing too many forward.  Dunc drew a truly magnificent save from Walsh; Campbell too was thwarted by a fine save when he should really have made sure.  The extra goal would have been nice but we never really looked like we were only hanging on.

The circumstances of the match always meant that this would be an edgy affair.  If we had scored early, it may have settled us down, but that wasn't to be.  Throughout the game, though, we worked hard and played positively.  We had a lot of chances but were let down by a mixture of poor finishing, excellent goalkeeping, and desperate defending.

  • Gerrard  This was pay-back time.  After a rather mediocre season he owed us a good one.  Today he was good and even offered up a penalty save.
  • Watson  Despite conceding two penalties he did OK.
  • Ball  Another in a long line of excellent performances.
  • Gough  Not fit but the manner in which he was marauding forward in search of the equaliser gives an indication of why Walter wanted him out there.
  • Weir  What can I say?  Mr Consistency.
  • Alexandersson  Another who owes us something.  This was probably his best performance since Derby County early in the season.  His delivery was a little disappointing but he was always involved and took his goal very well.
  • Gemmill  In a more secure midfield unit, he looked a much better player.  Always involved and used the ball well.
  • Pembridge  Unspectacular but does his job and is surprisingly effective.  We've missed him this season, probably more than we realise.
  • Unsworth  There's a threshold for passion and commitment, today Unsie went beyond it and he was a bloody liability and could very easily have been sent off.
  • Ferguson  Clearly struggling but gave us his all.  Scored and only denied more by outstanding 'keeping.
  • Campbell  Just doesn't look sharp; worked hard enough but a spark is missing.
  • Hibbert  Quietly impressive.  Didn't look fazed at all and reminded me very much of Bally.
  • Gravesen  Someone needs to tell him to calm down.  He was charging about all over the place taking corners, throw-ins, acting as cheer-leader... Sometimes I wish he was a little more measured in what he does on the pitch – he seems to lose some effectiveness by trying too hard.

Man of the match – Michael Ball, yet again!


   Up to Reports Index ]
 Bradford fall is case of double jeopardy
David Alexander, Electronic Telegraph
 
THE PREMIERSHIP adventure ended for Bradford at Goodison Park on Saturday – but they had only themselves to blame.

Needing a win to prolong faint hopes of a second great escape, they missed two penalties against a poor Everton side to put themselves out of their misery.

Bradford fans must be wondering why their team left it so late to mount a fight for survival.  After realising the futility of their decision to buy some of the Premiership's journeymen in an attempt to establish themselves in the top flight, Bradford looked to Jim Jefferies to make an impact and two wins before yesterday's game suggested he was finally getting things right.

Everton's recent League performances over the past few years had left their supporters to suffer their customary end-of-season jitters and they were stunned just two minutes into the game when Benito Carbone floated in a corner and no one picked up defender Andy Myers, who headed into the top corner of the net.

Kevin Campbell had a chance to level five minutes later but headed weakly from Steve Watson's cross, allowing Gary Walsh to make the save.

Everton could have fallen further behind when Robbie Blake was given the freedom of Goodison, waltzing into the area before shooting wide.

Two minutes into the second half, Everton were level.  Campbell flicked on a deep cross and Duncan Ferguson slotted in his sixth goal of the season.

Spurred on by a desperate crowd, the home side started to play football, creating a couple of half-chances.  But Bradford could have restored their advantage 10 minutes into the second half when Steve Watson brought down Carbone in the area.  Robbie Blake's penalty was hard and low, but somehow Paul Gerrard got down to save.

It did not take long for Everton to make the most of their good fortune, Niclas Alexandersson firing in at the far post from a Scot Gemmill cross.

Watson again gave Bradford hope, handling in the area before Carbone put the penalty over the bar.

Bradford seemed to lose heart after that, failing to test Gerrard further despite the urgency of their situation.  Twice Campbell had chances to make it 3-1, only for Gary Walsh to make fine saves.

Report © The Electronic Telegraph

   Up to Reports Index ]
 Bantams down and out
by Richard Rae, The Sunday Times
 
HERE'S an idea.  Halfway through the season, with every team having played each other once, the side at the bottom of the Premiership is told it will be relegated come what may.  With the pressure to scrap for every point lifted, this effectively gives that team licence to attack without fear of consequence, thus adding a rogue element to the increasingly predictable annual shake-up.  The thought occurred as Bradford City, playing three forwards and an out of position winger from the start, ceded midfield for long periods and spent much of the game alternating desperate defence with surging forward in support of their already considerable threat up front.

If only they had been able to take penalties.  Unfortunately for the Bantams, two misses from the spot within 10 minutes of each other in the second half condemned them to defeat and Division One.  "Can't fault the players," said Bradford manager Jim Jefferies.  "They had a real go, made a few mistakes, but showed that they are capable of coming straight back up if we add a few quality players to the squad."  Everton, by contrast, can finally relax, though judging by his less than ecstatic reaction, that is the last thing manager Walter Smith intends doing this summer.

Jefferies' policy of playing Benito Carbone alongside the more traditional forward skills of Ashley Ward and Robbie Blake has been paying off handsomely for City in recent weeks.  Actually, the clear-out under way in preparation for life in Division One means he hasn't had much choice, as the selection of Jamie Lawrence, a natural winger, in place of the holding midfielder Gareth Whalley, victim of a stomach upset, illustrated.  Smith by contrast was able to recall Richard Gough, David Unsworth, Steve Watson and Duncan Ferguson.

With two minutes on the clock, Bradford took the lead, easy as you like.  Ward won a corner on the left, Carbone flighted it in, and Andy Myers brushed aside a feeble challenge and headed home his first goal for the club.

For a few minutes Everton and Goodison were stunned but they soon twigged there was space to spare in midfield.  Coming forward in turn they should have equalised immediately, Steve Watson curling a cross on to the unmarked head of Kevin Campbell.  Eight yards out, Campbell's contact was so poor it nearly fooled Gary Walsh, the Bradford goalkeeper having to almost hang in mid-air before he could push the ball away.

Less encouraging for Everton was their goalkeeper Paul Gerrard's tendency to flap under the high ball.  Every Bradford set-piece posed a threat with Gerrard hovering irresolutely on his line, sometimes forcing Richard Gough and the excellent Weir to clear from their own 6-yd line.

The game became a succession of breaks; although Everton understandably had the vast majority of possession and consequently chances, the best went to Blake, running from his own half, darting past Weir, and then with only Gerrard to beat, curling his shot wide.  Walsh saved well from Ferguson just before the break.

Substitutions can change matches, however, and Smith's half-time introduction of Thomas Gravesen for the ineffectual Unsworth made an immediate difference.  Campbell got his head on the end of the Dane's chipped pass in the Bradford area, and though initially the flick-on appeared to have pushed him too wide, Ferguson turned sharply and shot low past Walsh.

Bradford were under constant pressure, yet again broke in numbers and Carbone was bundled over by Watson.  Nobody argued too much when the referee pointed to the spot, but Gerrard showed his better side by diving low to his right to save Blake's penalty.

Back came Everton and within minutes Robert Molenaar's ill-directed attempt at a clearance was volleyed in from a narrow angle by Niclas Alexandersson.  The relief on the pitch and in the stands was tangible.

That should have been that, but no; referee Mr Durkin saw a handball by Watson and pointed once again to the spot. This time there were protests aplenty, for it looked a distinctly debatable decision.

They came to naught, as they always do, but so, once again did the penalty, Carbone – deadly from 45 yards – scooping the ball over the bar.

Asked which areas of the team he would be looking to strengthen, Jefferies pondered. "Central defence."  Pause.  "Midfield."  Another pause.  "Up front. That would about cover it," he smiled.

Report © Times Newspapers Ltd

   Up to Reports Index ]
 Relegation for Bradford
by Oliver Kay, The Times
 
EVERTON, however unconvincingly, earned themselves another 12 months in the promised land on Saturday while Bradford City, their mini- revival having come far too late, were finally condemned to return to the Nationwide League.  Not even Benito Carbone, their Italian forward, could find it within himself to indulge in any of his usual histrionics as Bradford’s relegation was confirmed.

His failure from the penalty spot, coming just 12 minutes after a similar aberration by Robbie Blake, might have brought judgment day forward, but it would only have been a stay of execution.  Jim Jefferies, the manager, appeared to be more relieved than aggrieved as he reflected on the fate to which he and the board had long been resigned.

“It’s disappointing to be relegated, but at least we kept it going as long as we could,” Jefferies said.  “We have been preparing behind the scenes for that eventuality, so it’s not a great shock.  At least we went down showing that we’re capable of challenging to come back up next season.”

Bradford’s position already looked hopeless when the Scot arrived in November after the disastrous three-month reign of Chris Hutchings, but a gradual process of correcting the mistakes of the previous regime has restored a little optimism.

Jefferies, having rid the club of most of its high earners, needs only find a new home for the talented but infuriating Carbone and he will be able to turn his attentions to adding to what he feels is the nucleus of a promotion-winning squad.

For Everton, though, the future is not so certain.  The general outlook is of another chaotic close-season at Goodison Park.  It has been a hugely trying campaign for Walter Smith, the manager, who has had an absurd number of injuries to contend with, but next season is unlikely to prove any easier.

The club’s parlous financial state means that Francis Jeffers, the England under-21 forward, may be merely the most notable of six or seven departures.  Unless or until there is some stability at Everton, they will continue to flirt with relegation.  “It has been a difficult season for everyone at the club,” Smith said.  “We’ve had to show good character and determination to come through.  We’ve had to overcome some big problems and I’m just glad that we’ll be able to relax for the last two games.”

Bradford have played with carefree abandon in recent weeks, in the knowledge that they were not going to avoid the drop, and this approach it could have reaped greater dividends on Saturday.

Andy Myers headed them in front from Carbone’s corner after just 123 seconds, his first goal since September 1996, and Carbone, having done the hard work with a wonderful, jinking run, ought to have doubled that lead on the half-hour.

Everton recovered from a nervous start and, having been denied several times in the first half by the excellent Gary Walsh, restored parity when Duncan Ferguson took advantage of some slack marking in the 47th minute.  In between penalty misses by Blake and Carbone, the first well saved by Paul Gerrard and the second ballooned over the crossbar, Niclas Alexandersson volleyed the decisive goal.

Bradford were down but not out, Everton safe but by no means out of trouble.

Report © Times Newspapers Ltd
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