Bradford City 1 Barnsley 0: Nine games without a win for experimental Reds

Barnsley's Jabo Ibehre heads away from Bradford's Tony McMahon. Photo: Dean Atkins
Barnsley's Jabo Ibehre heads away from Bradford's Tony McMahon. Photo: Dean Atkins

Barnsley boss Lee Johnson put on a brave face after his side were beaten by Bradford on an emotionally-charged afternoon at the Coral Windows Stadium.

The nation watched on as City commemorated 30 years since the traumatic events surrounding the Valley Parade fire disaster.

England manager Roy Hodgson and FA chairman Greg Dyke were in attendance as the 56 who perished that awful day in 1985 were remembered.

However, once the action did get under way the Reds - following a hugely encouraging start - fell to another defeat and are now without a victory in nine Sky Bet League One games.

Johnson is quite clearly set for a hectic pre-season in the transfer market as he tries to mould together a squad capable of competing for promotion next term, but for now he is just looking for comforting signs after such a long stretch without success.

The Reds boss said: “I’m looking for positives because we are at that stage of the season where we are being a little bit experimental.

“There were some. We tried to play football on a difficult pitch, though we did get caught unstuck on a number of occasions.

“I don’t mind that, though, because we are trying to play.

“The criticism I do have is that we are playing the ball back far too often.

“There are individuals who are going backwards instead of forwards and I need to address that.

“We want to win games of course, and we could have won this one.

“We didn’t, but the lads kept going right until the end and it certainly wasn’t played like a testimonial.”

It was always going to be a hugely emotional day at Bradford, but there was still a game to play - both sides’ penultimate fixtures - and the Bantams and the Reds were locked on 59 points apiece in the table ahead of kick-off.

Johnson was looking for that long-awaited victory, and he made four changes to his starting line-up after th e Reds had snatched a last-gasp draw against Peterborough seven days earlier.

Back came loan men Jabo Ibehre, Ben Pearson and Declan John, while skipper Martin Cranie also earned a recall.

Dropping out of the starting line-up were Jack Cowgill, George Smith, Milan Lalkovic and Sam Winnall, who had picked up a hamstring strain in training.

This season’s cup specialists Bradford featured an unchanged line-up following their midweek draw at Scunthorpe.

Following an impeccably-observed minute’s silence, the Reds enjoyed a terrific opening spell.

Conor Hourihane saw an early shot saved inside a packed arena, while Lewin Nyatanga then rose highest to glance a Hourihane free-kick inches wide of the far post.

The Bantams responded with Jon Stead forcing Adam Davies into a smart stop, before they went ahead in the 17th minute.

Billy Knott swung in a dangerous cross towards the far post, and Jon Stead met it perfectly as he volleyed home back across ‘keeper Adam Davies and in at the far corner.

The Bantams were buoyed and they nearly scored again seconds later.

This time Christopher Routis should have at least got his shot on target when he screwed wide from 12 yards.

The Reds finally dragged themselves back into contention, and leading scorer Hourihane fluffed a decent chance when he scuffed a shot which flew harmlessly wide.

The recalled Ibehre then leapt highest to meet a Mason Holgate cross, but he couldn’t direct the effort towards goal.

As the Bantams sought to double their lead in front of a raucous crowd approaching 16,000, Billy Clarke was next to threaten when he charged at the heart of the Barnsley defence lashing a sweet strike just wide.

There were fewer chances during a rather stop-start second period.

The Reds threatened first when Luke Berry - again enjoying an impressive match in the visitors’ engine room - dragged a shot wide when looked easier to at least test ‘keeper Ben Williams.

Youngster Paul Digby, who again looked less-than comfortable at times, flashed an effort disappointingly wide.

To give the Reds players some credit, they did create the bulk of the half-chances as the game clicked towards full-time.

But again there was a lack of a cutting edge in front of goal, particularly without the sometimes predatory Winnall in the team.

Scowen missed with a headed attempt at the far post, while Holgate slid into to meet a late Hourihane in-swinging free-kick, only to hack a shot into the side-netting.

It had been a bitter-sweet day for Johnson, who will now be desperate to gain that much-needed win against Rochdale this weekend.

It was also one for reflection on what had been such a devastating event at Bradford on May 11, 1985.

“Yorkshire came together today, and that was nice to see,” added Johnson.

“What happened here that day 30 years ago was a horrendous tragedy.” Bradford (4-1-2-1-2): Williams 7; Darby 7, Davies 8, Liddle 6, Meredith 7; Clarke 8; Routis 5, Knott 5 (Dolan 65, 6); McMahon 6; Hanson 7, Stead 8.

Subs not used: Urwin, Sheehan, Yeates, Halliday, Webb-Foster, Mottley-Henry.

Booked: Hanson (77).

Barnsley (4-1-4-1): Davies 7; Holgate 6, Nyatanga 7, Cranie 7, John 6; Pearson 8; Scowen 7, Hourihane 7, Berry 5 (Maris 77, 6), Digby 5 (Lalkovic 57, 6); Ibehre 6.

Subs not used: Wildsmith, Oates, Williams, Cowgill, Bree.

Booked: Digby (25).