Chesterfield 2-2 Bradford City – League 2

ProactBradford

On Saturday 13th April 2013, I went to the Proact Stadium to watch Chesterfield play League Cup finalists Bradford City in League 2.

This game was of huge importance for both sides as they pushed for a play off place. Bradford sat in 7th, having won their last three games, while the Spireites were four points adrift in 9th place. However, a victory for Chesterfield would leave them just 1 point behind the top seven and after a rather inconsistent season, the once unlikely dream of the play offs now looked a real possibility.

Today was also the 16th anniversary of Chesterfield’s FA Cup Semi Final against Middlesbrough at Old Trafford. On this day in 1997, the Spireites earned a dramatic 3-3 draw against Boro with a stoppage time equaliser from the current physio Jamie Hewitt, having previously seen off the likes of Nottingham Forest and Bolton Wanderers. Supporters were encouraged to wear their commemorative shirts from the day and my Dad did just that, having been to both the semi final and the replay at Hillsborough where the Spireites were defeated 3-0.

Today’s visitors Bradford City has of course had their own cup fairytale this season in the League Cup. After knocking out Wigan Athletic and Arsenal, the Bantams then remarkably beat Aston Villa, a third Premiership side, in the semi final over two legs to become the first fourth tier side in history to reach a major domestic Wembley cup final. They came unstuck in the final, falling to a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Swansea City, but despite this it was still a remarkable achievement for the club.

For today’s huge game, Chesterfield manager Paul Cook made two changes to the side that had won 2-0 at Barnet last week. Armand Gnanduillet and Richard Brindley both returned to the staring eleven after neither player travelled to London, taking the places of Danny Whitaker and Scott Boden. Meanwhile, there was just a single change made to the Bradford City line up by Phil Parkinson with Michael Nelson replacing Andrew Davies.

Chesterfield started the stronger as they attacked towards the noisy away end. They came agonisingly close to taking the lead early on when a goalmouth scramble led to the ball being cleared off the line by Bantams captain Gary Jones.

After having plenty of possession without creating many clear-cut chances, a golden opportunity finally arrived when Jay O’Shea played Tendayi Darikwa through on goal. However, the youngster fired straight at the on-rushing Jon McLaughlin, who had little difficulty in saving the strike.

Just moments later, the Spireites were made to pay for these missed opportunities as Nahki Wells put the visitors in front with his 22nd goal of the season. James Hanson found Wells who fired a shot into the bottom corner which left Tommy Lee with no chance.

After controlling much of the opening 45 minutes, the Spireites struggled to find their feet in the second half as Bradford looked to push on and further their advantage.

Chesterfield desperately needed to get something from this game if they wanted to keep their play-off hopes alive and Paul Cook clearly recognised this as he decided to switch to a more attacking 4-4-2 formation with Marc Richards replacing Conor Townsend.

And with 20 minutes to go, it was all to play for as the scores were levelled. Darikwa made up for his earlier missed chance by getting on the end of Richards’ low cross and firing the ball home to set up an exciting finish.

But just 9 minutes later and the Bantams were ahead again courtesy of a Ricky Ravenhill effort. A corner was punched away by Lee but it fell straight to Ravenhill, who fired a low shot past a group of players and into the net to send the away end crazy.

Jack Lester was brought on to replace Armand Gnanduillet as a last role of the dice by the Chesterfield boss, but as the minutes ticked away it look like their season was all but mathematically over.

However, in the third minute of stoppage time Same Togwell salvaged a point for the home side. A corner was flicked on at the near post and found Togwell, who had the simplest of tasks as he tapped the ball in to the net from just yards out.

The goal kept Chesterfield’s slim chances of the play offs alive for another day. The Spireites remain in 9th position, 4 points off the play off spots, with just three games to go but it is not yet beyond the realm of possibility. The Bantams also remained in 7th, just a point ahead of 8th placed Exeter City but with a game in hand. It is sure to be a tense battle for the final play off spot and Tuesday’s games for Chesterfield and Bradford, against Plymouth and Rotherham respectively, are vital and could make all the difference.

After the game, I met some of the Bradford City players as they made their way to the coach. I got photos with goalscorer Nahki Wells, captain Gary Jones and the heroes of the League Cup run Matt Duke and James Hanson as well as 8 of the starting 11 from the final at Wembley in February.

Chesterfield 22 Bradford City

Wells ’36, Darikwa ’70, Ravenhill ’79, Togwell ’90

Lee, Trotman, Brindley, Cooper, Townsend (Richards ’56), Darikwa, Togwell, Randall, Talbot, O’Shea (Henshall ’83), Gnanduillet (Lester ’80)
McLaughlin, Darby, Meredith, Nelson, McArdle, Ravenhill, Reid (Atkinson ’46), Thompson (Hines ’74), Jones, Hanson, Wells
 
Attendance: 7,290
 
The Bradford City team coach

The Bradford City team coach

The away supporters queue for their tickets

The away supporters queue for their tickets

A carving commemorating Chesterfield's FA Cup Semi Final, which took place 16 years ago today

A carving commemorating Chesterfield’s FA Cup Semi Final, which took place 16 years ago today

Bradford's Michael Nelson warms up

Bradford’s Michael Nelson warms up

Some of the away fans

Some of the away fans

The visitors warm up

The visitors warm up

A City football

A City football

The City Gent

The City Gent

Another flag on theaway end

Another flag on the away end

The packed away end

The packed away end

The Kop

The Kop

The players make their way on to the pitch

The players make their way on to the pitch

The two teams line up

The two teams line up

Pre-match handshakes

Pre-match handshakes

A last minute warm up for the visitors

A last minute warm up for the visitors

The pre-match photos are taken

The pre-match photos are taken

Paul Cook and the home dugout watch the early action

Paul Cook and the home dugout watch the early action

Anxious home supporters know a win is vital

Anxious home supporters know a win is vital

The away dugout

The away dugout

Bradford captain Gary Jones

Bradford captain Gary Jones

An early Chesterfield attack

An early Chesterfield attack

Michael Nelson keeps a close eye on Armand Gnanduillet

Michael Nelson keeps a close eye on Armand Gnanduillet

The referee speaks to a couple of players

The referee speaks to a couple of players

Nahki Wells puts the away side in front

Nahki Wells puts the away side in front

The travelling supporters celebrate the gams first goal

The travelling supporters celebrate the gams first goal

Bradford get the second half underway

Bradford get the second half underway

It becomes a little heated for a brief moment

It becomes a little heated for a brief moment

The referee has a chat to Conor Townsend

The referee has a chat to Conor Townsend

James Hanson wins a header

James Hanson wins a header

Tendayi Darikwa races back to the centre circle after levelling the scores

Tendayi Darikwa races back to the centre circle after levelling the scores

Fans on the Kop celebrate Darikwa's strike

Fans on the Kop celebrate Darikwa’s strike

Still all to play for...

Still all to play for…

The Spireites win a free kick on the edge of the box

The Spireites win a free kick on the edge of the box

Jack Lester waits to be brought on

Jack Lester waits to be brought on

Mark Randall's free kick only finds the goalkeeper

Mark Randall’s free kick only finds the goalkeeper

Drew Talbot reacts angrily after being caught in the face

Drew Talbot reacts angrily after being caught in the face

Talbot receives a yellow card because of this reaction

Talbot receives a yellow card because of this reaction

Another Randall free kick

Another Randall free kick

The Bradford players and supporters celebrate re-taking the lead

The Bradford players and supporters celebrate re-taking the lead

Jack Lester replaces Armand Gnanduillet

Jack Lester replaces Armand Gnanduillet

Sam Togwell scores in stoppage time to salvage a point for Chesterfield

Sam Togwell scores in stoppage time to salvage a point for Chesterfield

The full time whistle is blown

The full time whistle is blown

Neal Trotman and Stephen Darby after the game

Neal Trotman and Stephen Darby after the game

Bradford manager Phil Parkinson heads over to applaud the away supporters

Bradford manager Phil Parkinson heads over to applaud the away supporters

The Bradford fans

The Bradford fans

The final score

The final score

My Dad wears his FA Cup Semi Final t-shirt on the 16th anniversary

My Dad wears his FA Cup Semi Final t-shirt on the 16th anniversary

The League 2 table

The League 2 table

Andrew Davies

Andrew Davies

Nathan Doyle

Nathan Doyle

Rory McArdle

Rory McArdle

McArdle has a photo with a group of Bradford fans

McArdle has a photo with a group of Bradford fans

Jon McLaughlin

Jon McLaughlin

Garry Thompson

Garry Thompson

Will Atkinson

Will Atkinson

Alan Connell

Alan Connell

Michael Nelson

Michael Nelson

Matt Duke

Matt Duke

James Meredith

James Meredith

Zavon Hines

Zavon Hines

Gary Jones

Gary Jones

Nahki Wells

Nahki Wells

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