Daniel Crann is on holiday so I’ve stepped in for this match. What a game to step in for. It feels a little bit like being made BP’s chief PR man… the day before loads of their oil slopped into the sea and wiped out lots of cute-looking sea life.
Anyone who reads this ‘report’ to the very end - well done and thank you very much for your perseverance. You’re the type who stayed until the end of the game last night and you deserve a public thanks. You probably missed the traffic by staying though.
It is quite difficult writing your first ever match report when your team has just been totally, completely, comprehensively and embarrassingly pummelled. It’s really hard. Do you opt for anger, humour, facts, or do you conveniently forget about the game and write about something else entirely?
This is why I’ve opted for a blog about the merits of the Jethro Tull horse-drawn seed drill, invented in 1701 and which played a key role in the agricultural revolution… No? Are you sure? I’ll crack on then…
Before last night’s game a couple of things were at risk. Our playoff hopes and the well-being of a few hundred Bristol City fans who after a day travelling up north whilst necking the local scrumpy, potentially risked their ankles by charging onto our cabbage patch of a pitch whilst under the influence. I had visions of Tough Mudder, but with booze instead of sports drinks. Mayhem.
It turned out that the pitch is actually fine, much to our disadvantage, and that the Bristol City fans are far too polite to cause such fuss. It also turns out that Bristol City are a very good football side and as a result it was our playoff hopes that unfortunately took the mauling. As did we, in a pretty ugly way.
All over the pitch, Bristol City were a model of where we aspire to be. Creative, organised, solid, comfortable on the floor, dangerous when direct, they were far too much for us last night – as they have been for many sides this season - and were the best team to come to VP this season.
Clinical up front, with blistering pace in Agard and 20-plus goals already in the evergreen Aaron Wilbraham, the visitors also possess in Luke Freeman, a creative player who sees things on the pitch before they have happened. He’s a class act. The last time I saw him at VP he was fantastic. Last night he was even better.
Congratulations must go to Bristol City, who look like a side who are ready for the Championship.
Now the bad bit. The Bradford City bit. All over the pitch, we were a model of where we shouldn’t aspire to be. There are off nights and then there are those nights when you almost end up being bracketed on Sky Sports News – you know the ‘brackets’ I mean - Bristol City 6 (six). Sickening.
Tired? Exhausted? An off night? Not good enough? Gave up? Tick all of the above I’m afraid. There’s much hand-wringing and chatter about what has gone wrong as we stumble towards the finishing line of the 2014/15 season, but this is the first time that we have lost three games on the bounce and the first time we’ve experienced a really good sound stuffing.
The bad run has come just when we were starting to call on the memories of the 1996 and 2013 playoff promotion seasons, and the fantastic runs of form it took to get us there on both occasions. Unfortunately lightning hasn’t struck for a third time, and if it has, it has left us looking dazed and frazzled.
Tonight was a freak result and a freak performance. We were bad and our opponents were fantastic. It happens in football sometimes. People will quite rightly look for someone to blame and collectively the players and management should take responsibility. Then we all move on from it, and we look to learn from it.
What exactly do we learn? A lot hopefully. For me, it looks like we have run out of steam and I attribute that to the size of the squad. We need more bodies in there to compete for places. Not squad players, but players who will push for first team starts and drive each player in turn to up their game. At the moment tired looking players are keeping the shirt over fresher but inferior players, and that’s not good enough if we want to move on from where we are.
Where do we go from here? For the players, the mirror to have a long, hard look at themselves after the display. For Parkinson, the board room to have a serious chat with the powers that be about that summer transfer budget and strategy. The size, depth and quality of our squad depends on that. Our 2015/16 ambitions depend on that.
We have seen some brilliant stuff this season. This team have created memories that will live forever. But they are exactly that, memories. With the season all but over, now is the time to start thinking about how we create new ones.