Good Game: Bradford City 2-3 Stevenage


By Pete H

Good Game: The series looking at the amazing, utterly memorable, unbelievably dramatic and downright ludicrous games that involved Stevenage Borough over the years. But we’ll insist that we accept no blame for memories warped by time, age or alcohol consumption at the time. We’ll never refer to any games involving Macclesfield Town either – particularly any at Broadhall Way. Those sort of things never happened, dontcha know…

Bradford City 2-3 Stevenage

Valley Parade, Bradford — 01 March 2014 — Sky Bet League One

The 2013-4 season was low on highlights for Boro’. Very low. But there were some gems to be had – like our win at Bradford City. And, much like the other rare gems that campaign, it was ultimately a false dawn; giving us renewed hope of survival that’d soon be squashed – again.

Let’s look at the positives, however.

We’d already had our introductions to the Bantams during the 2010-1 League Two campaign; one in which taken four points off them. It took ’em two years to follow us into the third tier – one to watch out for in 2025, as an aside. Anyway, by the time of this visit, we’d already got one point from them; the Bantams visiting us at the end of August 2013 and going home with a share of the spoils.

Our record against them at this point was reasonable. Three played, with each type of result achieved – win, loss, draw. As history since tells us, however, Boro’ don’t much get on with a trip to Valley Parade. Maybe we can’t get our heads around playing in front of a crowd that’s second only to China’s Red Army in terms of number of people? Who knows. But this is a win for the ages; something we’ve so far failed to replicate.

The background

It’s almost odd to think that a relegation season is the only time we’ve won at Bradford. Of course, we weren’t down and dusted at this point of the 2013-4 season. There was still a lot of football to be played. It’s just the football that we’d played up until this point was (to be kind) broadly rubbish. And it meant that we came into the fixture at the foot of the division; two points adrift of Notts County (23rd) and six points from Crewe Alexandra (20th).

Mind you, we did have two games in hand.

And what of our hosts? Well, as ever, the Bantams flattered to deceive. They were bumbling around mid-table; 41 points from 32 games leaving them in 11th. The playoffs were 11 points away, while relegation was nine. Draws were their undoing. In all, they’d finished level on 14 occasions – joint-most in League One with relegation-threatened Bristol City. This aside, the season was hardly one befitting West Yorkshire’s premier footballing venture*.

* after Leeds United, Halifax Town, Bradford Park Avenue, Farsley Celtic, and Guiseley.

Bradford City 2-3 Stevenage: The rundown

Bradford City 2-3 Stevenage: A rare highlight in an otherwise disappointing campaign
Photo: Kevin Coleman(?) via

Boro’ ended a run of three straight defeats with a 1-0 win at home to Crewe on the Tuesday coming into this game. GW made one change to that team; Lucas Akins for Dean Parrett. We also reverted to 4-4-2 after deploying a 4-3-1-2 system against the Railwaymen. Not that we got off to a tremendous start with it, of course. Just 11 minutes were on the clock before the hosts took the lead; Adam Reach with a well-taken volley to beat Chris Day.

It wasn’t too long before we were level again. The prolific (by our standards) Francois Zoko scored his 17th of the season after being picked out in the area by Luke Freeman. It looked enough to get us to the break all square. But the hosts regained the lead on 42 minutes as James Hanson fired home after Day had denied Reach. That sinking feeling was familiar to Boro’ by this stage of the season. So, there was nothing new here.

Oh ye of little faith!

After the break, Boro’ came out battling. Bira Dembele hit the bar as we chased our second leveller, before Freeman found it for us. And how. The winger picked up the ball a long way from the Bantams goal and made unchecked progress towards the area. With no real other options, he chanced his arm from 25 years and the ball flew into the corner. It now seemed as if we could be getting a critical point to take home with us.

But Freeman wasn’t done yet. As the clock wound down towards the 90-minute mark, Boro’ got a free-kick in a fairly dangerous area. A well-worked set piece routine saw Jimmy Smith roll the ball to the ex-Arsenal starlet, letting fly from distance once more. It pinged into the top corner and sent the travelling faithful into raptures. We saw out the remaining minutes and made sure we were heading home to Hertfordshire with a big three points.

Bradford City 2-3 Stevenage: What happened next?

In the short term, the win moved us off the foot of the table – and to within one point of Shrewsbury Town in 22nd position. And we were now four points from safety; still with two games in hand to overhaul that gap and retain our League One status. Meanwhile, GW told the world’s media after the game: “We really did make our mind up that we were going to be the side that came away with the points today”.

In the long term, however, things weren’t so rosy. Boro’ remained unbeaten in the next four outings (three draws and a win). But then came a visit from MK Dons towards the end of the month. We surrendered a two-goal advantage in the last 10 minutes; losing for the first time in seven. It all fell apart for us after that – and we didn’t win again until relegation had been confirmed. For all the elation of victory at Valley Parade, it ultimately counted for nowt.

Luke Freeman talks to the press after the Bradford City game.

In conclusion….

We guess there’s one lesson that can be learned for certain here. A big victory in isolation is irrelevant if you don’t back it up. We’re sure the Bantams can testify to that too; defeating us twice during the 2022-3 season – but having to watch as we got promoted (back) into League One. They, reader, did not. It’s the classic case of winning battles, but not wars. And there’s a case for picking the battles you do win sometimes too.

The win at Valley Parade also underlines that, behind the numbers, Boro’ really should have stayed up in 2014. It was clear the ability was there. But them the breaks – we didn’t survive. And it laid a long path ahead that saw us take nine years to get back to League One; a nine-year stretch that involved Teddy Sheringham, losing 7-1 at Luton Town, and nearly going out of the Football League in 2020. Haven’t won at Bradford since, either.

• Full details from the 2013-4 League One season

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