Football: Carbone in a class of his own

Bradford City 1 Sheffield Wednesday 1
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The Independent Online
SHORTLY BEFORE the start of the first top division match at Valley Parade for 77 years, a sudden downpour created a waterfall from the corner of the imposing new Kop stand, dousing the customers sitting below.

For much of the afternoon, it seemed that City might suffer a similar drenching encounter with cold reality on the pitch. But the torrent stopped and so did the threat of a deluge from Wednesday, allowing Bradford a point they were able to convince themselves at the end that they had earned.

Peter Beagrie's last-minute penalty gave them that point to add to the three they snatched from Middlesbrough. For most of the match, though, that successful smash-and-grab raid was one thing, and performing on their own stage was quite another.

"It was very important to build on last week's result," said Beagrie, City's stand-in captain in the absence of the injured Stuart McCall. "We didn't give in and we kept plugging away. We started to believe in ourselves a bit more when we put a few passes together."

The fact remains that a better side than Wednesday - one point from three games now - would have had the Bantams neatly trussed up long before they found that confidence.

With Benito Carbone underlining his importance to a side he seems destined to leave, Bradford were fully occupied trying to plug the leaks. The Italian might have had a couple; his team-mates, had they been more alive to his ingenuity, might have had a couple more.

The only goal came from John Dreyer's miscue over his own goalkeeper as he chased back with Gilles de Bilde, but, if Wednesday had sustained any momentum, there would surely have been more. But they declined to spoil City's party, as a capacity crowd at their compact, remodelled ground made this the first of what their manager, Paul Jewell, predicted would be a weekly series of "cup finals."

After first-week humblings by Liverpool and Manchester United, Wednesday were content - with the honourable exception of Carbone - to sit back on their lead and finally paid the penalty.

"I'll say I didn't have a good view and Danny Wilson will say it was no penalty," said Jewell. "But the players said it was a penalty. Peter Beagrie said it was a penalty and Peter doesn't tell lies."

Wilson did not arrive to give his opinion, but Beagrie felt that one penalty was the least his side should have had, with Des Walker getting away with wrestling Dean Windass to the ground not long before.

But Bradford should not be fooled by the illusion that they could have won this match into thinking that they will win many more with this side. With Robbie Blake estranged, the striking partnership of Windass and Lee Mills does not appear to have many goals in it at this level.

Despite the promising work of Gareth Whalley in midfield, there is not much threat coming from that quarter, although the return of McCall and Lee Sharpe might help.

However, Bradford's supporters happily welcome the general assessment that, however well they start, they will subside to their natural level by the end of the season.

They had a ready answer to that on Saturday. If Wednesday lose Carbone, they will be clear relegation candidates themselves.

Goals: Dreyer (og 39) 0-1; Beagrie (pen 89) 1-1.

Bradford City (4-4-2): Walsh; Halle, Wetherall, Dreyer, Jacobs; Lawrence (Saunders, 61), Redfearn, Whalley, Beagrie; Windass, Mills. Substitutes not used: Clarke (gk), Myers, O'Brien, Moore.

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Newsome, Thome, Walker, Hinchcliffe (Briscoe, 49); Alexandersson, Jonk (Donnelly, 77), Atherton, Rudi; De Bilde (Booth, 77), Carbone. Substitutes not used: Srnicek (gk), Cresswell.

Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).

Bookings: Bradford: Beagrie. Sheffield Wednesday: De Bilde, Newsome.

Man of the match: Carbone.

Attendance: 18,276.