Football: Everton drawn down to Bradford's level

Bradford City 0 Everton 0
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The Independent Online
IT BECAME a less credible statistic the longer this match dragged on, but Everton came out of this millennium as the team who have gained most points in England's top division. Not Liverpool, not Arsenal, but the blue club of Merseyside. On this evidence, the next thousand years will not compare favourably.

This was a dreadful game that had less to recommend it than another plate of cold turkey. It was clear to see how Bradford had been beaten 4-0 by Manchester United on Boxing Day but the mystery was how Everton had coincidentally thrashed Sunderland. On a wintry afternoon they were poor, the match was poor and the temperature was worse.

"It was a tight match but we had enough opportunities to win it," Everton's manager, Walter Smith, whose mood was not improved by a calf injury to John Collins that will keep him out for two weeks, said. "We didn't take enough care in the last third of the pitch." Frankly, there was not much in the other two-thirds either.

The afternoon began with Geoffrey Richmond, the Bradford chairman, thanking the supporters for their backing and berating the local council for its lack of support. A proposal to increase Valley Parade's capacity to 25,000 had won only narrow approval and, from the centre circle, he boomed: "It's time that they realise the people who voted them in can vote them out." It was probably a mis-use of power but, as the two teams of players were about to prove, you do not need to hold the purse strings at a club to do that.

The first half was so bad it could have been used as a promotional video for the virtues of watching Test cricket on television. Bradford were tentative and managed only a free-kick from Dean Windass that sailed close to the post after 27 minutes.

Everton, 5-0 winners on Sunday, were without Kevin Campbell, who was given the day off as his wife gave birth to a son, but his replacement, Joe Max-Moore, had a chance after three minutes when David Unsworth's long pass found him at the far post. The American's touch took him beyond Andy Myers but it pushed him too close to Matt Clarke. Little did anyone realise that this would be the closest Everton would come, because they soon stooped from Sunday's form and by the end were scraping along at Bradford's level.

They managed just two more chances of note, a free-kick from Mark Pembridge that grazed the upright and a last-minute header from Nick Barmby that was wastefully pulled wide from eight yards.

Not for the first time this season Bradford, spurred on by the tireless Stuart McCall, got better the longer the game went on and they might have sneaked a win with two headers from Lee Mills midway through the second half.

The first was narrowly wide but the next, from Dean Saunders' 65th-minute cross, was kept out of the Everton goal only by a combination of Paul Gerrard's dive low to his right and the post. On a day Watford won, it was an effort Bradford urgently needed to go into the net.

"I have got to be pleased with a point that might be vital at the end of the season," Bradford's manager, Paul Jewell, said. "We didn't play particularly well and it's a testament to the players that they ground out a result."

Bradford City (4-4-2): Clarke; Halle, Wetherall, O'Brien, Myers (Beagrie, 68); Redfearn, McCall, Windass (Blake, 74), Sharpe; Mills, Saunders. Substitutes not used: Lawrence, Westwood, Davison (gk).

Everton (4-4-2): Gerrard; Dunne, Weir, Gough, Unsworth; Barmby, Hutchison, Collins (Cleland, 51; Gemmill, 75), Pembridge; Max-Moore (Cadamarteri, 75), Jeffers. Substitutes not used: Watson, Simonsen (gk).

Referee: U Rennie (Sheffield).

Bookings: Bradford: McCall, Redfearn; Everton: Hutchison, Cadamarteri.

Man of the match: McCall.

Attendance: 18,276.