Football: Wetherall's timely boost for Bradford
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Sunday 19 December 1999
Newcastle United 0
Half-time: 0-0 Attendance: 18,286
DAVID WETHERALL had the last laugh and could have been excused for making it a hearty "ho, ho, ho" as Bradford came back from a torrid first half to claim a potentially invaluable victory.
City are still just one place above the bottom three, but closed the gap on several of the sides immediately above them, including Newcastle, with a performance full of the resilience that is becoming their Premiership trademark.
Battered and buffeted throughout the first half, they somehow kept the game scoreless before hitting their wasteful visitors with two strikes in the second. The first was a classic sucker punch on the break. With United pressing forward, Andy O'Brien hit a hopeful long ball out of defence and Newcastle hesitated as the ever-willing Lee Mills chased it and pulled it back from the by-line. There was Dean Saunders in familiar territory on the edge of the six-yard box and, unlikely as it seemed, Bradford were in the lead.
Newcastle were also caught cold for the second. A free-kick from Lee Sharpe seemed to present no particular danger, but Wetherall rose at the far post to do what Newcastle had failed to do and head past the goalkeeper. It was a remarkable transformation for the former Leeds defender, who in the first half had been given the type of roasting by Duncan Ferguson that central defenders dread.
Ferguson won everything in the air, including hitting the bar and laying on a variety of opportunities for Alan Shearer and Kevin Gallacher.
Matthew Clarke also had to save well from Nolberto Solano's swerving free-kick and from an incisive run on goal from the Portuguese defender Helder. Even when those failed to go in, however, it seemed only a matter of time before Bradford, who had hardly an opening to call their own, cracked and conceded at least one.
"We were a lot tighter in the second half," Bradford's manager, Paul Jewell, said. "In the first half, our midfield and our strikers weren't playing together and we never looked like scoring But it was a good second half performance and a very, very big win for us. If we finish above Newcastle this year, we'll be going on our holidays; I don't consider them serious contenders for the bottom three."
Newcastle's Bobby Robson was wary of accepting that compliment: "It's nice of him to say that, but he can say that after he's beaten us 2-0 and we can't be complacent about it.
"I wouldn't say we dominated the first half, but we were well in control, we had more of the ball, more of the play and all the chances. Had we taken one of those chances, I think the result would have gone our way."
Even after Bradford's second, Ferguson had three chances to score - unfortunately they all came to him on the ground and he missed all three by increasingly extravagant margins.
"We could have been playing to Easter and not scored," Robson said. "It was one of those days when whatever we hit wasn't going to go in."
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