Brawn and brains do the trick for City hero Wyke

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FOOTBALL - Richard Sut­cliffe Email: richard.sut­ Twit­ter: @RSootyYPS­port

TONY McMA­HON may love to joke that team-mate Char­lie Wyke is “too thick” to be fazed by the pres­sure of be­ing Brad­ford City’s goal-scor­ing tal­is­man.

But the striker, like McMa­hon a prod­uct of Mid­dles­brough’s youth Academy, proved there is noth­ing wrong with ei­ther his in­tu­ition or foot­balling in­tel­li­gence when net­ting a first hat-trick in Ban­tams’ colours.

Wyke un­der­lined why Stu­art McCall was so keen to spend £250,000, the club’s big­gest trans­fer fee since their brief stint in the Premier League around the turn of the Mil­len­nium, on bring­ing the 24-year-old south from Carlisle United last Jan­uary.

A keen sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion brought the open­ing goal on 14 min­utes, while his sec­ond-half dou­ble owed much to not only brawn but also brains as Wyke once again en­sured he was in the right place at the right time to con­vert two won­der­ful de­liv­er­ies from out wide.

For a striker who spent five weeks on the side­lines af­ter tear­ing a calf dur­ing pre-sea­son, a third ca­reer hat-trick was the per­fect way to rein­tro­duce him­self to an ap­pre­cia­tive Val­ley Pa­rade crowd and jus­tify Wyke’s pre-match be­lief that it was go­ing to be his day.

“I ac­tu­ally had a feel­ing when I woke up that I would score a few goals,” said Wyke, clutch­ing the match-ball for a third time in as many sea­sons af­ter pre­vi­ous hat­tricks for Carlisle United against Welling and Mans­field Town.

“I just felt good. I have been stay­ing in a dif­fer­ent ho­tel for a few weeks but every­thing just felt right. Mind, when I was on two goals the (fourth of­fi­cial’s) board came up with num­ber ‘9’ on it and I ac­tu­ally thought I was com­ing off.

“Omari (Pa­trick) was stood on the touch­line but it was their lad be­ing subbed. The gaf­fer was scream­ing at me, say­ing: ‘Get back on the pitch’. It was a re­lief and, thank­fully, I got the hat­trick, in the end.”

Wyke’s im­por­tance to City was vividly il­lus­trated in the four months that fol­lowed his ar­rival from Cum­bria.

Af­ter net­ting on his home de­but against Gilling­ham, the Mid­dles­brough-born striker went on to find the net seven times in his first 13 starts. Dur­ing that run, the Ban­tams lost just twice and claimed 23 points.

Wyke’s end to the cam­paign, how­ever, was less im­pres­sive with his fi­nal six ap­pear­ances fail­ing to yield a goal. With a goalscorer who had been likened to Brad­ford leg­end Bobby Campbell thanks to those early dis­plays sud­denly out-of-sorts, McCall’s men also strug­gled.

Just five goals were scored dur­ing a run that in­cluded a trio of play-off games, and three of those had come in a com­fort­able vic­tory over a poor AFC Wim­ble­don.

One man in no doubt as to the in­te­gral role Wyke has at Val­ley Pa­rade is McMa­hon, now City’s long­est-serv­ing player af­ter a sum­mer that saw a host of de­par­tures in the wake of the dis­ap­point­ing 1-0 loss to Mill­wall at Wem­b­ley.

“Char­lie is mas­sive for us, es­pe­cially in terms of how the gaf­fer wants to play and the way we set up,” said the 31-year-old. “At the start of the sea­son, we missed him mas­sively. That is no dis­re­spect to Do­minic Poleon or Omari (Pa­trick) but when we get wide and whip balls in, it isn’t their game to get on the end of head­ers. For Char­lie, though, that is his game.

“He makes us tick, by hold­ing the ball up and link­ing the play. He is huge for us.”

Asked if be­ing the club’s goalscor­ing tal­is­man had weighed heav­ily on Wyke dur­ing the fi­nal weeks of last sea­son that cul­mi­nated in miss­ing out on pro­mo­tion, McMa­hon said: “Noth­ing fazes him – he is just too thick to let it af­fect him.

“No, se­ri­ously, he just gets on with it. He works his socks off in train­ing, con­stantly work­ing on his fin­ish­ing and head­ing. And every­thing clicked against Bris­tol Rovers, not just in terms of how he held the ball up but his run­ning down the chan­nels. He was a con­stant nui­sance for their de­fend­ers.”

That fi­nal com­ment neatly sums up Wyke’s af­ter­noon be­fore be­ing forced to with­draw with cramp 12 min­utes from time. Rovers’ de­fence, with­out Tom Lock­yer and Ryan Sweeney due to in­ter­na­tional duty, had an af­ter­noon to for­get in West York­shire as their vul­ner­a­bil­ity in the air was ex­posed time and time again.

Wyke’s first goal came via a sweet left-foot vol­ley af­ter the striker had ghosted into the six­yard box to meet Ro­main Vincelot’s flick-on from McMa­hon’s cor­ner but it was far from the only time that the Pi­rates’ back­line looked all at sea.

Ei­ther side of the opener, Vincelot and Nicky Law both wasted golden op­por­tu­ni­ties to score when found un­marked by McMa­hon’s pin­point de­liv­ery from cor­ners.

Law then fluffed another ef­fort af­ter the break be­fore Wyke’s tow­er­ing leap above the flat-footed vis­i­tors from another cor­ner from McMa­hon dou­bled City’s ad­van­tage just af­ter the hour. “I am on an as­sist bonus and he is on a mas­sive goal bonus, so we are all happy,” joked the full-back af­ter­wards.

Wyke’s hat-trick duly ar­rived 17 min­utes from time, the striker this time head­ing in at the back post from a won­der­ful cross by Jake Reeves.

Billy Bodin did re­ply late on with a close-range fin­ish af­ter Tom Ni­cholls had hit a post but there was no way Brad­ford were go­ing to be de­nied a de­served three points that de­lighted man­ager McCall.

“That was with­out doubt our most com­plete per­for­mance of the sea­son so far,” he said. “From back to front, we were ex­cel­lent.”

THREE, TWO, ONE: Char­lie Wyke ig­nores the prox­im­ity of the post to head home his hat-trick goal, top, af­ter cel­e­brat­ing his sec­ond, left, and open­ing Brad­ford City’s ac­count, right, against Bris­tol Rovers in the League One game at Val­ley Pa­rade....

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