The Bantams rounded off their regular league schedule with a creditable draw at Rochdale. Stuart McCall made nine changes to the side that dispatched of AFC Wimbledon last weekend and one of those to keep their place, Alex Jones, gave the visitors the lead early on. Billy Clarke played the role of provider for Jones’ goal and the hosts, who needed a win to bolster their slim hopes of reaching the play-offs, levelled in the second through Matthew Lund’s smartly taken finish.
It was the hosts who started the brighter of the two teams and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing was looked a particularly dangerous threat for Keith Hill’s side. His free kick was headed half clear by Rory McArdle before Callum Camps saw a well-struck volley held onto by Rouven Sattelmaier who came in ahead of Colin Doyle for his second league start of the season.
Mendez-Laing got the better of McArdle to force the German stopper into an alert save before Calvin Andrew moved into space to let a shot fly from 20 yards which Sattelmaier was equal. Against the run of play slightly, City took the lead. Billy Clarke got in behind Dale’s backline and cut the ball back to Alex Jones who made no mistake in beating Conrad Logan from close range.
Kevin Toner came in to start at left back for his first appearance since the televised loss at Scunthorpe United and his error led to a gilt-edged Rochdale chance. Andrew’s low cross found its way into the path of Mendez-Laing after the Aston Villa had failed to prevent the danger and then the lively winger was denied by an important save by Sattelmaier.
The home side kept pushing for an equaliser and after Sattelmaier had pushed away Callum Camps’ low shot from 20 yards, the follow up from Andrew somehow made its way over the bar before Mendez-Laing fired a low shot inches wide of the target after he had breezed in between Toner and Matthew Kilgallon, who was making his return from a lengthy injury lay-off.
Sattelmaier had to be his agile best to save a top corner bound Andrew strike with one hand before Alex Gilliead was denied a fine goal by the crossbar. A Billy Clarke cross had eventually made its way into the Newcastle United loanee’s path before he side footed the ball against the bar from just inside the penalty area.
The Irishman had a shot himself moments later but his attempt from 20 yards lacked the power to beat Logan who held onto the ball with relative ease. Logan was almost caught out by Jones’ audacious attempt from a tight angle on the stroke of half time before Sattelmaier was at his best again early in the second half to once again halt Mendez-Laing.
Jordy Hiwula came into the team to start and he saw an attempt diverted wide by Joe Bunney after Clarke had once again pulled the strings for City. It was his resulting corner which was glanced a yard or so wide by the head of Rory McArdle.
Camps has been instrumental for Rochdale this season and his intelligent cutback found substitute Donal McDermott who fizzed a low drive inches wide of the bottom corner from just outside the box. Andrew’s attempt a few minutes later didn’t come as close, skewing one into the terrace behind the goal with his left foot before Clarke went close with a first time shot which flashed wide after he’d been picked out by debutant Matthew Penney.
Shortly after the hour mark, Rochdale levelled the scores. Mendez-Laing had no doubt been the home side’s best player and he ran down the centre before picking out the run of Lund who dinked the ball over Sattelmaier and into the far corner.
Rochdale looked the more likely to find the winner in the latter stages of the game although City posed a real threat on the counter attack. Daniel Devine struck a post for the Bantams after Penney had guided Ellis Hudson’s corner into his path with a downward header.
Timothee Dieng’s firmly struck effort from distance was grasped at the second attempt by Logan before Hudson twisted and turned before seeing a shot held after he’d been picked out by Daniel Pybus who had sparked a counter attack.
Keith Hill’s side almost won the game in the final minute. Substitute Reuben Noble-Lazarus saw a free kick pushed away by Sattelmaier and then Joe Rafferty’s follow-up shot came back off the inside of the post before Matthew Kilgallon made a vital clearance.
A point at Spotland in front of 3,500 travelling supporters means that City will now come up against Fleetwood Town in the League One Play-Off Semi-Final.