The Bantams were left to rue missed chances as they fell to a defeat which left a dent in the play-off hopes, despite results going their way elsewhere in the division. City were dominant in the first half but opportunities to take the lead were spurned, and it cost them dear as John Marquis came off the bench to fire home the winner.
Billy Clarke was outstanding for City, really thriving in his role as a number 10, playing just behind the two forwards in Jon Stead and James Hanson, and the Irishman played a neat one two with Billy Knott to cut inside and force Glenn Morris into a smart low save with his weaker right foot.
City were piling on the pressure and having plenty of possession as they looked in search of an early goal and they were denied by a goal line clearance Knott’s corner was headed towards goal by Jon Stead and Gills skipper Doug Loft cleared off the line to deny him.
Clarke had another chance of his own and it was one he carved open for himself; with the ball bouncing in front of him, he intelligently looped the ball over a defender’s head before seeing a volley land on the top of the goal to let the home side off the hook.
Gillingham had their first real chance with half time approaching; Loft’s ball over the top asked questions of City’s back four and Cody McDonald temporarily got the wrong side of Rory McArdle but he recovered excellently to make a vital challenge to deny the Gills’ leading marksman.
Another couple of goalmouth blocks denied City, again from a Billy Knott corner. Knott’s corner was powered towards goal by the head of Hanson but McDonald made a block, before Morris made a goal line save to keep Stead’s follow up out at the far post. A real let off for the home side but a chance somehow spurned by the Bantams.
The second half began as it ended, with City having some gilt edged chances. Billy Knott was having his fair share of corners and he was troubling Gillingham with them. His delivery on this occasion was met by the head of McArdle unmarked, but he powered his attempt over the bar. A couple of minutes later, in an almost identical scenario, it was Hanson who was guilty of missing the opportunity.
Jon Stead dragged a shot wide of the target just a minute later after finding a yard on Max Ehmer but down the other end Gillingham had a rare shot in anger themselves, and it was Luke Norris who tried his luck from range but his low drive was smothered by Ben Williams.
Openings looked like they could still come City’s way with the pressure still on, but you just got that feeling that being wasteful could cost them dear with Gillingham likely to have a significant spell in the game.
Stephen Darby had to lead by example in particular to make a crucial block to deny Cody McDonald; Jermaine McGlashan showed real pace to get in behind James Meredith before pulling the ball back to McDonald but the latter saw his effort kept out by Darby, a real chance against the run of play for Gillingham to get themselves ahead.
The next five minutes was Gillingham pressure though, and John Marquis scored the opener, just 8 minutes after his introduction from the subs bench. The Millwall loanee striker saw an initial effort blocked, before he smashed a shot past Williams and into the far corner from the edge of the area.
Marquis had another chance just a few minutes later to double Gillingham’s lead, but it was Darby with heroics once again to deny him; he curled a shot towards the top corner, and with Williams beaten, the skipper was on hand to head the ball off the line and keep the difference slim.
Mark Yeates, Francois Zoko and apprentice striker Reece Webb-Foster were introduced late on from the subs bench in an attempt to rescue a point but despite Clarke going close in additional time, Gillingham held on for a three points that hinders City’s play-off push, although it was a three points that should’ve never been claimed by the home team. Missed chances and failure to make dominance tell cost the Bantams dear on this occasion.