The Bantams missed out on a chance to move into the play-off places with defeat to Chesterfield, who took the move into the top six instead. In a scrappy first half, the game looked to be heading the interval on as even but a rare defensive error from Gary MacKenzie gifted the visitors a goal which proved decisive as Byron Harrison scored his first for Chesterfield. City were far from their best on a bitter and blustery evening at the Coral Windows Stadium, and ultimately couldn’t find an equaliser.
The first half chance of the game was created for himself by former Huddersfield Town winger Gary Roberts; he was quickest to the loose ball and hit an optimistic shot towards goal from the best part of 50 yards, but fortunately for Ben Williams, the ball dropped a couple of yards over the bar. It was a fantastic effort but Williams probably had it covered.
It was a chance of very few goal scoring opportunities, but there was a couple in as many minutes, midway through the first half. Sam Clucas dragged a shot wide of the target from the edge of the area after Jimmy Ryan’s deflected off Byron Harrison and into his path. Down the other end, Jon Stead saw an acrobatic volley held by Tommy Lee, who had a superb game, after the frontman had latched onto Billy Knott’s cross.
There was a penalty claim from City following a Knott set-piece; the latter was back in the team ahead of Mark Yeates and Rory McArdle went down in the area, trying to latch onto the free kick. The claim initially looked an optimistic one but McArdle was adamant to the referee that he had been fouled.
The best bit of link up play in a very bitty first half of football saw a decent opportunity for Stead; Christopher Routis fed the ball wide to Stephen Darby who saw a cross turned narrowly wide at the near post, by City’s number 16.
On the stroke of half time Chesterfield took the lead in bizarre fashion and somewhat against the run of play. An aerial ball was falling to Gary MacKenzie and with two options: clear the ball, or head back to Ben Williams, he chose the latter but his header lacked the power to reach Williams and Harrison nipped in to intercept and score the opener. It was rare mistake from a player who has hardly put a foot wrong so far during his time with the Bantams.
Chesterfield thought they’d doubled the lead early in the second half. Sam Morsy delivered a corner into the area which was powered towards goal by Ian Evatt and Sam Hird scrambled the ball in at the far post but the flag was up for an offside decision.
Rory McArdle was somehow denied an equalising goal shortly after. Routis’ deep free kick into the area, was headed back across goal by MacKenzie only for McArdle to see a goal bound prod kept out by Tommy Lee before being scrambled clear.
Chances were limited and there weren’t really any clear cut ones all too often to write home about, but it was panning out in the way that Chesterfield had hoped for having taken a first half lead. Mark Yeates, Tony McMahon and Francois Zoko were on late on in the hunt for an equaliser and the stadium held its breath as Zoko went down in the penalty area; the referee though, booked the Ivorian for supposed simulation.
Tommy Lee’s outstanding performance was summed up in injury time as the Keighley-born stopper made a tremendous save to make sure his side held on for victory. Billy Knott latched onto a Yeates pass to drive into the area and his low centre fell to McMahon who saw a shot in the stretch kept out by the legs of Lee.
Despite a hefty six minutes additional time, it just wasn’t to be City’s night but the nature of the table means the play-off chase is far from over but there is work to done and points that have to be won over the Easter period – starting with the big Yorkshire derby at Doncaster Rovers on Friday evening.