The Bantams were undone by a second half comeback from Sheffield United, who dug themselves out of a hole with goals from Chris Basham and Billy Sharp. City were on top after a first half where the two sides were separated by a tidy finish from James Meredith, his first goal since October 2012. Devante Cole scored his third in four games a minute or so into the second half, but Nigel Adkins’ men came back with a bang to take a point back with them to South Yorkshire.
City started the game on the front foot against their opponents who had lost their last two fixtures, despite their pre-season tag as promotion favourites. Mark Marshall, who was awarded the Sky Sports Man of the Match award after the final whistle, made his first involvement in the game with a cross from the right hand side which was headed down by James Hanson before United cleared their lines hurriedly.
United’s first half chance down the other end fell to former Leeds United frontman Sharp, who returned to his boyhood club in the summer. A loose ball dropped into his path but an instinctive shot from the edge of the area went comfortably over the bar.
Sharp had the ball in the net midway through the first half finishing neatly past Jones who was making his much anticipated debut for the club but the linesman on the far side had his flag up early for an offside decision against the Blades’ leading marksman.
Just after half an hour had been played when Meredith scored to put City ahead. Paul Anderson’s ball from the left flank was headed into space and the full back gambled by showing real persistence; he got to the loose ball and chipped a delicate shot over Mark Howard and into the far corner. It was the Australian’s first goal for the club since he scored in a 3-1 home victory against Cheltenham Town some thirty-five months ago to the day.
Phil Parkinson’s men were deservedly in front at the interval and they heaped more pressure on United by doubling the advantage just over a minute into the second half. Gary Liddle knocked a ball over the top and Cole put David Edgar under pressure and the central defender on loan from Birmingham City kicked the ball against Cole before the ball made its way into the net. It’s Cole third in four games, his fine start to life as Bradford City player continues.
A double sub on the hour mark proved to be a master stroke by United manager Nigel Adkins; Conor Sammon and Jose Baxter were brought into the action and they performed well to get themselves back into the game.
Just six minutes after the pair were introduced, United pulled a goal back through Chris Basham. Craig Alcock launched a throw into the area and the ball looped into the air via Basham, over Jones and into the back of the net. The Sky Sports brigade marked the goal down as an own goal from James Meredith. Hard to tell on first viewing.
Louis Reed had an eye catching display in the middle of the park for the visitors and he created a chance for Sammon who fired just wide of the target from 18 yards after finding half a yard on Stephen Darby.
The next chance of the game produced the next goal of the game and it was Sharp who got it. Jose Baxter played a splitting pass over the top, Sharp controlled well but his initial attempt was kept out by Jones, however he was the quickest to react to the second ball and he fired into the back of the net.
United were continuing to look a threat on the counter attack in a game that was finely balance, while Marshall had people holding their breath down the other end. The lively winger cut inside from the right onto his more favoured left foot before curling a shot inches wide of the far corner with Mark Howard rooted to the spot.
Phil Parkinson brought on Billy Knott and Steven Davies in attempt to regain the lead with time running out and the five minutes additional time signalled by the fourth official meant time for another couple of chances. Jones had to be at full stretch to deny Edgar’s glancing header and with the last bit of action in the game, Hanson saw a header cleared off the line by Baxter after he latched onto Knott’s corner.
A point a piece then for the two sides after an entertaining game of football that fitted the ‘Yorkshire Derby’ bill. You can’t help feeling it could and probably should have been more for City but Sheffield United looked a completely transformed outfit in the second half and worked hard for their share of the spoils.