The Bantams overcame wet and dreary conditions to battle their way into the Emirates FA Cup fourth round draw after a goalless game at Bury. Two chances in front of one of the packed away ends behind the goal could have made the afternoon even more positive for Phil Parkinson's men though. Gary Liddle headed wide unmarked from Kyel Reid’s cross before James Hanson scooped a shot over the bar on the stretch after connecting with Tony McMahon’s fizzing delivery into the area.
It was to be Hanson who had the first half opening of the game as well; Christopher Routis, back in the side for his first start since September’s defeat at Colchester United, headed the ball into the path of Rory McArdle and he then guided the ball to Hanson but he got under the ball and his effort failed to trouble Manchester City’s loanee stopper Ian Lawlor.
The first half was a tight and hard-fought affair and there wasn’t to be many clear cut chances in the opening exchanges; Leon Clarke was guilty of missing a descent chance for the home side though, Bury’s leading marksman skewing the ball wide of the target after Andrew Tutte had picked him out in the area with an intelligent reverse pass.
Just over a quarter of an hour into the game, there was a lengthy stoppage in play as Craig Jones appeared to be down on the ground after unfortunately taking a nasty whack on his head. He was replaced by Ryan Lowe but there was to be a hefty six minutes additional time sty the end of the half.
In the time remaining in the half, McMahon probably came closest to breaking the deadlock; his free kick just after the half hour struck the post before Billy Clarke blazed the rebound over the bar.
Kyel Reid was probably City’s biggest threat in the first half, and he controlled Clarke’s pass into his feet on the edge of the area before seeing a shot held onto with relative ease by young debutant stopper Lawlor.
Before the interval, the hosts wasted a glorious opportunity to take the lead. Liddle’s loose pass was intercepted by Danny Mayor and he found Tutte on the overlap who saw his resulting shot kept out superbly by Ben Williams, who ultimately recorded a deserved clean sheet.
Bury had another gilt edged opening before the whistle was sounded when Leon Clarke somehow headed wide of the target after latching onto Chris Hussey’s excellent cross into the box from the left hand side. Clarke's blushes were spared slightly, however, by the linesman's flag for offside.
Reid had took a fair few kicks and at stages seemed to be hobbling around the pitch but with the ball at his feet he often looked dangerous and after beating Joe Riley, he crossed into the area and his delivery was met by the head of Hanson who couldn’t divert his effort towards goal.
Into the final twenty five minutes of the game and things must have got tougher for the players, playing on a tough surface clearly affected by the rain that started to beat down on Gigg Lane. Liddle missed a great chance to give City a vital lead, heading wide after connecting with Reid’s cross; it was the type of game where one would have probably been enough as well.
One very big positive was Josh Morris making his return to action following a troublesome injury he picked up at former club Fleetwood Town back in mid-September. He came on to replace Reid and he looked quite sharp considering what has turned out to be an annoyingly length lay-off.
Morris’ first action was to rob Tutte of possession in his own penalty area before smashing the ball towards goal from a tight angle, only to see Lawlor pull off a strong save to keep his own sheet clean.
City began to go in a more hurried search of the winning goal with time running out and McArdle saw a bullet header go inches wide of the target after connecting superbly with McMahon’s corner.
McMahon was also involved in the very last chance of the tie.
The right midfielder picked up a loose ball and hammered a shot across goal. Hanson looked to reach the ball on the stretch but he could only poke over the bar from inside the six yard box.
Frustrating as it was to see Hanson's effort - surely a match-winner if on target - go over, there were still plenty of positives to take from City's rain-soaked afternoon in Lancashire.
Morris looked bright on his return from injury, while Routis certainly played his part in the Bantams' welcome clean sheet. With City fans slightly out-numbering the Bury followers in the home stands, there was also the unique sight of Bradford supporters in both ends at Gigg Lane!