The Bantams secured a thoroughly deserved victory against Burton Albion, a side who currently sit four points clear at the top of Sky Bet League 1. Kyel Reid’s superb left footed shot left returning stopper Jon McLaughlin no chance to give City the lead thirteen minutes in. Reece Burke doubled the advantage just before the half hour mark after McLaughlin had done well to keep Billy Clarke’s initial effort out. The visitors tried in vain to get back into the game, particularly in the second half, but Phil Parkinson’s men moved up to seventh in the table, just goal difference outside the top six.
City made all the early running in the game, playing at a real high intensity against a visiting team who were, of course, top of the table and brimming with confidence. Jamie Proctor was back in the side up front and he headed onto the roof of the net after Nathan Clarke had helped on Lee Evans’ long throw into his path, but the flag was up for offside against the former Fleetwood man anyway.
With the first real dangerous chance of the game, City took the lead and it was a man in goal-scoring form Reid who broke the deadlock. Billy Clarke was also back in the team with Wes Thomas dropped to the bench and James Hanson who missed out through illness, and the Irishman made a bee-line for the box before finding Reid on the overlap who smashed a sensational shot past McLaughlin on his Valley Parade return.
Burton were denied an equaliser shortly afterwards by some outstanding defending; Nathan Clarke’s unfortunate slip allowed Stuart Beavon to surge down the left hand side before delivering a cross which fell to Calum Butcher and the former Dundee United midfielder saw a shot charged down by Josh Cullen before Ben Williams made a crucial save to deny Mark Duffy.
Just before the half hour mark City doubled the lead through Burke. Billy Clarke turned neatly just outside the box before hitting a low drive towards goal; McLaughlin made a smart save to keep out the initial attempt but Burke was there to tap in from close range, scoring his second goal for the club and his first since September.
Tony McMahon could have made matters even worse for Burton when he connected with Reid’s dangerous cross to the far post, but he may not have been expecting the ball to come his way and he glanced the ball wide of the target; a cleaner connection would probably have beaten McLaughlin.
Williams was unable to gather up a Duffy free kick cleanly into the box just before the break, and after Lucas Akins had pulled the ball back to Beavon, the Burton frontman was denied by the City stopper, who redeemed himself to make an important save at an important time in the game.
City were always going to expect spells of Burton pressure, particularly with Clough’s men chasing the game in desperation and Butcher almost got his side the perfect start to the second half. Beavon was a live wire on occasions and after motoring his way down the left flank, he saw a cross into the box headed a yard or so wide by the head of the Burton central midfielder.
Nathan Clarke has spent most of the season as cover for Burke and McArdle, but when he’s been in the team he has been almost faultless it is fair to say. After doing excellent to stop Duffy in his tracks he launched a superb long pass forward which was brought down on the chest by Proctor before he fired a venomous shot on the volley over the bar.
Burton weren’t creating a mass of chances in the game in all honesty and were trying their luck from distance. After skipper John Mousinho had rasped a volley inches wide of the post from 20 yards, substitute Hamza Choudhury set sights from distance but the Leicester City loanee dragged an attempt comfortably wide of the target.
City wanted a penalty for handball after McMahon had seen a shot diverted away from goal by Damien McCrory; referee Trevor Kettle waved that one away but awarded one a couple of minutes later when Mousinho handled Proctor’s knock down towards Billy Clarke in the box. McMahon stepped up and aimed for the bottom right corner and McLaughlin guessed the right way to deny him his sixth goal of the season and third from the penalty spot.
Burton had one more chance to get back into the game with a goal but defender Shane Cansdell-Sherriff headed inches wide of the target in the last minute of the 90 after connecting with Duffy’s accurate into the box. City braved the four minutes of additional time to record an outstanding victory against a side who still sit clear at the top of the league.