The Bantams recorded a morale-boosting home victory this Tuesday evening after coming from behind to beat an energetic Fleetwood Town side at the Northern Commercials Stadium. Using a diamond formation and with Jordy Hiwula, Filipe Morais and Haris Vuckic all added to the side, City didn’t really get going in the first half and fell behind to Bobby Grant’s goal just after the half hour mark. Stuart McCall was forced into bringing on Billy Clarke early for the injured Marc McNulty and he set up Morais’ leveller on the stroke of half time. Clarke himself then scored the winner from the penalty spot in the second half after Timothee Dieng was pulled back in the box.
Grant, a player who would go on to score Fleetwood’s opening goal, looked lively in the early stages and after a surge down the right hand side and into the penalty area, he saw a dangerous low centre cut out importantly by James Meredith.
Vuckic was in for his first start of the season and he produced a similar run down the left hand side to spark City into their first attacking involvement in the game. The Slovenian attempted to clip a cross towards Hiwula just inside the penalty area but the ball being in the air for so long allowed the visitors the chance to clear their lines.
In from the start after a lively cameo at Bolton Wanderers at the weekend, Hiwula latched onto Josh Cullen’s pass and sped past Conor McLaughlin before seeing a shot from a tight angle blocked away alertly by Chris Neal.
Morais went close with a shot from the edge of the box before former City frontman Devante Cole spurned the best opportunity of the game so far.
Of all people, it was Cullen who saw an uncustomary loose pass latched onto by Cole to give the forward a sight of goal. The Fleetwood striker moved past Romain Vincelot and into the box but he saw a shot kept out brilliantly by Colin Doyle, who up to then had little to do.
City looked the more likely of the two teams to break the deadlock in the first twenty minutes; Meredith saw a deflected right-footed shot held onto by Neal before Marc McNulty fired a shot inches wide of the target after he’d latched onto Morais’ inventive pass towards the six yard box.
Shortly afterwards though, McNulty collided with Neal as he looked to get to Vuckic’s pass before the Fleetwood stopper. The collision left the pair of them on the ground and the Scottish forward suffered enough from the challenge to be replaced before the half time interval by Billy Clarke.
With the next chance of the evening, Fleetwood took the lead. Latching onto David Ball’s pass down the right hand side, Grant surged away from Nathaniel Knight-Percival before slamming the ball into the roof of the net and past Doyle from a tight angle.
Vuckic was denied by some outstanding goalkeeping in City’s recent home draw against Bristol Rovers and he was denied once again on the stroke of half time. With almost his first touch, Billy Clarke delivered a superb first time cross to the far post and Vuckic helped the ball towards the bottom corner, only for Neal to somehow claw it away when most inside the ground were on their feet about to celebrate.
Billy Clarke got City ticking in the final third and after going close with a header from just inside the box, he latched onto a pass over the top from Vuckic and cut the ball back to Morais, who slammed a first time shot into the roof of the net from 10 yards out to bring the hosts back on level terms virtually on the half time whistle.
The second half didn’t start as frantically as it was to end and the first real chance of the second period was one presented to City from the penalty spot after Eggert Jonsson was penalised for a push on Dieng in the box. Billy Clarke stepped up confidently and sent Neal the wrong way to put City in the driving seat.
Fleetwood made a double sub shortly after going behind, introducing Alex Jakubiak and Ashley Hunter, and the latter came close with his first real involvement. Stephen Darby headed Ball’s cross half clear, Jimmy Ryan locked the ball into the penalty area but Hunter dragged a shot a yard or so wide of the target.
Fleetwood sensed a way back into the game and really pushed for the equalising goal in the final twenty minutes of the game. Uwe Rosler’s side bombarded City with balls into the penalty area but the defensive unit stood up to the test really well.
Substitute Mark Marshall almost made the game safe for City in the final minute of the regular ninety; he picked up the ball and surged forward before showing a trick to beat Bell and see a fierce angled drive pushed behind alertly by Neal.
The Bantams still had four minutes of additional time to resist the attacking push coming from Fleetwood. City did indeed hold on for victory though, and it was one which pushed them up to third in the Sky Bet League One table, making McCall's men unbeaten after the opening ten fixtures of the season.