The Bantams registered another superb victory to go a point off the League One summit this Saturday afternoon after seeing off manager-less Shrewsbury Town at the Northern Commercials Stadium. City controlled the first half and went into the half time break a goal to the good thanks to Nicky Law’s first goal of the season. Stuart McCall’s men were far from their best in the second period but put the icing on the cake deep into injury time with Haris Vuckic scoring from the penalty spot after Daniel Devine was felled in the area.
City started the game looking to take control of possession and take the game to Shrewsbury, who lost their manager during the week, but it was caretaker manager Danny Coyne’s side who had the first attempt of the afternoon. Jim O’Brien fed the ball to Ian Black who got the ball out of his feet quickly before seeing a 20 yard drive go a couple of yards wide of the target.
A few minutes later, City had the ball in the net through the unlikely source of Stephen Darby after he’d connected with Mark Marshall’s low cross to beat Jayson Leutwiler from close range; unfortunately though the flag was already up against Marshall who had strayed into an offside position before delivering an inch perfect cross to the Liverpudlian defender.
Darby was trying to join in City’s attacking play in the early stages of the game, showing a desire to get round Marshall and down the flank and at times into the box. He was picked out by Jordy Hiwula after initially playing the ball to him and the ball broke free to Timothee Dieng; the French midfielder didn’t hesitate to unleash a first time snapshot towards goal from 18 yards but Leutwiler was in the right place to hold onto the ball relatively comfortably.
A few minutes later City took the lead. Shrewsbury saw an attack break down after Ivan Toney had struck the wall with a free kick and then Joe Riley’s tame clearance went straight into the path of the advancing Filipe Morais; he played a one-two with Marshall before seeing a shot blocked, but Nicky Law made no mistake to fire in the rebound for his first goal since his return to the club in the summer.
Within a minute following the opening goal of the afternoon, Morais was presented with a real chance to double City’s advantage. After being played into the box by Marshall, he cut inside onto his favoured right foot before seeing a goal bound attempt diverted over the crossbar vitally by Town defender Jack Grimmer.
City were really in the ascendancy at this stage and could have scored again shortly afterwards following a handling error by Leutwiler. Morais’ free kick from 25 yards wasn’t held onto by the Swiss stopper and Dieng was the first to the loose ball; he hooked the ball back into a crowded penalty area and Billy Clarke powered a header over the bar to let the visitors off the hook.
Marshall looked lively in the opening forty-five minutes and shortly after seeing a deflected shot held onto by Leutwiler, Shrewsbury’s towering forward George Waring headed the ball wide of the target after connecting with Joe Riley’s cross following some tidy approach play by Toney.
Shrewsbury were certainly quick out of the traps for the second half after a fairly abject first half performance and Toney had threatened early on before Abu Ogogo saw a volley from the edge of the box go over the bar after Riley’s free kick aimed for Adam El-Abd had broken free into his path.
City couldn't get going for a long while in the second half with Shrewsbury applying the pressure in search of an equaliser and there was a big penalty shout about ten minutes in. Stephen Darby appeared to inadvertently handle the ball whilst tussling with Toney in the box, the visitors appealed in vain and although they had a fair shout, Darby’s handball was certainly an unintentional one.
Nathaniel Knight-Percival was making his first appearance against his former club since his departure in the summer and he was one of the key performers for the Bantams. He had a chance of his own after latching onto Morais’ corner delivery to the far post but he couldn’t keep his header underneath the cross bar.
Antoni Sarcevic was brought on as a halftime substitution to try and give the visitors more impetus and he came mightily close with a volley just after the hour mark; the ball bounced invitingly to the former Fleetwood Town man but he was left ruing his mis-fortune as the ball went inches over the bar after he’d connected 20 yards from goal.
Hiwula had a similar opening a couple of minutes later, but after playing a neat one-two with strike partner Billy Clarke, he lashed a volley over just over the bar after connecting cleanly with the ball from the edge of the box at a relatively tight angle, with City in search of a second goal that would surely secure the victory.
Sarcevic had the ball in the net after latching onto the impressive Toney’s intricate pass but the flag was up early for an offside decision against the midfielder and down the other end of the pitch Clarke went close after trying to help on Marc McNulty’s volley towards goal.
Football is a game of fine margins and that point was proven in additional time. Just a couple of minutes after Joe Riley had headed the ball inches wide of the target after connecting with Mat Sadler’s teasing cross, City sealed the game up from the penalty spot. Daniel Devine was sent sprawling to the ground by Sarcevic’s mindless challenge and Haris Vuckic made no mistake from 12 yards for his first goal in a Bradford City shirt.