The Bantams got off to the desired start in their Checkatrade Trophy campaign with a victory against Stoke City. The visitors fielded a side made up predominantly of Under-23s players although senior duo Charlie Adam and Marc Muniesa played ninety minutes for the Potters. Stoke had plenty of shots in an action-packed match but City defended resolutely and got the win thanks to a goal from Timothee Dieng - his first since joining the club in the summer.
Reece Webb-Foster was given the nod to make his first start for the club; he led the line well and came a whisker away from giving City the lead after just three minutes. Vincent Rabiega flicked the ball into Webb-Foster’s path inside the box and he saw a shot from a tight angle trickle agonisingly close to finding the bottom corner.
Stoke looked bright in large parts throughout the game and they came close minutes later through Julien Ngoy. The Belgian forward got past Dieng and into the box before beating Nathaniel Knight-Percival; his eventual shot was kept out by Rouven Sattelmaier though, another player making his debut for the club.
Adam was certainly the most senior player in a very youthful Stoke side, and he almost gave the visitors the lead with a tremendous strike. The Scottish midfielder connected sweetly with a left-footed volley from over 25 yards out; the ball was dipping towards goal but Sattelmaier was equal to it with an outstanding save.
Rabiega was another member of City's squad making his first start for the club and the Polish forward looked like one of the more livelier players on the field before going off injured just after the half hour mark. He saw a shot blocked in the area shortly before going off after latching onto Kwame Boateng’s incisive through ball. Boateng, a second year apprentice, shone in the central midfield alongside Daniel Devine.
Eddy Lecygne saw a shot go marginally wide of the target; the young Frenchman’s attempt from 20 yards out deflected off his team-mate Oliver Shenton before fortunately bouncing wide of the post with Sattelmaier wrong-footed. Thibaud Verlinden then joined the list of Stoke player to be superbly denied by the German goalkeeper with a curling, goal-bound shot from twenty yards tipped over the bar.
After Stoke's efforts on goal, City took the lead shortly before the interval through Dieng. Webb-Foster delivered an accurate free kick into the box from the left hand side and the French utility man, in at centre-half, glanced a header across goal and into the bottom corner past Harry Isted.
Just before the break, Sattelmaier had to be at his very best to deny the visitors an equalising goal. Three attempts in the space of 60 seconds; one from Adam and two from Shenton had to be dealt with by a man who was arguably one of City’s best players on an evening which conjured up another clean sheet.
Matthew Kilgallon was brought on at half time for his first appearance in a Bradford City shirt and he looked solid and calm in possession of the ball alongside Dieng, with Knight-Percival moving across to left back.
Following Rabiega's injury in the first half, apprentice Ellis Hudson was brought in for his first senior appearance for the club and he produced an energetic display, which was clearly appreciated by the 1,400 or so home fans inside the Northern Commercials Stadium.
City came close to doubling the lead midway through the second half; Jordy Hiwula was inches away from turning home Knight-Percival’s dangerous low cross into the six yard box but the Huddersfield loanee couldn't get a clean enough connection after the move was started following some great play by Darby.
Webb-Foster was denied a first senior goal after cutting inside into the box; he did ever so well to get into a promising position but his attempt, which was seemingly goal-bound, was blocked vitally by Muniesa.
Stoke skipper Lewis Banks was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence after producing a rash challenge to bring down the lively Hudson who looked to make a bee-line for the penalty area.
The dismissal left the visitors with an uphill task for the final quarter of the game but City reduced themselves down to ten-men as well a few minutes later when Darby made his way off the field with all the subs used up.
The captain’s departure from the pitch was fortunately nothing to do with a fresh injury though, just precautionary given his return from injury.
Adam’s personal shot tally throughout the game probably ended up at close to double figures after seeing a tremendously powerful shot go a yard or so over the bar late on. Muniesa was then denied by a goal-saving block from Kilgallon just before the end.
Adam, the former Liverpool man, had one more pop at goal with virtually the last kick of the game and it was an attempt which was painfully close to finding the top corner. His well struck shot on the half volley from 25 yards had City holding their breath, but the ball went over the bar to leave Sattelmaier’s deserved debut clean sheet very much in tact.