Bradford City 1 Burton Albion 0
The Bantams secured a play-off place with a hard fought victory over Burton Albion as rivals Exeter City were beaten by Cheltenham Town.
James Hanson's 13th goal of the season on the stroke of half time was enough to provide the hosts with a vital three points. Both teams had several opportunities to score but it was Bradford who came out on top so seal a top 7 finish and virtually end Albion's hopes of automatic promotion.
Buoyed by a large crowd of over 13,000 City started the brighter of the two sides in the early stages of the game and went close when Garry Thompson's teasing cross was claimed desperately by Dean Lyness ahead of the lurking Nahki Wells inside the area.
Burton Albion are in the promotion hunt for good reason and showed their own attacking intent shortly after. Presented with a freekick, Damien McCrory's in-swinger was met powerfully by the head of Ian Sharps and Jon McLaughlin made a smart reaction save. The flag was already up for offside against Sharps however.
City were pushing to create a clear cut chance but they were having to make do with half chances early on. Nahki Wells threaded an intelligent ball through to Stephen Darby inside the area and the defender's low cross was cleared alertly by Ian Sharps ahead of any claret and amber shirts inside Albion's area.
Gary Jones was handed an opportunity to test Lyness when a freekick was awarded in a dangerous area following Anthony O'Connor's foul on James Meredith. The skipper's delivery was headed behind for a corner kick and from the cross that followed, James Hanson's downwards header was cleared from the goalmouth.
Jacques Maghoma will have been identified by many as one of Burton's clear attacking outlets and he showed his spark for the first time just before the break. Running forward down the left hand side he cut inside brilliantly past Jones and Darby before forcing McLaughlin into a neat save with a fizzing low drive.
With around sixty seconds left of the first 45 minutes City took the lead. Ricky Ravenhill produced a hopeful knock forwards and Marcus Holness made a mess of an attempted back header before Wells' stab at goal was blocked by Lyness. The ball came back out to James Hanson who looped a scruffy effort over Lyness and Sharps and into the back of the net.
In the first minute of additional time at end of the first half, Burton skipper Lee Bell was handed a straight red card. As he challenged Zavon Hines for an aerial ball he produced a forceful elbow into the face of the winger and was dismissed immediately by referee Andy Woolmer.
Despite being a man light Burton started the second half brightly a came close within the opening few minutes. Alex MacDonald's corner was headed back across goal by Holness and Sharps could only scoop his shot over the bar with his back to goal.
James Hanson came close to doubling his tally for the game in spectacular fashion seconds later. Bringing down a long punt forward he managed to squeeze past two players before hammering a rising shot narrowly wide of the target with his weaker right foot.
The Bantams weren't looking as dominant as they perhaps should've been, considering the man advantage but were still creating goal scoring opportunities. Garry Thompson was the next to try his luck when he latched onto Hanson's through ball before forcing Lyness into a smart low save with a fierce half volley.
Burton Albion were showing ability to counter attack with menace but it was City who were producing the more blatant chances. Garry Thompson's in-swinging freekick was met by the head of Michael Nelson and the towering centre half's looping header had to be tipped over the bar precariously by Lyness.
Jacques Maghoma presented Damien McCrory with an opportunity to test Jon McLaughlin when he twisted and turned before threading a ball through to the Irishman. McCrory however, could only drive a shot wide of the target from a tight angle inside the area.
Will Atkinson linked up with fellow substitute Alan Connell to come close to scoring City's second of the afternoon with merely ten minutes remaining. After Hines had found him with a pass he played a clever one-two with Connell before trickling a low shot a yard wide of the target from an angle.
Alan Connell was in the thick of the action late on and was proving to be as effective as ever from the bench late on. James Meredith dashed into space ahead of himself and found the feet of Connell with a pass infield; The Bantams' forward proceeded to hammer a shot a yard or so over the bar from long range.
He was at it again seconds later; looking full of energy he found the ball in space just inside the area and produced a powerful angled drive that beat the dive of Dean Lyness but couldn't quite nestle into the bottom corner and fizzed narrowly wide.
The second goal really should've arrived in the last minute of the 90 but Zavon Hines wasted a glorious scoring opportunity. James Hanson roamed forward and played the ball to Alan Connell who then threaded an incisive ball through to Hines; he charged into the area past his marker but he could only slice his shot wide when he should've really at least forced Lyness into a save.
Burton had nothing left in their tank and City held on for a narrow victory to confirm their place in the play-offs ahead of the trip to Cheltenham next Saturday. The Bantams have thoroughly deserved a chance at promotion purely for their hard work and determination throughout the season and particularly to come back from the dead to surge back into the top seven with a terrific run of form in recent weeks.