at Athlone Town Stadium
Kick Off: 7.45pm
Bradford City 4 (Wells 30, Yeates 38, McArdle 40, Connell 84)
Athlone Town 1 (Meredith O.G 23)
Tuesday 16 July 2013
City tasted victory this Tuesday evening in the first of their two pre-season friendlies in Ireland as they comfortably defeated Airtricity First Division side Athlone Town.
After falling behind to an unfortunate James Meredith own goal, City roared back into match with first half goals from Nahki Wells, Mark Yeates and Rory McArdle. Alan Connell then finished the scoring for City with a fourth late on to put the seal on a 4-1 win.
After missing the Bantams’ 4-0 win over Guiseley in their first pre-season match of the summer on Saturday due to slight knocks, both Yeates and Gary Jones were handed starting berths against Athlone.
For Yeates, it was his first appearance in City colours following his arrival at the club earlier this month.
Jones and Yeates were part of a strong City side named by Bantams boss Phil Parkinson at the Athlone Town Stadium.
Strikers Wells and James Hanson were reunited in attack for the first time this summer, while four other key members of last season’s campaign - Stephen Darby, Meredith, Nathan Doyle and McArdle – were also named in the starting eleven.
Before kick-off, Jones was joined by Bradford supporter and mascot for the night, Charlotte Lynch, in leading out Parkinson’s men.
City came agonisingly close to taking the lead with less than eleven minutes played when Hanson crashed a header against the underside of the crossbar following Raffaele De Vita’s far post cross.
The ball bounced down around the goal-line after Hanson’s header against the bar, but no City player was on hand to tap into the empty net and Dan Byrne was able to clear his lines for Athlone.
The Bantams went close again roughly ten minutes later when Jones played Wells into space inside the area.
The Bermudian turned inside of Jeff Flood but the forward’s strike for goal was saved by the legs of Padraig Dunican.
After going closest to breaking the deadlock in the game up until that point, it was City who actually found themselves behind midway through the first period when the unfortunate Meredith could only direct a Neil Harney cross into his own goal.
In an attempt to block out Harney’s cross, the City left back stuck out his head but could only proceed in turning the ball in past a helpless Gary Woods by the ‘keeper’s near post.
City tried to respond almost instantly but Hanson sent a free header narrowly wide of the far post from a Yeates corner.
The pair combined once again later in the half, but this time Hanson turned provider as he cushioned a header back into the path of the lurking Yeates, who saw his looping half-volley from outside the area acrobatically turned over by Dunican.
With City still on the front foot despite the early scoreline going against them, an unmarked Michael Nelson was the next to go close as he glanced a header just past the post from another Yeates corner.
The Bantams’ pressure finally told after half hour, however, when Doyle nipped in to steal possession of the ball before teeing up Wells just inside the Athlone area.
Wells cut inside Byrne before beating Dunican at his near post with a fierce rising drive.
Fresh from levelling things up, City then took the lead of the friendly for the first time just eight minutes later when Yeates rifled a low angled drive into the far bottom corner from just outside the area after his initial attempt to play Jones through on goal had been blocked.
With the goals still coming, Parkinson’s men had a third shortly afterwards when Yeates and De Vita combined at a short corner to give the former the space to whip in a low teasing cross that was bundled home at the far post by McArdle.
The Bantams kept pushing right up until the break, with De Vita going particularly close when Dunican had to spring across his goal to push away a strong strike from the Italian.
Athlone were making a number of changes throughout the game, ensuring there was always a plentiful supply of fresh legs on the pitch for them.
It was one of their starters, Niall Lanigan, though that went close for the home side at the beginning of the second half when he fired narrowly over the bar with a rising drive from a few yards outside of the penalty area.
As promised pre-match by Parkinson, the Bantams boss made sweeping changes just after the hour mark, with nine outfielders all being brought on.
Alan Connell and Garry Thompson were partnered together in attack, Jason Kennedy and Ricky Ravenhill came into central midfield and Kyel Reid joined the game in his usual left wing position.
Following the mass alterations, Carl McHugh led a defence that included apprentice duo Jack Stockdill and Niall Heaton at right back and centre half respectively, plus first year pro Louie Swain at left back.
Only Woods and De Vita kept their places following the planned multiple substitutions.
One of City’s substitutions, Thompson, came within a whisker of netting the Bantams’ fourth twenty minutes from the end when he delightfully lofted the ball over the head of Ryan Matthews before crashing in a powerful half-volley from just inside the area that rattled the crossbar.
Athlone substitute Mark Geoghegan then had a chance to trouble Woods minutes later when a well-timed pass from Lanigan placed his team-mate in behind Swain and with a clear run on in goal.
To Swain's credit though, the makeshift left-back recovered his ground well enough to get a vital toe-end on the ball just as Geoghegan had looked to get a strike in from the edge of the six yard box.
Ten minutes from the end of normal time De Vita left the field of play due to blisters. With Parkinson deciding not to make another substitution, it left City to finish the game with only ten men.
Despite City’s numerical disadvantage though, it didn't stop them from further adding to their goals tally for the night with six minutes left when Connell got the better of Byrne after latching onto a long ball forward before confidently slotting home past Lee Doyle from just inside the area.
Bradford City team
12. Gary Woods
2. Stephen Darby
22. Michael Nelson
23. Rory McArdle
3. James Meredith
15. Raffaele De Vita
18. Gary Jones (c)
19. Nathan Doyle
20. Mark Yeates
9. James Hanson
21. Nahki Wells
1. Jon McLaughlin
4. Ricky Ravenhill (for Jones 61 mins)
5. Louie Swain (for Meredith 61 mins)
6. Niall Heaton (for Nelson 61 mins)
7. Kyel Reid (for Yeates 61 mins)
8. Jason Kennedy (for Doyle 61 mins)
10. Jack Stockdill for Darby 61 mins)
11. Garry Thompson (for Wells 61 mins)
16. Carl McHugh (for McArdle 61 mins)
17. Alan Connell (for Hanson 61 mins)