Bradford City 2 Southend United 2
A second half fight back from The Bantams proved enough to earn a point after they were two goals down at the break after strikes from Gavin Tomlin and Britt Assombalonga gave Phil Brown the best possible start to life as manager of Southend United.
Zavon Hines grabbed a goal back early in the second period and James Hanson headed home the equaliser with on seven minutes left on the clock.
City were making a steady start to the game and were the first of the two sides the test the opposing 'keeper; James Meredith passed infield to Gary Jones who produced a low shot on target that Southend stopper Paul Smith held relatively comfortably.
Minutes later however, the visitors took the lead. Assist specialist Kevan Hurst produced a teasing cross that Jon McLaughlin attempted to punch clear, he couldn't get a clean contact on the ball and Bilel Mohsni fired the loose ball against the base of the post. The ball cannoned straight into the path of leading scorer Gavin Tomlin who made no mistake tapping into an unguarded goal.
The stadium was stunned seconds later when Phil Brown's men hit a second of the afternoon. Rory McArdle was slow to react to a loose ball and Gavin Tomlin wrestled his way into space, his chipped through ball picked out the run of Sean Clohessy who fizzed a low cross into the area that was bundled home by Britt Assombalonga.
If City weren't woken up by the first goal they certainly were by the second and Kyel Reid came the width of the bar away from dragging his side back into the game. A free kick was awarded in The Bantams' favour and Reid stepped up to strike a fierce, dipping effort off the underside of the crossbar with Smith well beaten. The ball bounced invitingly to Hanson who headed towards goal but Luke Prosser was on hand on the line to nod clear.
The hosts were doing all they could to get back into the game but they weren't getting as close to goal as Southend had done on two occasions earlier in the half and this was typified when Zavon Hines shot well over the bar from 20 yards when he had been picked out by a Gary Jones pass.
Southend's attacking duo of Gavin Tomlin and Britt Assombalonga were proving effective and after the latter had burst away from midfield into a pocket of space he produced a firm low shot that Jon McLaughlin did well to hold.
City started the second half brightly and after James Hanson had flicked on a cross, Garry Thompson challenged Paul Smith for the loose ball, the ball came out to Zavon Hines amd he made no mistake in tapping in from 6 yards out. The flag went up on the far side for an offside decision however,when the ref had seemingly seen nothing wrong with goal.
A Bradford goal did come two minutes later and it came from Zavon Hines; James Meredith delivered a low cross which was left by Garry Thompson and hammered into the bottom corner by a brilliant half volley from the flying winger to bring The Bantams very much back into the contest.
With City growing more lively going forward as the game went on, there was always the threat of a Southend counter attack and it was Britt Assombalonga who broke away on this occasion. Shrugging off a challenge from James Meredith the Watford loanee played some sharp passes with Gavin Tomlin before the latter produced a tame shot that really should've been more of a test for Jon McLaughlin.
The Bantams still continued their thorough search for an equalising goal and it was Garry Thompson who was the next to come close; Kyel Reid cut inside from the left flank to find the feet of Thompson who fired a powerful shot a yard or so over the bar.
Gavin Tomlin made up for his earlier tame effort when he burst into space before forcing Jon McLaughlin into a smart save with a firm drive, the ball almost fell into the path of Britt Assombalonga but at full stretch he couldn't get a toe on the ball to direct it towards goal.
United midfielder Tamika Mkandawire came close to restoring his side's two goal cushion but after Tomlin had picked him out with an incisive through ball the Millwall loanee could only turn and rattle a post.
With 7 minutes remaining the Southend resistance was finally broken, after defending resolutely to deny a Bradford equaliser. Substitute Nahki Wells produced a teasing far post cross which was crashed home by the head of James Hanson to hand the hosts a deserved equaliser.
The Bantams almost snatched all three points in injury time when a spritely Nahki Wells cut inside from the byline to force Paul Smith into an alert save; Will Atkinson came even closer when his deflected low strike had to be tipped round the post at full stretch by Smith as it looked to be heading towards the bottom corner.