Tranmere Rovers 1 Bradford City 2
Second half goals from Jon Stead and Aaron Mclean proved enough to defeat ten-man Tranmere Rovers and consign them to relegation into League 2. An early goal from Jason Koumas gave Rovers a dream start but ultimately City responded strongly against 10 men after Junior Brown was sent off for a late lunge on Nathan Doyle in the first half.
Tranmere went into the game on the brink of relegation and needing at least a point to have any chance of staying up and they got off to the best possible start with an early goal inside 5 minutes. Jason Koumas beat Nathan Doyle in a 50-50 challenge before curling a shot towards goal that couldn’t be kept out by Jon McLaughlin and crept over the line.
At this point the hosts stood a great chance of survival but ultimately the turning point would turn out to be Junior Brown’s red card for a poor, lunge on Nathan Doyle which left the referee Graham Scott with no choice but to give him his marching orders.
Jon Stead went close before the close of the first half as he brought down Stephen Darby’s cross well before firing wide of the target; both teams went into the break however with the score at 1-0 and City with a man advantage – the game in the balance going into the first half.
The Bantams were pushing for an equaliser early in the second half; Stead went close with a shot that went over the bar after he’d latched onto Adam Drury’s cross, then Drury himself went close with a half volley from a tight angle after he’d met Darby’s cross at the far post.
Mark Yeates was beginning to look very lively finding space well in the final third, the introduction of Kyle Bennett as a substitute was also asking plenty questions of Rovers’ back line. City came agonisingly close to finding the equaliser after great work by Jon Stead; good close control allowed him to get past Ian Goodison in the area before he teed up Aaron Mclean for a goal bound shot which was blocked superbly by Ash Taylor.
Tranmere had a penalty appeal turned down at one end after Ryan Lowe was felled in the area, the incoming tackle however was timed perfectly by Rory McArdle.
The Bantams did find the equaliser with 9 minutes to go. Substitute James Meredith did well to produce a low cross which was deflected into the path of Stead who rifled a shot into bottom corner from 12 yards right under the noses of the 2,000 or so travelling supporters.
The hosts came close twice in quick succession as Ryan Lowe was denied by a block from Meredith after Koumas had ended a strong run with a neat reverse pass into the path of their leading marksman.
Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro then wasted a glorious opportunity to bring his side level; Koumas’ ball over the top saw him emerge through on goal but he made a real mess of an attempted lob which McLaughlin read easily much to the frustration of the home supporters.
City won the game late on though to end the season with a win; Bennett teed Aaron Mclean up for a low drive that went across Jason Mooney and into the far corner to send the noisy visiting supporters into rapturous celebration.
All in all a terrific end to a tough first season in League 1 which ended up with The Bantams finishing eleventh in the League – Bring on next season!