Bradford City 0 Preston North End 3
The Bantams went down to automatic promotion chasing Preston North End following second half goals from Paul Gallagher, Daniel Johnson and Chris Humphrey. Christopher Routis was sent off early on in the game for denying a goal scoring opportunity after City had started the game in lively fashion. Despite a positive performance by Phil Parkinson’s men, the man disadvantage eventually told and North End recorded the victory.
Despite a very bright start to the game by City who did look the side in the ascendancy in a match that meant just as much to both teams with plenty left to play for, they suffered a major setback with a red card. Ben Williams cleared the ball upfield and Bailey Wright sent it to back where it came from with a thunderous header, Joe Garner read the situation and emerged through on goal; Routis tussled with him in an attempt to quell danger and in turn brought the frontman down and referee Mark Heywood instantly brandished red.
The dismissal of Routis, who was stepping in at centre half in place of the injured Gary MacKenzie was a blow for City, but they still had the next goal scoring opportunity in the game. James Hanson knocked the ball down for runners to oblige and Billy Knott met the ball with a half volley which deflected before being held by Sam Johnstone.
With five minutes to the interval, Preston had their first big opportunity and it was one they should’ve scored in all honesty. Highly rated midfielder Daniel Johnson took hold of a loose ball before driving forward into space, the ball eventually found Paul Gallagher who fed the ball to Garner wide in the 18 yard box to curl a first time shot millimetres wide of the far post.
The Bantams were down to ten men but they were putting in a great shift and should certainly have been going in at half time ahead after a gilt edged chance was spurned. Tom Clarke attempted to pass the ball back to Johnstone and Jon Stead intercepted to go through on goal, but he couldn’t find the finishing touch as the Manchester United loanee stopper made a save.
Seconds into the second half, Preston had a penalty. A ball into the area saw Jermaine Beckford get to the ball and Gary Liddle, who was standing in at centre half, brought the former Leeds United striker down and the referee didn’t hesitate to award a penalty; a far from ideal start to the second half.
Paul Gallagher stepped up to take the penalty and saw his attempt saved brilliantly by Ben Williams, but he followed in with the rebound to send the large number of visiting supporters behind the goal into rapturous celebration.
It wasn’t long before Simon Grayson’s men got the second goal and one that realistically killed any chances City had of getting something from the game. City couldn’t clear their lines quickly enough and Johnson ran onto a loose ball to hammer a shot into the top corner from just inside the 18 yard box, a very good finish to put his team firmly in control.
Just after the hour mark, they were denied a third by some great goalkeeping from Ben Williams. Preston looked hungry for more goals and Beckford’s header, from Neil Kilkenny’s cross, looked to be heading into the back of the net but for the agility and quick reactions of Williams, who made a fingertip save.
Mark Yeates was the match winner at Deepdale back in November, and it wasn’t long before he was involved following his introduction from the substitutes bench. He hit the wall with one free kick and although his second free kick beat the wall a couple of minutes later, Johnstone was there to make a routine save.
City came back into the game with 15 minutes to go after Preston’s spell of dominance and began to play some attractive attacking play. Some one touch football in the midfield department allowed Knott the chance to run towards the area before seeing a shot blocked really well by a Preston defender.
With just over ten minutes remaining, City made a double substitution and one notable one was the introduction of second year apprentice Dylan Mottley-Henry to make his first team debut. The change was one that was great to see and just reward for a player, like Reece Webb-Foster, who has done really well for the youth team this season.
Billy Clarke must have thought he’d pulled a goal back for City when his fabulous half volley from 25 yards headed towards goal, but Johnstone made an outstanding save to keep his clean sheet in tact.
A minute later, Preston added a third and a gloss on the game which was really harsh on City. Winger Chris Humphrey hit a shot from the edge of the area which took a little deflection off James Meredith before looping up and over Williams in City’s goal to seal the deal and take a big step towards a place in the Championship.
The Bantams had another opportunity of their own shortly after; Mark Yeates delivered an outswinging corner into the area and Hanson powered a header towards goal, only to see Kilkenny clear off the line; how much more City had to do to get on the scoresheet in the game remained a mystery.
All that City had to offer had been offered and they must have been shattered from playing against one of the division’s top sides with 10 men for the vast majority of the game. Preston held on for a victory which helped them massively in the promotion hunt, but did put a bit of a dent in City’s hunt for a place in the Play-Offs.