Bradford City 2 Milton Keynes Dons 1
The Bantams recorded a fantastic and a deserved victory against one of the league’s high flyers, Milton Keynes Dons, to move back into the play-off places. City were the better of the two teams for the main part of the game but fell behind to Dele Alli’s 54th minute after an unfortunate error by Jordan Pickford was capitalised on. Billy Clarke equalised just a couple of minutes later before some excellent work by Jon Stead allowed James Hanson to show composure and beat David Martin for the winning goal.
Phil Parkinson made one change to the side that were held to a 2-2 draw at the weekend as Billy Clarke came in for his first start since before Christmas, replacing Andy Halliday who dropped to the bench for this one. Jordan Pickford started in goal despite his straight red card at the weekend which was subsequently rescinded by the FA.
The visitors probably made a more assured start to the game, seeming a tad too comfortable in possession of the ball and it took a good block by Billy Knott, playing on the left side of midfield, the position vacated by Halliday, to divert Darren Potter’s first time drive away from goal after Carl Baker had squared to him on the edge of the area.
City had a couple of efforts on goal as they looked to get more and more into the game and after Billy Clarke lashed a half volley over the bar from 15 yards out following James Hanson’s flick on, Filipe Morais, a man bang in form saw a first time shot from inside the 18 yard box diverted behind for a corner kick by Dean Lewington after a Hanson knock-down had caused chaos once again.
A couple of half decent efforts from Danny Green and Jonson Clarke-Harris, so often a nemesis for City last season, almost proved a scare for the hosts. A couple of efforts towards goal by Clarke and Knott showed City’s intent on getting the opening goal.
The Bantams were looking a threat from set-pieces towards the close of the first half and after Dean Lewington headed alertly over his own crossbar to prevent Andrew Davies getting on the end of Morais’ corner, Jordan Spence hooked the ball clear from inside the 6 yard box to deny Rory McArdle the opportunity of getting on the end of Stead’s looping cross towards the far post.
In additional time at the end of the first half, City almost took the lead. After an MK Dons move had broken down, Billy’s Knott and Clarke led a counter attack and after the former had fell the ball to the overlapping latter, he scuffed a shot which trickled inches wide of the far corner.
Despite a bright start to the second half by The Bantams, the visitors took the lead. Jordan Pickford didn’t connect cleanly with a back pass and his clearance fell kindly to Clarke-Harris with a run on goal and the Rotherham United loanee fed Dele Alli to composedly slot the ball past the City stopper from close range - an unfortunate error had given Karl Robinson’s side the lead.
The visitors’ lead didn’t last long as Billy Clarke, on his return to the starting eleven, grabbed the equaliser, and a deserved one at that. Gary Liddle rose above Alli in the air to head the ball back into the danger area and Clarke came up with an excellent first touch before slamming the ball past David Martin.
The Dons’ Northern Ireland international full back Lee Hodson missed a gilt edged chance to put his team back in front in the game. Carl Baker, who looked one of the outstanding visiting players this evening, hit a free kick towards goal which was palmed away by Pickford but Hodson didn’t react quite quick enough to turn the ball towards and instead put the ball wide.
City had the lead on 70 minutes and it was James Hanson who struck with his second goal in as many games. Jon Stead produced some neat close control to evade a couple of players before threading a ball to Hanson who beat Martin to the ball and put the ball in the back of the net.
Baker passed up a great chance of levelling the proceedings when he fired inches wide of the target from the edge of the area after he’d turned neatly to escape the attentions of Knott and Hanson.
James Hanson was proving the usual aerial threat and nuisance for the opposing defenders and after he’d nodded Morais’ corner into the path of Andrew Davies, the ball bounced up awkwardly to him and he could only scoop the ball over the ball from close range.
There was still time for a chance for either team in the last couple of minutes. Jordan Pickford made a superb save to tip Baker’s low shot round the post after substitute Devante Cole had flicked the ball into the midfielders path only for the stopper to deny him in excellent fashion.
James Hanson almost added gloss to the scoreline; he met Morais’ corner with a header in the ground that bounced up towards goal and Hodson jumped to head the ball off the line and keep the difference at one goal.
That was that though and after a fair few minutes of additional time, City held on to record a superb victory against a team who could have gone top of the table with victory tonight but instead it was Phil Parkinson’s back into the play off places for the night.