Bradford City 2 Oldham Athletic 0
Billy Clarke’s second half double was enough to give City a deserved three points to get them back to winning ways once again. The first half was a full-blooded battle but Phil Parkinson’s men showed real quality in the second half to carve open the visitors. Clarke back-heeled the opener from a few yards out after a scramble from Billy Knott’s corner and then Knott played a part in the second goal, finding Jon Stead, who was on hand to assist Clarke’s injury-time clincher.
Oldham had the first real chance of the game and it came after just four minutes. Over 1,000 visiting fans in the TL Dallas Stand collectively held their breath as Carl Winchester laid the ball into the path of Conor Wilkinson, but the Bolton Wanderers loanee crashed a shot wide of the target to let City off the hook.
Eventual match-winner Clarke was in and out of the game in the first half but he had chances in the game, even in a first half which was more of a battle. The ball bounced in front of the Irishman and his dipping 25 yard shot almost caught out young goalkeeper Joel Coleman, who back-pedalled and tipped the ball over the bar.
Seconds later, Christopher Routis, who had another pleasing performance in the midfield, lashed at a chance of scoring the opening goal himself; Stephen Darby’s long thrown bounced into his path but he dragged a shot wide from inside the 18 yard box.
City were having the better of the chances despite the early scare in the opening few minutes and James Hanson was the one guilty of spurning the next opportunity. Stead got the better of Latics centre half Anthony Gerrard and crossed to the far post but Hanson’s headed looped wide of the target as Coleman breathed a sigh of relief.
Andrew Davies was marking his return to action following an arm injury which had kept him sidelined since the draw at Coventry City earlier in the month but he lasted just 17 minutes of this one before going off with what initially looked like a hamstring injury. Gary MacKenzie came on in his place and he had a great performance alongside Rory McArdle in the heart of the defence.
Mark Yeates had the next attempt although it was hard to tell if he intended to try and score with what he came up with; he darted past a couple of blue shirts and into the area before clipping a ball towards goal that looped over Coleman and clipped the crossbar.
Gary Liddle, who was named as the sponsors man of the match, was presented with arguably the chance of the half on the stroke of half time; latching onto Clarke’s incisive through ball, Liddle emerged through with Coleman to beat, but he fired his shot just over the bar,
Clarke had the next chance as City raised the bar in the second half and it was an unorthodox attempt to say the least; Yeates’ teasing ball forward was cleared by Coleman but only as far as Clarke, and with the Oldham stopper well out of his goal, he tried a half volley from 40 yards which went wide of the target.
Chances were coming at a premium for the visitors but they were guilty of wasting their first one of the second half. Mike Jones’ cross into the area was contested for by Jonathan Forte and Gary MacKenzie and the ball squirmed out into the path of Winchester but the Northern Ireland international scooped the ball over the bar from around 12 yards out.
In the 56th minute of the game, a section of the Oldham fans began to sing ‘For the 56, stand up’, the act was an admirably respectful one and was met by all round applause from the home fans in the stadium.
The game became a battle for a period once again in the second half, as Oldham looked to break up any fluidity in City’s attacking approach play and the visitors had another chance of their own; Connor Brown drove into the middle from his right back position and found Mike Jones who hit a low shot a yard wide of the target from 25 yards.
Loanee left back Mat Sadler then saw a rasping drive tipped wide brilliantly by Ben Williams after Jones had seen his shot from the edge of the area charged down. It was a good effort and it was as close as the visitors were to get in the second half.
A minute after Sadler’s close call, City took the lead. Introduced as a substitute, Knott delivered a corner into the area which was helped on by McArdle. Stead headed the ball back across goal, James Hanson and Gary MacKenzie both had a stab at forcing the ball home before Clarke back-heeled home for the opener from just a yard or two out.
It was a deserved lead for the team in the ascendancy, and Oldham boss Dean Holden reacted by bringing on former Leeds United winger Dominic Poleon from the subs bench. The Bantams smelt blood, however, and looked for that second goal and it almost came just a couple of minutes later; Stead received an infield pass and with the ball at his feet on the edge of the area, he opted to square for Clarke, who saw a tame, low shot held by Coleman.
City did really well to run the clock down when ahead, something they perhaps haven't managed in some previous home games earlier this season. It wasn’t to be the same old story this time though as Clarke killed the game off in the third minute of the four added on.
Yeates and Knott held onto a short free kick, before the latter picked out Jon Stead in the area for the frontman to cut the ball back to Clarke who picked out the bottom corner with a nicely, placed low shot. The crowd celebrated in relief as the three points were wrapped up, putting City well and truly back into the play-off hunt once again.