Notts County 1 Bradford City 1
The Bantams left Meadow Lane with a point but perhaps felt it should have been more following a high tempo second half display. The first half was quite evenly fought but City took the lead on the stroke of half time; Francois Zoko came up with some excellent play to beat Hayden Mullins before crossing for Jon Stead to score. Despite having several chances to kill the game off, City were pegged back as Mike Edwards headed past Jak Alnwick in the 76th minute.
The first chance of the game fell to County, who in honesty, probably had the better share of the chances in the first half. Mullins delivered a cross into the area towards Garry Thompson and the ball dropped to Blair Adams who was forward from his left wing back position, but his shot was blocked before being gathered by debutant stopper Jak Alnwick.
Mark Yeates, who was impressive in the mid-week draw at Coventry City and found the equaliser that night with a free kick, curled a free kick towards goal from long range. Roy Carroll spilled the shot and Stead connected with a follow up which the veteran stopper held relatively comfortably on this occasion.
Yeates was clearly brimming with confidence when running towards County’s ball with the ball at his feet and after getting the better of Curtis Thompson, his audacious attempt on the half volley from some 25 yards, went wide of the target on this occasion.
Leroy Lita, who had recently arrived at Meadow Lane on loan from Barnsley, beat the offside trap to emerge with the ball in the area, but his eventual shot from a tight angle was blocked behind for a corner after Stephen Darby came in the make the block - the skipper had yet another solid performance for the team.
There was a big chance for Garry Thompson shortly after, in his second time facing the Bantams since his departure in the summer. Former Celtic winger Paddy McCourt delivered an inch perfect cross for Thompson to power a header towards goal but Gary MacKenzie, who was in at centre half for Andrew Davies, made a crucial block to deny him.
Curtis Thompson was probably the livelier of the two Thompson’s in County’s starting eleven and he carved an opening for himself on this occasion. He sparked a Notts counter attack and opting to not pick a pass, he fired a shot wide of the target from the edge of the area.
Following a lengthy stoppage after Blair Adams was down and looking in trouble following a collision with Gary Liddle, City took the lead. Francois Zoko, who was starting his second successive match played a major role in this one; picking up the ball in the left channel, he bolted past Hayden Mullins before clipping a perfectly weighted cross for Jon Stead to volley home his 9th goal of the season in the claret and amber of Bradford.
The Bantams started the second half brilliantly and chances were beginning to open up. Stephen Darby, forward from right back, pulled the ball back to Stead and he held the ball up for Mark Yeates to shoot, but his curling shot from 18 yards was tame and dealt with easily by Carroll.
Another opportunity came City’s way and this time it was Zoko at the heart of the action; Gary MacKenzie headed the ball back into the area to keep the attack alive and Zoko controlled to bear down on goal, but as he looked to shoot, Gary Jones crowded him out, allowing Carroll to gather.
Matty Dolan was back in the team for a start, his second in close proximity, following his start in last week’s home victory against Crawley Town and he has a commendable performance in the heart of the midfield. After Yeates had seen a shot blocked, the ball came out to Dolan who hammered a low drive from 25 yards which went inches wide of the target.
It was all City at this stage, and that is an unbiased analysis, the chances really were all going to the away side. Christopher Routis, who was also in for a rare start, was the one faced with the opportunity. Yeates’ free kick fell to him the far post, but his volley hit the side netting, with some travelling supporters on the far side thinking the Bantams had re-taken the lead.
An even better chance came from the resulting corner; Yeates’ delivery was headed towards goal by James Hanson, who had come on for Stead just seconds earlier, Carroll kept the ball out and as Zoko looked to hunt down a tap-in, County cleared the ball from on the line. A real let off for the hosts.
Francois Zoko was having an eye catching display on the return to Meadow Lane following a spell at the club between 2012 and 2013. The Ivorian went on a lung busting run, getting the better of a few players before finding Hanson through on goal with a clever pass. As the big man was about to tuck away his 12th of the season, Mullins came in to make a fantastic goal saving tackle.
Zoko almost turned provider again with the Hanson chance and he had a chance of his own to add a goal to his assist. Filipe Morais hooked the ball over his own head and into the area but his downward header was somehow smothered by the veteran Roy Carroll.
County found the equaliser on 76 minutes, and it was Mike Edwards who got it. The defender rose highest to head Gary Jones corner past Alnwick after the former City hero had won the corner himself.
James Hanson almost won it in the dying moments; latching onto Morais’ cross, he looped a header into the air and with Carroll rooted to the spot, the ball dropped fractionally wide of the far corner. A neutral would probably agree, it would have been just rewards.
County, in fairness, looked for the winner themselves and went close through Curtis Thompson and substitute Hungarian former Borussia Dortmund forward Balint Bajner but the result was a draw, a draw that left City in ninth position going into Monday night’s FA Cup Quarter-Final showdown at Reading.