The Bantams recorded a hard fought three points to get back to winning in the ways. Francois Zoko capitalised on a positional error by Town stopper Lewis Price to head home his first goal for the club inside nine minutes. Crawley had their moments in the game, particularly in the second half but City had the correct mentality and stability to ensure that there was to be no late drama and held on for the victory.
James Hanson was back in the team following his recent injury lay-off and he carved out an opening for himself inside the first couple of minutes; he out fought Lewis Young to gain possession and manouvered his way into the area before forcing Lewis Price into a smart stop at his near post.
Another player in the team was Matty Dolan after a season which has seen chances limited for his so far but he came in to start and duly took his chance with a solid display in the heart of midfield. Dolan almost latched onto a loose ball in the area but instead it was Andy Halliday who picked up the ball and fired a low shot marginally wide of the target.
It was all City early on and Francois Zoko got the goal that early pressure deserved; Mark Yeates was involved as he delivered a teasing cross into the area, Price got caught in no man’s land and Zoko leapt to head past the stranded stopper for his first in a Bradford City shirt - with his goal, the Ivorian also got the sponsors’ man of the match and it was a very good performance from him on the night.
Dolan had a half goal scoring opportunity himself after Yeates’ free kick was headed half clear into his path; the bounce however was an awkward one and he could only scoop a half volley over the bar from the edge of the area.
Crawley’s main threat looked like it was going to be on the counter attack and after James Meredith had lost out to Young out wide, counter attack is exactly what they did and the ball was worked to Izale McLeod on the edge of the area, but the frontman could only fire comfortably wide of the target to waste what looked a decent move for Dean Saunders’ men.
Lewis Young, the younger brother of Ashley Young, was at the heart of the action once again and after he saw a cross into the box headed half clear by Rory McArdle, Gwion Edwards had shot that went over the bar, failing to trouble Jordan Pickford in the City goal.
The first chance of the second half belonged to Andy Halliday; the Scot went on a long run, beating three Crawley players before hitting a fierce angled drive narrowly wide of the target. It would’ve been some goal if he had converted but it was a commendable effort anyway.
The visitors were coming back into the game as a contest and were having plenty of possession as they looked to come out of the game with at least a point to show for their efforts and Lee Fowler sliced a shot wide of the target from 20 yards after Mathias Pogba had cut inside from the right to tee him up.
Francois Zoko was involved in the next opportunity as he looked for a second goal. The Ivorian did excellently to retain the ball and play the ball wide to Christopher Routis; his low centre was squirmed away but only into the path of Zoko who saw a low, goalbound shot kept out by veteran centre half Darren Ward.
Izale McLeod had a decent chance for the visitors as time ticked on; Stephen Darby could only head a low cross into his path and he created space for himself before seeing a shot deflect marginally wide of the far corner.
Alan Sheehan was now on as a substitution at this stage and he went close to scoring for the first time since the opening day of the season. Yeates’ free kick was headed on by Gary MacKenzie and a Crawley defender headed the ball up into the air; Sheehan connected cleanly enough with a volley from an angle inside the area but unfortunately the ball went narrowly wide.
Crawley wasted a glorious chance to get themselves level in the game, it was their best chance of the half but it was a chance that they didn’t take. Gavin Tomlin floated a delightful cross towards the far post but McLeod could only glance a header wide of the target when he should’ve been testing Pickford at the very least.
The game opened up late on as Crawley pushed for an equaliser; this subsequently left gaps for the Bantams to expose and two substitutes combined to come close to the second goal. Sheehan fired the ball low and across the six yard box, Jon Stead got to the ball ahead of Richard Wood but on the stretch, he could only turn his attempt over the bar.
Sheehan had another chance of to add gloss to the scoreline in additional time and it was roles reversed with him and Stead. Stead pulled the ball back across the six yard box and Sheehan was there at the far post but he didn’t realise the time he had and blazed wide of the target with a first time effort.
City survived Lee Fowler’s free kick into the penalty area with virtually the last kick of the game to record a much needed three points to keep up the play-off chase going into Saturday’s FA Cup Quarter-Final showdown with Reading.