The Bantams made it back-to-back away victories with an impressive triumph over well-fancied Milton Keynes Dons at Stadium MK on Tuesday evening. Josh Cullen scored his first professional goal to give City the lead before Billy Clarke’s wonderful 20 yard strike just five minutes later put Stuart McCall’s side in firm control of the contest. The hosts dominated the second half and City almost held on for another clean sheet but Ed Upson’s goal deep into injury time pulled one back for the Dons.
The home side started brightly and almost went ahead in the opening seconds of this one. Attacking down the right hand side, club record signing Kieran Agard picked out the run of George C Williams with an incisive pass and he saw an angled shot from inside the box go narrowly wide of Colin Doyle’s far post with the City stopper at full stretch.
Despite that early minor scare, City grew into the contest and took the lead after twelve minutes through Cullen, just a few days after a man of the match display at Peterborough United.
Mark Marshall caused all sorts of problems for the home side in the first period and after getting into the box, his shot squirmed under the body of David Martin and was scrambled into the path of Cullen, who forced the ball into the back of the net.
Buoyed by that opening, City doubled the lead and firmly grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck shortly afterwards. A pass infield by James Meredith whilst the MK defence lost their shape saw Billy Clarke turn and make a beeline for goal. He released a left footed hammer shot into the bottom corner from outside the box; almost a carbon copy to the one he scored in the same location a couple of years ago.
The Bantams were producing some threatening, free-flowing attacking football and could, and probably should, have score more before the half time interval.
Jordy Hiwula, who was playing in a wide left role, saw a shot dealt with by Martin before Marshall was denied what looked set to be a certain goal seven minutes from the interval.
A low centre into the six yard box by Tony McMahon was pushed out by Martin only as far as Marshall deep inside the box. The Bantams winger looked set to smash home but his effort was blocked by a brilliant goal-saving tackle from Paul Downing.
Ed Upson was one of the brighter sparks in Karl Robinson’s side and his free kick from a tight angle was tipped over the bar alertly by the towering frame of Colin Doyle on the stroke of half time as the hosts looked to find a way back into the contest.
In truth, the majority of play belonged to MK Dons in the second half and they came close with their first opportunity after the break. Daniel Powell’s cross evaded Agard and James Meredith in the middle before falling kindly to Williams behind them. He looked set to release a shot but he was denied by a vital recovering challenge by Cullen.
It was Romain Vincelot's turn to make an important intervention a few minutes later; Upson’s superbly weighted pass had Agard looking set to have a pop on goal but the French stand-in defender produced a great challenge in what was another eye-catching display from him in a Bradford City shirt.
Williams looked lively for the home side and after firing in a volley from the edge of the box that was held by Doyle, he then saw effort go inches wide of the target after he’d been picked out by George Baldock in a promising position later on.
Baldock was playing an instrumental role in an advanced right full back position and he was the provider once again; this time teeing up Upson, the former Yeovil Town and Millwall midfielder saw a shot from 25 yards come back off the post before the ball was helped behind for a corner alertly by Vincelot.
Just after the hour, the home side looked to have had a decent penalty turned down on first viewing; Dons’ skipper Dean Lewington got into the area and went down under a challenge from behind by Marshall. City held their breath but referee Andy Haines wasn’t interested in the appeal and allowed play to continue.
Lewington did come close to scoring shortly afterwards when he headed onto the roof of Doyle's net after he’d connected with Upson’s menacing free kick delivery into the area from the right hand side.
The Dons left back posed a significant aerial threat to City from set-piece situations and he connected with another Upson set-piece; his attempt was on target this time but it was held onto alertly low down in a crowded penalty area by Doyle.
Deep into injury time, Karl Robinson's side did pull one back. Baldock’s cross from the right hand side was powered against the bar by the head of Downing and there was little City could do to prevent Ed Upson scrambling in the follow up from close range.
There wasn’t realistically enough time for the hosts to cause any more harm to City’s quest to register three points, however, and they duly held on for a victory. Another excellent victory on the road for McCall’s men and the mood is certainly a positive one going into the weekend’s home clash against Coventry City.