Bradford City 1 Cambridge United 0
The Bantams dispatched League Two Cambridge United to progress to the third round of the Checkatrade Trophy thanks to Nicky Law’s smartly taken second half header. Perhaps a touch slow out of the blocks in what was a fairly dour first half stalemate, Stuart McCall’s men proved worthy winners after producing a real energetic second half display and were perhaps slightly unfortunate to not win by a greater margin. Cambridge competed well but ultimately it was the higher ranked of the two sides that claimed the victory.
The opening exchanges of this tie didn’t provide us with a great deal to write home about and the first half-chance of the night belonged to the visitors. Shaun Derry’s side conjured up some great interplay and Harrison Dunk’s neat pass around the corner gave George Maris the chance to shoot and he hit the side netting with an angled drive.
City, as probably expected had the lion’s share of possession and showed some examples of really attractive short passing play; Nicky Law instigated a free flowing move which saw Mark Marshall have a deflected shot that went just wide after he’d latched onto Haris Vuckic’s nicely weighted pass into the 18 yard box.
From Filipe Morais’ resulting corner, Rory McArdle rose the highest at the far post to see a downward header go inches wide of the post and that was arguably as close as the Bantams came in a first half which was far from frenetic.
It’s been a long time on the sidelines for Tony McMahon who hasn’t featured for the best part of four months since he scored a brace in August’s 3-1 home win against Coventry City; he was introduced as a substitute midway through the first half in place of Stephen Darby at right back to bring probably the loudest cheer from an anticipated reduced crowd who did their best to welcome him back into the fray.
The visitors were riding on the back a thumping victory against Coventry City in the FA Cup last weekend and came into this one with confidence despite Shaun Derry making five changes to that starting eleven. Dunk came reasonably close with a low drive from the edge of the box after Maris’ free kick had broken into his path.
With the next couple of chances that Cambridge had, they most certainly should’ve taken the lead. After McArdle had attempted to dispossess Maris in the box, the ball broke to former Gillingham man Ben Williamson and under limited pressure, he lashed an angled shot wide of the target when he should have been testing Sattelmaier at the very least.
United skipper Leon Legge was up from the back to cap the next opportunity, but he was denied inside the box by a tackle incoming from McArdle who came in for his first appearance since last month’s Checkatrade Trophy defeat at Morecambe, once again pairing Nathan Clarke in the heart of the defence.
The visitors undoubtedly had the better of the chances in the opening forty-five minutes and Maris had another attempt which Sattelmaier had to save well after Piero Mingoia’s cross had caused City some problems.
Marshall picked up possession off Law and shrugged off his marker before cutting inside onto his right foot and seeing a low drive from the edge of the box held onto well by United stopper Will Norris. Before the half was out, there was still time for former Barnsley man George Maris, who was heavily involved in the first half, see a thumping drive pushed behind by Sattelmaier.
City started the second half with a higher intensity to their play and a great run and reverse pass by Jordy Hiwula presented Haris Vuckic with a sight of goal inside the 18 yard box, but his angled drive hit the side netting to let the visitors off the hook for a lapse in concentration within the first sixty seconds of the restart.
Daniel Devine was brought on as a half time substitution in place of Timothee Dieng in the middle of the park and he conjured up a superb driving run down the centre of the pitch before picking out Marshall to his left; the wide midfielder got into the box but saw an eventual angled shot held onto by Norris.
Despite the visitors going close through Williamson after he’d seen a shot blocked following Blair Adams’ knock down, it was City who looked the more likely and the goal did come shortly afterwards. Law had just been moved into a more advanced midfield position after Vuckic made way for Josh Cullen and his first touch since the tactical change was to plant a header into the far corner after latching onto Morais’ cross.
Luke Berry was the four-goal hero in last weekend’s FA Cup victory for Cambridge and shortly after coming on as a substitute, he attempted a 30 yard free kick which beat the wall but went a yard or so wide of Sattelmaier’s right-hand post.
Tony McMahon showed no signs of rustiness during his first appearance in what will have seemed an age; he produced an impressive performance and planted a shot wide of the target from the edge of the box after the energetic Law had once again carved the visitors open with a surging run forward.
Law was the best player on the night for Stuart McCall’s side as they ultimately ensured a place in the third round of the competition; he went down under a challenge from Tom Dallison after latching onto Jordy Hiwula’s incisive pass and was probably unlucky not to get a spot kick but fortunately he proved to be a deserved match-winner.
Despite the introduction of key men Luke Berry and Uche Ikpeazu, Cambridge’s threat was very much muffled in the second half although the latter did his best to force penalties in the final minute. The former Watford man provided himself with half a yard of space in the box before seeing a well-struck curler go inches over the bar via a slight deflection.
It proved to be a good workout for the Bantams against an efficient League Two side in Cambridge United; City were perhaps a little bit slow out of the traps initially but they took a firm hold of the game in the second half and deservedly proceeded to the next round of the Checkatrade Trophy; the last sixteen of the competition.