Gillingham 3 Bradford City 0
The Bantams endured a difficult start to 2016 with a testing defeat at the hands of an in-form Gillingham side. City were two goals down in little over ten minutes; well taken goals by Bradley Dack and Rory Donnelly had Justin Edinburgh’s side in firm control. City had opportunities to get back into the contest ultimately it was the home side that added to their tally, Doug Loft rounding off a miserable afternoon in Kent with his side’s third goal.
Dack is a player that may be subject to interest from club’s further up the ladder during the January transfer window, and he showed his capabilities by opening the scoring after just four minutes with a strike from 25 yards. He was allowed the space to get his head up, before firing a shot into the bottom corner past Ben Williams to give the hosts a dream start.
Just eleven minutes into the game, Gillingham doubled their lead to take firm control of the fixture. Donnelly got into the penalty box by playing a neat one-two with Dack, he then proceeded to place a superb shot past Williams from a tight angle inside the box.
With City on the ropes at this point, Donnelly could have doubled his own tally barely a minute or so later. He got in behind down the right hand side and chipped the ball over the approaching Williams but a recovering Stephen Darby was on hand to clear the ball off the line.
City’s first chance of the game came a few minutes later, and it was one that almost produced the game’s next goal. Tony McMahon whipped a free kick into the area and Gary Liddle’s header towards the bottom corner was saved brilliantly low to his right by Gillingham stopper Stuart Nelson.
The chance started a flurry of openings for City. McMahon was denied by Nelson at his near post when the midfielder struck powerfully for goal after Devante Cole’s clever back heel had found him in the box.
From the resulting corner, Reece Burke saw a header cleared off the line by John Egan before Rory McArdle’s follow up was somehow kept out and grasped onto by Nelson.
At this stage, it looked like the Bantams were having the better of the chances. The recalled Cole was at the heart of a golden opportunity to get back amongst the goals just before the half hour mark.
Kyel Reid delivered an inviting cross into the six yard box but with the ball bouncing up awkwardly at the striker, Cole could only fire over the bar from close range.
Early in the second half, City were dealt with a sizable blow. Burke was send tumbling towards the advertising hoarding following a coming together with Dominic Samuel and had to be replaced Nathan Clarke.
The young defender suffered a deep cut to his right wrist for the clash with the sponsor-boards. The West Ham loanee was also sent to hospital for checks to see if he had broken the wrist.
City really needed to be at their attacking best to break down a resolute Gillingham side in the second half but unfortunately it didn’t quite happen for them.
Reid had an effort blocked from a partially cleared City corner. The ball dropped into the path of McArdle inside the area but he too was denied by a challenge from a blue home shirt.
Billy Clarke was brought into the fray and he latched onto Reid’s teasing cross into the area to hit the outside of the woodwork after he and Cole both tried to scramble home from inside the six yard box.
Clarke added another dimension to the game as he looked to get onto the ball, playing in a deeper role. The Irishman lashed a left footed shot wide from an angle inside the area though, as City began to realise it wasn’t going to be their day.
McMahon too saw a volley go wide of the target shortly after before the hosts showed how clinical they were to score a third towards the end of normal time.
Dack and Ryan Jackson produced a sublime interchange before the latter ball the played across the area from deep inside the box.
Gills substitute Loft managed to squeeze in between McMahon and McArdle to smash the ball into the back of the net from close range.
To sum up a dismal day at the office for City, Nathan Clarke was given a red card deep in injury time for pulling down Elliott List as the young substitute striker looked to try and run clear on Williams' goal.