The Bantams recorded a huge victory on Saturday afternoon, managing to edge a contest with fellow play-off hopefuls Millwall. The game was turned into a real tight battle due to the windy and rainy conditions and both sides came close in the first half through free kicks; one from Tony McMahon and Joe Martin going inches wide. Steven Davies came off the bench to score the winner with roughly ten minutes to go, heading past Jordan Archer after latching onto Nathan Clarke’s cross.
The visitors had an early appeal for a penalty turned down by referee Darren Bond; Fred Onyedinma is a notable graduate of the club’s academy system and has been a regular for Millwall this season, he collapsed under a challenge from James Meredith, it looked half a shout in all fairness but fortunately for City it was an appeal that was turned down.
A few minutes later, Tony McMahon had a decent opportunity to test Archer from a free kick situation after he was fouled by Ed Upson. The midfielder, who turned 30 earlier in the week, stepped up to curl one towards goal but the ball went inches wide of the top corner with the young stopper at full stretch.
The home crowd were on their feet to vent their frustration following a hefty challenge from Martin on McMahon right on the touchline. The fans called for the returning left back to be dismissed but the referee deemed the challenge only worthy of a booking; it wasn’t to be the first one to be dished out, with a few feisty battles going on, on a weather beaten surface.
Martin was almost celebrating the opening goal with a free kick that went millimetres wide of the bottom corner after Reece Burke had handled the ball just outside the area. For a second from the view we had, it looked as if the ball had nestled into the net.
Billy Knott returned to the centre of midfield to partner debutant Tom Thorpe with Josh Cullen and Lee Evans away on international duty, and he fired a shot a yard or so wide of the target from just outside the box after he’d played a neat one-two with McMahon. Against a side he scored three times against last season, he couldn’t quite find the net on this occasion.
Before the half was out, Millwall spurned a decent opportunity to take the lead at an important time in the game. Steve Morison did well to get to the by-line and his low cutback was met by Aiden O’Brien on the turn and he didn’t make the truest connection, seeing his shot loop upwards and onto the roof of the net.
City thought they had the lead early in the second half, only to be denied by the offside flag. McMahon’s cross from the right fell to Jamie Proctor who saw a shot saved by Archer, Billy Clarke fought to get to the loose ball which he square to Proctor for a tap-in but celebrations were cut short by the flag of the linesman on the far side.
The conditions worsened in the second half as the heavens began to open and Phil Parkinson rolled the proverbial dice with a double substitution, bringing James Hanson and Davies into the mix and it was one that would ultimately bring it’s rewards.
Nathan Clarke made his way forward to take a long thrown but James Meredith took a quick one to the central defender, and in an unorthodox left midfield position, he swung a brilliant cross to the far post which was nodded between Archer’s legs and into the back of the net by Davies for his fourth goal of the season.
The goal shook the visitors and they reacted quickly to try and find an equaliser. Burke had to make an important intervention to halt the run of Williams after he had latched onto Morison’s flick on to make a move into the 18 yard box.
Nathan Clarke was certainly a shout for the Man of the Match and he made a superb block to stop Lee Gregory’s goal bound shot heading into the back of the net, it looked a decent opportunity for the visitors to equalise late on.
A few minutes later, Ben Williams was called into action and as he has done on so many occasions this season he delivered, making a superb save at full stretch after Morison had let fly with a vicious angled drive inside the 18 yard box.
It was a superb win for City who moved back into sixth place ahead of Barnsley with just eight games remaining. It’s going to be an interesting end to the season and the next fixture is an exciting one on Easter Monday at Crewe Alexandra. Both teams will be desperate for the points for very different reasons.