The Bantams rounded off the regular season with a comfortable win against Chesterfield thanks to goals from Lee Evans and Billy Clarke in front of the largest home crowd of the season. The win ensured that City reached the 80 point mark and finish fifth in the division, meaning a two-legged semi-final with Millwall in the Play-Offs.
It didn’t take long for City to get going and once again Evans found the net, having scored one from distance in last weekend’s win at Southend United. Tony McMahon saw an initial shot blocked and deflect into the path of Evans, who met the ball with a left-footed half-volley which found the net despite Tommy Lee getting a hand to the ball.
Clearly spurred on by the home crowd and brimming with confidence following his goal, Evans tried another attempt from outside the box. His shot was a lob from 20 yards on this occasion, but his effort was watched all the way by Lee as the ball dropped inches over the bar.
The Welshman clearly brought his shooting boots with him for the game and his next attempt on goal clipped the outside of the post to let the visitors off the hook after he’d been teed up by Jamie Proctor, returning to the side for his first start since defeat at Coventry City a few weeks ago.
There was a lengthy break in play as Chesterfield defender Tom Anderson was left grounded following an aerial collision with Proctor. Eventually a stretcher was brought on to remove the young defender from the field of play, but thoughts are with him and everyone is hopeful the injury isn’t as bad as first feared.
The injury resulted in six additional minutes at the end of the first half and just before the half was out, Chesterfield broke with menace through former Bantam Gary Liddle, and Jay O’Shea. The latter spread the ball wide to Gboly Ariyibi who saw a teasing cross into the six yard box not capitalised on by any of the players out there in a blue strip.
City almost doubled the lead early in the second half; first through Rory McArdle, who saw a header go inches over the bar after connecting with Tony McMahon’s corner, and then through Billy Clarke who saw an outrageous attempted lob from 40 yards held onto alertly by Lee when it had looked to have a chance of going in at one stage.
Liddle was guilty of a foul just outside the penalty area on Josh Cullen and the resulting free kick was taken by McMahon; fortunately for his former team-mate, his attempt couldn’t quite force Lee into action as it went a yard or so over the bar.
Just before the superb attendance of 20,807 was announced, Chesterfield turned to the referee with a penalty appeal after Nathan Clarke had appeared to handle Ariyibi’s cross. The ball struck the defender’s arm but he had little chance of getting it out of the way and the referee David Webb made the correct decision to wave the appeals away.
Chesterfield’s hopes of leaving West Yorkshire with a result were dealt a real blow shortly afterwards when Sam Hird was given his marching orders.
Proctor got the better of Hird before being dragged down by the centre half just outside the box as he looked to surge through on goal The foul left Mr Webb with no option but to brandish a red card to Hird given he was the last defender.
O’Shea stood over a Spireites free kick and rather than produce an orthodox delivery into the penalty area, as Fabio Aurelio did for Liverpool in the Champions League at Chelsea back in 2009, he whipped the ball towards the near post to try and catch out the ‘keeper, Ben Williams; fortunately though, the ball hit the side netting.
With just a few minutes left of normal time to go, City wrapped up the three points through Billy Clarke. Filipe Morais drove towards the heart of the Chesterfield defence before playing the ball to Man of the Match Evans, who whipped a cross towards Proctor.
Proctor retrieved the ball following a touch off Drew Talbot before squaring to Billy Clarke for a tap-in from inside the six yard box.
Chesterfield had one last chance to get themselves on the scoresheet in the last minute; a ball forward into the path of Ariyibi saw the American winger turn inside Nathan Clarke before seeing a shot hit the side-netting from a decent position inside the box.
Another home victory for the Bantams and the seventh in succession. The first time that has happened since the 1967-68 season. That’s a stat we’ll leave you with and we’ll see you back at the Coral Windows Stadium a week today for the first leg of the play-offs against Millwall.