Bradford City 1 Northampton Town 0
The Bantams returned to winning ways on a cold evening at the Northern Commercials Stadium to conjure up a fitting tribute to the late and great Bobby Campbell. In truth the game was dominated in large chunks by the hosts and the deadlock was broken just before the hour by James Hanson and it was a goal that ultimately proved to be the winning one. A lengthy spell of additional time had to be braved at the end of the game by Stuart McCall’s men but the result was secured after some resolute defending to ensure a thoroughly deserved three points.
The evening started with an emotion-filled tribute to the late Bobby Campbell and the volume levels were raised following a whole-hearted minutes applause in remembrance of City’s record goalscorer. Northampton almost left the ground stunned inside forty seconds as Colin Doyle had to be alert enough to palm away Alex Revell’s snapshot before Stephen Darby mopped things up with a hooked clearance up the pitch.
City had their first chance of the game shortly afterwards and it was a presentable one; Josh Cullen surged forward to spark a counter-attack and he picked out Marc McNulty who ran into the penalty area. The Scottish forward, who came in for just his third league start, back-heeled the ball into the path of the onrushing Marshall who sliced an attempt wide when he should have really been testing David Cornell.
James Hanson had the next opportunity for Stuart McCall’s men; Marshall looked to run at Town right-back Brendan Moloney and he did just that before delivering a cross into the box which was just behind the big-frontman and he proceeded to head the ball a couple of yards wide of the target.
Haris Vuckic was back in the team for his first start since the Checkatrade Trophy defeat at Morecambe a couple of weeks ago and he had his first attempt shortly afterwards. McNulty knocked down Marshall’s cross and the ball was helped into the path of Vuckic by Nicky Law and the Slovenian forward fired a shot over the bar from 20 yards.
Paul Anderson was making his return to the Northern Commercials Stadium with the Cobblers for the first time since his departure on the August transfer deadline day and he almost latched onto a loose ball after Revell had flicked on Moloney’s free kick. Any chance of him having a shot at Doyle from close range was snuffed out by the combination of Romain Vincelot and Cullen.
The first half became quite a controversial one and the first penalty appeal came just after the half hour mark. Marshall’s cross was spilled by Cornell, he tried to pounce on the loose ball but Hanson appeared to get there first before taking a tumble; there looked to be a decent shout for a spot kick but the referee Christopher Sarginson was adamant that the stopper had won the ball cleanly.
Seconds after the appeal, Northampton conjured up probably their best chance of the half. Law’s loose pass was intercepted by the lively Sam Hoskins who ran into the penalty area before firing a shot across goal and just a yard or so wide of Doyle’s far post.
Cullen was looking like a bright spark in the midfield for the Bantams in the first half and he almost gained City the lead; Law’s free kick into the box was headed half clear by Jak McCourt and the West Ham loanee latched onto the ball with a fizzing low drive from 20 yards which went a matter of inches wide of the target via a slight deflection.
McNulty went close after hooking the ball over his shoulder and in the direction of goal before City had a huge penalty appeal turned down on the stroke of half time to make it two denied by Mr.Sarginson. Cullen picked out McNulty intelligently before the latter was bundled over by Gabriel Zakuani; the spot-kick wasn’t awarded and the fans and players alike were left furious by the decision going into the half-time interval.
City looked by far the more likely of the two teams to score the first goal of the evening and they carried on in the same vein early in the first half. McNulty was picked out by Law’s incisive pass and he ran into the box before seeing a side-footed attempt held onto by Cornell.
It seemed only a matter of time before City were going to open the scoring and Vuckic headed inches wide of the target after connecting with James Meredith’s cross from the left hand side. Law was the next to go close with a thumping drive from 20 yards which went so close to going in, it was hard to tell whether it actually clipped the bar or not.
A couple of minutes later, City did take a deserved lead. Northampton failed to get the ball clear and Marshall kept the ball alive on the byline before clipping a cross into the box which was steered into the top corner from 10 yards out by the head of Hanson who notched his fourth goal of the season.
It really was all City for the majority of the second half and the game as a whole, and Marshall had a couple of chances in quick succession to get his name on the scoresheet. After getting the better of Anderson to get into the area, he saw a shot from a tight angle kept out by the legs of Cornell before ending a slick counter attack with a shot held by the Town stopper after a delightfully weighted pass from Law sent him clear.
Colin Doyle didn’t have his busiest game in a City shirt but he had to make a tremendous save to prevent the visitors from equalising with twenty minutes left on the clock. Anderson delivered a great cross from the right hand side and Revell’s downward header was saved low to his right hand side by the big Irishman.
Marc Richards had been introduced to create a physical strike duo in the form of himself and Revell and he headed wide on the stretch at the far post after connecting with Moloney’s arrowed cross into the box. Marshall scored a superb free kick in the last home match against Rochdale and he came a matter of inches from scoring another with an attempt from 25 yards out after Vincelot was fouled.
Cullen came close with a shot from 20 yards after he’d gathered a sliced clearance before engineering some space for himself and letting one fly and then Northampton had the ball in the net with five minutes left in the clock. Anderson delivered another cross from the right hand side and John-Joe O'Toole headed the ball past Doyle only to see celebrations halted by the offside flag.
City probably should have had this result sewn up a while earlier and with the deficit at just one goal Northampton will have felt like they had a chance to nick a share of the spoils. The addition of five extra minutes at the end of the ninety had nerves jangling but every ball into the box was dealt with by a resolute line of defence who made sure Stuart McCall’s men held on for victory.
The Bantams are yet to be beaten on their own patch this season and returned to winning ways thanks to number nine, James Hanson on an evening where a legendary number nine from bygone years in the form of Bobby Campbell was remembered. What a fitting tribute!