4 (B.Clarke 41, Dieng 44, Hanson 59, Marshall 63)Bradford City
The Bantams moved into the automatic promotion places with an emphatic victory against Rochdale on Saturday afternoon. Billy Clarke and Timothee Dieng scored just before half time to put the hosts in control and shortly after Niall Canavan’s dismissal for a second yellow card, James Hanson got in on the act to add a third goal. Mark Marshall’s free kick made it four and that was the final break of Rochdale’s goal with Stuart McCall’s men recording their biggest victory of the season to date.
You couldn’t hear a pin drop inside the Northern Commercials Stadium during an impeccably observed minutes silence to traditionally honour the fallen at this time of year, but the volume levels increased from the away end inside the early moments as Nathaniel Mendez-Laing showed great acceleration to burst away from Stephen Darby down the left hand side. The Rochdale man looked set to get into the box but his former Peterborough United team-mate Nathaniel Knight-Percival swept up the danger superbly.
Rochdale could and probably should have had the lead with the next attack just a minute later. Joe Rafferty floated a free kick into the box and the ball came loose to Niall Canavan; the towering defender opted not to have a go himself and cut the ball back to Andy Cannon who fired a shot inches wide of the target from just inside the box.
Steven Davies was making his return with current employers Rochdale following his departure from Bradford City at the close of last season and he will have been glad to see the offside flag go up on the far side after spurning a sizeable opportunity. Rafferty delivered a cross across the six yard box and Davies looked set to score only to be denied by some tremendous reactions from Colin Doyle’s deputy Rouven Sattelmaier.
City’s first chance of the game came from a set-piece situation. Mark Marshall ran forward away from the equally quick Mendez-Laing and he was then brought down by Canavan who received a booking for a foul he maybe had to make with danger looming. Billy Clarke curled a free kick from 20 yards over the wall, but Josh Lillis held onto it fairly routinely.
A few penalty appeals went the way of the referee Ross Joyce in the first half and an appeal for handball was turned down. Clarke’s corner was cleared as far as Nicky Law and he had a pot-shot at goal from 15 yards which was blocked by Keith Keane, there was a question mark over whether he used his arm or not but play went on.
After a bright start by the home side, City were growing on confidence as the half wore on and chances began to come the way of Stuart McCall’s men. Clarke may have let Lillis off the hook with a scuffed shot from 30 yards out after the Dale stopper had skewed an attempted clearance into the Irishman’s path but he scored his sixth goal of the season shortly afterwards to break the deadlock.
Law, who was probably looking the liveliest spark in the final third for the Bantams did well to get down the left hand side before crossing into the box; Hanson almost but didn’t quite latch onto it but Clarke made no mistake unmarked in the box to fire the ball past Lillis from about 12 yards out and then followed the extravagant celebration in front of the main stand.
Clarke tried his luck a couple of minutes later with a low drive from 25 yards which Lillis had to tip around his post and then seconds later he turned provider as City doubled the lead. He’d scored his sixth goal of the season a couple of minutes earlier and was on hand to notch his third assist, swinging in a superb cross for Timothee Dieng to glance a header in off the far post.
Before the half was out there was still time for James Hanson to power a header inches wide of the target after he’d connected with Law’s floated cross into the box as Rochdale looked happy to hear the sound of the half-time whistle with City in firm control.
Rochdale understandably looked for an early response in the second half and they brought on Reuben Noble-Lazarus after just a few minutes but he inadvertently blocked Davies’ powerful header from Raffery’s corner. There was a mass scramble to try and get onto the loose ball but City managed to try and force a goal kick.
Clarke was almost gifted a second goal after a back-pass by Keane intended for Josh Lillis fell short and allowed him to nip in and get onto the ball; he attempted to round the visiting stopper but the latter managed to recover and win the ball back before ensuring the chance was quashed.
Rochdale were reduced to ten men as Niall Canavan received a second yellow for a rash challenge on Josh Cullen and from Marshall’s resulting free kick into the box; Hanson got his name on the scoresheet, tapping in from a couple of yards out after initially being denied by Lillis. City were well and truly bossing proceedings at this stage and scored again shortly afterwards.
Cullen drew another free kick just outside the penalty area and Marshall stepped up to curl a free kick over the wall past Lillis who had been left wrong-footed; Stuart McCall’s men were well and truly on course for their biggest win of the season.
The intensity seemed to be sucked out of the game after Marshall’s goal with both sides knowing which way this one was heading; rarely the case with half an hour left on the clock. Steven Davies tame attempt which went comfortably wide after he’d done well to spin on an Andy Cannon pass, just about summed up the latter stages of the game as a whole.
Filipe Morais came on as a sub late on following on from his outing at Morecambe during the week and he saw an attempt at goal kept out smartly by Lillis. Rouven Sattelmaier came in for his league debut and he kept a clean sheet; he was barely troubled throughout with his last action to easily keep hold of Callum Camps header.