AFC Wimbledon 2 Bradford City 3
The Bantams recorded a first-ever victory at the Cherry Red Records Stadium with a last gasp winner courtesy of James Hanson. Stuart McCall’s men took the lead early on through Jordy Hiwula only to be pegged back before the break by Tom Elliott’s superbly taken strike; matters took a turn for the worse when Lyle Taylor scored from the spot midway through the second half but James Hanson himself level;ed the scores with a penalty shortly afterwards. Hanson was to have the last word in a dramatic fixture in the capital with a header in injury time settling this topsy-turvy affair.
City got off to a dream start on their first visit to the Cherry Red Records Stadium since February 2013 with Jordy Hiwula notching his fifth goal of the season. Nicky Law showed great energy to burst away down the left hand side and he cut the ball back invitingly into the path of Hiwula who saw a first time shot from just inside the box find its way past James Shea via a deflection off Paul Robinson.
Wimbledon looked for a quick response and a way back into the game and their first chance belonged to last season’s leading scorer Lyle Taylor. He latched onto Will Nightingale’s hopeful ball forward into the box and he turned neatly before slicing his attempt wide of the target to let the visitors off the hook.
Nathaniel Knight-Percival had to be at his best to make a crucial defensive block just inside the box to prevent Andy Barcham’s shot from threatening Colin Doyle in the Bradford goal shortly afterwards and down the other end of the pitch, the lively Hiwula just got it wrong at the last moment, slicing his volley wide after being picked out by James Hanson’s flick on.
The hosts looked quite lively in the opening stages of the game and got themselves back level through their in-form forward, Tom Elliott. George Francomb floated a free kick into the box and Elliott contested for the air-bound ball with Hanson; the ball dropped in the box and the Wimbledon man reacted quickest to slam the ball into the roof of the net from a tight angle.
As they usually do away from home, City looked a real threat on the counter attack and came a whisker away from regaining the lead with the next opportunity. Billy Clarke showed a good flash of intelligence to ensure a quick ball around the corner put Hiwula through on goal but the 22 year old forward saw an attempt trickle millimetres wide of the target when it looked for a moment like he’d be celebrating his second goal of the afternoon.
Wimbledon goal scorer Tom Elliott was causing City no end of problems in the first half with a real dominance in the air and before the half was out he had a self-engineered chance of his own. Barry Fuller marauded forward down the right hand side and crossed low towards the edge of the box and the Leeds born striker tried a first time shot on the turn which ultimately failed to trouble Doyle and in-fact cleared the relatively small stand behind the goal.
The home side started the second half on the front foot and looked full of confidence as Taylor began to probe from his right-wing position with pace against Matthew Kilgallon. A dangerous low cross forced a corner kick and a couple of minutes later he threaded a pass through to Jon Meades in the box but the Wimbledon defender scuffed a shot wide of the target.
City made an attacking double substitution with Marc McNulty and Mark Marshall brought into the action but the next chance belonged to Wimbledon; Andy Barcham got goal side of Stephen Darby before moving towards goal but fortunately Knight-Percival was there to make an important block in what was another outstanding display by the calm and collected central defender.
A couple of minutes later Wimbledon were presented a golden opportunity to take the lead from the penalty spot. The hosts counter attacked after a City corner had broken down and Jake Reeves got himself into the box. Josh Cullen left in a leg and despite a desperate attempt to retract it, Reeves still went to ground and a spot kick was awarded; Taylor stepped up confidently to send Doyle the wrong way from 12 yards and give his side the lead for the first time.
City had a penalty of their own just under ten minutes later and it was one nobody seemed to expect to be given. Filipe Morais’ cross into the box wasn’t initially dealt with and with the ball in the air Kilgallon looked favourite to beat Wimbledon stopper James Shea to the ball before the City defender went down in a heap under pressure. The referee awarded the penalty for what appeared to be a foul by Shea on Kilgallon, and James Hanson stepped up to emphatically find the keeper’s bottom right hand corner.
It was Stuart McCall’s side who grew to become the stronger of the two teams in the latter stages of the game as both teams went in search of a winning goal and the next chance came from the unlikely source of Romain Vincelot. The French defender brought the ball forward into space from the back before seeing a 25 yard shot go narrowly wide of the target.
When you push for a winner relentlessly in the dying moments against tired legs, it can often reap its rewards and so it did for the visitors. The ball made its way to the right hand side into the feet of Stephen Darby and he swung a cross into the box aimed for Hanson; the big frontman attacked it with real menace and headed the ball powerfully into the far corner leaving Shea with no chance.
There was still time for one last Wimbledon opportunity with City camped and defending a fresh lead. A ball was tossed into the box and it was eventually helped on into the path of substitute Tyrone Barnett but he saw his header go agonisingly wide of the target with Doyle at full stretch to leave the 800+ visiting supporters on the far side breathing a collective sigh of relief.
City held on resolutely for a valuable three points at a ground where they had never been successful, coming out on top in what was another hugely entertaining encounter. Five goals rather than the six in last weekend’s Yorkshire derby but fortunately Stuart McCall’s side came out the right side of this compelling fixture to head north with exactly what they came for.