Bradford City 1 Southend United 1
The Bantams were held to a draw at home against Southend United this Tuesday evening. Southend started the game on the front foot but it was City who found the opening goal through Marc McNulty just after the half hour mark, who scored his first goal for the club. Southend equalised early in the second half through Anthony Wordsworth and in all honesty the game was far from the most entertaining spectacle you’re likely to see at the Northern Commercials this season. The result didn’t affect City’s position in the league table though - still second going into the weekend’s Yorkshire derby with Sheffield United.
City started the game slowly with the visitors certainly the quicker of the two teams out of the traps and it was Jason Demetriou who had the first shot of note inside the opening couple of minutes. An attempted clearance went high into the area inside the 18 yard box and Anthony Wordsworth headed the ball into the path of the Cypriot full-back who saw a venomous attempt deflect behind for a corner kick.
Wordsworth was almost the provider for his teammate on that occasion and he was heavily involved again as Southend continued to threaten. His corner fell invitingly to Stephen McLaughlin on the edge of the box; his attempt was blocked before Ryan Leonard saw a firm shot on goal deflect narrowly wide and behind for a corner.
Southend were on top certainly in the first 20 minutes or so and Wordsworth was again at the heart of things as Phil Brown’s side really should have taken the lead with their next chance. The central midfielder played a quick free kick which caught the City defenders napping; Simon Cox latched onto it and fired a shot across goal and inches wide of the far corner.
Haris Vuckic was back in the side to make only his second league start of his loan spell from Newcastle United and he came as close as possible without scoring with a free kick. Anton Ferdinand fouled Marc McNulty just outside the box and Vuckic curled a free kick millimetres wide of the post; with Mark Oxley a rooted spectator most of the stadium thought the Slovenian had found the net.
City grabbed the game by the scuff of the neck after that close call and began to look the stronger of the two teams. Mark Marshall swept the ball into the back of the net smartly after latching onto Nicky Law’s cross but the latter had already been penalised for an offside call after straying a yard or so beyond the Southend back line to latch onto Vuckic’s through ball.
Law was City’s best player in the first half and arguably the best of the bunch over the entirety of the game; after seeing a daisy-cutter go wide following a tidy one-two with McNulty, he then surged and found the latter who squared the ball to Josh Cullen; he had found a pocket of space just outside the box to see a first time shot go about half a yard wide of the target with Oxley at full stretch.
The Bantams capitalised on a spell of real pressure and took the lead through Marc McNulty. Vuckic played a ball towards the Sheffield United loanee and a slip by Adam Thompson allowed him a free run on goal and he made no mistake to fire confidently past Oxley for his first goal since joining the club at the end of August.
In a hectic period of play, McNulty almost doubled his and his team’s tally with a deflected snapshot which went a few inches over the bar following some good play by Vuckic to put Southend on the back foot. City had to be more than happy however, to go into the half time break a goal ahead after taking half an hour to really get out of first gear.
Despite a spell in the opening half hour of the game on top, Southend didn’t really force Colin Doyle into action in that period of play, but they did with their first attempt of the second half. Nile Ranger caused problems and weaved into the box before forcing the Irish stopper into a good, strong save to deny the visitors a leveller.
Again City were slow out of the traps in the second half and they were punished as Southend found the equaliser. Ben Coker’s cross into the box was flicked on at the near post by Will Atkinson and Anthony Wordsworth was in the right place to tap the ball in from just a couple of yards out.
Ranger rose highest in the box to connect with McLaughlin’s cross into the box shortly afterwards and although his header was on target, Doyle stood firm to make sure the visitors tally would ultimately only be one goal for the evening. Josh Cullen saw a shot from a promising position on the edge of the box blocked and seconds later he was booked for bundling former Bantam Will Atkinson to ground - the foul just about summed up the sense of frustration that was growing inside the stadium.
Colin Doyle was called into action a couple of times in quick succession midway through the second half to keep out efforts from Demetriou and an audacious free kick from distance by Wordsworth. Cox fired inches wide shortly afterwards as the visitors maybe began to sense they could take three points back with them to Essex.
City failed to carve open any real opportunities of note in the latter stages of the game and it was in fact Phil Brown’s side who should have won the game with a gilt-edged chance spurned as late as the 88th minute. Wordsworth was proving a threat with dead-ball deliveries into the penalty area and he executed one perfectly to the far post which Ranger could only head wide of the target when it perhaps looked more difficult to miss than actually score.