Bradford City 3 Sheffield United 3
The Bantams were held to a draw by Sheffield United in a hugely entertaining six-goal thriller on Saturday afternoon. United went ahead through Billy Sharp early on but Billy Clarke’s goal ensured the teams were level at the break. Sharp scored again early in the second half to restore his team’s lead but goals from Jordy Hiwula and Timothee Dieng turned the game on it’s head. Chris Wilder’s side brought themselves level through Chris Basham’s scrambled equaliser as both teams had to settle for a share of the spoils in an electric and enthralling Yorkshire Derby encounter.
Stuart McCall made four changes to the side that was held by Southend during the week and one of those four to come in, Billy Clarke, had the first chance of the game. Nicky Law, up against the club where he made his professional debut, did superbly to deliver a cross into the box from the left hand side; Billy Clarke perhaps didn’t quite expect the ball to come his way and he didn’t connect cleanly enough to get his shot on target from 12 yards out.
Sheffield United were always going to have a few spells of pressure in the game and following a spell of possession in the final third, the first chance came for Chris Wilder’s side. Billy Sharp with his back to goal held off a challenge from Nathaniel Knight-Percival and it allowed Kieron Freeman to run onto the ball in the box and get a shot away; his attempt deflected towards goal and was cleared by Rory McArdle but Sharp was penalised for a foul in the build-up on Knight-Percival.
With the next chance of the game, United showed tremendous quality to open the scoring. Mark Duffy delivered a brilliant angled ball into the box and it was latched onto by leading marksman Billy Sharp who saw a header beat Colin Doyle via the underside of the crossbar.
At this stage, City were looking vulnerable and almost fell further behind a couple of minutes later. Doyle came to claim Paul Coutts corner into the box but he failed to keep hold of the ball and it fell to wing-back Daniel Lafferty who saw a snapshot on the half volley from 12 yards out go narrowly wide of the target to let Stuart McCall’s side very much off the hook.
In truth, it was the visitors who were creating all the clear cut opportunities in the first half and smart reactions by Doyle kept them from getting a second on the half hour mark. Duffy was looking a creative spark for the Blades and his dangerous low cross was met by Matt Done a couple of yards out but he couldn’t beat the big Irish stopper who somehow kept the deficit to just a single goal.
City were slightly behind the pace that United were setting in the opening exchanges but the equaliser came with the next opportunity. Matthew Kilgallon was playing at left back in place of the injured James Meredith and his low cross wasn’t dealt with; the the ball came to Billy Clarke who tapped home at the far post for his 5th goal of the season, lifting the roof off the stadium in the process.
The Bantams were no doubt growing into the game following the equaliser and could’ve gone ahead before the break. Billy Clarke dropped deep to receive a pass in-field from McArdle and he switched play excellently to Jordy Hiwula; the latter looped a cross-shot towards the far post on the half-volley and the ball dropped a yard or so over the bar as Simon Moore watched precariously.
United had the ball in the net early in the second half through Sharp after latching onto a quickly taken free kick, but he was penalised for a foul on Timothee Dieng in the process. He was itching to get another goal for the visitors and after seeing a shot from 20 yards go over the bar, he got his second goal.
Again, latching onto a quickly taken free kick, Sharp didn’t take much time to get the ball out of his feet after beating the offside trap and he blasted one past Doyle from close range in front of the large and ecstatic travelling contingent behind the goal in the TL Dallas Stand.
City looked for a way back into the game and almost found their second equaliser of the game minutes later. Intricate passing play in and around the box allowed Josh Cullen a sight of goal and his angled, low drive was tipped around the post by Simon Moore but the referee didn’t spot the fingertip save and awarded a goal kick much to the frustration of a full Kop Stand behind the goal.
A couple of minutes later, City did find that much sought after equaliser. Cullen delivered an inch-perfect cross to James Hanson, he took a bit of a swing and a miss and the ball broke to Hiwula who made no mistake to clinically beat Moore from close range.
The second half was probably the most entertaining half of football that you’ll see all season and shortly after the goal, Doyle was at full stretch to keep out Sharp’s 25 yard drive. With the next chance, City took the lead for the first time in the game. Kilgallon delivered a cultured cross into the box and Dieng met it with a superb volley to guide the ball into the bottom corner.
The lead didn’t last overly long though before United got themselves back on level terms. Doyle had to be alert once again to keep a shot from Duffy out after an intelligently worked free kick, but from the resulting corner Chris Basham scrambled the ball into the back of the net via the inside of the post.
Six goals in the game so far and there could well have been more, it was a really end to end encounter. Substitute Caolan Lavery headed over the bar before Hiwula, who looked hugely lively in the second half, saw a shot come back off the bar after connecting with Law’s cross into a crowded penalty area.
Ultimately that would be the last real chance in the game as it headed into it’s latter moments; a bumper crowd of almost 21,000 were certainly dished up an outstanding spectacle. The visitors looked a side full of confidence and surely set for a challenge at the top end of the table but City were up for the fight and both sides had to settle for a point-apiece and probably a share of the spoils that both managers will be happy with.