Gillingham 1 Bradford City 1
The Bantams were held to a draw at Gillingham on Saturday afternoon to extend the league unbeaten run to seven games. Cody McDonald finished expertly to give the hosts the lead early on, finding the top corner with a shot on the turn from inside the area. City improved after a relatively slow start to the game and equalised just before the half hour through Jordy Hiwula after the striker headed home from Nicky Law’s corner.
City had the first chance of the game and it was through Mark Marshall, who once again provided a real threat down the right hand side. Marshall was sent sprinting away by Law’s pass and he cut inside away from Gills defender Deji Oshilaja before curling a left footed shot narrowly wide of the target.
It was so near yet so far with that chance but it was a different scenario down the other end of the pitch as Gillingham took the lead with their first real opening of the game. Emmanuel Osadebe got to within shooting distance of the goal before feeding McDonald inside the area. The striker knocked the ball out of his feet before rifling into the top corner with a great strike that left Colin Doyle with not much of a chance.
The home side had started the game strongly and they threatened again through Rory Donnelly. Ryan Jackson gets some real distance with his catapult of a long throw-in and his hurl into the box on this occasion was met by the head of Donnelly, but fortunately the ball bounced wide of the target.
Mark Byrne had a tame attempt held from 20 yards held onto by Doyle after he had been picked out in a pocket of space by Jay Emmanuel-Thomas.
Shortly afterwards and with City becoming more and more imposing in the game, Billy Clarke went close.
Timothee Dieng’s incisive pass was received by Clarke and he turned neatly just outside the box before seeing a low shot go inches wide of the target after he’d escaped the attentions of Max Ehmer.
City's increasing control in the game was rewarded when they equalised just before the half hour mark through Hiwula's second of the season.
Without the obvious aerial threats of the likes of James Hanson and Rory McArdle, City have normally turned to more inventive ways to threat from corners recently,
On this occasion, however, Law clipped one to the near post and Hiwula was in the right position to glance a header past Jonathan Bond and into the far corner for his second goal of the season.
Stuart McCall’s side were in the ascendancy after equalising and Josh Cullen came close shortly afterwards.
After seizing the initiative and driving into some space that had opened up in front of him, he eventually decided to release a shot from twenty yards but it was relatively tame and held onto comfortably by Bond.
Cullen, who was back in the side ahead of Daniel Devine after recent international duty with Republic of Ireland U21s, went close early in the second half as well.
After escaping the watch of Emmanuel-Thomas, he saw a rasping shot from the edge of the box go inches wide of the target with Bond at full stretch and worried.
Marshall was looking threatening after getting goal side of Paul Konchesky to get into the penalty area and reach Billy Clarke's flick on but his eventual shot was comfortably held by Bond.
With the game up for grabs still as the half progressed, Byrne's shot from just outside the box went the wrong side of the post for Gillingham after he’d been teed up by the goal scorer, Cody McDonald.
Gillingham went closer a few minutes later when Ehmer found himself in space in the penalty area after Jackson’s long throw-in had dropped into his path.
As Ehmer turned for goal and shot from close range though, Stephen Darby recovered superbly to make sure that the Gillingham defender’s attempt was diverted over the bar and behind for a corner.
As expected, some tremendous goal-saving defending once again by the popular full back.
Marc McNulty was brought on in the latter stages for his City debut and he almost provided an opening for City.
After robbing Oshilaja of possession, McNulty crossed for fellow substitute James Hanson but his goal-bound shot blocked superbly and importantly by Ehmer.
Hanson tried again in the last minute of normal time to get the winning goal, competing with Bond to connect with Filipe Morais’ cross, but it was the Gills stopper who came out on top in that particular battle, bravely punching the ball to safety to let his side of the hook and relieve the pressure.
Jackson’s second bookable offence and subsequent dismissal for a foul on McNulty presented City with one last chance to win the game deep into injury time.
The defender was given his marching orders for barging into McNulty just outside the box as the striker looked to run clear on goal.
Law stepped up to take the free kick twenty yards from goal but his lofted effort went a yard or so over the bar.