1Bradford City (Law 60)
Friday 14th April 2017 | Sky Bet League One | Northern Commercials Stadium
The Bantams edged to another important victory as the chase for a place in the top six heats up further. The visitors, who have beaten City twice this season down at the Kassam Stadium, looked to have the edge in a fairly low-key first half but Nicky Law scored what proved to be the match-winning goal on his first start since February. Mark Marshall's cross was cushioned into Law's path by Charlie Wyke and the midfielder scored from close range. Luck was rode at times in the second half against a tough opposition but Stuart McCall's side held on for three points.
Oxford started the game brightly and a man in-form, Conor McAleny drew a foul after going on a surging run down the middle of the pitch. Chris Maguire scored a free-kick winner against City back in October and his attempt on this occasion was firmly struck but held onto assuringly by Colin Doyle.
Rory McArdle showed some good, old-fashioned resilience to put his body on the line and head clear Christian Ribeiro's cross towards McAleny at the near post; at the other end of the pitch he then connected with Tony McMahon's corner into the box and forced a smart stop from United stopper Simon Eastwood.
Stuart McCall opted to start with Jordy Hiwula ahead of Alex Jones and City's leading scorer was denied by a block from Curtis Nelson after Charlie Wyke had turned superbly away from Charlie Raglan and spread the ball to his strike-partner.
Hiwula was looking a threat in behind the Oxford back-line and he breached them once again after turning away from skipper John Lundstram to power towards the box; on this occasion though it took some strong defending by Ribeiro to make sure danger was averted.
Shortly before the break, Oxford had a flurry of opportunities to take the lead. The first came through Chesterfield loanee defender Charlie Raglan who glanced a header wide of the far post after connecting with Maguire's teasing corner into the mix.
Raglan's central defensive partner Curtis Nelson then squirmed the ball inches wide of the post from close range after Marvin Johnson's deflected attempt from the edge of the box had looped favourably into his path. The Bantams breathing a sigh of relief with the visitors looking likely to take the lead.
There was still time for McAleny to have a couple more chances before the referee's whistle was sounded. A volley on the turn after connecting with Joe Skarz's cross curled a yard or so wide of the far post before the Everton loanee rifled one wide of the near post from a tight angle after Maguire had done the hard work to engineer the opening.
City needed to start the second half much better than they had ended the first and Romain Vincelot came a matter of inches away from opening the scoring; the Frenchman connected with McMahon's free-kick from the right hand side to loop a header narrowly over Eastwood's crossbar.
A couple of minutes later McMahon's corner was met by the head of Wyke who forced a good save from Eastwood as City began to crank up the pressure shooting towards a vocal Kop in the second half.
The opening goal was to come on the hour mark for City but just a couple of minutes prior, Oxford threatened through Joe Rothwell. The former Manchester United man came forward from central midfield and saw a firmly struck shot from 20 yards out held onto by Doyle; the Irish stopper going on to record his third successive clean sheet.
The goal to open the scoring was a finely crafted one with Mark Marshall proving influential once again. Running down the right-handed side he floated a cross into the box which was headed down by Wyke, leaving Nicky Law with the simplest of tasks to guide the ball into the back of the net from close range.
United put their foot immediately back on the gas after falling behind and McMahon made a tremendous intervention to stop Rothwell running through on goal after he'd been picked out by Marvin Johnson's flick on. Seconds later, Nelson blazed the ball over the bar after Maguire's corner had dropped favourably to him. City perhaps riding their luck in this passage of play.
Rothwell saw a shot from 20 yards go over the bar after he'd moved away from Law, before McAleny tried an audacious shot from 30 yards out which went nowhere close to troubling Doyle in City's goal.
Wyke's constant ability to work relentlessly for the team probably deserved rewarding with a goal and he almost got one and what a goal it would have been! Controlling a Doyle punt up the pitch, he managed to bring the ball under control and try a volley on the turn from 25 yards which looked to be heading towards goal; thankfully for Oxford, Simon Eastwood was on hand to deny the City forward what would have been one of the goals of the season.
Seconds after his introduction from the substitute's bench, Timothee Dieng picked out Marshall on the right-hand side with a terrific cross-field pass and the City winger went alone before seeing a low drive from outside the box go inches wide of the far post; the winger looking to follow on from last week's wonder-strike at Bury.
Oxford may be scratching their heads heading home as to how they haven't scored this afternoon and McAleny was once again at the heart of things; On the edge of the box, he tried a low drive which was well-struck but Doyle produced an excellent one-handed save to show his determination to hold on for another clean sheet.
Josh Cullen could have wrapped things up seconds later down the other end of the pitch, but he scooped a shot over the bar after Marshall's cross towards Wyke had broken loose into his path 15 yards from goal, but the midfielder just lacked that bit of composure on this occasion.
Five minutes additional time gifted the visitors a glimmer of hope of still getting something from the game, but City managed the game superbly and held on for another victory which keeps up a brilliant run of form and the charge for a place in the top six come the end of the season - which is just over two weeks away!