Walsall 3 (Leahy 55, Roberts 61, Bakayoko 87)
Bradford City 3 (McCartan 30, Poleon 39, Kilgallon 49)
The Bantams surrendered a three-goal lead to be left gut-wrenched to leave the West Midlands with just a point. City were two goals to the good at half-time thanks to goals from Shay McCartan and Dominic Poleon and a third was added early in the second half through a deflected Matthew Kilgallon header. After going three-goals down, the hosts absolutely took control of the game and Luke Leahy’s thumping header gave them a glimmer of hope before the hour. Tyler Roberts scored shortly afterwards to throw the game up into the air and Amadou Bakayoko scored a late leveller.
Walsall probably edged the opening exchanges in the game and Joe Edwards went close with a shot from the edge of the box which crept just wide of the bottom corner after he’d been given the opportunity to shoot by Amadou Bakayoko’s lay-off.
Kieron Morris lashed a fierce shot well wide of the target as the hosts began to up the ante and Edwards’ corner caused plenty of problems for the Bantams and Colin Doyle made an important claim in a crowded six-yard box after Bakayoko had looked likely at one stage to pounce and give his side an early lead.
The first goal of the game came after half an hour and it was a Bradford goal. City looked very lively on the counter-attack and they scored from a perfectly executed one. Charlie Wyke was picked out wide but inside the penalty area and his low cross found Shay McCartan who arrived at the far post on time to score his first goal for the club since his summer move from Accrington Stanley.
The lead was doubled just nine minutes later to leave the hosts on the ropes; this time the goal coming from a delivery down the left-hand side rather than the right. Tom Field got forward well from left-back to deliver a cross into the box and Dominic Poleon took the ball on the chest excellently to swivel and guide a shot into the bottom corner from ten yards out.
Morris missed a big chance on the stroke of half-time to half the deficit after being picked out by Edwards and the hosts were left to pay for that missed opportunity as City went three-nil up early in the second half. Tony McMahon’s free kick was met by the head of Matthew Kilgallon, who rose highest to head the ball into the back of the net in front of around a thousand City supporters.
Kilgallon claimed the goal but replays seemed to suggest the last touch came off Leahy.
Walsall pressed immediately to get back into the game and they weren’t willing to roll over despite being well behind. A goal which at the time seemed a consolation, came just six minutes after City’s third had gone in. A cross was whipped in by Nicky Devlin and Leahy rose to thump a tremendous header past Colin Doyle and into the back of the net.
Nathaniel Knight-Percival went close to adding a fourth to City’s tally after he’d connected with McMahon’s free kick into the box and a couple of minutes later the hosts scored again. The scorer turned provider this time as Leahy’s cross was guided into the top corner of the goal by the head of substitute Tyler Roberts.
The volume levels raised significantly in an otherwise dormant home support and the hosts sensed a route back into the game. Substitute Daniel Pybus linked up with Nicky Law to create an opening but the latter’s dangerous cross couldn’t force what ultimately would have been an all-important fourth goal.
The chances just kept coming for the home side and after Leahy tried another header which, this time, was held onto comfortably by Doyle, Erhun Oztumer’s free kick caused problems before Bakayoko hooked the ball narrowly over the bar.
It was that man, Bakayoko who scored the leveller for Walsall with just a few minutes left on the clock; he stooped to head a low cross into the back of the net. Six minutes were added on at the end and City had to be resilient enough to at least leave with a share of the spoils with Walsall truly rampant. A second half to forget for the Bantams and a draw on the road that on the face of things looks respectable, but feels just like a defeat.