Bradford City 2 Gillingham 2
The Bantams were left frustrated by Gillingham after missing the opportunity to move up to third in League One, the visiting Gills equalising through Deji Oshilaja to take a share of the spoils back to Kent with them. Josh Wright gave the visitors the lead early on but a debut goal from Charlie Wyke brought City level before Tony McMahon swept a goal home before the break to give Stuart McCall’s side the lead. Ady Pennock’s men got an equaliser early in the second half and ultimately held on for a well-earned point.
Gillingham were quick out of the traps and a talisman in their team, particularly from last season, Bradley Dack saw an audacious attempt deflect behind and narrowly wide of the target for a corner. From a corner taken by Dack, seconds later Chris Herd prodded the ball over the bar to let City very much off the hook.
There has been a great deal of hype around Charlie Wyke this season and it didn’t take him long to get involved in the thick of the action. He showed great feet to escape his marker in the box and his low centre was almost turned into the home on the stretch by Billy Clarke, just minutes before the latter saw a shot from outside the box almost spilled into his own net by Stuart Nelson.
Clarke was playing with confidence and saw another shot from distance pass narrowly wide of the target; Dack was also playing with confidence despite only notching four goals so far this season in comparison to the fifteen he managed last season and he saw an eye-catching attempt from 35 yards out go a yard or so wide of the post with Doyle a slight bit concerned and making his way across goal to cover the ground.
Gillingham took the lead just before the quarter-hour mark; with his celebrity brother Mark present in the ground to watch, Josh Wright notched his third goal in two away games after he’d latched onto a loose ball in the box when Ryan Jackson’s catapult-like throw into the box had not been effectively defended by the Bantams back-line.
The lead didn’t last long at all though and it was Charlie Wyke who was on hand to score the leveller. The new number nine was in the right place to head home Mark Marshall’s cross at the far post and score his first goal in claret & amber, adding to the eighteen he had managed in the first half of the season for Carlisle United in League Two. A debut dreams are made of and just a quarter of an hour gone.
Gillingham carried a threat going forward throughout the duration of the afternoon and Doyle had to be his best to keep out Rory Donnelly’s well-placed strike; Scott Wagstaff had a good chance to pounce onto the follow-up, but fortunately for City the former Bristol City man ran the ball out of play rather than trying his luck with a shot from a tight angle.
Clarke was heavily involved in a highly entertaining first half of football and after seeing a header held onto by Nelson, he then spurned a better opportunity to beat the Gillingham stopper. Sent running away and towards the box by Nicky Law, he took on Max Ehmer but Jackson was on hand to prevent him from getting a shot away, that perhaps could’ve been let fly a split-second earlier.
Rory McArdle was the hero with a late winner in last week’s victory over the hill at Oldham Athletic and he missed a good chance to put City ahead, but he glanced one wide after latching onto Tony McMahon’s superb corner into the crowded penalty area.
City did take the lead for the first time during the game and it was a goal that came through Tony McMahon who had missed the Oxford United Checkatrade Trophy tie earlier in the week through suspension. McMahon and Clarke stood over a free kick and the latter stepped up and saw an effort tipped onto the post tremendously by Nelson, but the ball fell kindly to the City right-back who made absolutely no mistake with the close range follow-up.
Clarke had had by far more shots than any other player on the pitch in the first half on his second start since a return from a pretty lengthy injury lay-off. After showing great skill to evade Ehmer and see a shot from distance go wide of the mark, he then saw a first-time curling strike from 25 yards go a matter of inches over the bar just before the interval.
City went into the break with a lead in their grasp but it only took four minutes of the second half for that lead to disappear. Jackson swung a cross into the box which was contested by Cody McDonald and the ball fell kindly to Deji Oshilaja and he fired the ball into the net via the inside of the post from around 10 yards out.
Stuart McCall’s men almost reacted quickly once again with a goal but Josh Cullen saw an instinctive volley kept out by Nelson after McArdle’s header into the air from a Clarke corner had dropped to him invitingly just inside the Gillingham penalty area.
The intensity and pressure on the visitors began to crank up a few notches with City determined to regain a lead they probably felt they deserved and Nicky Law went close after getting the better of Jake Hessenthaler before Cullen saw another rasping attempt go wide of the target with Nelson rooted to the spot.
Wyke did all he could to try and score his second of the afternoon and after connecting with a header on goal from McMahon’s corner, he was left rueing his luck when Donnelly hooked the ball off the line; the Gillingham forward in the right place at the right time to do his bit in terms of defensive duties.
The big frontman linked up well with Clarke to carve the next opening but the Irishman came close but not quite close enough as his left footed attempt from just outside the box went a yard or so wide of the target as frustration began to grow with the clock very much against the Bantams.
Jordy Hiwula scored his tenth goal of the season at Oxford earlier in the week and he came off the bench late on and almost put City back in front with one of his first touches of the ball. Clarke’s ball presented him with an opportunity and he looped the ball over the advancing Nelson but the ball bounced inches wide of the post to once against let Ady Pennock’s side off the hook.
City pushed for a winning goal but in fact it was Gillingham that went the closest to nicking it during five minutes of additional time; substitute Elliott List raced through to latch onto Jay Emmanuel-Thomas' pass but as he looked to try and beat Doyle, he was nudged off the ball vitally by McArdle.
A tenth home draw of the season for City and another where they were unfortunate not to pick up all three. All attention now turns to next weekend’s trip to Bristol Rovers for a potentially tough encounter against a side who are superb on their own patch and are within sight of the top six.