Bristol Rovers 1 Bradford City 1
The Bantams were left to settle for another frustrating draw on their travels last Saturday afternoon. Stuart McCall’s men had the majority of the ball and the chances but had to come from behind to equalise through Nicky Law’s superb team goal after Chris Lines’ tremendously executed shot into the far corner had given the home side the lead. Billy Clarke and Charlie Wyke in particular had gilt-edged chances in a dominant second half display but Rovers had Joe Lumley to thank for an impressive display between the sticks.
City were slow out of the traps and were probably camped in their own half of the pitch in the opening few minutes of the game and amongst a flurry of Rovers corners, Tom Lockyer saw a shot deflect wide of the target with the hosts looking to make their mark on the game early on buoyed by a vocal backing.
The counter attack was to be a useful tool for Stuart McCall’s men and with pace out wide in the form of Mark Marshall and James Meredith, the Bantams didn’t take long to look lively. Billy Clarke’s deflected shot fell to Marshall and he then saw an attempt blocked away as City began their own corner count. Charlie Wyke was a scorer with a header on his debut last week, but his first header of the game just lacked a bit of power and direction and Rovers’ best player on the day Joe Lumley caught the ball comfortably.
After a quarter of an hour, Rovers took the lead. Chris Lines proved to be a threat from set-piece situations all afternoon and the Bristolian midfielder turned neatly and got the ball under control before caressing a shot across goal and into the far corner from just inside the 18 yard box.
Seconds later, City went down the other end of the field and looked for an immediate response to falling behind. The ball was moved wide to Tony McMahon who was afforded plenty of space and his low cross was a matter of inches away from being turned home by the two outstretched pair of legs, belonging to Marshall and Wyke.
Lines was presented another chance to beat Colin Doyle from distance after Nathaniel Knight-Percival had fouled Luke James 25 yards from goal, but the former Port Vale man drilled an attempt straight at the Irish stopper who held the ball comfortably inside a bobbly and crowded penalty area.
City equalised just eleven minutes after falling behind and it was a goal of real quality; Nicky Law played the ball into the feet of Wyke who rolled the ball behind him and superbly into the path of Law who smashed the ball into the roof of the net from close range the restore parity.
It was an evenly contested first half of football and after Rory McArdle went close to turning McMahon’s free kick in after Romain Vincelot was fouled. Cristian Montano had a couple of attempt at putting Rovers back in front; his first cleared the temporary-style stand behind the goal and his second had to be blocked importantly by McMahon.
Early in the second half, City immediately went in search of a second goal. Marshall’s cross took a deflection and that caused Lumley to flap and the ball fell to McMahon who saw a shot hooked off the line by a recovering Rovers defender.
City were being afforded plenty of space to cause damage from the flanks and McMahon’s cross into the box found Billy Clarke who controlled the ball and teed up the oncoming James Meredith for a first time drive which went a yard or so over the bar.
It certainly seemed like it was Stuart McCall’s side in the ascendancy but against the run of play, Rovers almost regained their lead. James was a busy presence in the final third and he delivered a cross to the near post which was turned wide on the stretch by Ellis Harrison; the Welshman failing to test Doyle as he did with a shot from distance in the first half.
The pressure cranked up a notch as City looked to avoid another draw to add to a hefty tally of one-pointers and Clarke showed great skill to beat Lines and start a breakaway with a switch to Marshall; he beat Leadbitter and crossed into the box for Wyke to head down into the path of Clarke who was denied by a smart reaction, and slightly fortunate save from Lumley.
Knight-Percival is still waiting for his first goal of the season and he saw a firmly struck half-volley kept out by a duo of Rovers defenders before Wyke saw a header from close range kept out by Lumley; it looked like a certain goal for the City number nine after Marshall had beaten Lee Brown all ends up to deliver a cross into the box.
The chances were adding up as the minutes went by, the next one belonging to Marshall. Clarke was a creating spark for the Bantams all afternoon and after brushing off the challenge of Rovers substitute Ryan Broom, he played the ball through to Marshall who lacked the composure and fired the ball over the bar to let the Pirates off the hook.
Rovers central defender Ryan Sweeney was probably the tallest man on the pitch and he went close with two headers in quick succession from Lines’ dangerous deliveries into the box as both sides sensed they could grab victory with time very much running out.
Broom counter-attacked for the hosts but wasted a cross which was too heavy for the two players advancing beyond him, much to the frustration of the home crowd who sensed that their last chance of the game had now been and gone. There was still time for one more Bradford chance though in the final minute; Marshall did well to win a corner, McMahon delivered it into the box and Timothee Dieng saw a downward header held onto by Lumley as the Bantams had to settle for a share of the spoils.