2 (Cole 68, Cullen OG. 81)Fleetwood Town
1 (Hiwula 43)Bradford City
Tuesday 14th February 2017 | Sky Bet League One | Highbury Stadium
The Bantams were sent stumbling to a defeat on the road thanks to a second-half comeback from Fleetwood Town. City were dominant in the first half and took the lead just before the interval through Jordy Hiwula but the second half display perhaps lacked the same intensity as Uwe Rosler's side upped their game after a below-par first half performance. Devante Cole levelled for the Cod Army midway through the half before an unfortunate own goal from Josh Cullen proved decisive in the latter stages after Conor McLaughlin's cross had forced the issue.
Fleetwood have been superb at home throughout the season and they tried to get off to a fast start in this one. Former Bantam Devante Cole won a corner and Kyle Dempsey’s short delivery was met by the oncoming Amari’i Bell who scooped a shot harmlessly over the bar much to the delight of a fantastic travelling following behind the goal in the Percy Ronson Stand.
Alex Gilliead came in to make his first start in a Bradford City shirt and his first opportunity to stretch his legs down the right hand side lead to a foul on Charlie Wyke and a free kick in a promising position. The ball was delivered into the box by Nicky Law and Rory McArdle connected with a powerful header which went narrowly over the bar.
The first genuinely gilt-edged chance of the game came to City after a quarter of an hour. Law was the goalscorer at Bristol Rovers on Saturday and his intelligent pass through to Jordy Hiwula in the penalty area gave him a chance of adding to his ten-goal tally for the season but he was denied superbly by former Leeds United and Rotherham United stopper Alex Cairns.
City were looking the more likely in the opening exchanges and Josh Cullen who has publicly said he’s making more of an effort to contribute with goals, saw a sight of goal 18 yards out but on his weaker left foot he skewed a shot harmlessly wide of the target as the Bantams looked to stamp their authority on Uwe Rosler’s fellow promotion contending outfit.
Charlie Wyke scored on his debut and came close in his second appearance for City at the weekend; he came close to doubling his tally for the club since a January move from Carlisle. Romain Vincelot won the ball back brilliantly and allowed James Meredith a chance to motor down the left hand side before his cross was turned over the bar on the half-volley by Wyke.
An eye-catching arrival on loan from Premier League Liverpool, Fleetwood midfielder Cameron Brannagan created a bit of space for himself in the middle of the pitch before seeing a tamely struck drive from 20 yards held onto by Colin Doyle who had his gloves warmed for the first time on a cold evening by the Irish sea.
With the game just over the half-hour mark, the referee Ross Joyce was dealt with his first penalty appeal of the evening. Nicky Law moved infield and picked out Wyke in the box who turned away from Bolger before taking a tumble; the 1,500+ travelling supporters obviously wanted a spot kick but the referee probably made the right call to wave the appeal away.
Just before the break, City deservedly took the lead with what was a very nicely worked goal. Hiwula played the ball into the feet of Wyke who played a neat ball around the corner to his strike partner who composed himself and found the bottom corner of the goal with a brilliant finish with his weaker left foot. Going into the half-time break with a lead was no more that Stuart McCall’s side deserved after a dominant first half display.
Fleetwood were sure to come out and try and respond quickly in the second half and they almost levelled things up with their first chance. Skipper Conor McLaughlin swung a deep cross into the box which was headed back into a central area by Brannagan; Dempsey threatened before leading scorer David Ball dragged a shot wide of the target to let City off the hook.
Just after the hour mark, City spurned a brilliant opportunity to double their lead in the game. Law twisted and turned and got the better of Cian Bolger in the box before driving a low cross into the goalmouth; the ball hit Town’s Ben Davies and broke to Gilliead who fired the ball over the bar. A real chance for the Newcastle loanee to open his account for the club, but perhaps the ball came to him a bit quickly for him to react.
Shortly afterwards, Fleetwood equalised and it was through a familiar face. City had controlled the majority of the game but the hosts had looked a better proposition than they did in the first half; substitute Ashley Hunter delivered a low cross from the right hand side and Devante Cole turned the ball in from close range to level the game up going into the final twenty minutes of the match.
Hunter himself got in behind down the left hand side on this occasion after a lapse in communication between Stephen Darby and Rory McArdle but after cutting inside onto his favoured right-foot, he saw a shot blocked behind for a corner off the recovering Darby as Fleetwood sensed an opportunity to go on and win the game.
McLaughlin forced Doyle into a smart save before the Northern Irishman set-up the goal that put his side ahead for the first time. A short corner was played to him and he drove past Law and into the box before seeing a low cross into the mix find the roof of the net via deflections off a Darby and the Cullen.
Billy Clarke was introduced as a substitute and he connected with Gilliead’s cross to the near post to force a corner thanks to a block from a Town player and then fellow substitute Mark Marshall tried a first time shot from 25 yards but it was one he got wrong as the ball sailed well over the bar to give the hosts a chance to regroup as they looked to cling on for three points. That they did to send City crashing to a first ever defeat at Highbury Stadium. Focus now turns to City’s home clash with Bolton Wanderers this weekend.