Northampton Town 1 Bradford City 2
The first chance of the game came inside the opening minute and it belonged to former Bantams midfielder Paul Anderson who made the move to Sixfields Stadium back in August. After managing to retain the ball on the right hand side, Marc Richards angled a cross to the far post where his teammate Anderson powered a header wide of the target.
City didn’t threaten on too many occasions in the first half and the first opportunity to do so came through Haris Vuckic who started up front alongside Jordy Hiwula. The Slovenian forward moved into space after latching onto Nicky Law’s incisive through ball but he focused on trying to get the ball onto his favoured left foot and the threat was eventually quashed.
Anderson had another chance of his own a minute later and he saw a first time drive from 20 yards go inches wide of the target after Alex Revell’s knock down had presented him with the opportunity to try and test Colin Doyle. Revell himself looked to threaten shortly afterwards and Rory McArdle had to be alert enough to prevent a tremendous Matt Taylor delivery from finding the former Milton Keynes Dons target-man.
Revell lashed a shot over the bar 20 yards from goal after being assisted by his strike partner Richards before Timothee Dieng saw a rising drive from distance go a couple of yards over the bar as both keepers lived a fairly charmed life in the opening exchanges of the game.
The left foot of Taylor was probably Northampton’s biggest threat in the first half and after his early taken free kick caught everyone aside from Richards napping, the latter in acres of space, glanced a header towards goal which Doyle had to pounce on just in front of the goal line.
The hosts took the lead shortly before the break to give the game a similar feeling at this stage, to the Bury clash a couple of days ago. Anderson continued his run and was picked out on the left hand side; he clipped a ball into the box and Revell looped a header over Doyle and into the far corner to leave City reeling going into the interval.
The Bantams showed signs of life in the final third just before the half-time whistle as James Meredith and Haris Vuckic came close but the introduction of Mark Marshall and James Hanson at half time proved to be a real turning point in the contest.
Hiwula would ultimately be the match winner later in the game, but he showed his intent early in the second half and forced a great save from arguably Town’s best player in Adam Smith after he’d produced a step over to beat his marker inside the box.
The two forwards combined a couple of minutes later to create the next opportunity; Hanson’s neat touch sent Hiwula racing away and he advanced into the penalty area to get a shot away but his eventual attempt was blocked vitally by Gabriel Zakuani as City looked to take the game to the hosts and get themselves level as a matter of urgency.
Josh Cullen was once again outstanding in the centre of the park and after being played in neatly around the corner by another impressive performer in Nicky Law, he unleashed a thumping shot which was kept out by Smith; the Cobblers stopper seemed determined to continue to frustrate the Bantams.
The equaliser was certainly coming and it did come in stunning fashion through far and away the best player on the pitch in the second half, Mark Marshall. The winger looked to almost get the ball stuck under his feet in the box and once he gained full control, he cut inside onto his right foot before rifling an unstoppable shot into the bottom corner.
Stephen Darby has only scored one goal for the club in four-and-a-half years at the club and he came ever so close to putting City ahead. The ball fell invitingly to him in the box and he looked to get everything right and shoot towards goal, but he was denied by a tremendous block tackle from David Buchanan.
The next Bradford goal came with just four minutes left on the clock and Marshall turned provider this time. He got to the byline and drilled a low cross into the box which was on a plate for Hiwula who slammed the ball into the roof of the net from just a couple of yards out to leave the 1,000+ travelling supporters behind the goal in delirium.
Marshall almost added the icing to the cake in the final minute but his left-footed curler from 20 yards out went inches over the bar as City produced arguably their most dominant 45 minutes of football to date during this season. It’s a deserved win and a much needed one as the Bantams look to stay in contention in the top six. Happy New Year!