Oldham Athletic 1 Bradford City 2
The Bantams returned to winning ways with an excellent victory at Oldham Athletic on Saturday afternoon. City controlled the game throughout and took the lead through Romain Vincelot, who notched his first goal for the club. Brian Wilson’s rather unusual goal brought the hosts level before the break but Rory McArdle scored his first goal of the season in the latter stages to give Stuart McCall’s side a deserved victory.
Timothee Dieng was making his first return to Oldham since leaving the club and subsequently joining City during last summer; he was the first to try his luck, and his fiercely struck shot from 25 yards wasn’t that far away and went a yard or so wide of Connor Ripley’s post. Ollie Banks tried his luck with a shot from a similar distance down the other end of the field, but his attempt was blocked superbly by Rory McArdle.
Dieng went close with another attempt from distance and Billy Clarke began to turn the screw for the Bantams before City did take the lead just under quarter of an hour into the game. Clarke played a corner short to Josh Cullen and his excellent cross into the box was met Romain Vincelot after timing his run perfectly and he steered the ball past Ripley and into the back of the net.
Tony McMahon performed admirably once again at right-back and he engineered an opening for himself with some brilliant individual play. After beating Jamie Reckord to get into the box, he dropped a shoulder and got past Banks before seeing a shot from a tight angle kept out at his near post by Oldham Man of the Match, Ripley.
A couple of Bradford penalty appeals went the way of the referee in quick succession after Cullen and James Meredith both took tumbles in the box before City had the ball in the net again. McMahon’s corner was set back to Clarke by Cullen and the Irishman saw a cross turned in by the match-winner McArdle but unfortunately the flag was already up for an offside decision.
Clarke was making his first start in two and-a-half months after a lay-off with a calf tear and he produced an impressive display, playing in what looked at times to be a front three with Hiwula to his left and Marshall to his right; he beat Ousmane Fane with an excellent bit of skill before seeing a shot with his weaker right foot go inches wide of the target.
Before the end of the first half, Oldham equalised against the run of play. Brian Wilson carried the ball forward from the right-back position and he left Nicky Law behind before seeing a tame shot on his weaker left foot from 20 yards out somehow beat Colin Doyle. The City stopper’s dive was seemingly made irrelevant with a bobble off a tricky Boundary Park surface to leave most of the crowd in a degree of disbelief.
City could have restored the advantage early on in the second half, but after latching onto Law’s through ball and getting in behind Peter Clarke, Jordy Hiwula was denied in a one-on-one situation by Ripley; the one-time Bantams loanee in fine form for the Latics as Stuart McCall’s side looked to regain the advantage in a game they had largely dominated.
Ripley had to be at his best to keep Josh Cullen at bay after the West Ham loanee had surged into the box away from Peter Clarke before trying to beat the Oldham stopper at his near post from a tight angle. Ryan McLaughlin tested Doyle at the other end before Cullen was once again denied by Ripley following a header from close range.
City were pressing for a goal that would restore the lead and Vincelot tried to beat Ripley in a crowded penalty area before McLaughlin was cursing his luck at a shot from the edge of the box which whistled inches wide of the post with Doyle rooted to the spot.
With just under fifteen minutes of the ninety remaining, City took the lead once again. Alex Jones won a free kick just outside the box and it presented Billy Clarke a chance to deliver in a favourable position. The Irishman’s delivery was met by Dieng and he saw an attempt blocked; Vincelot then saw a header blocked before Rory McArdle slid the ball into the back of the net from a couple of yards out under the noses of 3,000 jubilant travelling supporters.
Doyle will naturally be questioned for an opening goal which should not really have been breaching the Bradford goal but he more than made up for any potential error with an important save to keep City in front. The ball ran through to substitute Billy McKay and his angled drive was mauled by the City stopper.
Jones saw an audacious snapshot held onto by Ripley in the final minute of the game after he’d chased and latched onto fellow substitute Alex Gilliead’s ball over the top. Doyle’s gloves were warmed once more before four minutes of additional time were used up, but City held on for a superb victory on the road and one that cements their place in the play-off places.