Oxford United 2 (Maguire pen 53, Johnson 55)
Bradford City 1 (Hiwula 85)
Tuesday 31st January 2017 | Checkatrade Trophy | Kassam Stadium
On a night that coincided with a busy close to the January transfer window, City bowed out of the Checkatrade Trophy at the Quarter-Final stage. The Bantams more than matched the hosts who came into this one following a confidence boosting FA Cup victory against Newcastle United, but fell behind to a Chris Maguire penalty. Marvin Johnson’s 25-yard rocket doubled Oxford’s lead and despite Jordy Hiwula’s 10th goal of the season late on, the Us held on to progress to the semi-final of the competition.
Billy Clarke retained his place in the starting line-up after an eye-catching display at Oldham Athletic last weekend and he almost carved the opening opportunity of the game; Jordy Hiwula burst forward down the left hand side and found Clarke, but as he looked to get onto the return ball in the box, he lost his footing on a surface much softer than the concrete-like playing surface that showed up this time last week.
Oxford carry threats of their own in the final third and seconds later Rouven Sattelmaier was called into action. A loose ball allowed Kane Hemmings to move into space facing goal and his firm drive from just outside the box was pushed around the post alertly by the deputising German stopper who, as usual in this competition, was in to start ahead of Colin Doyle.
Mark Marshall has been in fine form for the Bantams of late and after receiving Nicky Law’s cross-field ball, he became the next to try his luck but after escaping the attention of Maguire and Johnson, he saw a low shot from just inside the box held onto by one-time Bantams loanee stopper Simon Eastwood.
City looked by far the more progressive of the two teams in the early stages of the game and were denied the lead by some heroic defender. James Meredith leaped the highest at the near post to guide the ball towards the bottom following Law’s corner into the box, but fortunately for the hosts, Johnson was in the right place at the right time to hook the ball clear on the line.
Sattelmaier had not been particularly busy in an opening half of football which showed some encouraging signs for Stuart McCall’s men going into the second half. Eastwood had the warmer gloves of the two goalkeepers and before the half was out, he had to stand strong to another Marshall attempt after the City winger had been picked out by Clarke.
The second half saw City disrupted early on with Rory McArdle leaving the heart of the defence and off the field to received stitches to a head wound after colliding with Curtis Nelson. McArdle left the field with the score goalless and retuned with his team two-down after a made few minutes.
Romain Vincelot brought Rob Hall down in the box to give Oxford a chance to take the lead from the spot. Chris Maguire was the match-winner against City back in October and he made absolutely no mistake from 12 yards to fire the ball into the roof of the net to break the deadlock.
A couple of minutes later and with City still licking their wounds, Oxford took control and doubled their lead. Keeping the ball patiently, the ball was eventual worked into the path of Johnson and the left-back unleashed probably as good a shot as he’ll ever hit and his 25 yard rocket found the top corner and left Sattelmaier with no chance whatsoever.
McArdle was eventually replaced by Daniel Devine with Timothee Dieng joining his countryman Vincelot in central defence and Oxford almost added a third goal which would have killed the tie stone-dead. Joe Rothwell had a pop from distance this time, but his attempt from the best part of 25 yards out went a few inches over the bar to let City off the hook.
Law had the ball in the net, but the goal was quickly chalked off by the linesman’s flag who had spotted a pretty obvious offside decision against Jordy Hiwula who had squared to Law for a tap-in that would have breathed new life into the Bantams’ hopes of remaining in the Checkatrade Trophy.
With City searching for a route back into the tie, they were almost given one by Chey Dunkley, but the Oxford defender will have breathed a huge sigh of relief to see the ball go just wide of the post after he’d intervened a James Meredith cross and in turn almost breached his own goal in an attempt to prevent the Australian’s cross from causing concern.
Oxford were now a growing threat on the counter attack and City had to conjure up a few last ditch challenged to deny the home side a third goal that looked a possibility. Dieng had to make up for his own mistake in superb fashion to deny Maguire a second goal as he ran into the box and towards goal, and Vincelot had to halt Hall with a crunching challenge; that was a feisty duel which had gone on all evening.
Hiwula scored with five minutes of the regulation remaining and it was a superb header which moved him into double figures for the campaign. Law hooked a ball into the box and the City forward looped a header over Eastwood and marginally over the line via the underside of the crossbar to give the Bantams a lifeline.
City did their best to force penalties during a generous helping of additional time and with Sattelmaier forward for the last chance of the game, youngster Ellis Hudson almost made himself a hero but after the ball broke loose to him, he couldn’t keep his shot under the crossbar after he had done well to shift the ball onto his favoured left foot.
An appearance in the last eight is the nearest City have come for quite some time in this particular competition but all good things usually come to an end and it is Oxford who now look forward to a semi-final that separates them from a trip to Wembley. After a truly hectic final day of the month, it’s back to the bread and butter against Gillingham this weekend in Sky Bet League One.