Scunthorpe United 3 Bradford City 2
The Bantams were edged out by Scunthorpe United this mothering Sunday by fellow promotion rivals Scunthorpe United in what was an enthralling encounter at Glanford Park. Ivan Toney gave the home side a dream start by notching the opening goal after just three minutes but two goals in as many minutes from debutant Kevin Toner and Alex Jones turned the game on its head going into the break. Toney doubled his tally early in the second half and although City enjoyed large amounts of the ball and a hatful of chances, the home side won it late on through Matt Crooks who headed past Colin Doyle from a corner kick.
Toney was a January arrival on loan from Championship high-flyers Newcastle United and he found himself unmarked and in enough space to rifle a shot on the turn into the roof of the net after Josh Morris' in-swinging corner into the box had dropped invitingly into his path. It was too good an invite to turn down and the United forward duly gave his side the advantage just three minutes into this televised clash.
Just before the quarter-hour mark, City equalised and it was through Toney's near-namesake Kevin Toner who marked his long-awaited Bantams debut with a goal. After Charlie Wyke was fouled just outside the box, Billy Clarke delivered a sumptuous cross which was met by the head of the Irish defender and he bulleted the ball into the back of the net.
City weren't done there and wrestled the game into their favour with another goal, just two minutes after they'd levelled the proceedings. After a close shave and a near own-goal at one end, Doyle's punt up the pitch eventually found Alex Jones and he drilled a low shot across the body of United stopper Luke Daniels and into the bottom corner to leave the hosts stunned.
Matt Crooks saw an optimistic shot from distance go a yard or so over the bar before Jordan Clarke spurned a big opportunity to level the scores. The full-back found himself with the ball in his path and only 12 yards from goal after Romain Vincelot temporarily cut-out Toney's low cross but he couldn't breach Doyle as City breathed a collective sigh of relief.
It was truly an end to end encounter, particularly in a frenetic first half and Jones spurned a chance to notch his second goal drilling a shot wide of the target before Timothee Dieng sliced a shot from 25 yards out wide of the target after Billy Clarke had done well to engineer an opening for the French midfielder.
City went into the break with a lead to look after but they let that one slip just three minutes into the second half as Toney notched his second goal of the afternoon. With a suspicion of offside, Toney beat the offside trap and let the ball bounce favourably before scoring an overhead kick from a tight angle, the ball creeping over the line and into the bottom corner of the goal.
Seconds later, Billy Clarke was presented with a golden opportunity to score and give City the lead once again. Mark Marshall produced another one of his usual industrious displays and his cross was knocked down by Tony McMahon; Clarke latched onto the ball but he lashed a first time shot wide of the target from around 15 yards out.
Marshall himself saw an attempt deflect wide of the target before Timothee Dieng was denied from close range by Daniels' reaction save after the midfielder had rose higher than anybody else inside the penalty area to connect with McMahon's corner.
Charlie Wyke had had a relatively quiet afternoon but you know he is a man that will always get chances in the game; he connected truly with a snapshot from just inside the box which was pushed away instinctively by Daniels after he had been picked out with a neat lay-off by Marshall.
City almost regained the lead with a hint of controversy, with just over fifteen minutes of the ninety remaining. McMahon's cross was kept alive at the far post by Jones and Wyke contested for the ball with Daniels; there was an appeal for a foul against Wyke but the referee waved play-on and the ball came loose to James Meredith who lashed a shot over the bar with plenty of time to pick his spot, 15 yards from goal.
Billy Clarke was causing problems all afternoon with his set-piece deliveries and his cross on this occasion was helped on by Dieng before Toner headed wide on the stretch to let United off the hook. McMahon saw a free kick from 30 yards out held onto relatively routinely by Daniels before the hosts took the lead for the second time in the game.
A corner into the box was met by the head of the towering central midfielder Matt Crooks, on loan from Rangers, and he thundered the ball into the back of the net from close range leaving Doyle with absolutely no chance of keeping the ball out. City at this stage, with just nine minutes plus added time left to get something from the contest.
The Scunthorpe goal was peppered late on as the Bantams desperately tried to get back onto level terms again. Marshall saw an angled drive kept out by Daniels before Dieng headed over the bar after he'd latched onto a cross from the City number seven.
Into a hefty six additional minutes, Romain Vincelot saw a header crash against the crossbar before substitute Daniel Devine saw a deflected attempt go narrowly wide of the post as City piled on the pressure. Meredith was picked out in the middle by Devine's cross and then he saw a goal-bound attempt somehow diverted wide of the mark by the outstretched foot of Murray Wallace.
Charlie Wyke was the next to be denied by the home goalkeeper and even with Doyle up into the melee, the Bantams simply couldn't rescue a point from a game that they certainly deserved something from.