Kick Off: 7:45pm
Fleetwood Town 0
Bradford City 1 (McArdle 77)
Sky Bet League One Play-Offs Semi-Final First Leg
Thursday 4 May 2017
Attendance: 15,696 (559 visitors)
Rory McArdle's all-important winner late on ensured Stuart McCall's men finished their Sky Bet League One Play-Offs semi-final first leg against Fleetwood Town with a crucial advantage going into Sunday's decisive return encounter.
McArdle, who celebrated his 29th birthday on Monday, powered home a near-post header from a Tony McMahon corner thirteen minutes from the end to deservedly fire City to victory in their opening leg with Fleetwood.
Looking to make home advantage count first up, McCall's side dominated for long periods against a Fleetwood side seemingly content to play out for a draw.
Fleetwood striker David Ball did enjoy two early sights of goal - including a lob narrowly over following a misplaced pass from Bantams 'keeper Colin Doyle - but it was City who were doing most of the running.
Nicky Law and Charlie Wyke saw efforts saved by Fleetwood shot-stopper Alex Cairns in the first period, while Billy Clarke hit the post with a drive from outside the box later in the half.
The Bantams continued to boss the game after the break, with Josh Cullen forcing Cairns to tip over from a direct free-kick outside the box.
As City remained on the front-foot, Romain Vincelot, who looked mightily impressive in midfield with Cullen throughout the night, fired over from just inside the box and McMahon saw a shot blocked.
In between those two chances, a rare Fleetwood attack forward resulted in former City striker Devante Cole being denied by Doyle.
City's pressure finally paid off in the seventy-seventh minute when McArdle crashed in a thumping header from a McMahon corner to send the home fans into raptures.
James Meredith could have possibly doubled the Bantams' advantage in the tie with only three minutes of normal time remaining but he sent a header wide from a McMahon cross.
FT: Bradford City 1 Fleetwood Town 0
90min: There will be three minutes of time added on at the end of the match.
88min: SUB - The Bantams bring on Timothee Dieng for Law.
87min: Meredith comes surging in unmarked to connect with a McMahon cross but his header goes wide, possibly via a deflection off McLaughlin.
86min: Law takes aim from outside the box but the shot goes comfortably over.
82min: Wyke's curling effort from around the edge of the area sails some distance over.
81min: SUB - Fleetwood bring on Wes Burns for Ball.
79min: Marshall's low drive from an angle inside the box is comfortably held by his near post by Cairns.
77min: GOAL!!!!!!! Bradford City 1 Fleetwood Town 0 - City have the lead! From McMahon's near post corner, McArdle rises highest to power home a header!
74min: Hunter goes for goal from outside the box but his left-footed drive sails over.
73min: Meredith's low cross into the box is helped on by Hiwula. Wyke looks to get on the end of the ball but his shot for goal is partially blocked and Cairns is able to gather up.
69min: SUB - The Bantams bring on Jordy Hiwula for Clarke.
69min: Bell's low cross into the box lands at the feet of Hunter but the striker's hook for goal over his shoulder drops comfortably wide.
66min: SUB - Fleetwood bring on Ashley Hunter for Cole.
65min: A neat flick from Wyke finds Meredith in space down the left-hand channel of Fleetwood's penalty area. Meredith goes for goal from angle but the rising effort flashes harmlessly over.
64min: A great one-two with Cullen sees McMahon in with a shooting chance just inside the box. The left-footed effort looks goal-bound but it hits the frame of Ashley Eastham and it bounces away.
55min: McMahon's cross into the box is met by a looping header from Vincelot but the effort lacks real pace and Cairns is able to gather up easily.
53min: Bell plays Cole in behind McArdle but his low strike from a decent position inside the box is blocked by Doyle, with the ball actually going out off the Fleetwood forward for a goal kick.
52min: Clarke's cross into the box pings around Fleetwood's penalty area, eventually landing at the feet of Romain Vincelot just inside the box. Vincelot takes aim but his rising shot goes over.
50min: Cullen takes aim direct from a free-kick outside the box and the goal-bound effort has to be pushed over by Cairns.
48min: Marshall's shot from distance curls wide.
46min: Fleetwood restart the match.
HT SUB - Fleetwood bring on George Glendon for Schwabi just before the restart.
HT: Bradford City 0 Fleetwood Town 0
45min: There will be two minutes of time added on at the end of the first half.
41min: A great driving run from Meredith down City's left wing eventually sees the defender cross low into the box. Clarke is first onto the ball but his effort on the half-volley curls wide of goal.
38min: Off the post! Clarke's low drive from roughly twenty yards out beats Cairns' dive but the effort comes off the base of the post!
37min: Amari'i Bell's throw-in from deep towards the box is laid back by Devante Cole into the path of Grant but his low first-time shot from roughly twenty yards out rolls harmlessly wide.
36min: Marshall twist and turns into crossing space over on City's left flank. His eventual delivery is a teasing one but it bounces just out of the reach of Clarke and Wyke and behind for a goal kick.
31min: Marshall's left-footed cross into the box is headed over on the stretch by James Meredith.
23min: YELLOW CARD - After three earlier fouls in the game, Markus Schwabl is booked for bringing down Marshall midway into Fleetwood territory.
21min: A mis-placed pass from Colin Doyle is intercepted by Ball just outside the box. With Doyle off his line, Ball tries to lob the City 'keeper but the effort drops onto the roof of the net. A decent chance out of nothing for Fleetwood there!
19min: A superb driving run from deep towards Fleetwood's box by Cullen eventually sees the ball at the feet of Clarke. The striker curls a cross-come-shot forwards from an angle just inside the box but Cairns is able to watch the delivery bounce past the post.
18min: Grant's sliced clearance from deep inside his own box sees the ball loop up towards Charlie Wyke but his first time effort isn't cleanly struck and Cairns is able to save.
13min: Josh Cullen plays a one-two with McMahon over on City's left flank before whipping in a curling cross towards the far post. Mark Marshall tries to get on the end of the delivery but he isn't quite able to keep the ball in play over by the far byline.
12min: Law's low drive from roughly twenty-five yards out is tipped around the post by Cairns.
10min: Conor McLaughlin's hanging cross is headed down into the mix by Grant. David Ball tries to shoot for goal on the turn but his effort goes across the six yard box instead and James Meredith on the far side can clear.
7min: Billy Clarke finds himself in behind Fleetwood's back line as the ball bounces kindly into his path. Clarke looks to get a shot away as he gets to the edge of Fleetwood's penalty area but Nathan Pond gets a vital toe in and possession goes through to Cairns.
5min: McMahon's cross into the box is pushed out by Alex Cairns but only as far as the lurking Nicky Law around the edge of the box. Law looks to hook forward for goal but his effort is blocked away.
1min: Early flash point as Bobby Grant and Tony McMahon square up following a tackle from the City right back just inside Fleetwood's half. The issue is clearly settled, however, with a one or two for each from referee Mr Oliver Langford.
0min: The Bantams kick off the match. They will attack towards The Kop Stand in the first period.
BRADFORD CITY LINE UP:
Doyle, McMahon, McArdle, Knight-Percival, Meredith, Vincelot, Cullen, Law, Marshall, Clarke, Wyke
Subs: Sattelmaier, Darby, Dieng, Hiwula, Penney, Gilliead, Kilgallon
Bradford City substitutions:
Hiwula for Clarke (69), Dieng for Law (88)
FLEETWOOD TOWN LINE UP:
Cairns, Eastham, Pond, Davies McLaughlin, Bell, Schwabl, Dempsey, Grant, Ball, Cole
Subs: Neal, Brannagan, Burns, Davis, Nirennold, Glendon, Hunter
Fleetwood Town substitutions:
Glendon for Schwabi (46), Hunter for Cole (66), Burns for Ball (81)
Fleetwood Town cautions:
Fourth Official: O Langford
Assistant Referee: J Wilson
Assistant Referee: N Greenhalgh
Referee: T Harrington
Assistant Referee: J Wilson
Assistant Referee: N Greenhalgh
Referee: T Harrington