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Match Reports

CITY EDGED OUT BY FLEETWOOD IN SCRAPPY ENCOUNTER

9 February 2019

City's hopes of pushing themselves out of the League One relegation zone were dealt a blow after David Hopkin's men suffered a highly frustrating defeat at home to Fleetwood Town.

Paddy Madden's ninth-minute opener at the Northern Commercials Stadium proved enough to net a scruffy 1-0 win for the Cod Army.

Following Madden's goal, Hopkin's Bantams pushed hard for a leveller - especially after the break - but City seemed to lack the magic touch on the day to open up the Fleetwood defence and test their shot-stopper Alex Cairns.

The recalled George Miller saw himself on the end of a decent opening ten minutes from the end of normal time, but the striker could only fire over in space around the edge of the box.

Miller's return to the starting XI was one of two changes made by Hopkin for the visit of Joey Barton's Fleetwood team.

Bradford-born Jacob Butterfield was also brought into the side for his full debut with his home-town club.

As a result of the changes, Connor Wood - who had been suffering with a rib injury during the week - and Eoin Doyle moved down to the bench.

Despite the eventual scoreline going against the Bantams, Hopkin's team actually started the contest fairly promising, winning two early corners in front of The Kop.

From the first real opening of the match, however, Fleetwood crucially took the lead.

James Wallace's cross from the right wasn't dealt with by City in the middle and Madden swooped in at the far post to crash home from close range.

The early goal conceded was clearly a blow to the Bantams' hopes in the match, but they did respond in positive fashion.

Lewis O'Brien fizzed an inviting ball across goal minutes later, but no-one in claret and amber in the middle was there for the tap-in.

The midfielder himself then fired over soon after with a strike from outside the box.

As soon as they took the lead, Fleetwood seemed content on getting men behind the ball - hoping to frustrate the Bantams - and then hit on the counter-attack where possible.

Fleetwood did engineer an opening from one such bright attack forward, but Ash Hunter volleyed over from Ched Evans' cross into the box midway through the half.

In truth, the rest of the first period was a scrappy affair; Fleetwood seemingly keen on every occasion to take the sting out of the match.

There was to be one chance each for both sides before the break; Madden heading at Richard O'Donnell from a Lewie Coyle cross narrowly ahead of the interval and Payne then firing wide with a low drive from outside the box at the other end shortly afterwards.

After a low-key ending to the first period, the second half started -  frustratingly - in similar fashion.

City huffed and puffed, but Fleetwood were continuing to play the role of spoilers to perfection; denying the Bantams a way through to Cairns' goal.

With the Bantams seemingly struggling to make an impact in Fleetwood's final third, Doyle was introduced into the action for Hope Akpan to give City more presence in attack.

Butterfield did try his best to make the breakthrough on the hour mark with a fierce drive from just outside the box that whistled narrowly over the bar.

As time ticked on in the second half, Fleetwood appeared content to sit in and block the Bantams' route into their penalty area.

Barton's men were leaving little in the way of space in their half for the likes of David Ball, Payne or O'Brien to try and pull the strings.

Payne was actually replaced twenty minutes from the end by the returning Billy Clarke, who received a tremendous reception on his second home debut in City colours.

With O'Donnell largely untroubled in the City goal as the game moved into the final quarter, the Bantams launched forward on attacks time after time in an attempt to find that chink in Fleetwood's armour.

Fleetwood's defensive duo, skipper Ashley Eastham and the giant 6' 6'' Harry Souttar, were always on hand to frustrate the Bantams, however, heading and kicking away with regularity.

A low Doyle cross into the box fifteen minutes from the end popped up into the path of Ball in the box, but the attacker's close range drive was deflected away by Eastham.

Arguably City's best opening of the game then came five minutes later when O'Brien's through-ball deflected into the path of Miller around the edge of the box.

Miller was in space when the ball bounced into his path but the striker fired over on the half-volley.

Another opportunity came City's way seven minutes from the end of normal time when Clarke whipped a wide free-kick into the box.

Nathaniel Knight-Percival got his head on the delivery but the defender's effort was straight at Cairns.

City's final change of the afternoon came just before Knight-Percival's chance; Luca Colville coming on for Miller.

Sadly for Colville and the Bantams, though, the former Huddersfield Town youngster couldn't help engineer a late City revivial.

The Bantams kept pushing until the final seconds of four minutes of injury time, but Fleetwood did a thoroughly professional job in seeing out the game and securing the away win.

 

Match stats, line ups and action from the Fleetwood game can be found via the Match Centre - HERE.


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