Fleetwood 2-2 Bradford
By David Mitchell
Fleetwood Town and Capital Cup finalists Bradford City competed strongly, eventually sharing the points in a 2-2 draw before a crowd of 3577 at Highbury.
After taking the lead through Alan Goodall’s header, Town were rocked by two goals in six minutes either side of half time before drawing level from a Jon Parkin penalty in the 72nd
Town remained unchanged after their impressive victory over in-form Oxford United last Saturday. Highbury gave a warm welcome to City, conquerors of three Premier League sides on their way to the final. Michael Nelson made his debut in City’s defence after his signing from Kilmarnock in the January window and the Bantams side was full of players who have made household names for themselves via television over recent weeks.
The first chance went to Bradford’s Garry Thompson who fired wide in the seventh minute. City looked the more threatening in the early stages, buoyed on by a huge following. Good interplay from Town three minutes later ended in a right foot shot from former Bantam Gareth Evans which a City defender appeared to control with his arm just outside the penalty area.
Bradford defender Rory McArdle needed treatment to his ankle after 12 minutes and Evans just three minutes later, in the same part of the pitch. It did not take long for the ‘We’re going to Wembley’ chants to rise from the Percy Ronson End of the ground but they were soon silenced as Town took the lead in front of the Bradford supporters in the 20th
minute. Junior Brown forced the first save of the game from Matt Duke, the keeper diving low to his left, and from the resulting short corner Evans crossed for Goodall to rise at the near post for his third goal of the season.
Jamie McGuire and Jamie Allen combined to create a chance for Jamille Matt just after the half hour but the striker delayed and the threat was closed down. Three minutes later, Goodall’s cross found Allen in space but the young striker squandered the chance with his header ballooning over the bar. Bradford were seeing much of the ball without threatening Scott Davies, the nearest opportunity coming from skipper Gary Jones’s right foot. The midfielder’s shot passed narrowly wide of Davies’s right-hand post. Town pushed for a second goal. Allen had a shot comfortably saved by Duke in the 38th
minute and, soon after, Brown broke from defence to feed Evans who ran on before hitting a shot across Duke’s goal.
Ryan Dickson replaced McArdle in the 41st
minute and the half ended strongly for Bradford. Nathan Pond brought down Jones and, from the free kick, Nahki Wells wrong-footed Davies to put his side on terms, a bad time to concede after a good half from Town.
Ryan Crowther replaced Evans after the break and there was a momentary alarm for the visitors. Nelson rose under pressure from the much smaller Allen and nodded a backward header wide of Duke who was forced to concede a corner.
A second goal in seven minutes put Town on the back foot. There was indecision between Beeley and Brown, the latter nodding the ball into the path of Dickson who ran on, cut in from the left and calmly placed the ball under Davies. Shaun Beeley and City’s Carl McHugh needed attention in separate incidents. McHugh recovered, Beeley did not and was replaced just before the hour by Conor McLaughlin. Town’s final substitution saw Parkin replacing Allen.
Jones caught the eye with a number of strong runs from midfield and McLaughlin settled well with some confident touches, a cross from the right just eluding both Brown and Parkin. There was a moment’s danger for Town in the 68th
minute when Rob Atkinson’s header to his keeper almost let in Wells.
Brown found Crowther with a superb pass three minutes later, the first time cross failing to match the delivery. Town drew level with 16 minutes left. Bradford’s defence came under pressure and James Hanson handled. Parkin’s penalty, to Duke’s left, rolled agonisingly over the line after the keeper had made a valiant effort to save.
Kyle Reid came on for Thompson with ten minutes left and Town pressed for a winner. Paul McKenna became referee Robinson’s first booking after upending Reid with five minutes left. Bradford weathered the storm and applied their own pressure as five minutes were added. At the other end, McKenna fed Crowther whose shot went high. Bradford’s Reid provided a last chance for his side with a dangerous cross from the left.
Davies, Beeley (McLaughlin 59), Atkinson (captain), Pond, Goodall, Brown, McGuire, McKenna, Evans (Crowther 45), Matt, Allen (Parkin 63)