Bradford City 4 Walsall 0
On a tense afternoon in the League One play-off chase, the Bantams came up trumps to boost the hopes of finishing in the top six. Prior to kick off, Walsall had a great chance of jumping into the automatic promotion places, but a first career hat-trick by James Hanson in the second half took the Saddlers to the sword. Filipe Morais scored the other goal on his first start of the season net the opener and from there Phil Parkinson’s men ran riot to extend the cushion to five points between themselves and seventh placed Gillingham.
City started the game very much on the front foot, had all of the early chances and really should’ve gone ahead through Lee Evans. Morais did well to get to the byline and stand up a cross towards the Welsh midfielder who saw a downward header saved by the legs of Neil Etheridge.
Etheridge was called into action again shortly afterwards; Walsall failed to clear their lines and Tony McMahon latched onto the loose ball before forcing the Philippines international stopper into a smart save with a dipping half volley.
The Bantams were then let off the hook against the run of play as Walsall were denied by the crossbar. Known for their passing abilities, Jon Whitney’s side conjured up a slick move before Huddersfield Town loanee Jordy Hiwula saw a shot from a tight angle crass off the underside of the bar.
Before the half was out, City had another chance to take what would be a deserved lead in the game. Evans saw a shot on the turn kept out smartly by Etheridge before Paul Downing made a vital block to make sure Morais’ follow-up was diverted behind for a corner kick.
Early on in the second half, City took the lead through Morais. McMahon’s free kick to the far post was headed back into the mix by Rory McArdle, Hanson went to attack the ball before it eventually found the far corner of the goal via the slightest touch from Morais. The Portuguese winger’s first start of the season, marked with his first goal of the season.
The crowd barely had time to sit back in their seats when Hanson doubled the lead. The ball fell invitingly to the frontman in the box and Downing’s unfortunate slip allowed him time and space to slot the ball past Etheridge from close range to put City in a comfortable position.
Hiwula almost pulled his side back into the game with a brilliant, dipping half volley from 25 yards and Ben Williams had to be at his alert best to back pedal and tip the ball over the bar.
Walsall really could’ve done with that goal to half the deficit as City scored a third a few minutes later. After Stephen Darby was fouled, McMahon delivered an inch-perfect free kick which was powered superbly into the back of the net by the head of Hanson, for his second of the game.
Two minutes later, City scored a fourth, and Hanson scored a third. Morais, who looked back to his lively best, twisted and turned away from his marker before standing up a cross, on a plate for Hanson to power a header into the back of the net. His first career hat-trick, scored in just 16 second half minutes.
Despite the introduction of leading scorer Tom Bradshaw from the bench, Walsall rarely threatened on a perfect afternoon for the Bantams which saw them take a huge step in their quest to secure a Play-Off spot going into their final two games of the regular season.