0 Bradford City
Monday 26th December 2016 | Sky Bet League One | The Northern Commercials Stadium at Valley Parade
On a bitter Boxing Day afternoon at the Northern Commercials Stadium, City battled their way to a respectable point against the League One leaders. Mark Marshall and the returning Tony McMahon went close with free kicks in the first period as Stuart McCall’s men took the upper-hand in the contest. United raised their game in the second half and former Bantam Josh Morris should really have added to his impressive season tally but a point ultimately has to go down as a fair result and one neither side will be too displeased with.
City went into this one expecting probably their toughest test of the campaign to date against a side in Scunthorpe United who have really caught the eye at the peak of the division. A man to catch the eye more than anyone this season in League One is Josh Morris and his first chance on his return saw Colin Doyle tested by a low drive from 25 yards after Hakeeb Adelakun had engineered an opening.
The game began with an electric atmosphere created by a crowd of almost 22,000 and the first opening for the hosts came shortly afterwards. After Nicky Law was bundled over by the robust Neal Bishop, McMahon’s in-swinging free kick was met by the head of Nathaniel Knight-Percival and although his effort was on target, Luke Daniels held onto the ball in front of a healthy travelling contingent that had made the reasonably short hop from Lincolnshire.
A tight and hard fought contest, there was never going to be much between two teams with the same goal of promotion come the end of the season. Mark Marshall saw a free kick go a whisker wide of the post with Daniels rooted the spot with his fingers crossed and then McMahon had a free kick of his own from a similar distance; his attempt went through the wall and inches wide of the post to Daniels’ right-hand side.
Certainly in the ascendancy and the better of the two sides in the opening exchanges, City continued to threaten and Filipe Morais was the next to count himself unfortunate not to register a goal. James Meredith swung a cross in from the left hand side and after Bishop had sliced the ball into the path of the Portuguese winger, he saw a left-footed shot on the turn parried away by Daniels.
Although ultimately, the visitors probably edged the second half as both sides cancelled each other out, the first chance of the half was one of the best ones and it was one that once again fell to Morais. Timothee Dieng created half a yard of space for a shot on the edge of the box that deflected into the path of Morais and from a tight angle, his attempt was blocked superbly by Charlie Goode.
Morris has scored a few goals from distance for the Iron this season and his free kick from an unorthodox angle looked like it may have been scrambled over the line at the near post but Colin Doyle managed to keep hold of the ball in what was a good performance from the Irishman as he claimed another clean sheet.
The former City winger had his side’s next notable chance and it was one that he probably won’t look back on with too much fondness. Paddy Madden’s ball through was left by Tom Hopper to allow Morris to run onto; he got to the edge of the box before blazing the shot over the bar and thus letting the Bantams well and truly off the hook in a hearts-in-mouths moment.
Madden, who had a quiet game by this standards, had the next opportunity and it was one that came from nothing. The ball sat up to him invitingly outside the box at an angle and he attempted to beat his countryman Doyle with a venomous volley, but the ball whistled a yard or so wide of the far post.
Dieng had a header held onto by Daniels in the first half and he was handed another headed opportunity with just over ten minutes left on the clock. Meredith’s cross into the box was met by the Frenchman but his header was way too close to Daniels who held onto the ball comfortably before United threatened down the other end within sixty seconds.
Madden chased a ball over the top before progressing down the left hand side; his low cross was aimed for Hopper in the centre but the former Leicester City man, on the stretch, just didn’t have the length in the leg to divert the ball past Doyle in what was perhaps the last opportunity of note in the game.
Stuart McCall’s men might be a tad disappointed not to come away with three points on their own patch from a game that they more than held their own in, but it has to go down as a fair outcome. The Bantams drop to fifth as a result of a third draw on the spin but the home record is still yet to be blemished with defeat this season. Attention now turns to the final fixture of the calendar year, a visit of Bury on New Year’s Eve.