Tuesday night saw two of the form teams in SkyBet League One clash at Valley Parade as Phil Parkinson’s Bradford City welcomed Tony Mowbray’s Coventry. With the recent sequence of results for both sides, it was always going to be a tightly contested fixture and it proved to be just that.
The Bantams were vying for a play-off position whilst the travelling team would be hoping to widen the gap at the top. Many people were predicting a draw prior to kick-off as the league’s highest scorers faced a side who had kept six consecutive clean sheets. Both defences performed admirably, however, and the tie ended in a goalless stalemate.
Upon the referee’s whistle, the game got underway and both teams looked determined in their play. A lively start was to be had as the two sides pressed each other into mistakes, leading to a fairly scrappy few opening exchanges. Once the game did settle down a little, Bradford started to impose themselves on the fixture by probing forward. Coventry’s back line looked competent in dealing with danger, however, as the battle between James Hanson and Ben Turner began.
Despite the home side looking more dangerous, The Sky Blues had the first chance of the affair on 10 minutes. Ruben Lameiras showed excellent feet to skip down the byline before shimmying his way past a couple of Bradford defenders. The Portuguese midfielder then squared a ball back to Chris Stokes who was lurking on the edge of the area, his shot was deflected wide though.
The home side then carved out their first real opening just seconds later as Kyel Reid sped down the left. His cross then picked out Billy Clarke and the striker’s effort dropped narrowly over the crossbar after Stokes managed to get his body in the way. From this point on, Bradford started to knock the ball around well and frustrate City.
Despite the home team’s possession, it was Coventry who went agonisingly close during the next meaningful move on 20 minutes. Sam Ricketts started the attack after mopping up at the back, he then played the ball out to Marc-Antione Fortune who found Jacob Murphy. He immediately played a neat ball through to Adam Armstrong who beat the offside trap, the striker then curled an effort around Ben Williams but the width of a post denied him from opening the scoring.
As the battle continued to ensue, both teams had some half chances but neither could make them pay. Billy Knott shanked an effort wide on 25 minutes for the hosts before Lameiras tested Williams on the 30-minute mark. A golden chance was passed by on 35 minutes, however, and it fell Bradford’s way. Knott showed great speed to fly past Ricketts before drilling in a tempting low cross, Rory McArdle then somehow poked the ball wide from six yards to let The Sky Blues off the hook.
The last 10 minutes of the half provided very little entertainment as some scrappy midfield duels took to the forefront. Nobody stepped up to force any moments of magic and it petered out. Applause from all four sections of the ground greeted the half-time whistle though as supporters were content with their respective side’s displays.
The home side started the second period strongly as they forced Coventry into some unnecessary mistakes. As a result, the noise levels within the stadium increased and the game’s intensity ramped up. On 53 minutes Coventry defended and broke away via Armstrong who galloped up the field, he then released Murphy in the area but his attempt to lift the ball over Williams was to no avail as the keeper clawed the ball away.
Bradford continued to edge the possession of the football, although the away side looked to grow into proceedings as the clock ticked on. Reice Charles-Cook was forced into a routine stop on 56 minutes as Tony McMahon tried his luck from range, but Coventry remained fairly untroubled. Armstrong then struck from distance up the other end on 63 minutes but the keeper was on hand to clutch the ball into his chest.
Another strike was dragged wide soon after via Jim O’Brien for The Sky Blues, but another big chance fell to Bradford with 67 minutes on the clock. Reid’s pace caused Ricketts issues again and he whipped in a deep cross towards the back post, McMahon then connected sweetly with a powerful volley but Charles-Cook responded well with a smart low save at his near post.
The home side’s main threat of James Hanson was taken off soon after and they started to sit a little deeper, allowing Coventry more of the ball. On 73 minutes Williams was called in to action again, this time palming a Ryan Kent effort away from danger after the substitute drifted inside unchallenged.
The final stages of the game were well contested but the away side looked increasingly dangerous going forward after the introduction of Kent. The Liverpool loanee orchestrated a counter-attack on 81 minutes as he raced away before finding Murphy, the winger was then thwarted again by the keeper before the danger was eventually cleared.
A few final topsy-turvy moments kept the fans on the edge of their seats, but it was Coventry who had the last few chances as Romain Vincelot and Turner both headed harmlessly over. The home support then roared their side on deep into stoppage time and a late free-kick caused some danger. The Sky Blues defended confidently though to ensure they’d be travelling home with a share of the spoils.
That, in my opinion, is a superb point. Valley Parade is always a tough place to go and get a result, we know that from past experience. With the 17,000 home supporters backing their side, it’s always an intimidating atmosphere. It’s one of the only grounds in this league where it’s truly daunting, but we dealt with it incredibly well.
Of course, the team Bradford have is also very dangerous. Their defensive record speaks for itself and it was always going to be a mammoth task in breaking them down. I was truly impressed with their organisation, as to thwart our attack you’ve got to be solid. They nullified our main threats expertly and credit has to go to Phil Parkinson.
Our own defence performed admirably too, dealing with the physicality of James Hanson. With Parkinson ruling the striker out of the fixture, it was a real surprise to see him in the squad. This was clearly all mind games and when I heard his name announced on the tannoy I was gutted. He’s incredibly hard to handle. However, as the game went on I was certain we’d get at least a point as we stopped them playing through him.
It was a real battle and a very interesting game to watch unfold. The characteristics of a chess match were present once more as the two teams made calculated moves in a fairly cagey affair. Due to Bradford’s tendency to lump the ball to Hanson and City’s inability to crack a resilient home defence, the game was redundant of entertainment in spells.
Chances were few and far between really, but either team could have nicked a game that was teetering on the edge. Both goalkeepers were forced into a couple of decent stops but neither had anything too dramatic to deal with. This was again due to the solidity of the two defences standing in front of their respective keepers.
Overall, a point apiece is fair for both teams. I think the two sides will be delighted with the result and supporters of each club will have the same feelings. I’m for one, delighted. I said in my preview that this would be the toughest game of our season so far, and credit has to go to Bradford as it certainly was.
Last season, this is another game that we would’ve lost. We’d usually be trudging back to Coventry disappointed, this time around we are very happy. Remaining at the top of the table was the main target and we achieved it. As I’ve already said, it’s a superb point and we are now unbeaten in ten league games. Let’s keep this run going at the weekend versus Doncaster.
Reice Charles-Cook – 8
Chris Stokes – 8
Aaron Martin – 9
Ben Turner – 9
Sam Ricketts – 8
Romain Vincelot – 7
Gael Bigirimana – 9
Jacob Murphy – 6
Ruben Lameiras – 6
Adam Armstrong – 6
Marc-Antione Fortune – 6
Jim O’Brien – 6
Ryan Kent – 7
Coventry City: Charles-Cook, Ricketts, Martin, Turner, Stokes, Vincelot, Bigirimana, Lameiras (Kent 71), Murphy, Armstrong, Fortune (O’Brien 58).
Unused Substitutes: Burge, Phillips, Haynes, C.Thomas, Tudgay.
Bradford City: Williams, Darby, Evans (Liddle 85), N Clarke, Hanson (Bowery 74), B Clarke (Cole 74), Knott, Leigh, Reid, McArdle, McMahon.
Unused Substitutes: Cracknell, Marshall, Morris, James.
Referee: N Miller
Attendance: 17,757 (631 away)