Bradford City goal ace Wells gives Cobblers another good kicking (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Bradford City goal ace Nahki Wells gives Cobblers another good kicking
City keeper Jon McLaughlin gathers the ball safely as team-mate Rory McArdle battles with Cobblers striker Clive Platt
Northampton 0, City 1
It may not compare with downtown Bermuda but Northampton is fast becoming a favourite haunt for Nahki Wells.
He gave the Cobblers a shoeing in April with the first hat-trick of his fledgling professional life.
And he returned to Sixfields last night to stick the boot in once more with his tenth goal of the season.
The only blot was an unnecessary fifth booking after his celebration, which means he misses Saturday’s trip to Burton. It’s an area of his game that the striker needs to improve.
That will be a frustration for Phil Parkinson but it’s a minor quibble after another immensely satisfying City performance. Like Saturday, this was the display of a side that really mean business.
Gary Jones had travelled down with the squad and was put through his paces on the pitch beforehand by trainer Matt Barrass. But the midfielder’s role was purely a watching one on this occasion as Parkinson stuck with an unchanged team and bench from the weekend win over Cheltenham.
So Craig Forsyth got the second start of his loan and the Watford winger had the first chance of the night after 12 minutes.
Northampton were unhappy that referee Graham Scott did not blow for a foul as Wells challenged keeper Lee Nicholls for a bouncing ball. As it dropped free, Wells worked it back to Forsyth whose shot at the unguarded goal was deflected wide by home skipper Kelvin Langmead.
Both sides clocked up the early corners and City thought they had scored from their third one. James Hanson’s header was blocked in a scrum of players and the striker had another bite at the rebound but it was cleared off the line by Alex Nicholls.
Wells tested the uncertain home keeper from 25 yards as City looked to turn their bright spell into a breakthrough goal.
Parkinson’s men knew what to expect at the other end with the physical presence of Adebayo Akinfenwa and Clive Platt. They also had to pay close attention to the enormous throw-ins that Ben Tozer launched into the box.
But Northampton’s first genuine effort came from midfielder Nicholls, though Jon McLaughlin appeared to have his skidding drive covered as it flew wide.
Aidy Boothroyd appealed for a penalty – and possibly a red card – as last man Rory McArdle ran into Akinfenwa chasing a ball back to McLaughlin but the official was unimpressed.
Forsyth was showing positive signs and teed up Wells for a well-struck drive that dipped just over the bar. City were asking the questions, though James Meredith’s attempt to replicate his Saturday strike squirted off the outside of his boot.
Andrew Davies took a couple of clouts from Platt and Parkinson made his feelings known to the fourth official when no yellow card was forthcoming. The two centre halves were earning their corn.
Another City raid saw them with a numerical advantage on the attack but Forsyth’s touch was too heavy and the opportunity was wasted. Then Meredith whipped in a great cross but Anthony Charles beat Hanson on the end of it.
Akinfenwa found Nicholls in plenty of space for the home side but Meredith blocked his first cross and Davies slid across to cut out his second in the City goalmouth.
But City had an escape six minutes before the break when Tozer’s teasing angled ball beat everyone as both strikers strained to touch it past McLaughlin.
Tozer unloaded another enormous throw-in which McLaughlin missed but the whistle blew for a push in the back by Akinfenwa.
As half-time approached, Meredith set off on a surge down the left which ended with a generous foul awarded. But Nathan Doyle, a busy figure again, could not make the most of a decent position with the free-kick.
Luke Oliver picked up a cheap booking for knocking the ball away right at the end of the half and McLaughlin had to come through a crowd of players to punch clear another Tozer missile.
But it was a slight concern to see Oliver reappear during the half-time break to do some shuttle runs with the physio, obviously trying to work off a problem. It was not a game when City could afford to lose one of their defensive pillars.
Davies, who had a faultless first half, for once found himself the wrong side of Akinfenwa at the start of the second but was spared by a poor pass from Northampton’s battering ram.
But City’s disciplined efforts were rewarded in the 53rd minute with the opening goal.
Hanson and Danny East both jumped for McLaughlin’s goal kick and the ball flicked through for Wells to react the quickest. There were shades of last season as the Bermudian held of his marker and poked the ball past the on-rushing Lee Nicholls into the bottom corner of the Northampton net.
Wells ran on into the away fans to celebrate – and was booked by Scott when he came back on to the field. It was a costly yellow card because it means a one-game ban.
City still had plenty to do to hang on to what they’d got. It was no time to ease off the throttle as Northampton tried to step up their own game.
Ricky Ravenhill was getting through plenty of the dirty work patrolling the front of his own penalty area and made a tremendous challenge to thwart one Cobblers raid.
But City should have been two to the good when Forsyth’s 25-yard blast proved too hot to handle for keeper Nicholls. The rebound came out invitingly for Hanson to end a seven-game goal drought – but he spooned it over into the travelling fans.
Still City knocked on the door and Hanson nodded down for Wells, whose close-range blast was smothered by a diving Langmead.
Parkinson kept urging his troops on as Boothroyd made his first change and threw on former Peter Taylor loanee Louis Moult for the ineffective Platt.
Alex Nicholls showed strength to create a Northampton opening but the shot was harmless once again.
McLaughlin was finally called into proper action after 77 minutes of waiting. Davies half-cleared another Tozer throw and Moult’s header was tipped over the bar by the City keeper.
Will Atkinson replaced the hard-working Forsyth a minute later – and the substitute could have had his first goal of the season after some quick-thinking by Wells. His closing-down spooked Langmead into coughing up the ball close to the byline but Atkinson’s touch let him down as he tried to finish the pass.
Garry Thompson received City’s third yellow card but instantly atoned with an important sliding tackle on Kemar Roofe just outside the penalty area.
City were not content to sit back and Wells forced two further saves from Lee Nicholls. There was no way they were going to let this one slip away.