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Bradford City win is something to write home about
Bradford City 1 Wycombe 0
One down, two to go. Having waited ages for a home win, let’s hope they start to come back in a rush.
City finally claimed that elusive first Valley Parade league victory of 2013 last night – and rekindled a flicker of play-off hope as they reduced the gap to the top seven to seven points.
Now they have to follow it up again on Saturday against Bristol Rovers and Good Friday with Southend’s visit. Do that and things might get interesting.
Early City goals have been like sunny days this season, very few and far between. But Garry Thompson’s seventh-minute finish provided the perfect start and made sure there was no chance for any anxiety to build.
That was the only goal for Valley Parade's lowest league gate of the campaign of barely over 8,000. But at least they saw a home performance worthy of the long-overdue three points after a run of three defeats and two draws.
There was also a welcome return for James Meredith, who had not featured since New Year’s Day because of glandular fever.
But he’d seen enough from watching him in the reserves last week to feel Meredith was ready to be thrown straight in.
City’s 3-0 win at Wycombe last month was one of only two league successes in the 14 games since beating Accrington on home soil on Boxing Day.
Nathan Doyle’s strike in the opening minute at Adams Park was also the last time that City had scored before half-time – seven games ago.
Parkinson had the players in on Sunday morning to go through the Exeter DVD and he called for more willingness to go in where it hurts to try to rectify that worrying lack of firepower.
Meredith was one of six changes from the weekend, including a change of keeper as Matt Duke paid an immediate price for his poor performance.
City were straight into it and nearly repeated their first-minute trick of the last meeting. The game was barely 50 seconds old when Kyel Reid’s curling corner to the far post was headed goalwards by James Hanson but Andrew Harriman managed to scramble off the line.
But they did not have to wait much longer for an early breakthrough. Stephen Darby was fouled to the right of the Wycombe box and the Reid/Hanson combo worked a treat again with Thompson ramming home the knockdown through a crowd of players.
A goal after seven minutes was just the tonic needed after last week’s frustrations in Devon and Reid, confidence clearly high, flashed a snap-shot wide.
Reid was benefiting from Meredith’s presence and the pair linked neatly for the winger to set up Thompson for a flick with the outside of the boot into the side-netting.
But the Aussie was given the slip by Josh Scowen and Sam Wood’s header from his cross provided Jon McLaughlin’s first real involvement of the night after half an hour.
After all the recent home disappointments, City’s efforts were being appreciated by the crowd. It was not a classic encounter but there was a good shape about the home side and a bit of the devil in their play that Parkinson had demanded.
The Bantams were pushing for the security of a second as half-time approached and Zavon Hines was not too far away with a 20-yard drive from another Hanson header.
Then Meredith overlapped to whip a cross towards the near post but Thompson was caught on his heels and keeper Jordan Archer got there first.
But at least City enjoyed the luxury of going into the break in front. It was only the eighth time that had happened – and they had gone on to win all bar Southend away of those previous games.
Thompson almost conjured up an instant goal to begin the second half with some clever skill to flick over a defender and then shoot, the ball flying inches over the Wycombe bar.
But the home mood should have been punctured after 50 minutes as Matt McClure wasted a glorious chance to equalise. Dean Morgan’s cross found him unmarked six yards out but the striker wastefully skied his header.
It was a warning sign for City and the Valley Parade volume noticeably dipped for a spell, apart from the small pocket of drum-bashing Wycombe fans.
Hanson was proving a handful for the visitors and collected a McLaughlin clearance before rattling a left-foot drive against the advertising boards.
Then Gary Doherty got in an important challenge to toe the ball away and prevent the big man having a free run on goal from another long clearance.
Hanson climbed to nod Thompson’s deep cross back into the mix, where it flew past the leaping Rory McArdle.
Ricky Ravenhill had relished the physical edge to the contest and threw himself into a brave block against Scowen as Wycombe looked to have men over on the break. But he suffered for it, staying down after banging the ground in pain and was forced to limp out of the action.
On came Doyle in his place as well as Will Atkinson for Hines to look to shore up the victory.
Wycombe had not given it up as time ticked away and skipper Dave Winfield nodded wide from Wood’s corner.
McArdle lost the ball in his own box but Reid covered with an important header – before appearing up the other end to whip in a threatening cross.
The injury delays meant six minutes of stoppage time, a potential minefield given the agonies of home results of late.
But City managed to keep the ball up the right end of the field and there was no late panic before Valley Parade could once again enjoy that winning feeling at long, long last.