Black stars as City end losing run

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Eddie Johnson slides the ball past Orient keeper Glyn Garner for City's opener Buy this photo Eddie Johnson slides the ball past Orient keeper Glyn Garner for City's opener

Leyton Orient 1 Bradford City 2

Forget the three kings, it's only the three points from Orient that matter.

And last night's win against the bottom side - City's first in the league since September - was the ideal gift to start the December rush.

Make no mistake, this was a huge result for the Bantams and boss Colin Todd, who was coming under increasing heat after the slide down the table.

Orient maybe struggling big time but they are no push-overs at home. Only Swansea and Rotherham had won there in nine previous games.

And City had to ride their luck in a first half which was bossed by the hosts. But having got to the interval with their noses in front, Todd's troops got their act together after the break and finished the more confident and composed of the sides.

Todd went for a tried and tested formula at the back by restoring Mark Bower to his natural role in the middle at the expense of youngster Simon Ainge with Ben Parker coming in at left back. Richard Edghill got the nod for the suspended Nathan Doyle on the right.

David Graham returned up front but City's plans were ruffled just before kick-off when Lee Holmes, who had been on the team sheet, failed a fitness test on his ankle after taking a hefty whack the day before in training.

That meant an unexpected recall for Tommy Black - and the on-loan winger had an immediate impact as City made a glorious start.

The game was only four minutes old when the Crystal Palace player drilled a perfect pass between the Leyton Orient centre halves to pick out Eddie Johnson's run. The striker, without a goal since August, did the rest as he held off John Mackie in the box and calmly fired past keeper Glyn Garner.

It was City's first goal in 287 minutes of trying - and seemed just the tonic after the wretched run.

But the visitors were soon hanging on as Orient hit back hard. David Wetherall blocked Mackie six yards out, Paul Connor wastefully nodded wide from a corner and a scuffed shot from his strike partner Gary Alexander bobbled past Donovan Ricketts and against the far post.

Ricketts was at full stretch as Craig Easton whistled one the wrong side of the upright but Garner also had to be alert as he raced from his goal to deny Johnson another break.

Orient had the lion's share of the possession but City again threatened after Adam Chambers handled just outside his own box. Marc Bridge-Wilkinson bent the free-kick over the wall and only inches away.

There was a scare when Wetherall went down after cracking heads with Bower as City dealt with a corner. But fortunately the skipper was soon back on his feet.

Bower's alertness baled out a Bridge-Wilkinson error as Orient continued to turn the screw - and the home pressure was rewarded with an equaliser just before the half hour from their third corner.

Wayne Corden's kick was flicked across goal and defender Alton Thelwell, on loan from Hull, gave Ricketts no chance with a scorching volley from 12 yards.

City could hardly argue with the scoreline and it very nearly got worse. Graham almost headed into his own net trying to clear a free-kick and Thelwell had another pop which Ricketts just managed to turn behind. City were still under the cosh and the resulting corner was flicked towards the far post where Steve Schumacher cleared off the line with Ricketts stuck in no man's land.

Another goal looked on the cards and duly followed after 33 minutes - but in the Orient net. City again broke with devastating effect as Edghill's probing cross was half-cleared as far as the edge of the penalty area where Bridge-Wilkinson met it with the sweetest of half-volleys that fizzed past Garner.

Two shots on target - two goals!

But too many crosses were coming into the City box, particularly from the left, and providing the home side with a steady supply of corners. Ricketts had to be at his best to deal with Alexander's flying header from one and also proved equal to a fierce effort by Luke Guttridge.

But Wetherall was clearly still feeling the effects of his earlier knock and reluctantly left the fray five minutes before the break. Bower was handed the captain's armband and Matt Clarke took his place for his first league outing for the club.

As half-time approached, JJ showed both sides of his game with a pointless long shot which barely got as far as Garner and then a menacing effort which flew over the Orient bar.

Orient will have felt hard done by as they traipsed off at the break but City nearly made it 3-1 three minutes after the re-start. Graham showed great control from a booming Ricketts clearance but the ball stuck under his feet and Schumacher, following it in, could not find enough power to dig it out.

Without Wetherall's presence, corners were always going to be a test for City and Orient forced four in as many minutes.

But there was always the promise of something on the break and Schumacher and Graham both should have done better from 20 yards out.

Then a clever crossfield ball from Black created a glorious chance for Eddie Johnson but he skied horribly on the turn.

Black swapped passes with Graham and fell in the box as he chased the return but referee Kevin Wright ignored his claims for a penalty.

The little winger was at it again as he skipped through tackles and fired in a cross-shot which Garner could only palm out. But frustratingly neither of the strikers was alert for the tap-in.

City were enjoying their best spell and finally showing the attacking intent that Todd had been looking for. Graham had a shot charged down before Black enticed Garner from his goal, only to see Thelwell block his cross in front of the unguarded net.

That turned out to be Black's final involvement but he had certainly won over the 276 away fans and banished any memories of Oldham.

City should have nailed the victory with eight minutes left as Graham latched on to Eddie Johnson's flick-on right in front of goal. He completely missed his shot but got another bite - only to miscue the lob wide.

Left back Matt Lockwood, who scored a hat-trick against Gillingham in September, fired a free-kick into the building site behind City's goal but the spark had disappeared from the home side.

Four City names went into the fussy referee's book and Todd came to the touchline to shout at the official when he penalised Parker for taking a throw-in from the wrong place. What made it worse was that Orient pinched a good five yards from their next throw but the two strikers got in a tangle and wasted it.

And Todd was fuming again when Eddie Johnson had his heels clipped just outside the box and no foul was given.

But despite their arguments with the official, City safely came through five minutes of added time to bag a precious victory.

Suddenly a week in London doesn't sound quite so bad after all.

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