Bradford City 1 Peterborough 0
That’s some way to say goodbye! Adam Reach signed off at Valley Parade last night with a finish of the highest quality to make sure City will definitely be in League One next season.
Reach, whose loan is up after Monday’s trip to Swindon, smacked home a stunning free-kick to clinch a first home win in five attempts.
With Sir Alex Ferguson in the crowd, it was a Beckham-esque touch.
More importantly, it lifted the Bantams nine points clear of the bottom four – and with the huge advantage in goal difference terms, that means safety.
Posh, on the other hand, are still sweating on the final play-off spot. And now hoping City will do them a favour at the County Ground...
Peterborough’s season has seen more peaks and troughs than City. Six wins in a row early on boosted hopes of an immediate return to the Championship; then five defeats on the bounce had some calling for the head of boss Darren Ferguson.
They arrived at Valley Parade on the back of successive home wins – but had lost four of the last five games on the road.
City’s form guide was the opposite, with three clean sheets on the trot away just as results on home soil had inexplicably gone into a tail-spin.
History at least appeared to be on their side – City were thought to be unbeaten at Valley Parade in Good Friday fixtures. More significantly, they had James Hanson back in the ranks for his first start since Shrewsbury.
The other change saw Raffaele De Vita making his first start since November 9 as he tries to finish an injury-ravaged campaign with a bit of momentum.
Peterborough’s plans were disrupted when keeper Bobby Olejnik cried off ill. It meant a recall for Joe Day, whose last appearance saw them ship five at Oldham.
The afternoon results had been relatively kind, with City’s advantage on the bottom four only shaved by a point to six.
City matched up Peterborough’s diamond midfield with Reach playing behind the front two and Nathan Doyle keeping the minder role he played at Rotherham in front of the defence.
Doyle forced Day into an early save but the first genuine threat came from Posh. Nicky Ajose’s clever flick round the corner created space for skipper Tommy Rowe, whose 25-yard drive just wide had Jon McLaughlin scrambling across his goal.
There was some promising build-up play at times from the home side but things tended to break down around the penalty area. Reach made a couple of decent darts forward without delivering an end product.
De Vita produced the cross of the match midway through the half, bending a wicked ball beyond Day to the far post. Hanson stooped in but just failed to make contact.
But the game burst into life after 27 minutes with a spectacular strike from Reach. The winger was flattened by a Peterborough sandwich of Rowe and Jack Payne 25 yards from goal – and exacted lethal revenge.
He drilled the free-kick over the wall and into the top corner of the net with Day beaten all ends up.
His stunning goal injected a swagger into City’s play and Adam Drury rumbled forward to have a go with a fizzing effort that Day turned away.
Then Reach found room to have another pop but there was no repeat this time as he fired into the Bradford End.
With Peterborough’s full backs looking to bomb on at the drop of a hat, there was plenty of room for the Bantams to try to exploit.
Shaun Brisley was one of the centre halves exposed by his gallivanting team-mates and he picked up the first yellow card of the night for clattering Jon Stead after being left short-staffed at the back.
And within two minutes, yellow had become red for a challenge on Reach. Brisley did not appear to deliberately stick a leg out but with the winger travelling at speed, the contact was enough to have referee Andy Haines reaching for his top pocket.
De Vita seemed to relish his role on the right of the City diamond and was inches away from a second goal with a rasping volley just over. The Italian, who admitted the last four months had been the worst period of his life, was certainly keen to make up for lost time.
City’s momentum was building as the half wore on and the ten-man visitors were relieved to hear the whistle for the break – even if it meant a likely meeting with the Fergie junior hair dryer in the dressing room.
He made two changes for the second half but City began in the same vein, with Reach eager to have another attempt at goal.
The numerical disadvantage had not changed Peterborough’s attacking mindset and they switched to 3-4-2. They had not given this one up.
City could not afford to relax with the lead only 1-0 – that was illustrated when Britt Assombalonga, who had hardly been involved, suddenly fired a shot off Andrew Davies which wrong-footed Jon McLaughlin but deflected over the bar.
There was even more danger when Assombalonga latched on to a pass from sub Craig Alcock and cut past Drury into the box.
McLaughlin came out to narrow the angle and the 30-goal striker squared across the six-yard box. Fortunately for City, Stephen Darby was in the perfect spot to intercept and allow the keeper to recover.
Davies needed treatment after Assombalonga looked to have trodden on him and the centre half wagged a finger in his direction as he went off briefly for running repairs.
Assombalonga’s influence was growing and he worried City once more with a curling shot that beat the far post.
Phil Parkinson made a double switch midway through the half. Aaron Mclean came on to face the club where he made his name, replacing Stead, and Kyle Bennett took over from De Vita.
Bennett was straight into it with a cross carrying just too much on it for Hanson to direct into the far corner. Then Reach had a shot beaten away by Day at the near post.
City thought they had wrapped it up 13 minutes from time when Bennett raced in to meet Reach’s cross – only for his header to strike the surprised keeper. A yard either side and it would have been game over.
That meant an occasionally nervy finale for the Bantams, even if the visitors took until stoppage time to muster a couple of shots on target despite their spirited response since the break.
City still had one last chance to double their advantage but Hanson was denied a comeback goal by Kgosi Ntlhe on the line.