Morecambe 0 Bradford City 1
PHIL Parkinson made it clear that City’s cup objective is to help drum up cash for the coffers – and his costliest asset chose the perfect moment to open his account for the season last night.
A lot will hinge on Aaron Mclean to deliver the goals, and a pre-season blighted by a calf injury did not bode well.
But he came off the bench to force home the only goal of a fiercely-fought but scrappy encounter on the west coast.
It was hotly-disputed – with Morecambe arguing that he handled the ball over the line – but City were in no mood to argue over their first cup win since the Aston Villa semi-final.
It is almost three years since Parkinson’s City reign began in dramatic fashion at the Globe Arena.
Ross Hannah’s late, late equaliser earned his first reward as Bantam boss at a time when the remit was simply to stay in the Football League.
The objective last night was just as clear – to get a foothold in a cup competition again and the potential financial rewards that come with it after three first-round exits last term.
It was safely delivered and now City hope for a Premier League windfall in tonight’s second-round draw.
There were four changes from Saturday for both teams, with Ben Williams stepping up to replace the ineligible Jordan Pickford in goal after his clearance came through. Parkinson also gave a first start to Friday’s capture Filipe Morais.
Mclean was once again on the bench alongside Andrew Davies and Billy Knott, whose starting roles went to James Meredith and Matty Dolan. But there was no Gary Liddle as he waits for his wife to give birth.
With Meredith returning to left back, Alan Sheehan shifted across to the centre. But he was almost undone by the game’s first chance after 12 minutes.
Little striker Jack Redshaw latched on to Andy Parrish’s pass, held off Sheehan and prodded across goal as Williams rushed out to block off the angle at the near post.
That Morecambe moment was generally against the run of the early play, with City seeing most of the ball without testing keeper Barry Roche.
Billy Clarke might have done but a Morais cross seemed to catch him by surprise and bounced off the striker.
Morecambe’s line-up included former Bantams Jamie Devitt and Kevin Ellison. The Irishman’s deep corner set up Andy Wright for a header over the City bar; Ellison’s first proper involvement was a lunge on Mark Yeates which earned the game’s first yellow card.
Dolan’s pass then found James Hanson in some space in the corner of the box. He cut inside for a shot but it was smothered behind.
City were clocking up the corners as Dolan’s well-struck shot took another defensive diversion narrowly wide following another charged-down effort from Morais.
There was a keen pace to the game but it was growing scrappy and City seemed to have gone off the boil after their early control.
Ryan Williams forced his namesake in the away goal into his first proper save with a low drive before the Bantams at last seriously threatened a break through.
Morais, who had looked pretty good on the ball, picked out Hanson for a looping header over Roche but Shrimps skipper Mark Hughes was well positioned on the line to bail out his team.
Torrential rain greeted the sides for the second half as City immediately won their sixth corner. That came to nothing but Hanson almost had more joy from a Yeates’ free-kick, his header pinging off Hughes which took the sting off it for Roche to catch.
City had switched to 4-4-2 with Morais and Yeates operating as genuine wingers. Ellison, whose influence out wide for Morecambe had diminished, sprung into life by holding off Meredith and Kennedy before skying his shot.
Hanson and Clarke responded with similar efforts over the Morecambe bar but the brief flurry had lifted the volume level at both ends of the ground. It felt like a cup tie.
And the home fans should have been celebrating the opening goal 12 minutes in as Wright’s cross found the unmarked head of Ellison in the centre of goal – but the veteran flicked it wide of the far post.
That proved to be Ellison’s final act as he made way in a double substitution just after the hour. His departure brought a rousing chorus of “City reject” from the travelling fans – and a cheeky wave back in their direction.
“Bring me Sunshine” was the song from the other end as the rain briefly blasted proceedings. The contest was starting to drift again.
Clarke’s drive nearly cleared the stand before Parkinson shuffled his ranks for the first time. On came Mclean and Knott for Morais and Yeates as City reverted to the diamond with Clarke dropping in behind the front two.
Mclean tried to use the slick surface straight away with a skidding drive but Roche had everything behind it. When Mullin put another shot well over the bar, it was in keeping with much of the scrappy proceedings.
Clarke had tried as hard as anyone to break the deadlock and made one more mazy run before Mo Shariff took his place as City made their final substitution.
Extra-time was looming – until Mclean popped up with eight minutes left. Knott lifted the ball into the penalty area and the striker used his strength to barrel his way through Roche and bundle it over the line. Morecambe protested furiously for handball but referee Scott Duncan gave the goal – and the City fans rubbed it in with a mass chant of “he scored with his hands”.
Shrimps sub Mullin tried to level in the first of four added minutes with a storming run from one end to the other. But Williams proved equal to his cross-shot and palmed away to secure the victory.