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James Hanson delivers deadly finish as attacking Bradford City formation is rewarded
City 1, Fleetwood 0
City’s new era was sparked into life by a familiar old head last night.
The season is up and running after a first victory against Football League new boys Fleetwood.
And amid all the changes and upheaval of the summer, it was the dependable James Hanson who delivered the killer blow.
Hanson was as deadly as ever to convert Gary Jones’s corner, although this was a game won all over the pitch against the second favourites for promotion.
Fleetwood had visited Valley Parade once before in 1949 – and were blitzed 9-0 in an FA Cup tie.
There was no likelihood of repeating that cricket score but Phil Parkinson did name a very attack-minded line-up – and got his reward.
The City boss has been accused by some of playing it too cautious on occasions but there was no hint of that in a side that included both Kyel Reid and new boy Zavon Hines on the flanks.
With such positive-minded widemen, Parkinson switched Rory McArdle to right back to give Hines more experienced defensive back-up. That allowed for Andrew Davies to return at centre half.
Even at this early stage, Parkinson’s hand had been forced to some extent by the injuries in central midfield. He gave Nathan Doyle his first start in there, while Nahki Wells replaced Alan Connell up front after coming off the bench to score at Gillingham.
Fleetwood goalkeeper Scott Davies had to come smartly off his line to clear from Hines as Luke Oliver ’s clearance nearly gave the winger an early chance to stretch his legs.
There was little pattern to the opening exchanges – or the officiating as the assistant flagged for a City goal-kick when Oliver had clearly risen above Jon Parkin to head behind his own goal.
Despite the £50,000 summer facelift, a section of the Valley Parade pitch showed evidence of the pre-match monsoon with water spraying up in challenges.
Reid tried to liven proceedings with an angled run to the edge of the box but Steve McNulty slid across to block his shot behind.
Hanson got on the end of the corner from Jones but a combination of Davies and left back Dean Howell stopped it from crossing the line.
Howell then flattened Hines to receive the game’s first booking – and the first yellow card in the Football League for referee Scott Duncan. Oliver should have done better with his header from the resulting free-kick.
Parkin, the imposing target man known throughout his career as ‘The Beast’, was throwing his weight around for Fleetwood and drew a foul from Davies right on the edge of the City box. It looked a dangerous situation until Howell slammed the free-kick harmlessly into the wall.
But Fleetwood should have grabbed the lead after 26 minutes with a stunning counter-attack. Parkin cleverly spun Oliver from Howell’s clearance before flicking a pass into the path of David Ball.
The £250,000 capture from Peterborough advanced on Matt Duke but fired against the bar in front of a relieved Kop. It was a warning for the home defence, who had handled Parkin fairly well up to that point.
Chances remained at a premium, although McArdle’s angled cross from deep just eluded the stretching Hanson, to the frustration of Parkinson leaping to head an imaginary ball on the touchline.
Parkin was getting annoyed with the number of fouls he was being penalised for and was lucky to escape a card for throwing the ball away.
There was certainly no lack of commitment in City’s play and one promising move came to a sharp end when McArdle was clattered by Junior Brown, who did go straight in Duncan’s book.
The hosts were picking up the tempo as half-time approached but Hanson could not direct his header from a Jones corner.
Considering his lack of football so far, Doyle looked the part alongside Jones and the pair kept City ticking along. The fans were appreciating the effort they were putting in.
Parkin still felt hard done by with the officials and his argument continued after the half-time whistle when he made a beeline for Duncan – to a chorus of jeers from the TL Dallas Stand.
It was City’s turn to curse the Kop woodwork as they went within inches of grabbing the lead at the start of the second half. Howell’s clearance was hit back first time by Hines, whose shot clipped off Wells and up on to the bar.
Hines was straight back in the thick of it, teasing Howell with a series of step-overs as City probed for a breakthrough.
With Hines one side and Reid the other, City had the options to stretch the visitors. Hines again tormented his way beyond Howell and Hanson appeared to be clattered from behind by McNulty as he received the pass in the Fleetwood D.
But the referee waved play on, indicating the big defender had won the ball cleanly – to the fury of Parkinson and Steve Parkin.
He did blow for Howell’s handball as Jones looked to attack down the right. Oliver headed the free-kick into the side-netting, although an unsighted section of the Midland Road Stand did think he had scored.
But City’s bright start to the half was finally rewarded in the 59th minute after Wells and Hanson linked neatly to force a corner. Jones drifted it to the back post, where Hanson found room to power in his second goal of the fledgling campaign.
City could have extended their lead five minutes later as Reid cut back invitingly for Wells. But the Bermudian scuffed his shot into the ground and Davies was able to beat it away at his post.
Hines made way for Garry Thompson to huge applause before City enjoyed a second escape. Howell cut in from the right to cross into the danger area, where substitute Andy Mangan headed past Duke – but again the keeper was spared by the frame of his goal as the ball bounced back out off the inside of the post.
Shaun Beesley picked up Fleetwood’s third booking for a trip on Wells but the referee was unmoved when Reid went down in the box under two red bodies.
Fleetwood were far from out of it and Mangan slipped behind the centre halves to rattle off another effort straight at Duke.
Doyle’s excellent night ended with 13 minutes left and the standing ovation had barely died down when Reid forced a save from Davies before lashing the rebound wide.
Reid then left Beesley floundering on the sodden floor, not once but twice, before his cross was nodded wide by Hanson.
There were a couple of hiccups in the four minutes of added time, particularly when a Howell cross fizzed menacingly across the goalmouth, before the points were secure.