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Valley Parade fast becoming a four-tress for Bantams
Bradford City 3 Morecambe 1
City’s reputation as the hosts from hell in League Two is growing.
A fourth straight win last night ensured their best start at Valley Parade since 1957 – and on this evidence, this lot are far from finished yet.
Goals, grit, and a dogged determination to see the job through. Those are qualities that the class of 2012 are showing in abundance.
Now to get it right away from the Coral Windows Stadium.
Morecambe were unbeaten on the road before they rolled into West Yorkshire. Not any more.
It is 55 years since City last kicked off a league campaign with more than three home wins. While the Division Three North team of 1957 triumphed in their first five at Valley Parade, Morecambe were plying their trade in the Lancashire Combination.
But City’s attempt to make modern-day history was given a jolt inside the first 30 seconds as Izak Reid cleverly worked an opening to whip in a low cross from the right. Kevin Ellison looked offside but wasn’t and any proper contact on the pass would have given Jon McLaughlin no chance.
Ellison wasted no time in reacquainting himself with the Kop and gave them a “shush”. Robbie Threlfall , meanwhile, started his return with an airkick on the byline to predictably ironic cheers.
The away side settled quicker but the first chance fell to City after 12 minutes. James Hanson flicked on McLaughlin’s kick to find Connell in the clear.
As Morecambe looked for a non-existent offside flag, Connell had more time than he realised and took the shot early, Barry Roche pushing it behind with his fingertips.
Gary Jones, whose free-kicks created two of the goals on Saturday, had another chance to create something from a set-piece but Andrew Davies got underneath his header, which flew over.
City were stepping it up and only a fine save from Roche denied Connell’s downward header after Hanson was first to Nathan Doyle’s long throw-in.
Roche then blotted his copybook by handling outside the penalty area but Kyel Reid wasted the free-kick.
The keeper made an unorthodox save with his legs from Zavon Hines as City stepped it up. But referee Rob Lewis was not popular with the crowd for missing too much – and further endeared himself by booking City’s Reid for a shove.
Hines’ trickery put Threlfall on his backside, to more cheers, but the cross was too meaty for Hanson. The chances were building and Rory McCardle flashed a header over from another Jones corner.
Hines was getting some rough treatment but his barge in the box went unpunished, to the amazement of Phil Parkinson on the touchline. Referee Lewis did give the next foul on him but Oliver skied his header from the free-kick.
But City’s persistence got its reward a minute before the break – and what a good finish it was.
Connell cleverly switched the play to release Reid, whose first-time cross fell behind Hanson. But the big striker did well to adjust his body and drill a fierce left-footer into the bottom corner of Roche’s net to take his tally for the term to five.
It was also the first time Morecambe had conceded on their travels.
The second half begun with a bout of handbags as Ellison reacted with an angry push to a firm challenge from Andrew Davies in front of the home dug-out. Parkinson was briefly on the pitch as tempers began to rise.
The contest continued to get fruitier with a yellow card for Jones, who knocked over Will Haining as he rose for a header. Roche unnecessarily rushed from his goal to get involved and also got booked.
Doyle warmed Roche’s hands with a firmly-hit 25-yarder before Morecambe nearly levelled against the run of play from the unlikeliest of sources.
Oliver went in on Andrew Fleming just outside the D and the ball broke to Threlfall unmarked in the box. The defender, who last scored while on loan at City, hit his shot low but McLaughlin was equal to it.
But that had given Morecambe a taste and Richard Brodie was denied on the line by Jones after backheeling Stewart Drummond’s shot goalwards.
Drummond then headed over as the visitors continued their best patch of the game. City had lost their rhythm and were also getting unnerved by the gamesmanship of the Shrimps, which broke up the play.
Nahki Wells replaced Connell for the final quarter of the game – and was immediately pulled up for a foul on Haining when the Bermudian appeared to have been pushed in the face.
Will Atkinson then took over from Hines as Parkinson looked to tighten it up. But it was McArdle who popped up on the right flank to set up Hanson for a glancing header which lacked any power to ruffle Roche.
Ellison threw himself theatrically to the floor as he challenged Oliver for Jordan Burrow’s header but the referee was unimpressed.
City were keeping the ball better since Atkinson’s arrival and looked to have wrapped it up with a second goal eight minutes from time.
Doyle’s diagonal pass found Reid, who cut inside Andy Parrish before driving into the far corner of the net.
It was a stylish way to score his first at home. But no sooner had City seemingly put the game to bed than Morecambe were back in it, sub Jack Redshaw taking advantage of a sleeping defence to score.
Nerves were frayed when that man Ellison suddenly popped up at the far post but McLaughlin smothered his shot, landing heavily as he did so.
Reid then embarked on a mazy run that just kept going until he was crudely upended by Redshaw just outside the penalty area. But there was no respite for Morecambe as Jones stepped up and curled a wonderful free-kick over the wall to restore City’s two-goal advantage.
That allowed Parkinson to replace McLaughlin with Matt Duke, who could now be in line for a recall at Oxford depending on his rival’s fitness.