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Draw with ten-man Rochdale a sore point for Bradford City
Rochdale 0 Bradford City 0
It was Beatles mania at soggy Spotland and it proved to be a Hard Day’s Night for City.
All the tunes were dedicated to the Fab Four to celebrate their 50th anniversary. And a point at Rochdale would usually be reason to Twist and Shout.
But City spurned the Ticket to Ride higher up the table after failing to cash in on a man advantage for over an hour.
When Rochdale had striker Bobby Grant sent off ten minutes before the break, the stage was surely set for the visitors to make it back-to-back away wins.
But for all the pressure, the shots and the corners, City could not find that finish needed. The only fox in the box was the wild one that ran across the pitch in stoppage time.
To add to City’s frustration, Kyel Reid could face a spell on the sidelines after an early injury. He will be missed.
A Yellow Submarine would have come in handy during the solid downpour before the game but thankfully the rain had eased by kick-off and there was no fear of a late postponement like Bury and Accrington nearby.
The big news was the absence of Gary Jones, out with the back injury he suffered in the Burton game.
In hindsight, Phil Parkinson would have taken him off there and then but the influential midfielder continued through and played again on Saturday.
He had not been able to train since and was forced to miss the return to the club where he holds the record for most appearances.
Losing the ever-present Jones from City’s plans meant a promotion from the bench for Ricky Ravenhill, who also took back the captaincy.
Both sides shot over the bar in the opening seconds before Bobby Grant tested Jon McLaughlin’s concentration with a skidding free-kick.
Nathan Doyle fired in a 25-yarder but it was straight at home keeper Josh Lillis. Then Reid hung a tantalising cross to the back post, where James Hanson headed down into the ground.
It was fast, open stuff on the slick surface and Jason Kennedy rattled the advertising hoardings with a dipping half-volley.
Hanson was his usual self in the air, winning all the early headers. But he could not keep his effort down when Will Atkinson nodded Reid’s cross back in to the striker.
Kennedy threatened again to burst through but Ravenhill timed his tackle perfectly to nick the ball away as Rochdale appealed in vain for a foul.
There was no room to breathe as the home side made sure City did not have time to settle. Reid stayed down after one forceful collision and was unable to continue following treatment, holding the top of his groin as he went off.
While City were briefly a man down, Nahki Wells wiggled into room and Hanson was wide with a stretching header from his cross.
Zavon Hines took over from Reid and was immediately dumped on his stomach ten yards outside the Rochdale box. The winger took the free-kick and Rory McArdle’s back header was safely held by Lillis.
It was a feisty affair, with McArdle sliding into a double tackle to clear the danger and Dele Adebola catching Andrew Davies after the ball had gone.
Things boiled over in the 35th minute when Rochdale were reduced to ten men. Grant flew into McArdle with a late lunge and referee James Adcock went straight for his red card beneath the baying Bantams army.
Rochdale were briefly lifted by a sense of injustice. Adebola’s shot was charged down in the box before George Donnelly looped the rebound over the bar.
Hanson jabbed a shot at the keeper from Atkinson’s cross before Rochdale were demanding red-card retribution of their own after Hines shoved Phil Edwards.
The Dale midfielder collapsed to the ground theatrically but the referee’s card was yellow as Wells and Ryan Edwards squared up behind the official’s back.
Hines almost got in behind the defence before the ball broke to Doyle to have a crack. Once again the shot was accurate but the keeper did not have to move.
City went hunting a breakthrough again in stoppage time at the end of the first half and Hines and Atkinson efforts were both blocked in the box. But Rochdale forced a couple of late corners and there was a moment of concern as McLaughlin slid out to save with his legs when a loose ball threatened to drop to Adebola.
As the whistle sounded, Rochdale boss John Coleman was waiting in the tunnel for the referee, who copped plenty of abuse from the main stand. But Grant had given him no option with the red card.
City started the second half with a good chance. Ravenhill nodded over from Atkinson’s cross when Hanson was probably better placed just behind him.
The away stand was in fine voice as another opportunity fell to Ravenhill. The midfielder’s snap-shot was hit with power but again it was right down the throat of Lillis.
Doyle found Hines in space but the winger wanted a touch too many and Kevin McIntyre was able to divert his shot off course.
City were trying to turn the screw but Wells drove a free-kick straight into the wall.
Atkinson was seeing plenty of the ball and linked neatly with McArdle but Rochdale snuffed out the cross.
Rafferty was booked for a trip on Hines but again the City set-piece from the winger was poor. They were missing the invention and guile of Jones and Reid.
Another promising build-up fell to Atkinson but he could not get the ball out of his feet quick enough. Lillis saved at his post from Wells but the Bermudian’s shot was hit more with hope than expectation.
Atkinson, City’s brightest performer, and Hines switched flanks and the Rochdale old boy combined with Hanson to win another corner. But both Hanson and Davies went for the same ball, the centre half taking a whack on the head for his troubles.
Nothing had been seen of Rochdale as an attacking force until Andrew Tutte’s pass broke to Donnelly, who briefly had a sight of goal before the door was slammed shut.
Parkinson swapped Ravenhill for Garry Thompson with 15 minutes left. Atkinson moved to the middle with the sub taking over on the right.
Alan Connell made his customary change for the subdued Wells before City went the closest yet from their eighth corner.
Atkinson’s kick dropped to Davies, who was denied another goal by right back Rafferty’s clearance off the line.
With time ticking away, James Meredith swarmed forward before Hines took it on. The winger cut inside and fired past Lillis – but past the far post.
It was close enough for Wells to jump off the bench ready to celebrate – only to throw his arms down in frustration.
Hines then went down in the corner of the box from Rafferty’s tackle but the referee ignored the City penalty shouts.
As the game went into added time, a fox suddenly ran across the pitch to provide a comic interlude.
There was still time for one more shot from Connell but it curled harmlessly behind. Despite another commanding performance, this will feel like two points dropped.