Ipswich Town 2, Bradford City 1

Match Comment by Richard Sutcliffe.

Just before half past four on Saturday afternoon, Portman Road seemed a wonderful place to be for Bradford City.

On a ground where they have often left dejected after a disappointing defeat, none more so than last season when two goals in the last three minutes saw Ipswich scrape a 3-2 victory, it looked like being so different.

A goal ahead after Robbie Blake's cross was diverted past his own goalkeeper by Jason Cundy, the Bantams seemed cruising towards that elusive first victory at Portman Road.

It would, perhaps, have been fitting if such an untidy goal had settled a game which, until the late, explosive ending, would not have remained long in the minds of those 11,864 hardy souls present.

However, by the time referee Robert Styles had blown the final whistle, City had slipped to their seventh away defeat and their horrendous record at Ipswich was unchanged.

And as if that wasn't enough to leave City fans long-faced during the journey home from Suffolk, their misery was compounded by the late dismissals of Eddie Youds and Nigel Pepper after receiving two yellow cards apiece.

This left the City camp angry and their reaction was understandable as the Hampshire official's performance in the second half brought a new meaning to the word pedantic.

That, however, should not deflect from the fact that City had thrown away a one-goal lead for the third time in Paul Jewell's five games in charge.

This generosity will have left the City boss tearing his hair out as, despite neither side doing enough to win this dour game on merit, the fact is the Bantams looked like escaping with the points until two late defensive lapses.

Goalkeeper Gary Walsh had already pulled off two fine saves in as many minutes to deny Ipswich when substitute Alex Mathie was allowed far too much space to turn in the penalty area and curl in the equaliser after 72 minutes.

This, and more importantly Pepper's dismissal seven minutes later when City appeared to have weathered the storm, brought some urgency to an Ipswich side who had appeared lifeless up to that point.

In the opening 45 minutes, which were so bad that the biggest cheer came when City's Andy O'Brien had to change his ripped shorts in the middle of the field, Styles appeared to be having a good game and, as with all good referees, he was hardly noticed.

Unfortunately for City, this was not the case after the break when, within the first three minutes, he had cautioned both Craig Ramage and Jamie Lawrence for the sort of offences which had gone unpunished in the first half.

Then, with City a goal ahead, he again produced two cards in three minutes, but this time the consequences were more far-reaching.

Youds went into the notebook after a fairly innocuous 66th minute challenge on striker James Scowcroft in the centre of the field, while Pepper's came after a sliding challenge on Gus Uhlenbeek. The replay, however, clearly showed that the City midfielder made no contact with the full back.

The consequence of this crazy decision became apparent when Pepper was, this time, rightly booked for his challenge on Kieran Dyer on the edge of the penalty area after 79 minutes to earn him his second dismissal of the season.

And with City's tough-tackling midfielder out of the game, Ipswich made their one man advantage pay when Mathie popped up in clear space to drill the winner past Walsh just four minutes from the end.

What particularly upset City was that the referee's hard-line was not consistently evident throughout the game. If it had been, then Scowcroft would also have been dismissed for, after being booked for a foul on Youds earlier in the game, he then charged into Walsh with his foot up as he chased a long ball.

Judging by the referee's previous willingness to brandish a yellow card, Scowcroft should have been dismissed for a second bookable offence, but Styles thought otherwise and the striker stayed on the field to play a part in the winner.

Youds' dismissal for a tussle on the touchline capped an extraordinary finale, which barely seemed possible after possibly the most uneventful first half of a City game this season.

Both sides were well below par although it was the Bantams who had the best chance of the first half when he was put away by skipper Wayne Jacobs. Unfortunately for the 21-year-old he pushed the ball too far at the vital time and could only scoop a shot over goalkeeper Richard Wright which was easily cleared by Cundy.

That apart though, neither side looked like scoring until Blake showed great skill to beat Adam Tanner out wide before Cundy turned in his cross for City's opener - his second own goal of the season against the Bantams after his decisive strike in the 2-1 home victory at Valley Parade.

Cundy's error heralded City's best period of the game as they finally started to exert some sustained pressure but once Mathie scored and the referee took a central role in the game, the writing was on the wall for the Bantams.

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.