Accrington 0 City 2

Matt Clarke's first goal in a City shirt made sure of a very happy start to the new year.

The big centre half is fast becoming the Bantams talisman.

His close-range finish two minutes into the second half set them on the way to laying down the marker that Stuart McCall had demanded.

And Joe Colbeck rubber-stamped the points in stoppage time, only seconds after Accrington had rattled the crossbar.

This was a meeting of League Two's haves and have nots - though only in terms of attendance figures.

City are guaranteed to win the division on crowds, with an average of just under 14,000. In contrast, Accrington's average turn-out of 1,616 is the smallest in league football.

With City fans filling at least half the ground, Accrington were rubbing their hands with glee at a new year windfall of 2,898. Pity there weren't enough programmes to cope with the demand.

The game had the air of an FA Cup tie. Except that Stanley, the supposed minnow hosts, kicked off eight points higher up the table.

Accrington harried City from the start, though the opening stages were bitty with little flow and not helped when referee Barry Knight had to limp off after turning his ankle.

City took time to settle on a bobbly pitch and the home side conjured the first threat as Donovan Ricketts slid at the feet of the on-rushing Roscoe D'Sane.

D'Sane, City's two-goal nemesis at Valley Parade, then burrowed to the byline before squaring for Andy Todd - beginning a loan spell back at Accrington after failing to settle with Rotherham.

The danger signs flashed for the army of Bantams fans behind the goal but Ricketts dived low to hold his shot.

Paul Mullin jabbed a half-chance wide before City had their first sight of the home goal with Peter Thorne firing over from Lee Bullock's set-up.

Loan signing Bullock was doing a tidy job in central midfield, especially given that he had still been training with Hartlepool the day before. At least the surroundings were more familiar - he had played here earlier in the season with Mansfield.

But they were hardly champagne conditions to see in 2008 and there was little fizz about City's first-half performance with attacking opportunities at a premium.

Stuart McCall had brought back Barry Conlon so Omar Daley was back on the wing, even though the manager had suggested he saw him more as a striker.

The Jamaican saw little of the ball on the left flank for the first half hour but then got a couple of chances to stretch his legs.

His first break fell to Thorne in the box who teed up Evans for a long-range thump over the bar.

Daley went a lot closer himself five minutes later as Evans this time turned provider, the winger cutting in on his right foot by the corner of the box and driving dangerously across goal as keeper Ian Dunbavin scrabbled to get across.

Accrington looked to Todd wide on the right to unlock the door but, apart from a couple of wasted headers high into the City fans, there was nothing directly to worry Ricketts at the end of a stodgy half.

The game badly needed a goal - and City provided it within two minutes of the restart.

Their corner was cleared only as far as Colbeck, who lobbed it straight back into the mix. David Wetherall won a crucial back-header and his defensive partner Clarke was perfectly placed to sweep home the loose ball.

The travelling hordes were ecstatic and were nearly celebrating again three minutes later as Daley switched on the motor to breeze past Phil Edwards before fizzing an effort narrowly over.

McCall had clearly had a few words at the break because City had emerged with far more purpose and intensity. But they were still well aware of the danger posed by the diminutive D'Sane, though his shot on the turn that crashed against the advertising boards would have been notched off for offside anyway.

Clarke made a well-timed lunge to thwart Todd after a customary sliced goal-kick by Ricketts. But City were angrily questioning whether Sean Webb had got anything on the ball as he brought down Conlon in the opposite box after a probing cross from the improving Daley.

The winger was starting to terrorise Leam Richardson with his pace and carved Accrington open with another explosive burst, only to get his wires crossed with Conlon over the final ball.

Compatriot Ricketts stopped well from John Miles before Thorne nearly doubled City's advantage with a downward header from an Evans corner which Dunbavin just managed to turn behind. Panic stations ensued from the resulting corner with Bullock shooting against an Accrington backside as the home side struggled to hang on.

Daley again caused mayhem as he tore through the middle only to drag it wide from the edge of the penalty area.

As City continued to threaten, Bullock's through ball was plucked off Thorne's toes by the diving Dunbavin.

Stanley boss John Coleman had seen enough and threw his hand in with a treble substitution with 20 minutes to go.

But Conlon missed the chance to put the game beyond Accrington. The home defence stopped for offside as Ricketts found the Irishman with a long punt but the flag stayed down to leave him bearing down on Dunbavin.

Conlon tried to clip left-footed over the sliding stopper but the attempt lacked real conviction and Dunbavin was able to clutch at the second attempt.

So Accrington were still in it and substitute Billy Dennehy whipped in a useful cross to win their first corner with eight minutes left. But David Brown's hopeful volley from the set-piece was high, wide and ugly.

It was important that City remained on the front foot to avoid any late jitters and Colbeck did just that with two driving late runs. Then Paul Heckingbottom rumbled forward from left back to test Dunbavin with a power drive.

But with the game deep into stoppage time, City escaped as Andy Procter's back header crashed against the woodwork and back out.

McCall has often talked about the fine margin between success and failure. And that was evident as Daley promptly raced to the other end.

He should have scored but Colbeck, following up, did after Dunbavin had saved the Jamaican's initial effort.

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