In what was a highly anticipated clash between two of League Two’s frontrunners going into the match, Bradford City took on Exeter City at the Utilita Energy Stadium.
Bradford went into the match looking to rectify their most recent result of the 2 – 1 home defeat at home to Port Vale a week and a half ago and the visitors riding the crest of a wave after a 4 – 0 hammering of Devon rivals Plymouth Arygle, which sent them up to 2nd in the league.
The Bantams began the contest the better of the two sides, and this showed after James Vaughan clipped the post after a through ball from Harry Pritchard after just five minutes.
This seemed to wake the Grecians up, resulting in a sustained period of pressure for the away side, stringing together a number of passing moves, the highlight of which being Nicky Law being released down the right-hand side and flashing a teasing ball across goal, but nobody there to meet it to tap it in.
The first yellow card of the match came out not long after this as on about twenty minutes Callum Cooke dived in on Lee Martin, earning himself a yellow card for his troubles.
Momentum swung back in favour of the home side after this incident, Harry Pritchard chasing down and blocking a back pass to Exeter goalkeeper Jonny Maxted, seemingly the catalyst for the Bantams to step up a gear, bringing about a phase of play Aramide Oteh set Vaughan through one-on-one with the Maxted, only to be tackled when about to pull the trigger and take the shot. Hope Akpan and Cooke both attempted lobbed passes to Zeli Ismail and Oteh respectively in the minutes that followed only for Exeter to defend them successfully.
Bradford then took the lead when Ismail carried the ball down the left wing and swung in a sumptuous cross for Oteh to bundle in at the keeper’s near post. Both teams had teased opening the scoring in the early knockings of the contest and Bantams’ getting that all important first goal proved key in shaping the rest of match.
For the remainder of the first half Exeter committed bodies forward in an effort to level the scores before the half-time break with Lee Martin controlling a ball over the top well, only to slice his attempt on goal high and wide into the T.L. Dallas side, much to the amusement of the home faithful.
With the Grecians pushing to get that equaliser, they were left exposed at the back and the goal-scorer Oteh latched on to a loose pass around the back, setting himself through on goal, before being brought down in the box by Aaron Martin, which led to Vaughan poking the ball home and into the back of the net, amongst all the chaos. This left the Exeter player irate, as they were insistent that Oteh had actually fouled Martin in the build-up to the goal, but referee Michael Salisbury waved away the appeals and awarded the goal to give Bradford a two-goal lead as the half-time whistle blew.
As the second half got underway it was Exeter who started the better when not long after the restart Jake Taylor, Archie Woodman and Pierce Sweeney all went agonisingly close, seconds apart from each other, with Sweeney coming the closest striking the outside of the post.
The Grecians then shot themselves in the foot as, unable to keep up with the sheer pace of Connor Wood, Taylor went lunging in for an ill-timed tackle which proved to be the end of his afternoon, and he was given a straight red card for his troubles.
This one-man advantage did not remain for very long though as just one minute later Callum Cooke was shown a second yellow card for a late challenge on Law, and one again the numbers were level with half an hour to play.
Both sides had half chances for the next 15 minutes, but things picked up once again when Ismail was substituted off for Dylan Connolly, making his return from injury.
Randell Williams carried the ball down his left flank soon after this, delivering a ball right across the corridor of uncertainty, evading three Exeter players in the area who didn’t quite reach the direction of the pass.
Connolly made his presence felt within minutes of coming on as he raced away from Grecians’ defender Tom Parkes, giving him no other choice but to bring him down with Connolly bearing down on goal and with that Parkes became the third man of the day to be sent off.
At this point Exeter had stopped throwing men forward like they were doing the end of the first half and their final attempt on goal of the night came via a Williams cross which was flicked over the bar by substitute Ben Seymour.
The final whistle blew on what was a comfortable victory for Bradford, securing an important three points to take Exeter’s place and sit 2nd in the table, only behind Crewe at the top.
After the match, when speaking to Simon Parker from the Telegraph and Argus and the rest of the media, Gary Bowyer said: “It was a good win and we were absolutely delighted with the clean sheet.”
The Bantams was manager was keen to praise Aramide Oteh for his role in the victory, saying: “I’ve always said that Remi scores goals. He’s 100 per cent claiming that. He gets there, competes with the full back and that’s what you want him to do.
Speaking on the red card for Callum Cooke, Bowyer added: “I’m very frustrated with Callum. He didn’t need to do it and shouldn’t be getting sent off. We get two bodies back and then Shay McCartan gets injured in training on Monday. He might be missing for a week or two. Then we lose someone through suspension for something he didn’t need to do.”
Cooke apologised for his actions after the match stating on Twitter: “I should have known better but I will learn from it.”
BRADFORD CITY: O’Donnell, Henley, A. O’Connor, Richards-Everton, Wood, Akpan (Anderson 87’), Cooke, Pritchard (Devine 73’), Ismail (Connolly 77’), Vaughan, Oteh. SUBS NOT USED: Mellor, P. O’Connor, Patrick, Sykes-Kenworthy.
EXETER CITY: Maxted, Sweeney, A. Martin, Parkes, Williams, Taylor, Collins, Woodman (Richardson 84’), Law, L. Martin (Seymour 70’), Bowman. SUBS NOT USED: Atangana, Jay, Fisher, Moxey, Visser.