DOMINIC SAMUEL did what no other player had managed to do since Darren Ambrose almost 18 months ago – send Bradford City to a regular season home league defeat.
Blackburn’s lone frontman failed to make a clean connection with a stooping 47th-minute header but it struck City full-back Tom Field in the face and deflected past a flat-footed Colin Doyle to give relegated Rovers their first points of the season.
“It was nice to have that home run but last season we probably drew four games when it would have been better to win two and draw two. That’s football so it’s not a big thing to me, although it is disappointing to lose. You have to lose sometime,” said City chief Stuart McCall after seeing his side defeated at home in the league for the first time since Ambrose’s double had given bottom club Colchester a 2-1 Valley Parade win on March 1, 2016.
City have got to bounce back at Walsall, added central defender Matt Kilgallon after his side had failed to make it a hat-trick of League One wins.
Kilgallon was one of four City players booked after protesting about referee Peter Bankes rejecting a second late penalty appeal when Peter Whittingham kept out his attempt on goal.
Corry Evans had also appeared to shepherd the ball away from danger with his arm but, to his credit, McCall felt that blaming defeat on rejected penalties would perhaps have been clutching at straws.
“Although we did not do enough to win, there was nothing in it in the second half and we were unfortunate with their goal,” said McCall. “We need to find a formula going forward. We are trying to find a way at the moment but we don’t accept being average.
“I said to the lads ‘you’ve got the shirt at the minute and there are a lot of lads on the periphery so when you get the chance to go out there with the shirt make sure you keep it by doing something positive. You can’t be great all the time but put everything in there.’ There is no way I can say we were robbed but I don’t think there was a lot between the teams.”
Kilgallon agreed, saying: “I felt that was how the game was going to be won, with a scrappy goal.
“We looked solid but we didn’t create anything either.
“We are not used to a home defeat but if we win against Walsall it’s three wins and no draw – we had too many of them last season – and it’s now a massive game on Saturday.
“It would have been a good marker if we had won today, nine points ahead of Blackburn would have been a big statement. It’s early days, though, and we have just got to keep battling. The quality wasn’t there but our battling was and we put in some good munching tackles and the lads enjoyed being out there and working hard.
“It will be a different game on Saturday with Walsall knocking the ball about and not putting as many balls in behind and so we will need a lot of concentration. There is no easy game in this league and we will have to get ready for it.”
One goal had always looked like being enough to win this encounter as defences held sway.
Elliott Ward and Charlie Mulgrew had far too much experience and physicality for Bradford’s front two of Dominic Poleon and Omari Patrick, but the pair were exonerated to some extent by McCall over the lack of proper service.
That was largely down to Blackburn being quick to press when City had the ball at the back, leaving the hosts little option but to launch the ball only to see it come straight back via the heads of the central pair, admonished by manager Tony Mowbray after their performances in the defeat to Doncaster.
Kilgallon and Nat Knight-Percival were similarly protective of Doyle even though Rovers had greater width than City through goal supplier Craig Conway and Elliott Bennett.
Make no mistake, on this display and looking at the personnel available, Blackburn will be a force this season. One only has to look at their bench which contained such as Leeds loanee striker Marcus Antonsson, Danny Graham and Peter Whittingham to underline their strength in depth.
City also looked brighter after a triple 70th-minute substitution. Charlie Wyke, Alex Jones and Paul Taylor provided a three-pronged attack and Wyke finally unsettled the visitors with his physical presence as he returned from injury caused by a slight tear to a hamstring.
It led to a period of City pressure which still failed to give goalkeeper David Raya anything to deal with.
Both clubs aim to strengthen before the window closes, although Mowbray said, contrary to reports, that he was not interested in Sheffield United’s former City striker James Hanson.
Bradford City: Doyle, McMahon, Knight-Percival, Kilgallon, Field; Dieng; Reeves, Law; McCartan (Wyke 70); Poleon (Taylor 70), Patrick (Jones 70). Unused substitutes: Sattelmaier, Gilliead, Devine, Barr.
Blackburn Rovers: Raya, Caddis, Ward, Mulgrew, Williams; Smallwood, Evans; Bennett, Dack (Gladwin 63), Conway (Whittingham 79); Samuel (Antonsson 79). Unused substitutes: Leutwiler, Chapman, Graham, Wharton.
Referee: P Bankes (Merseyside).