A 20TH-MINUTE strike from Billy Clarke secured Bradford City their fourth successive 1-0 victory as they claimed three more valuable promotion points in a
scrappy victory over Swindon - to move up to third place in League One.
Phil Parkinson’s side were comfortable in a first half which saw Clarke head in - his first goal since November - and despite his effort being cleared from the line, referee David Coote adjudged it had crossed the line and there were few complaints from Swindon.
City failed to kick on in a tense second half, but toothless Swindon couldn’t cash in as the hosts bagged another big victory for their sixth win in the past seven games.
They are now six points behind faltering Burton with five games left and eight points clear of seventh-placed Barnsley.
City enjoyed a comfortable first period, crowned by an opening goal in the first quarter.
It arrived after Nathan Clarke’s booming long throw from the right touchline was left by the Robins defence, with Billy Clarke heading the bouncing ball goalwards, with his effort parried into the air by Cameron Belford - with the ball spinning towards goal.
The header was eventually cleared by the Town defence, but not before it had gone over the line, with Belford failing to keep it out at the second attempt under pressure from Lee Evans.
At the other end, City were afforded minimal scares, with Swindon’s only semi-dangerous moment coming moments before the interval when Jermaine Hylton’s well-struck low shot from distance was fielded by Ben Williams.
Bradford, fielding an unchanged line-up to the one who beat Scunthorpe United on home soil seven days earlier, had the better chances and dominated the territory, with Andy Proctor seeing two headers held by Belford, when he should have perhaps done better following crosses by James Meredith and the busy Kyel Reid.
Evans also went close with a well-struck free-kick which nestled on the roof of the net, in a half which saw himself and fellow loanee Reece Burke booked for challenges on Bradley Barry and Jordan Turnbull respectively.
On the restart, Swindon improved marginally, but the first chance went to City, with Evans’s low volley held, before appeals for a penalty fell on deaf ears when Nathan Clarke went down in the box following an incident with Bradley Barry.
Try as they might, Bradford couldn’t conjure a clear-cut chance to seal the deal, with that at least giving Swindon an inkling of hope.
Stephen Darby had to be alert to clear after a mazy run from Michael Doughty before Ellis Iandolo’s long-ranger was held easily enough by Williams, as City toiled in their quest to confirm the points.
But despite an edgy, disjointed second half, City held out for another big three points, despite surviving an 81st-minute penalty shout when James Brophy went down in the box under pressure from Nathan Clarke, but Coote was unmoved.
Phil Parkinson said: “I thought we started the game really well.
“It was almost too easy in the first 20 or 25 minutes. We did everything we set out to do very comfortably - corner after corner, cross after cross - and then we scored the goal.
“I thought after the goal we got a bit sloppy and gave them a little bit of belief in the game when we should have had a bit more of a ruthless edge about us.
“In the second half they made it difficult for us, playing without a striker and our two centre-halves didn’t have anyone to mark, but in the most important area - the final third - we were not really troubled.
“I thought our concentration levels were first-class.
“I am pleased that Barnsley lost (against Chesterfield). I expected them to win today. They are the team chasing us.
“Our aim is to keep in that play-off zone and keep doing what we are doing.
“The spirit is great and there is a will to win in the team. This was a great win for us and now we move on to two away games at Shrewsbury and Coventry.”
Bradford City: Williams, Darby, N Clarke, Burke, Meredith; McMahon, L Evans, Cullen, Reid (Morais 64); B Clarke (Davies 78), Proctor (Hanson 72). Substitutes unused: Cracknell, Knott, Morris, McArdle.
Swindon Town: Belford; Branco, N Thompson, Turnbull, Brophy; Barry, L Thompson, Rodgers, Doughty; Iandolo, Hylton (Robert 46). Substitutes unused: Henry, Sendles-White, Marshall, J Evans, Cooke, Young.
Referee: D Coote (Notts).
Attendance: 18,043 (251 Swindon supporters).
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