Verdict: Striker Charlie Wyke regarded as key to Bradford City success

Take that: Charlie Wyke heads in Bradford's opener against Doncaster Rovers. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

STRIKER Charlie Wyke was still rubbing the back of his head long after the final whistle.

In many ways the bruise sustained after a second-half aerial challenge was a badge of honour and underlines just how big a threat opponents rate him.

It, and the 3-0 midweek home defeat to Fleetwood when he was not in the starting line-up, also shows how City can ill-afford to lose their target man if they want to maintain a top-six push.

Wyke missed most of pre-season training due to a variety of groin, hamstring and calf problems and is being eased back into the fray by manager Stuart McCall.

The forward was the big difference between the sides in Saturday’s Yorkshire derby when City avenged a League Cup defeat by the visitors.

It was one reason why McCall called for greater protection for the former Carlisle striker, saying: “His hold-up play, especially in the first half, was terrific. I don’t think the ref was kind to him. I think he could have got a lot more protection but he was very strong for us and we do miss him when he’s not playing.”

If someone had said we could have 16 points from 21 then I would have absolutely snapped their hand off. I’m delighted with that.

Bradford City boss Stuart McCall

Wyke, who added to his hat-trick against Bristol Rovers by heading home City’s 18th-minute opener admitted: “It is a bit of a compliment all the attention I am getting from defenders at the minute but a bit more protection from the ref would have been nice.”

Of his goal which followed a bright start by Doncaster, Wyke continued: “The ball from Adam Chicksen was right on the money and all I had to do was head it in.”

Wyke, denied a second by a tremendous sliding challenge from Niall Mason before Nat Knight-Percival headed home from 12 yards from the ensuing corner in the 41st minute, is planning on becoming an even more flexible forward.

He has taken up yoga, explaining: “The gaffer gets a bit frustrated because I say I am all right when I am not – but I just want to play and it’s about looking after myself really.

“I’m 24 and I need to start doing things properly. I had just been getting cramp really in my groins, calfs but I have seen a nutritionist and have started some new excercises including yoga.

“I feel good and I had a lot of energy. It’s the short, sharp stuff I need to work on now. It’s going to be hard work but I’m going to have to do it if I am going to get up to speed.”

Wyke claimed City had played better in the Fleetwood defeat and McCall described performances as a “mixed bag for a lot of them” before continuing: “We have done well this month and, while I have no interest in the table, when I looked at my board with the monthly fixtures on if someone had said we could have 16 points from 21 then I would have absolutely snapped their hand off. I’m delighted with that.”

“It’s been a fantastic return of points this month – seven games and five consecutive Saturdays that we have won. That is brilliant. We were not at our best against Doncaster and if we want a really good, successful season then our performance levels have got to be better. We looked a little edgy in the second half.

“Yes, we have got to improve our performance with the ball but you can’t doubt these lads, they give everything they’ve got.”

Victory, however, enabled right-back Tony McMahon to celebrate his 100th appearance for the club and McCall commented: “I think everyone sees Tony as the joker in the pack. He is a bubbly character but he also cares about his football and is very passionate. He, too, had a mixed bag today but it is a good landmark for him to achieve.”

McCall had gambled on Rovers playing three centre-backs but, instead, they too went 4-4-2 but employed more men in central midfield and caused City problems until they started to get the ball out to their wide players.

Alfie May saw a low drive deflected onto the outside of the post before City opened the scoring and the livewire striker went close to pulling it back to 2-1 straight after the interval, taking a return pass from John Marquis and forcing a fine save from Colin Doyle at his near post.

City responded immediately and Marko Marosi, in for ankle victim Ian Lawlor, raced off his line to block from Dominic Poleon, who had been fed clear by Nicky Law’s replacement, Paul Taylor.

Rovers took the game to City for a spell but they only went close once more, Tommy Rowe’s 84th-minute goalbound header from substitute James Coppinger’s corner being chested away by Alex Gilliead, who had also shone in attack on City’s flank.

Bradford warm-up for Saturday’s trip to 10th-placed MK Dons with a behind-closed-doors trip to Manchester United tomorrow when fringe players will get their opportunity for some action.

Bradford City: Doyle, McMahon, Knight-Percival, Kilgallon, Chicksen; Gilliead (Hendrie 90), Vincelot, Reeves, Taylor (Law 59) ; Wyke, Poleon (Patrick 59). Unused substitutes: Raeder, Thompson, Field, Jones.

Doncaster Rovers: Marosi, Mason, Wright, Butler, Toffolo (Coppinger 69); Kongolo, Houghton (Mandeville 80), Whiteman, Rowe; Marquis, May. Unused substitutes: Jones, Alcock, Williams, Garratt, Ben Khemis.

Referee: A Backhouse (Cumbria).

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