Bolton Wanderers 1 Bradford City 0: Bantams leaky defence proves costly again
The Bantams have not kept a clean sheet in league competition since their 0-0 draw with Colchester United on the opening day.
It is a problem which is already seeing Stuart McCall’s side playing catch-up with the top seven, with City five points adrift after eight games.
They were behind inside 13 minutes against Bolton Wanderers at the University of Bolton Stadium, with Nathan Delfouneso firing into the bottom corner after a calamity of errors in the City defence.
Bradford were much improved after the break and had plenty of chances to level proceedings, including one from the penalty spot.
The Bantams had two previous penalty appeals waved away when Leeds United loanee Bryce Hosannah and Callum Cooke looked to be fouled inside the box.
The claims were ignored by the referee but he pointed straight to the spot with 20 minutes to play when Anthony O’Connor was brought down inside the 18-yard area.
After coming under public scrutiny from his head coach Ian Evatt over the weekend, Bolton goalkeeper Billy Crellin got down well to his right to keep out Billy Clarke’s effort from 12 yards.
Last season, Bradford kept 11 clean sheets in 37 League Two outings, keeping the ball out of their own net in just under 30 percent of their games. Their current record is now just one clean sheet in eight games, representing a massive dip in standards in the early part of the season.
The Bantams enjoyed much more of the ball but failed to find the back of the net for the fourth time already this season - they only failed to score eight times in the league last term.
McCall had made four changes to the side that were convincingly beaten by Newport County at Valley Parade last weekend.
Lee Novak was forced to sit out his first league game of the season with a calf problem while Kurtis Guthrie was ruled out with a thigh problem.
Clayton Donaldson and Finn Cousin-Dawson were drafted into the starting line-up, as Paudie O’Connor, subbed on against Newport, started as one of three centre-backs while Hosannah was able to make his return to the side after injury.
It was only Cousin-Dawson’s second appearance for the Bantams in a league game, having previously played in the 2-2 draw at Forest Green Rovers in September. It meant that Austin Samuels and Tyler French were moved to the bench after they both started in Saturday’s defeat.
Bolton’s Eoin Doyle was not passed fit to face his former club as Arthur Gnahoua partnered Delfouneso in the Wanderers attack. In what is an unconventional move, Wanderers head coach Ian Evatt went without a back-up keeper on the bench for the fifth game running.
This was the second meeting between these two sides from either side of the Pennines this campaign.
Bradford opened their 2020-21 season with a 2-1 victory over Bolton in the first round of the League Cup but there was to be no repeat victory on Tuesday night. Paudie O’Connor was called upon inside the first ten minutes when he blocked a shot from Alex Baptiste, who had worked an opening inside the area.
Bolton had started the stronger of the two sides but were gifted their opening goal by lacklustre defending from the visitors.
The hosts took the lead with 13 minutes on the clock, when a misguided backward header from Anthony O’Connor fell into the path of Antoni Sarcevic, who lobbed Richard O’Donnell in the Bantams goal.
The ball bounced off the frame of the goal, was cleared back onto the cross bar by O’Connor before it fell into the path of Delfouneso, who smashed it into the corner through O’Connor’s legs.
Bradford managed just two shots at goal in the opening 45 minutes, both of which failed to hit the target.
Their best opportunity came when Donaldson found Cooke unmarked in the penalty area but he couldn’t keep his shot down.
Donaldson looked to be heading through on goal in the early moments of the second half but he lost his footing at the vital moment.
Bolton still posed a threat on the counter-attack and could have sealed the win after Clarke’s penalty miss but Ali Crawford steered a great chance just wide. City continued to press but it was not to be their night.
Bolton Wanderers: Crellin; Baptiste, Santos, Delaney; Kioso, Sarcevic, Tutte (Comley 76), Brockbank (Mascoll 65); Crawford; Gnahoua (Darcy 90), Delfouneso. Unused substitutes: Gordon, Taft, Hickman, Greenidge, Darcy.
Bradford City: O’Donnell; Richards-Everton, A. O’Connor, P. O’Connor; Wood, Watt, Cousin-Dawson (Pritchard 69), Hosannah; Cooke; Donaldson, Clarke (Samuels 76). Unused substitutes: Hornby, Longridge, French, Staunton, Mottley-Henry.
Referee: Ben Toner (Lancashire).