Bradford City 0 Forest Green Rovers 2: When play-off push needed a bit of red meat, the Bantams served up a cold Quorn burger

Bradford City like to roll out the old cliche about how every game between now and April is a "cup final" but Tuesday night against Forest Green Rovers felt more like a third-place play-off.

With the eco warriors fighting to stay in the Football League less than 12 months after dropping out of League One and the Bantams adamant they can still battle their way up to the third tier via the play-offs, those at Valley Parade might have been expected to be served up some red meat, but it was more like a cold Quorn burger.

It was a game that had looked like it might not happen until the rain battering a pudding of a pitch relented late in the morning, and the groundstaff could have been forgiven for wondering at times why they bothered.

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Valley Parade echoed to the sound of apathy, a flat game reflected in the atmosphere, save for the boos at the end of each half.

The ones as Christian Doidge hammered in a stoppage-time penalty were drowned out by the sound of hundreds of plastic seats flipping up as a 2-0 win which lifted Forest Green out of the relegation zone was signed, sealed and delivered.

It hardly helped that Bradford gave the (then-)91st-best team out of 92 in the league system a goal's head start, allowing Doidge to glance in Dominic Thompson's near-post corner.

In between his very early and very late goal, there was little to write home about. Yes, Bradford might have equalised from a goalmouth scramble in the 89th minute but four wins in seven, which it would have been even had that gone in, is not the performance of a team pushing for the play-offs and it was not the performance of a side who truly believe they can.

If they think that, they are good judges.

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IMPROVEMENT: Jamie Walker livened up Bradford City when he came on at half-timeIMPROVEMENT: Jamie Walker livened up Bradford City when he came on at half-time
IMPROVEMENT: Jamie Walker livened up Bradford City when he came on at half-time

City had the lion's share of the game between the goals, but largely played like pussy cats.

Brad Halliday was unable to keep over his volley and Andy Cook flicked his back header from a Clarke Oduor cross wide.

A lovely sweeping diagonal by Ciaran Kelly out wide sent the ball bouncing around off the head of Lewis Richards, the head of Cook and the first of goalkeeper Vicente Reyes before the ball was cleared.

Tyreik Wright put a Richards cross into the side netting and almost scored by accident it felt, as he more or less fell onto Richie Smallwood's low ball a couple of yards out, only for Rovers to scramble it away.

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QUIET NIGHT: Andy Cook had little to work withQUIET NIGHT: Andy Cook had little to work with
QUIET NIGHT: Andy Cook had little to work with

And it was not as though Forest Green did not have chances too, Charlie McCann failing to get over Tyrese Omotoye's pass and Doidge having two chances late in the half, one headed wide, another acrobatically put straight at Sam Walker.

Jamie Walker's half-time introduction, a switch to 4-3-3, a couple of immediate corners in front of the Kop and Wright's shot at Reyes after Cook robbed McCann in midfield hinted at better.

But a Forest Green sub ostensibly warming up ran onto the pitch to hand Thompson a note and they too changed a back three into a four and minimised the momentum. Omotoye even flashed an effort across goal.

Oduor came inside and shot fiercely at the goalkeeper and was almost immediately substituted in the search for more oomph, Cook headed a Lewis Richards cross over.

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The deflected shot which dribbled through to the goalkeeper from Wright, playing much wider in the second period, after 78 minutes seemed to sum things up.

Kelly put a header onto the roof of the net at a corner and substitute Tyler Smith bulleted one wide of the near post but in between time only Marcel Lavinier's poor touch stopped him putting the game to bed in the 85th minute.

Bradford thought they might have won it in the 89th, Walker's shot saved and Cook hoping he might have forced the follow-up over the line but this game was not due a grandstand finish any more than it was a grandstand start or middle from a Bradford perspective.

Instead there was a sting in the tail, Kelly caught in possession by McCann, who he fouled in the area for Doidge to lash in an impressive penalty.

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Those play-off "cup finals" are in danger of quietly becoming dead rubbers.

Bradford City: Walker; Tomkinson, Kelly, Ridehalgh (Walker HT); Halliday (Chapman 63), Smallwood, Gilliead, Richards (Smith 80); Oduor (Kavanagh 63), Wright; Cook.

Unused substitutes: Doyle, Oyegoke, McDonald.

Forest Green Rovers: Reyes; Bunker, Inniss, Moore-Taylor; Thompson, Osadebe, McCann, Robson; Doidge, McAllister (Jones 80); Omotoye (Lavinier 68).

Unused substitutes: Bernard, Johnson, Maddox, Robertson, Searle.

Referee: S Mather (Atherton)

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