The Bantams played with confidence and creativity to sweep aside fifth-placed Forest Green Rovers with their biggest League Two win this season.
From the moment the recalled Elliot Watt kicked the game into life with a wonderful half-volleyed goal after 11 minutes, they turned on the style. They passed the ball well, but produced their best when it did not touch the ground.
The nearlies were better than the goals.
No 10 Clayton Donaldson volleyed a pass Kian Scales touched first time to Andy Cook, whose volley was saved. It was nothing compared to Cook’s next effort, chesting the ball about 10 yards inside Forest Green’s half and seeing Lewis Thomas off his line hitting a looping but forceful volley onto the crossbar.
Much as Forest Green complained they ought to have had two penalties, and although they saw more of the ball, not just the result but the margin was the right one.
Newport Count and Exeter City lost and Salford City dropped points at home as the Bantams moved into the top 10 and within three points of the play-off positions.
Trust a football manager to pour cold water over it.
“We’ve also been in a good position six or seven games ago so we don’t want to get our hopes up,” cautioned Conor Sellars, Bradford’s joint spoilsport – sorry, manager.
When the emotions shift so dramatically, one good win not only deserves but demands another, and Monday’s hosts Stevenage will be hard to take one from.
Maybe had Isaac Hutchinson not slipped volleying Nicholas Cadden’s ball across the area seconds after Watt scored, things could have been different but Bradford’s belief ballooned.
“There’s (good) performances for different reasons,” said Sellars when asked to pin this one down. “Over the last 10 games, that was probably the one that stands out because they’re such a good team. We’ve got to do that again.
“When you get a goal early on it gives you a sense of confidence and we didn’t just drop into our shape, we pressed really high and made it really difficult for them.”
Watt was excellent as one of the midfielders in a 4-2-3-1, winning the ball and shooting wide after 20 minutes. He showed his exasperation towards the end of the first half, pulling his shorts up his thighs and looking to the skies after a Gareth Evans cross fell his way. It was not an easy chance but the way he and Bradford were playing, you expected him to hit the target, not blaze wide.
A Watt tackle gave Cook chance to open his account but he shot wide under pressure. He more than made up for it.
Watt was still going in the 80th minute, not long after a weary-looking booking, making a vital block when the ball was pulled back to Taylor Allen.
Elliott Whitehouse’s shot wide at the end of the first half was a reminder more goals were needed and even when Bradford doubled their lead in the 47th minute, the visitors refused to lie down.
Latching onto a Baily Cargill header, Cook drove into the area. A heavy touch induced the defender to dive in, but could not stop the ball finding the net.
It was Forest Green, not Bradford, who were stronger for it.
Richard O’Donnell only needed to be outstanding for a minute or two, but he was. Nearly caught out by Cadden’s mishit cross, he beat the ball out but his team-mates never got it away so he needed to make a brilliant double save at the feet of Allen.
Cook killed the game in the 76th minute, drilling in.
It would take an excellent Jake Young finish to beat O’Donnell but by then, the 90th minute, it was too late. Even so, substitute Danny Rowe responded with a goal of his own. It was an excellent end to a brilliant day but as Sellars was only to keen to stress, it will count for nothing if Bradford do not follow it up on Monday.
Bradford City: O’Donnell; Cousin-Dawson, P O’Connor, Canavan, Wood; A O’Connor, Watt; Scales, Donaldson, Evans (Clarke 72); Cook. Unused substitutes: Stevens, Hornby, Foulds, Vernam, Rowe, Crankshaw.
Forest Green Rovers: Thomas; Bernard, Stokes, Moore-Taylor, Cargill; Young, Whitehouse, Hutchinson (Allen 46), Wilson; Cadden (Bailey 72), Collins. Unused substitutes: McGee, Wagstaff, Godwin-Malife, Davison, Richardson.
Referee: A Backhouse (Carlisle).
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