Bradford City 4 Shrewsbury Town 3: Bantams warm to their task to provide thrilling win

David Ball and Bradford City team-mates celebrate his stoppage-time winner against Shrewsbury Town on Tuesday night (Picture: Bruce Rollinson).
David Ball and Bradford City team-mates celebrate his stoppage-time winner against Shrewsbury Town on Tuesday night (Picture: Bruce Rollinson).
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DESPITE all the furore and panic, predictions about the unrelenting nature of the ‘Big Chill’ did not come to fruition in the end.

The Met Office had predicted that sleet and snow would bombard vast parts of the Broad Acres. If that outlook seemed a touch premature then so too could be forecasts about Bradford City’s impending plight.

Four wins in a five-match sequence around the turn of the year seemed set to bounce City into the relative security of the middle regions of League One.

However, that form had curtailed of late and three winless outings had heightened the nerves in these parts.

A performance and, more importantly, three points were in high demand. And City delivered on both counts.

A seven-goal thriller went one way then the other, but Bradford had the final say in a wonderfully topsy-turvy affair.

PERFECT TIMING: David Ball's strike finds its way through to score Bradford's injury-time winner.' Picture: Bruce Rollinson

PERFECT TIMING: David Ball's strike finds its way through to score Bradford's injury-time winner.' Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Aspirations have had to be significantly recalibrated in recent times for both clubs.

Not so long ago each was realistically targeting Championship football.

Shrewsbury, who set this division alight last season with their unlikely run to the play-off final, look a shadow of that team now.

As for City, their run to the end-of-season lottery came two seasons ago and their decline is there for all to see.

Jack Payne celebrates scoring Bradford's opener against Shrewsbury. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Jack Payne celebrates scoring Bradford's opener against Shrewsbury. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Nowadays the two teams are reduced to battling for their third-tier lives.

Shrewsbury showed their ability to hit on the counter as early as the seventh minute.

A home corner was quickly turned into a Shrewsbury attack when jet-heeled Fejiri Okenabirhie broke at pace and asked a question of City goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell.

City slowly grew into the contest and it was in the 19th minute, with their first real attack, that they took the lead.

David Ball’s clever turn created the space he needed in his own half before pinging a pass for Jack Payne to run onto.

Although Payne was a touch fortunate that his marker slipped, the on-loan Huddersfield man still had to finish the chance and did so with aplomb despite a back-tracking defender.

Ball fancied a crack himself soon after, but following a mazy run could only sting the palms of visiting Steve Arnold.

Just when City were looking comfortable, or as comfortable as you can be with a one-goal lead, Shrewsbury struck against the run of play.

Greg Docherty’s pinpoint pass picked out Okenabirhie who slid the ball past home goalkeeper O’Donnell.

Eoin Doyle then nodded wide as the hosts looked to wrest back the initiative and they duly did so in the 38th minute.

Lewis O’Brien’s left-footed hammer shot gave Arnold little chance after some neat play in the build-up from City.

Bradford came out hungry for a third upon the resumption and home captain Anthony O’Connor had the chance to grab it and should perhaps have done better than to plant a header over from a precise corner.

The hosts were given some breathing space on the hour mark when City’s advantage was doubled.

It was a goal that owed much to persistence more than anything else.

The impressive Payne dashed forward and saw a prospective effort deflected into the path of David Ball.

Ball’s shot was well blocked, but only into the path of Doyle, who finished accurately and emphatically.

Nerves were rightly jangling among the home fans in the final 15 minutes after the talented Okenabirhie bent a superb free-kick right into the top corner, giving O’Donnell absolutely no chance.

Barely 30 seconds later Doyle had the chance to kill the game off from inside the box, but shot straight at Arnold.

Paul Caddis had to be alert to clear a Waterfall header off the line as Shrewsbury went in search of a third.

But the defender then went from hero to zero when he felled his man in the box and gave Shrewsbury a last-minute penalty.

Up stepped Okenabirhie, who added gloss to his own personal evening by stroking home his hat-trick goal.

Just when all looked lost City showed their fighting spirit right at the finish.

Ball cut inside and took a swing with his left foot and his shot nestled in the bottom corner to send the vast majority of the 14,906 crowd into raptures.

Despite still being placed in the relegation zone, owing to other results, the outlook for those of a Bantams’persuasion is now far healthier after weathering this almighty storm.

Bradford City: O’Donnell, Woods (Chicksen 72), A O’Connor, Knight-Percival, Wood, Caddis, Akpan, O’Brien, Ball, Payne (P O’Connor 90), Doyle (Miller 81). Unused substitutes: Wilson, Anderson, Devine, Colville.

Shrewsbury Town: Arnold, Haynes (Whalley 75), Sadler (Smith 57), Beckles, Bolton, Waterfall, Docherty, Grant, Okenabirhie, Laurent (Amadi-Holloway 46), Norburn. Unused substitutes: Charles-Cook, Rowland, Sears, Vincelot.

Referee: S Oldham (Lancs).