Big Match Verdict (video) – Overdue away triumph for Doncaster Rovers is bad news for Bradford City

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IT was TS Eliot who remarked that ‘April is the cruellest month’ in The Waste Land.

For a luckless Bradford City side whose inexorable-looking plight down among the dead men of League One is making for hard viewing, the joys of Spring are similarly nowhere to be seen.

This largely lifeless, prosaic Yorkshire derby will be quickly glossed over in the years to come by both sets of supporters and will be solely recounted for one moment of dash early in the final quarter.

It saw Doncaster Rovers – who secured their first league double over their West Yorkshire rivals since way back in 1948-49 – do what all aspiring sides have to at a stage of the season when fates unravel at opposing ends of tables.

A probing long ball from Matty Blair saw Bradford’s defensive mask fatally slip for the only time in the game on 73 minutes and Mallik Wilks seized upon the uncertainty in an instant.

His venomous low shot – struck early and with the innate confidence of someone with 15 goals to his name already in 2018-19 – careered underneath the body of Richard O’Donnell.

The vast majority of Valley Parade winced, while one corner glowed – and that was that.

It was an undeniably harsh outcome upon rock-bottom City in a game which they had previously had the better of, only to again lose out by a fine margin – their fourth 1-0 defeat in five matches.

The sight of Rovers scoring with their only shot on target will have only intensified the hurt.

Not that Grant McCann was complaining after witnessing his side secure their overdue first away league win of 2019.

My ball: Doncaster Rovers' Matty Blair is put under pressure by Bradford's Lewis O'Brien.

My ball: Doncaster Rovers' Matty Blair is put under pressure by Bradford's Lewis O'Brien.

The Doncaster manager admitted afterwards that he would be in no hurry to watch a DVD of this derby again. But his sense of satisfaction at a Rovers display abundant in resolve, grit and organisation was easy to detect.

A fortnight on from a savage 4-0 defeat at Luton Town which endangered their play-off hopes, Rovers have admirably passed a character examination since and showed their mettle by virtue of three successive wins.

While McCann may not choose to re-run events at Valley Parade, the likes of Andy Butler and his fellow defenders will.

Butler, solid at the heart of the the back four alongside the excellent Tom Anderson, who stepped in for the ill Paul Downing with aplomb, said: “It was not a pretty game, but as defenders and goalkeepers, these are the games you love – with tackling, blocking, heading and clearances.

You know what you get from Mallik – directness and pace. He is also so strong for a 20-year-old and backed people off which is incredible and he has a sledgehammer of a left foot.

Doncaster Rovers’ Andy Butler

“When you are coming to a team who are battling for their lives like Bradford are, it is so pleasing to get a 1-0 result.”

On the telling impact at the other end of the pitch from Leeds United loanee Wilks, he added: “You know what you get from Mallik – directness and pace. He is also so strong for a 20-year-old and backed people off which is incredible and he has a sledgehammer of a left foot.

“People think he is laid-back, but he works really hard in training. I think he can take those next steps.

“Sometimes, you have to give him a kick up the backside. But when you do that and he produces like that, then a kick up the backside is all right.

“But I do think he is growing up and actually maturing as a player. If I was a left-back up against him, I would be scared of him. I think he is starting to believe that as well and that he can be some player.”

For poor Bradford, there were other moments to rue alongside Wilks’s painful strike.

Malik Wilks, right, proved to be the match-winner at Valley Parade. Picture: Andy Garbutt.

Malik Wilks, right, proved to be the match-winner at Valley Parade. Picture: Andy Garbutt.

Most notably when Eoin Doyle’s sweet early header agonisingly struck the post following a pinpoint cross from Billy Clarke.

The striker did everything right, only for fates to continue to mock City.

An early block from Tom Anderson had already diverted a goalbound strike from Jacob Butterfield just wide of goal and while the hosts’ purposeful start was everything that Gary Bowyer could have wished for, an opener obstinately refused to arrive.

City continued to look the more likely on the restart with David Ball being inches away with a vicious low drive following an enterprising run and ex-Rovers loanee Jermaine Anderson failing to convert from close range after good work from Doyle.

But Rovers soaked up the blows and struck like a viper when it mattered as sides pushing at the top end often do at this time of year while those towards the bottom can only shudder.

On another tough afternoon for City, winger Sean Scannell, whose return from a six-month spell out with a back injury did provide one chink of light, said: “We cannot give up now. We have to keep our heads up every day in training. Do that and you never know what can happen.”

On his welcome comeback, he added: “It is good to be back. I have been out for a while and it has been really frustrating being out but I am a positive man so it’s been all right.

“Now I want to bring as much as I can and help the team any way possible.

“We are going to need all the help.”