Coventry 1 Bradford City 1: Crucial point claimed as Bantams stay in play-off picture

AGAINST a club responsible for one of the FA Cup’s most famous fairytales, Bradford City followed rubbing shoulders with Arsenal and Liverpool in the semi-final draw 24 hours earlier by maintaining their play-off push.

Mark Yeates celebrates his stunning equaliser at the Ricoh Arena.

A stunning free-kick by Mark Yeates 20 minutes from time was enough to rescue a precious point that nudged the Bantams up a place to ninth in League One.

It also set the Yorkshire club up for a potentially huge three days in their season, as Phil Parkinson’s men travel to Notts County on Saturday and then Reading 48 or so hours later for an eagerly-awaited Cup quarter-final replay that will decide who plays holders Arsenal at Wembley.

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Whether Bradford can maintain a double-push for honours in such an important double header remains to be seen.

But they will, at least, head into the two games on the back of a much-improved second half display against the 1987 Cup winners. Much has changed, of course, for Coventry since that golden May afternoon 28 years ago when Keith Houchen scored one of the most iconic goals witnessed by the Twin Towers.

For a start, the Sky Blues play at the Ricoh and not Highfield Road.

Such a magnificent stadium is, undoubtedly, worthy of the top flight. Unfortunately for football fans in Coventry, however, it is Premiership rugby that is being staged at the 32,604-capacity venue right now after Wasps recently bought the Ricoh.

It means a 7ft bronze statue of Jimmy Hill, complete with one arm outstretched in triumphant pose, now stares out across a forecourt that is dominated by a sign for Wasps’ club shop along with logos in their amber and block colours.

Mind, had someone who was a player, manager, chairman and TV pundit during his time in the game been present last night it is surely a toss-up as to what would have annoyed him the most – Coventry being strangers in their own home or the diabolical standard of defending in the first half.

Both sides were culpable. Slack marking by the Sky Blues inside three minutes meant James Hanson was handed a shooting opportunity from seven yards that he wasted by firing over.

It was an awful miss but far from the worst of the night. Instead, that ‘honour’ belonged to Frank Nouble, who just four minutes later somehow contrived to shoot wide from five yards despite being found in yards of space by Marcus Tudgay.

Bradford enjoyed another let-off soon after, as Ben Williams rashly raced from his line to collect a Jim O’Brien cross when the goalkeeper was always going to be beaten to the ball by Aaron Martin.

Fortunately for the visitors and their 757 fans that made the trip down the M1, his header landed on top of the net with Williams stranded.

That was far from the end of the Keystone Cops-style defending, either, with Coventry goalkeeper Lee Burge and Matthew Pennington getting in such a muddle that both were relieved when the ball landed an inch or so wide of the post following a needless touch from the defender.

In and among these mishaps, genuine chances were carved out in the first half as Filipe Morais had a shot blocked for the visitors and Tudgay headed wide at the other end when well placed.

It took, however, until the 45th minute for the game to produce a truly incisive move and by its completion Coventry were ahead.

An incisive pass by Odelusi allowed Aaron Phillips to charge into the Bradford area before firing across goal towards Nouble who couldn’t miss from a yard out.

Parkinson’s response was to bring Alan Sheehan and Mark Yeates off the bench during the interval and City, as a result, were finally able to test Burge in the home goal.

At first, these were shots from distance by Yeates and Morais that were easily dealt with.

By the 70th minute, however, Burge was picking the ball out of his net after being beaten by a thunderous 20-yard free-kick from Yeates.

For the rest of the game, the visitors poured forward in search of a winner but it just wouldn’t come. despite Hanson meeting a Billy Clarke cross with a header that Burge did well to hold.

Andrew Halliday also headed over in stoppage time, while at the other end Parkinson’s men did have one fortunate escape when Nick Proschwitz, once a £2.6m signing by Hull City, was picked out by Chris Stokes just eight yards out.

With the goal at his mercy, the German’s struggles in English football were laid bare when he slashed his shot wide to ensure honours ended even.

Coventry City: Burge; Phillips (Webster 49), Martin, Pennington, Stokes; Barton, Fleck, O’Brien (Proschwitz 61), Odelusi (Samuel 57); Nouble, Tudgay. Unused substitutes: Charles-Cook, Jackson, Turgott.

Bradford City: Williams; Darby, McArdle, Davies (Sheehan 46), Meredith; Morais (Knott 81), Liddle, Clarke, Halliday; Zoko (Yeates 46), Hanson. Unused substitutes: Urwin, Sheehan, Stead, Routis, Burke.

Referee: G Sutton (Lincolnshire).