Oldham 1 Bradford 2: Burke takes advantage as Bantams end hoodoo

OFF THE MARK: Bradford City's Reece Burke celebrates his first senior goal. Picture: Tony Johnson
OFF THE MARK: Bradford City's Reece Burke celebrates his first senior goal. Picture: Tony Johnson
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FROM the Premier League to League One via a couple of excursions into Europe could generally be seen as a downward route for a player’s career.

Just the opposite is the case, however, for central defender Reece Burke.

He admits to being ‘buzzing’ after netting his first senior goal before heading back to join the England Under-20 squad, including Sheffield United’s Che Adams, for today’s friendly against the Czech Republic in Shrewsbury.

Burke, 19, was delighted when he heard that West Ham had managed to get him leave of absence from the international set-up to play his third game on loan for Bradford City and duly popped up with the opening goal, which helped give the Bantams their first win at Boundary Park since 1997 when he was still in nappies.

City were helped to their win by another former Blade, Jon Forte, who lost his cool after a tussle with Stephen Darby and aimed a head-butt at the visitors’ captain in the 33rd minute in front of referee Mark Heywood, who had no option but to send him off even if contact was minimal.

It took a clinical piece of finishing from Devante Cole in the 63rd minute to settle City nerves, which again became frayed when no-one picked up the run of left-back Joe Mills, who headed home unmarked from a cross by former City winger Mark Yeates in the 82nd minute.

City can move into the top 10 on Saturday by leapfrogging their hosts, Fleetwood Town, who could be in for a testing time from one of their former players, Josh Morris, whose delivery from the left flank was significant in City’s win on Saturday.

Morris provided the deep free-kick which goalkeeper Joel Coleman could not get to as James Hanson challenged, allowing Mark Marshall to square for Burke to sidefoot home from 10 yards.

The young defender, who played at the back end of last season for the Hammers and in their Europa League qualifiers in July before signing a one-month loan deal, said: “I was away on international duty and I spoke to the gaffer and asked if I could play and it all got agreed and I’m glad because I scored!

“I had had two games before and was really enjoying it and I wanted to keep it going. I enjoy playing for Bradford City as it is a great club.

“This was my first senior goal and the last I scored was ages ago. We obviously practice our set pieces in training. You get a job to do and today I found myself a bit of space to score in.

“It’s my first time in the Under-20s so it was a big decision to come back here and play but I’m glad that I did even though it is a great honour to play for your country.”

Of his move to Valley Parade, Burke explained: “West Ham want me to go out on loan and get some games in and they are watching me all the time and will be very pleased to see that I have scored today. Everything is good at the moment and I just hope to keep it going. ”

Of his young loanee, City chief Phil Parkinson enthused: “His goal was a great finish. He’s always moving, anticipating the second phase at set plays in training and it didn’t surprise me that the ball dropped to him today.

“I have to thank West Ham, who have been really terrific. They put the call into me to say that they would like him to play for us as part of his education so I am very pleased.”

Regarding movement off the ball, Parkinson was happy that Cole continued to make runs throughout which had largely gone unnoticed but which finally brought reward when Billy Knott threaded the ball down the left channel and the striker clipped it between Coleman and his near post to make it 2-0.

“The life of a striker means you have to make a lot of those runs. Gary Lineker (ex England) used to say that if you make 20 of them then you might get one chance and it was a great ball by Billy but the timing of Devante’s run was top class.

“You always felt he would score. We took the decision to play him because we wanted to utilise that confidence he had from last week (scoring the late winner against Port Vale). He is a good athlete and trained well enough to justify his selection.”

Of Morris, brought in for Paul Anderson, Parkinson continued: “Josh’s cross that he put in for Hanson’s header was as good a cross as any you are likely to see this weekend. It was absolutely pinpoint and Hans should have scored but the keeper made a great save. All round, Josh has got the end product and is always looking to deliver.”

That Hanson header should have ended in the back of the net and was the first of two to fall to the striker just before the break but his second bounced clear off the head of Eoghan O’Connell.

Of ending the Oldham hoodo, Parkinson said: “When I played for Reading we used to have a saying: ‘Are we a team who can go to Boundary Park and win?’ because it was one of the hardest places to go to. Coming here, you have to have a certain mentality and approach to win.”