Bradford City’s strength in depth emphasised as rise up the table continues

BRADFORD CITY manager Gary Bowyer might want to have go at predicting this week’s National Lottery numbers.

City's Hope Akpan.
City's Hope Akpan.

In the build-up to Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Morecambe, he backed both Hope Akpan and Aramide Oteh to find the net.

Sure enough, both men did exactly that at the Globe Arena, securing a fifth win in seven League Two outings and lifting the Bantams up to third place in the table.

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“I fancied him for a goal again, I told him, and that was the case,” Bowyer said of Akpan, who also opened the scoring in City’s win over Swindon Town last time out.

“He’s in a rich vein of form now, that’s two in two and long may it continue. We need goals from everyone.

“We then went 2-0 up and I’ve just felt all week, the way that he’d trained, the way he applied himself, that Remi [Oteh] looked the sharpest he’s been.

“The boy can score goals and he took his goal ever so well.”

Oteh, on a season-long loan at Valley Parade from QPR, will always back himself to make an impression in the final third, but says that the environment he is currently working in is helping bring out the best in him.

“I’m feeling sharp, I’m enjoying my football. The fans are great, the players, the staff, they’re all encouraging me,” he said.

“We’re all in it together and it feels good to be able to go out and express myself.

“When you come off the bench you’ve got to try and make an impact and I’m just happy to score.

“I knew as soon as I dragged it across my body that I just had to keep it low and it was going in.”

Oteh’s impact as a subtitute follows on from Shay McCartan emerging from the bench to bag a late winner against Swidon in City’s previous match, the Bantams’ strength-in-depth becoming more and more evident with each passing week.

A strong squad rather than just a good first XI will see Bradford realise their aim of an immediate return to League One and the former is exactly what Bowyer has assembled.

In addition to decisive strikes from Oteh and McCartan, the impression made by the recently-recalled Akpan and a couple of lively showings down the right flank by Zeli Ismail only serve to underline this notion.

“It’s a case of people waiting for an opportunity and when you get one, grab it,” Bowyer added.

“We’re going into a period where we play Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, so to be able to call upon people who have got minutes is going to be brilliant for us.”

To further illustrate the point, City have coped well at the other end of the field without suspended centre-half Ben Richards-Everton, who served the final game of a three-match ban this weekend.

The two O’Connors – Anthony and Paudie – have formed a solid partnership at the heart of the Bradford back-four and both men were praised by their manager following another excellent showing on the west coast.

“Ant and Paudie made a couple of great blocks and that just shows you the quality that we’ve got in the squad when we can call upon those two with Ben being out,” Bowyer said.

“The two of them have done ever so well since his suspension. It’s competition and it’s up to everybody to fight for their place.”

There are no easy games in League Two and the trip to bottom-of-the-table Morecambe could have been a potential banana skin, however the Bantams were professional from start to finish.

The opening period was largely devoid of goalmouth action, though City did manage to create one glorious opportunity, from which they should have taken the lead.

Akpan found Zeli Ismail down the right and he delivered an inviting low centre that former Sheffield United striker Clayton Donaldson somehow managed to stab wide at the far post.

The second half was however less than two minutes old when the 1,765-strong away contingent erupted in delight.

The visitors broke from the edge of their own box and Dylan Connolly’s searing pace down the right took him away from the covering Alex Kenyon and into the Morecambe penalty area, where he looked to have been brought down by his opponent.

Despite finding himself on the deck, Connolly still managed to pull the ball back to Akpan, who side-footed an effort past the stranded Barry Roche and under a dreadful attempt at a goal-line clearance by a home defender.

Ismail and Harry Pritchard both went close to doubling the lead before substitute Oteh missed with a free header.

Brought to life by the introduction of veteran forward Kevin Ellison, the hosts eventually stirred and Anthony O’Connor had to head off his own line from a corner, Morecambe’s 40-year-old hitman nodding the rebound against the cross-bar.

O’Connor forced Roche into a good save at the other end before Oteh found his range to make it 2-0 after 78 minutes.

Daniel Devine found Pritchard on the left edge of the area and he fed the Queens Park Rangers loanee, who slid a shot across Roche and inside the far stick.

With time running out, Morecambe were again denied by the woodwork as John O’Sullivan struck a post, but the Shrimps did eventually manage to find the back of the net through Tom Brewitt’s 94th-minute close-range finish, though City had already done enough.

Morecambe: Roche, Tanner, Lavelle, Old, Buxton (Wildig 72), Brewitt, Kenyon, O’Sullivan, Leitch-Smith (Ellison 56), Alessandra (Stockton 84), Miller. Unused substitutes: Sutton, Howard, Halstead, Brownsword.

Bradford: O’Donnell, Henley, Paudie O’Connor, Anthony O’Connor, Wood, Cooke, Ismail (Oteh 62), Akpan (Devine 77), Pritchard, Connolly, Donaldson (Vaughan 77). Unused substitutes: McCartan, Anderson, Sykes-Kenworthy, Staunton.