Bradford City 3 Portsmouth 1: Bantams rewarded for their industry and spirit

GIVEN the fact they boast six promotions from the third tier between them it is somewhat strange to see both Simon Grayson and Kenny Jackett competing on the comparative fringes at the business end of the season.

Matthew Lund celebrates scoring for Bradford City against Portsmouth last night (Picture: Bruce Rollinson).
Matthew Lund celebrates scoring for Bradford City against Portsmouth last night (Picture: Bruce Rollinson).

The vastly-experienced pair took charge of sides promoted to the Championship in the same campaign, in 2009-10, when Leeds United and Millwall both went up just a year after locking horns in the League One play-off semi-finals.

How times have changed with Bradford City’s serious hopes of reaching the end-of-season lottery disappearing several weeks ago and Portsmouth, despite being in with a fighting chance of extending their season, needing to hold their nerve and rely on others slipping up.

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Ten points and 11 places above Pompey after their win at Fratton Park in late October, City found themselves nine points and six places adrift of the visitors ahead of last night’s action.

Last night’s victory to clinch a season’s double over Pompey, whose wretched record against Yorkshire clubs in 2017-18 continued, may have arrived too late for the hosts to participate in the play-offs although it is still mathematically possible.

But in a desperate new year for City this development was perfectly timely all the same as they secured just their second win in 16 matches and luxuriated in the glow of one of their best home offerings of a lame season.

Goals in the final quarter from substitute Matthew Lund – the loanee netting his first goal in City colours seven minutes after entering the fray – and a strike in the fifth-minute of stoppage-time from top scorer Charlie Wyke provided the hosts with a welcome lift. However, victory was marred as Tyrell Robinson was stretchered off with a shoulder injury late on, which lead to nine minutes of stoppage-time.

The game had been on a knife-edge after Pompey top scorer Brett Pitman’s deflected 61st-minute strike – his 23rd goal of the season and eighth in seven games – cancelled out Nathaniel Knight-Percival’s early opener.

Grayson had let it be known that home players were performing for their futures.

The much-improved display against Shrewsbury was welcome, but City’s chief was just as keen to reinforce the need for more of the same until season’s end. The commitment shown five nights earlier was reprised here and, crucially, was accompanied by a win.

Knight-Percival’s strike to end City’s first-half home drought in 2018 was the main talking point at the interval, but there were further encouraging facets.

Wyke and Matt Kilgallon assumed responsibility to harness the bite of Callum Guy and energy of Robinson – and others were not far behind

Chances were by no means prolific, but the intent was there and a rare goal from Knight-Percival was nicely crafted.

Tony McMahon’s outswinging corner on the right was met by Kilgallon and Knight-Percival ghosted in at the far post.

After looking rattled temporarily following the blow, Pompey regrouped with the streetwise Pitman and Jamal Lowe asking one or two probing questions.

Two saves of note arrived in quick succession from Colin Doyle, the first being unconvincing as he meekly parried Connor Ronan’s drive.

A textbook gather to hold Pitman’s low free-kick, which had flown underneath the wall, was more reassuring.

Interval applause was again afforded City and the backing continued on the resumption as home supporters bought into their side’s efforts.

City’s defence proved resolutely on-message, but they could do little about Pitman’s deflected snapshot from distance that restored parity just after the hour mark – to the relief of the sizeable Pompey contingent.

It threatened to take the wind out of the hosts’ sails, but City had other ideas with Grayson taking credit for a smart substitution.

With City requiring midfield reinforcement as Pompey finally showed signs of wresting the initiative, Lund was introduced for Kai Bruenker and it reaped a quick harvest on 71 minutes.

Lund reacted quickest to latch onto Wyke’s flick on and, while Dion Donohue and Matthew Clarke dithered, the attacking midfielder prodded home a low shot that trickled past Luke McGee.

McGee’s fumble from Tony McMahon’s free-kick made the game safe for City at the close, with Wyke gleefully dispatching the rebound.

Bradford City: Doyle; McMahon, Knight-Percival, Kilgallon, Warnock; Gilliead, Guy (Vincelot 75), Dieng, Robinson (Poleon 83); Bruenker (Lund 64), Wyke. Unused substitutes: Raeder, Chicksen, McCartan, Patrick.

Portsmouth: McGee; Thompson, Whatmough, Clarke, Donohue; Close; Lowe, Evans (Hawkins 56), Ronan (O’Keefe 56), Naismith (Chaplin 76); Pitman. Unused substitutes: Bass, Burgess, May, Haunstrup.

Referee: A Woolmer (Northants).