Two goals in three first half minutes were enough to upset the form book and earn Bradford City a 2-0 win over Oxford United this afternoon at Valley Parade. David Ball and Jack Payne decided the game and left United to lick their wounds after their first defeat in ten games.
With both sides in vastly different form before the game, the contrast in confidence was apparent in the first ten minutes with the U’s dominating both territorially and in terms of possession and a number of crosses flying just wide of their intended target. Browne in particular was causing chaos down United’s left and with Whyte also pressing his full back deeper and deeper, United looked to be in control during the early exchanges. However, they failed to capitalise and ultimately paid for not being clinical.
Bradford were more direct but had found Dickie and Nelson a formidable barrier until three mad minutes half way through the first half left the U’s with plenty to do when the Bantams scored twice in quick succession
The first came from a corner, flicked on by Eoin Doyle and headed home by Ball despite the best efforts of Simon Eastwood who almost managed to claw the ball back from under the bar but couldn’t keep it out. Then three minutes later a throw from the right and another cross led to a first effort that was blocked but ran almost inevitably to former United midfielder Payne who swivelled and fired home off the boot of the helpless Eastwood to make it 2-0 and visibly lift the home side.
United now had seemingly a different side in front of them and a home crowd getting right behind their side, but a Brannagan header, a Henry shot and a volley from Nelson that went straight at the keeper just before the break signalled that they were still able to create chances and but for Nelson being wrestled to the ground in a Half Nelson (I thank you) just before the break then they would surely have pulled one back before the break.
It was a similar story after the break. Nelson and Ruffels had half chances and United were still in the game but home keeper Richard O'Donnell wasn't truly tested despite a Mackie header at his near post and another volley from Nelson - United's most dangerous player on the day - both just after the hour mark, followed by a long-range effort from Browne which he fielded with ease.
Bradford, understandably, took as much time out of the game as possible and there were lengthy stoppages for injuries as United tried to gather momentum for one final push. The ball was sent forward faster, gaps were left at the back and the final few minutes were played against ten men when Nathaniel Knight-Percival led with his elbow and was shown a straight red card.
It added to the tension but for once United could not find a route to goal despite eight minutes of time added on and a looping header from sub Sam Smith that flew inches wide and a final Nelson header that clipped the post after 95 minutes.
All runs come to an end sometime. Now it is all about starting another when we welcome Rochdale on Tuesday night...
Report by Chris Williams, images by Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA